( with complications)
My step-mother’s voice was choked.
“Your father’s on the operating table.
They can’t stop the bleeding. They can’t
put his heart back in… he won’t clot.”
For the next few weeks, I drove to the Heart
Center wondering if my father was still…
He was in The Intensive Care of intensive cares
attached to tubes on the side of his neck,
tubes that went into his lungs,
tubes that came out of his chest,
a tube into each of his arms and out his penis:
Draining and pumping, attached to machines
That caused his breath, machines that fed his blood
machines with dials and lights and suction cups
that were everywhere but the privacy of his mind
which would not let him go.
Just below each bed at a panel, sat a nurse
with pencils and charts and circulating doctors.
Immediate family was allowed to see for fifteen minutes
once, every two hours.
I bent his arms and legs and stared with fear, curiosity and awe
at his helpless and unfamiliar body:
the shrunken tattoo of his name on his arm,
the cold white skin of his legs
the puffed, frail chest, the twitching face
the closed eyes that sometimes seemed to want to open.
Continuously, I spoke to him.
I had wished most to be with him when I couldn’t be.
I thought about how this body would have treated me
if we had been together when I was growing up.
I’m told that it’s often like that,
but it felt good to comb his hair.
It was a wonder to see a flash of eyes
That I learned were very blue.
When they told us that he’d had a stroke
I resolved that I would not leave him like that
and plotted how it might be necessary to help him die.
My wife said that I was being crazy,
but it was one of those times when sanity was less than enough
and I was crazed because it was how I felt when I used to pray.
“Daddy,” I would say
“You’re gonna get better.
You’re brave and tough and if that’s not enough,
I promise that it will be OK.”
And I pleaded with the distance to let me get through.
I begged the distance to learn new ways.
As my father came around,
the tubes and machines were gradually removed.
and they took him to regular Intensive Care
and waited to see how much of him remained.
First he opened his eyes and could turn his head.
Then he could move on one side.
then on half of the other.
He tried to communicate with a letter board, shaky finger spelling,
And when they took the tube out of his throat,
he talked to me.