A year ago yesterday, I was in a hospital room, waiting.
They brought in reclining chairs and heated blankets. They asked us if we wanted the monitors off in case the sound was too upsetting but we kept them on–wanted to keep them on. A compromise; monitors on, sound off. That weekend the ‘active dying’ had begun. That’s what it’s called. But we didn’t know, didn’t really understand until after it happened and then thought, how could we not have known? At the time, we were still thinking, rally.
Rally, even when the nurses gently suggested that the family come down.
The day after he was given weeks, we were told he wouldn’t last the night.
At five in the morning, all the machines were off. We stood by his bedside and became that call no one wants to get. We drove home. A few hours after that, the oncology department of a different hospital called and said they had an opening if he wanted to come down and discuss chemotherapy options.
After my father died, I was so stuck in that final night in his hospital room that I could not remember what it was like when he was here. It made me panic. It was too hard to explain. I know he’s not here, but it was like he was never there. I don’t know what it was like when he was here. I knew he was dead but that was the problem; it felt like the only thing I knew. It’s so hard when a person you love becomes almost like this dream you had.
I couldn’t write easily when he was sick, but I had a deadline at the time so I had to. I struggled with words, to piece them together into sentences that meant something. When I finished, I went into his room and told him. He was the first person I told.
Look, I thought. Everything is still going. So you do it too.
The drive to the hospital to him, what would be the last drive to the hospital to him, stepping inside his room. He was hooked up to everything, struggling to talk against and be heard over the oxygen. One of the last things he said to us all:
“Thanks for coming.”
And he meant it, he was just so grateful that we were there.
As if we would be anywhere else.
After the doctors said weeks, not even realizing how soon it would be themselves, my mother and father sat together in his room, quiet and stunned. What do you say when what you’ve just been told is beyond all comprehension, when your future is rewriting itself in the most impossible way. My parents: inseparable, soul mates who always seemed to find their way back to each other no matter what.
“I would be willing to never see you again, if it meant that you wouldn’t have to go through this,” she said.
He said, “I wouldn’t go.”
Sometimes it feels like it’s been a lifetime in one year and sometimes this year feels like it lasted as long as it took me to blink and it’s only been the last few months that I see photos of him and the old reality surfaces, that first thing to go missing after he did. It’s always this soft shock.
Oh. This is how it was. You were there.
& Here we are.
“Should I write something?”
“If you want to. You don’t have to.”
“I do and I don’t. But then I think this is the first year and then I think I should write something.”
David Summers, 1955-2011
About my dad, by my mom