My father laid in a hospital bed for the past month. My brother, sister, and I traveled up and down a bumpy road as he journeyed through his last days. We laughed together. We remembers together. Sometimes I’d simply sit by his bedside and hold his hand while he dreamed things I’ll never know. As I sit, I listen to the hospital daily routine interrupt my memories. “Doctor So & So, dial 795.”
I think about times when I was small before my Dad got sick with heart disease. I was about seven when he taught me to throw a baseball and catch like a boy. He taught me how to hit, too, and together we broke several windows in the back of the house. I remember the day I got my first mitt, and Dad taught me how to oil it and mold a pocket. Then a floor washer goes down the hallway as loud as a street sweeper. Nurses and visitors scurry out of its way. I pardon the interruption of my thoughts and watch my Dad sleep.
He’s curled up on his left side, and I realize I sleep the same way. He appears so small right now. He’s no longer the man who was my hero most of my life. Now he’s become a child waiting like all children seem to do. The instant I think this thought he reminds me he’s a man by producing a hefty snore. I giggle because it seems like he’s reading my mind.
The white noise of the television set on the wall fills the silence, along with the whispers of nurses outside his door. A squeaky wheel on a food cart goes by just in time because I feel a tear trying to escape my eye. I promised myself I would not cry when he can see me.
I pray his journey will have a happy ending and unite him to all of the wonderful people who filled his life. Hank, Paulie, Eddie, and his other volunteer firemen friends will reminisce about the fires they put out and the babies they brought into the world. His brothers Marco and Jimmy, along with his sisters Rosie, Mary and Jo can plan a family reunion. My mother will head up the party, her arms opened wide, probably asking Dad why he took so long to join them. All of these dear departed souls have filled my life, too. I smile as I picture them presenting Dad with his angel wings, and him taking his first test drive. They all will laugh and be young again.
This earthly journey Dad has walked for 89 years is nearly over. He’s fought gallantly for the past 50 years to live out everyone of the days he was given as best as he was able, but the time to rest has come. I kiss his cheek one last time and walk away. He’s earned his peace and from now on, I will carry him in my heart.