Months To Years Winter 2019 Months To Years Winter 2019 - Page 27

Dad’s casket, and pay for a delivery van to take thought she might hurt herself. him back to Eastern Washington, to the valley filled with orchards where Dad’s burial will take “I’ll call, no matter what the time,” I say. She nods place. We sign a lot of paperwork and determine and looks out the window at a thin thread of birds how many death certificates we’ll need. in the sky, heading south. And even though Dad’s now in a coma, we go For five more days I wash up regular as tides on back to his room and sit at his bedside and tell the dimming beach of Dad’s bedside, once in the him what we’ve done. morning before work, once in the afternoon on my way home. Sometimes I talk to him; most of the A Scud missile. The least of our worries. time I don’t. I hold his thin hand with its rough nails, caress the back of it over and over, smooth- In the middle of that night, Belli, one of Dad’s ing the thick red hair that springs back up. Some- caregivers, calls. “His heart not good. You come.” times I paint his cracked lips with Vaseline on a cotton swab. Sometimes I lay my head next to his Annie is already there when I arrive. “I left Mark red-haired hand on the bed and close my eyes. in bed. One of us has to get some sleep.” The evening before Dad dies, Belli has the answer Belli brings us some tea. We watch Dad breath- to the question in my eyes when I look at her. ing, mouth open, chest rising and falling irregu- “Not long.” larly, almost imperceptibly. He stops for a long She folds the sheet back from Dad’s feet, press- interval. es on the bottom of his soles. “See?” They are bloodless, squishy. “The blood goes up there,” she We lean in, our hearts racing. Then he takes a points to his chest. long shuddering breath and his struggle begins again. “Howard,” she says loudly, “Howard, your feet are cold!” She rubs them for several long minutes. We sit back in our chairs, hearts calming. Time Does touch bring you back to the living? Tether after time he stops breathing and then begins you there for however long you have left? Do again. It’s exhausting. you know when you are dying that you are dying? Dad, can you hear us, feel us? Around 4 a.m. Belli administers some morphine. Dad’s breathing stabilizes. She takes his pulse. I go outside and call my husband, Ed. Who “Is good.” knows, people in comas sometimes hear things. Is ‘It won’t be long now’ the last thing you want to Annie and I stumble to our cars. I don’t remember hear? if we even said goodnight to each other. After dinner I come back and sit by Dad’s bedside At lunch the next day Annie tells me, “We’ve until I can no longer stay awake. I tell him about decided to go back to work. Save whatever’s left the storm yesterday, the downed cottonwood trees of our vacation.” Her blue eyes are dark-circled, taking out power for the entire neighborhood, the shiny. She slumps in the restaurant booth. She’s pile of wood chips the tree crew left in our side my little sister all over again, needing my pro- yard. His breathing is slow and steady. Somehow, tection, the sister I wouldn’t let walk because I I drive home, crawl into bed. 27