He’s starting to be more there than here, and his children are learning what life will feel like without him.
This pause is the longest, and the heavy, quiet days and nights are interrupted by the rising and falling of his thin chest. His children sit and listen, waiting for erratic beeps and red lights on the monitors that will cause the near silent ward to leap to its feet. But in the absence of such interruption, the soft sounds continue to become deafening, and oddly comforting. A nurse’s pink cotton scrub fabric swishes a bit, her sneakers squeak on the linoleum, the metal clang and roll of a silver food cart in the corridor. These sounds are added to their prayers like a church choir, amen and amen and amen.
Each of them thinks that he can hear everything they say, and secretly they believe that he can even hear their thoughts. Maybe the dying become telepathic, even as their eyes blink but do not open.
The skin on his hands and arms are ink-blotted with age, skin that once grew so red so easily in times of mirth or anger. What once was flush with emotion has now paled to dove gray.
Even when the end is apparent, blind, irrational optimism swells the walls of the room. His children say to each other, “He looks better today.” His doctor might say his levels are better, and that he seems to be more comfortable. There were no rough patches in the night. So each night that the clock on the wall strikes midnight, every one sighs and hopes that another day has been bought. They start to barter with God for one more day, one more hour, one more minute where he remains on this side of the curtain.
~ for my grandfather, who is taking his first steps on his biggest journey.