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I've returned home for the first time in a long while because my father has had a stroke. I sat alone all last night at his bedside in the Intensive Care Unit of a metropolitan hospital. He is in a coma and looks 80 years old, but he's in his late fifties. I sat in the dimly lit room and watched monitors record what's left of his life. The entire time I was beside him, I touched his hand as though my being there will help him live.
Over the endless hours of waiting, I've wondered what I'll do if I loose the last of my parents. I am terrified of the prospect he may be lost to me and I'll be left all alone for the first time in my life. No more calling him for advice, no more coming home to follow him around like a puppy while he fascinates me nearly to death; no more working on my hot-rod with him. No more watching him age and his hair turn white. I'm already in sorrow and he hasn't died yet. My deep sorrow is spawn because I realize if he returns to me, he'll be less than the man I remember. Tears well and roll down my face while I consider the possibilities.
Mom died 12 years ago, the victim of a drunk driver and now the potential loss of my father is to dreadful for me to contemplate. My sister and her husband are stationed in Turkey, where they are employed by the federal government to give the dependent children of military families an education. I will not summons her unless Dad takes a turn for the worse.
I was ordered to leave the hospital minutes ago by a nurse who said if I didn't go somewhere and sleep, I'd be joining my father in an adjacent bed. The rhythmic sound of the ventilator had acted like hypnosis and lulled me into afitful sleep sitting up in a chair.
I had finally pried myself away from Dad's bedside and driven to our family home. Once there, I went immediately to my old room at the top of the stairs. At age 26, I sit on the edge of my old bed and look at the memorabilia collected while growing up in a small town. Had I not been possessed by an addiction to fly, I could have easily become a careerist teenager and lived out the rest of my life here.
The furnishings of my old room seem Spartan now. My ancient and well-used study desk bought at a yard sale when I was six sits beneath the window. I named the desk Beebee, because those initials were carved near a top corner. I always had a romantic notion the letters were carved as a tribute to some boy's love for a girl. The old oak desk has graced my room for all the years I lived here. Its sturdy top holds my old tower computer alongside my baseball glove.
The tensor lamp that illuminated the volumes of my education stands guard over everything. I flip the switch and the light still works. On one wall hangs a jersey from little league baseball, a sport girls were intended to be excluded from. The wall on the other side of the table holds high school and American Legion Baseball jerseys.
That period of three marvelous seasons was the first, and probably only time, girls around here ever played Legion, Little League, or high school ball. The achievement was special so the jerseys occupy a hallowed place alongside the old computer. The old computer was mostly the building block of my education, that and the wonderful teachers in the local schools. I contemplate opening the menu and reading my teenage diary, but decide to let the words rest in the tomb of a no longer used machine.
A photo of Mom sits on the near corner of the desk. She looks my age and going to live forever. Dad's photo occupies the other corner; he looks like he might not be shaving yet. My old pink blivit of a U-control model airplane with its gas engine hangs from a screw-eye in the ceiling, held in imaginary flight by a piece of nylon fishing line. The engine protrudes garishly from the right side of the silhouette type fuselage. The gas tank smoothly soldered and made from a 4oz V-8 juice can is still decorated with the identifier advertisement around its circumference. I can't remember when I put the model up, but it seems a lifetime ago.
A lot of things have happened in my life since the model last flew--a college education, a military career, a disrupted engagement, a war, a lost lover. While I stare at a high school graduation photo on a far wall, my mind reverts to when this room was my sanctuary. It was a huge deal for me to move in here after Patty Anne left for college. That was before my own departure for the Academy and before Desert Storm.
As I remember those days, it seems too remote to have happened.
I'm 16 when lightening strikes. Mom is killed at the local, most dangerous highway intersection by a drunk driver on his way home from loosing his job. Of course being drunk, he isn't hurt at all.
Drunks seem to have all the luck while they scythe through life destroying lives. They always seem to get off unharmed by the impact, and in most cases, free from justice. This one didn't though; about a month after he killed Mom, he stuck a pistol in his mouth and ended his sorry, miserable life.
The funeral has been over for three months and Dad has receded into himself. All he does now is run the family business, eat and sleep. Nothing else seems to matter, not even me. My sister and I lost our mother, but he lost his childhood sweetheart and very pretty lifetime companion. My sister and I live on as almost exact duplicates of what she looked like.
Nothing was more perfect than seeing Mom and Dad together. When you saw them walking hand-in-hand, you knew there was never going to be any mid-life crisis to destroy their union. Everything was just too incomparably perfect for that to happen. And then, on a bright day full of hope, came beer bottles and a steering wheel in the hands of a stranger. The grinding crash and the grasping jaws of death dramatically changed the lives of all of us.
Next in memory are the wake, the funeral and the burial. Everything is buried, but all those glorious memories of her. What remained of my universe after that is my 20 year old sister, Dad and myself. Sis is away at college and I am still in high school.
Sis is due home today for the Thanksgiving Holiday, our first to share as three-fourths of a family. Now, instead of Mom cooking most of the day, it will be her daughters in the kitchen trying to remember everything she taught us.
I hear the squeak of brakes in the driveway, brakes that need replacing before they ruin the rotors and made the job a lot more expensive than necessary. The squeaking brakes are Patty Anne returning home from college where she was a freshman working toward a teaching certificate. I remember when I was 16 and could hardly wait for my big sister to come home for the holiday. When I hear Patty Anne on the stairs, I get up and move to the second-story hall for the expected hug and kissy motions women prefer for greeting and usually perform without command.
Copyright © 2006 Max Ibach