All accounts in this story are true memories between me and my father. In memory of Ali
|The curtains are drawn on that sunny day to keep him from getting too hot. My father sits patiently in his arm chair, the one my mother and father picked out at a garage sale a few years ago. I start the tedious procedure, one that was bestowed onto me. The IV stand sits in the corner, neatly tucked away behind a small fake tree that brought some greenery to our living room. Its cold metal and neutral colored box brings with it the starkness of the hospital. I attach the tubes to his pick line that runs up his arm , making sure that everything is sterile and exact to the instructions that the nurse had given me a few days before. With everything connected, I turn the machine on, set the timer, and watch as unseen liquid is pumped into his veins. He leans back and closes his eyes as the machine slowly sounds out its beat.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
The phone was ringing loudly in the still kitchen as I was finishing my math homework in the guest room at my aunt’s house. It was my mother. She was traveling back from Sydney with my father. At the hospital the doctor says there is a tumor in his brain the size of a fist; they give him three months to live. I cried on my mother’s shoulder, thinking what will I do without a father? My grandfather gripped me hard. At fifteen, he told me I had to be strong for my mother, that crying would get me nowhere. Her cell phone began to release its ironic happy tune.
Sitting around the dinner table, our family dug into the dry meatloaf. Extra ketchup helped cover up the flaw. Dad’s appetite had started to come back, his nausea medication finally kicking in. Mom passed the vegetables, which my brother quickly shoved towards me. A year or so into treatment and Dad was sitting at the table again, adding to the usually tense conversations. “Funny thing a nurse told me today at the hospital,” he slipped in before biting into a cooked piece of broccoli. It was always a blessing to hear him speak, so we paid strict attention. “She was testing my blood to check that no illnesses have set in and noticed my blood type. She told me I had B-positive blood type and that it was special at this time. I was to always remember, during my toughest days, when the nausea and pain was the worst, to always ‘B-positive!’” We all stared at him and then screamed in joy. He smiled and chuckled with what little energy he had. Be positive, we all had to remember that. The phone jingled nosily from the wall.
Ring. Ring. Ring.
“Hannah, something is wrong with the IV stand,” says my father five years after that hospital visit. He is so small in that room, his legs the size of my wrists and his stomach heavy with “chemo pounds”. Half his hair still remains in soft fur like wisps. The other side is bald from numerous radiation treatments, small craters pointing out the biopsy points. I open the machine’s front lid, tubes spilling out like intestines from a gut. There is a bubble within the fluid; one big enough could lead to death. The bubble is removed and the pumping continues. The tone again becomes monotonous.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
The parents were whistling, cold foggy breaths streaming up from their mouths with each piercing sound. It was time for the seniors to walk, their parents by their side. We would be called last so he does not have to stand as long. My name was called and we strode out onto the field. My father’s cane sank slightly into the earth, the spongy soil providing some difficulty for his lopsided walking. However, with each mustered step, he smiled more broadly; he held his head higher up. We reached the end of our road and he squeezed my hand tighter. He was here, my father. He was here when all others said he wouldn’t be. The mothers in the crowd rang their cowbells.
We sat in stunned silence after the doctor left us. It had been two years since the soccer field. He was hooked up to another IV stand, this time a blood transfusion. I could not think of anything that could be said at a moment like this. “It isn’t fair.” I looked up into his eyes. The look of utter defeat poured from him, his body slouched after a long battle. “Six months isn’t fair,” he said, unable to keep it in much longer. Sobs shook his body. I was watching my father deal with his deadline. Eventually, I had to look away; my own tears begaun to slide down my cheeks. I remembered what my grandfather had said and instantly dried up. Even with a date set I had to be strong. The game show playing on a television in the room announced a winner, their lucky day.
Ding. Ding. Ding.
“Hannah?” Unfortunately for my dad that bell meant that he still had to wait. One bag of antibiotics down, another bag to go. These in house sessions were to fight his staph infection, his latest illness caused by his nonexistent immune system. It always seems that when we beat one disease, another sets in. I switch out the medications and then fix him his lunch. The sound of the medication moving are almost hypnotic, the beeps little chimes that keep us grounded.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
The mask seemed too tight on his face, but he was no longer aware of what is happening. The leukemia that had grown in his blood after chemo had finally won. In the palliative care room, there were family members speaking in hushed voices. I sat in a chair by his side, my stuffed kangaroo my parents had bought me so many years ago sitting in my lap. The doctor would be in soon and then all would change. My brother stands outside speaking to my aunt and uncle. The buzzing of everyone talking is slowly drained out by the sound of my own heart. It thumps loudly in love and despair for my father. However, it grips at the fact that this is what is best. This is what he needs.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
“Finally.” His relief to be taken off the machine for the day is obvious. To have such a piece of hospital equipment in our home blurs the line of medicine and private life. We always thought we could keep it separate. This cold piece of machinery steals away our hopes, reminding us that he is still sick and under control of an unseen disease. However, its beats give us hope. The final beeps that are rung at the end of the procedure seem almost to be permission. Five years after diagnosis, two years after walking his daughter out onto the soccer field, one year before his eventual death, the IV machine gives permission for my father to live another day. It gives me permission to see and love him another day as well.