My father is still recovering from his heart procedure, and I sit here outside his room and wonder. I have a lot of time to sit and wonder.
He is struggling, and I am struggling watching him struggle.
I wonder if this is what he felt like when he watched me battle through my own pneumonia, 20 years ago, or through a childhood peppered with back to back asthma attacks and hospitalizations.
I wonder if he felt this helplessness when my brother suffered a near fatal motorcycle accident followed by a catastrophic car accident. I know he struggled during my mother’s many episodes with various cancers.
Life is a struggle.
Always a struggle.
I sit and watch him slumber. I wonder what tigers he fights in his sleep as he thrashes to and fro. He kicks his feet and punches the dead air above his head, and I think he is keeping the bad things at bay. I think he is saying: “Not today. Not yet.”
He is determined to battle his demons and get back to a chapter in his life of which he has grown fond. Yes, he is 91 years old, but he is also 34 years old, 57 years old, 75 years old. He has the brain matter of a much younger gentleman and a spunky disposition that I find exhausting but the nurses deem endearing.
I sit and ponder what he must be feeling while he remains stifled in his bed. This is not his finest hour. He is angst-ridden that he is secured here, and he is frustrated that he has no pep in his step. He is mad at me for telling him he cannot yet repair to his home and for agreeing with the therapy team.
I am a traitor.
I am his medical turncoat.
I wish I could spirit him away to the place he has been dreaming of going: anywhere but here. I wish I could fly him to an island on wings of stellar health and resurrected youth. I would paddle him there on a boat filled with hope and laughter and courage.
But all I can manage right now is to wheel him to the courtyard outside the facility where the sun kisses his lined face and the wind wraps itself around him like a long-forgotten embrace. Maybe, when he closes his eyes, he imagines he is on a kayak bobbing along the Susquehanna, or on a beach in Aruba, or maybe, simply, sitting in his old garden among the rosebushes and answered dreams.
I hope, as he battles these vast medical nuisances, preventing his prompt recovery, he knows how much I adore him. I sit and watch him breathe in and breathe out. I get close to him as I fear his breathing stops. I hold my own breath until he releases his again. And then, I relax and resume my watchdog stance. I’m afraid to look away. I’m afraid to exhale. I’m afraid I didn’t tell him everything I should have.
When he awakens, I will tell him: “Not today. Not yet.”
Happy Birthday, Dad.