It's Me, Andie
She stood looking at his face under the unforgiving lights in his hospital room. His hair was startlingly white against his browned skin. The stroke they said. His face was the same, maybe a little thinner, a few more wrinkles. The hand that held hers in a tight grip showed no sign of weakness. How can he be in a coma?
"Dad?", she said,her voice coming out much softer than she intended. What do you say to someone in a coma? Some say he can hear me, no one knows for sure. If this is my last chance to talk to him...
"Dad, it's me. Andie. If you can hear me, I want you to know I understand. I know you love me, it was the dementia that made you forget. It didn't matter, I love you enough for the both of us.
Do you remember those hot, humid summer nights when I was little? Oh god, I do! I would press my face against the window screen at the head of my bed for just a hint of coolness. I couldn't sleep in the heat. You knew that didn't you?
I cherished those moments you know. Especially when your memory of me was left behind and you smiled at the strange young woman who stopped in to see you. You smiled trying to place who I could be, I could see it in your face. I cried inside, and made small talk with a bright smile and chirpy voice. You told me of your childhood, your lunch yesterday, your sister who had died, and searched my face for a clue. It's Andie dad, remember me? I'm your daughter? 'Oh I know', you would say, those dark eyes trying to hide the lie.
I breathed deep, reaching for the courage to smile, to hide the lie in my eyes. It was there, buried deep, bracing me to tell you about my life and my family as if you were aware they existed. You pretended to know, I pretended to believe you. But, it's okay Daddy, I understand.
It's okay because I have those memories I will always cherish. I love you so much. You were the good in my life, all along. No matter what happened I could face it because I had you with me, cheering me on, backing me up and giving me gems of wisdom to guide me in all kinds of different situations.
Oh goodness. My allergies seem to be acting up. Let me find a tissue.
Do you remember coming into the bedroom when I was meant to be asleep and telling me stories. I loved the one about the frog family coming home from the party. I tell it to my grandchildren now. I mean, not as good as you. I can't hit the low note when Daddy says 'Knee deep', but they still laugh when baby frog says 'Blub blub' . It wasn't the stories though. It was your presence there, calm and caring, lulling me to sleep as I breathed in the smell of you and the feel of those cotton sheets cooled by the fan.
What did you put on your hair? I know it was the last thing I smelled at night, as my dreams took over your storytelling and took me on adventures to places that sadly don't exist.
Do you remember singing 'Big Rock Candy Mountain' to me? I was often there in my dreams looking for the candy that hadn't been stepped on. Thank you for giving me my dreams. The ones then, and the ones I chased as I grew.
Everyone said I was just like you. It made me happy to hear but I knew it wasn't true. You were bigger and stronger and sweeter than that mountain in my dreams. I was tiny and blown about by the wind, too weak to stand my ground. I do hope though, that I've carried a bit of you with me to share with my children, dreams to dream, courage to follow them.
Sorry, these allergies are getting worse I know. Before anyone comes to take over, I just need to tell you how much you have meant to me my entire life. Even when we were miles apart you were in my heart carrying me to heights I could never have reached on my own. It sounds horrible but I'm kind of glad you're in a coma because I 'd never be able to say these things to your face.'
She wiped her tears and blew her nose, her time was almost up. She didn't want anyone finding her like this.
The nurse came in at 3 on the dot. Andie smiled at her, hoping all traces of tears were gone.
The nurse said, 'Can you send another visitor in when you go? Andie nodded.
She tried to let his hand go. His grip was still strong. She patted it with her free hand and leaned over kissing his cheek. It was wet. Startled, she quickly straightened and looked into his open eyes. They crinkled and diverted the tears as he smiled into hers.
'I love you too Andie.'