In This Room

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That I am the one

alone with my father at

his moment is purely chance.

 

It is 4:14 am, and the house is quiet. Though we’re all

here, this moment leaves me alone with my father, who

will die tonight; it’s just a matter of when. I have had

some developing anxiety lately. I’ve often felt that it’s

 

as embarrassingly elementary as: We get what we

deserve. Period. And after a lifetime of missteps and

regret I feel fairly certain that I am destined to die in a

heinous car crash for all my sins. As a result, I’ve lately

 

been fearful of cars. Getting behind the wheel of them.

Being a passenger in them. Encountering them and their

owners on the most manic freeways in the world (yes, you,

Los Angeles). So I almost didn’t make it. I paused as I got

 

the call from home that my father was beginning his

transition.   I was sixty miles away.   My heart raced; I

should be there and nowhere else. But I paused. I paused

again when the second phone call from my brother revealed

 

that he was only minutes away from arriving at Dad’s.

So, there’s just me, then? Who won’t be there when Dad

passes, out of this life? Only me? While everyone else

rallies, because rally is what you do. I guess that was

 

the one that unpaused me.   I strapped on guile — an

ill-fitting dress — and got on those deathtrap freeways.

The way I came to see it, as I drove, with extreme

paranoia about every auto that seemed to be inching

 

into me, was that if it’s my time to go, in the most fiery,

bloody way one can imagine, that would still be better

than living the remainder of my life in the self-hatred that

I would choose cowardice and PTSD-level anxiety over the

 

privilege of holding my father’s hand as he completes his

extraordinary task on this earth.   So here I am, at 4:14 a.m.,

and our entire life together as father and firstborn floods

the corners of my eyes. We’re all here, floating in and out

 

of his room over the course of several hours, several days,

holding vigil, being here as much for each other as for him.

My stepmother, especially, has been the most solid rock I’ve

ever witnessed. She’s not indulging her irrational fears.

 

That I am the one

alone with my father at

his moment is purely chance.

Except what if it isn’t?

 

What if, of all his children to see him over the threshold

(there are five of us), he chooses the one most fragile?

It could be argued that a younger brother who wrestles

with a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis is the fragile one.

 

At least, in that invincible, God-complex universe that is

my brother’s, he is absolutely certain of his power and

worth. Of course, only in my own troubled universe can

there even be an “at least” regarding a brother’s diagnosis.

 

I am bitterly aware. But what if my father is saying to

me, at 4:14 a.m., through his shroud of unconsciousness,

his sheer drape between this life and another: “Darling

daughter, the rest of my children are good in the world.

 

They know their worth. You have been struggling for

fifteen years. Ever since the estrangement with your

mother at the time of her death. You have self-flagellated

in the most dramatic ways, because she died alone and

 

you hold yourself responsible for every bit of it. Darling

girl, see me out. Hold my hand, and sing to me. Though

my eyes are closed, and my breath is thready, I am listening

and holding your hand too. You. See me out.  So that you

 

can be atoned. So that you can cancel out regret.  So that,

against your fears, too closely linked to annihilation, you

can stop looking, almost begging, to meet the eyes of

road-ragers and challenge them to take you out.”

 

My goodness, what if?

 

The throng has been his vigil all night. Yet at 4:15 a.m. on

a Thursday, the dark hours of morning, a daughter alone,

holding her father’s hand, he takes his last breath. I watch

for his chest to rise one more time. An almost violent stare.

 

It never does.  My father’s youngest walks in the room, takes

our father’s hand, and confirms the death that I have been

staring at these vast seconds.  We hold each other at

his bedside, as the rest of my family enters and gathers.

 

And we feel the enormous heft of siblinghood, marriage,

fatherhood, all bound together in this room by my

father’s very sinews. It is the most precious moment

I can imagine.  We all feel this. We are in sync.  A family.

 

As for our moment, father and daughter alone, it will

be forever mine that until, and perhaps even inside

of, his very last breath, my father was still taking

care of his child.  Offering her peace.

 

Should she choose to accept it.

 

 

 

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is a published author, a recipient of the Heritage Magazine Award in poetry, and has produced several albums as a singer/songwriter, and a yoga/mindfulness CD. Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on INSTAGRAM & YOUTUBE.

 

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