Time doesn’t always make you forget. Sometimes you are placed in the middle of the place that you dread the most. You are unable to move forward, but instead hurl into a terrain where you feel the breadth of a sudden cold slap in your face. Oh, there is that feeling again, where you revisit the land where mortality intersects out of the walls like invisible laser lights and you try to duck under the lines only to be stranded while looking for a hand to pull you out of the quicksand.
This last year I thought I’d made some important strides in trying to release some of the grief that I felt after losing my father. What I’ve learned this past week is that the dull ache of his passing sometimes comes like that unexpected phone call in the middle of the night. What precipitated these feelings? I stayed with my mom in the hospital while she recovered from her knee replacement surgery in the hospital. Four days and three nights of one continuous interruption after another, beeps, lights going on and off, and a vending machine of different people popping in my mother’s room that included nurses, physical therapists, techs, and food services. The smells were all familiar to me. Stale coffee, the smell of old flesh, hand sanitizer, and the vapor of fear that pulsed through every blood test, blood pressure reading, and in the corners of waiting rooms. While my sister and I waited in the surgery waiting room to hear word about how our mother did in surgery, I felt the anxiety of years past when we awaited results for various test results and procedures that my father had undergone. In my mind, I kept saying, “This is different. Mom is in for an elective surgery that could change her life for the better.” Somehow my rational self tried to kept my emotions from trying to overflow like lava out of volcano. Once she made it out of surgery, there was a certain level comfort, but as she recovered, the nurses put on the nose cannula to help pump oxygen into her body.
There was that dull ache again. My mom and I looked at each other as the strapped the clear flexi tubes on her. I know we both thought of my father. And the dull ache became a sharp stab in my heart just because it reminded us of how in those final weeks oxygen was something that my father couldn’t get. You know that deep breath you and I can take without thinking? My father couldn’t breathe. He kept telling us to fix the cannula and to turn up the oxygen because he couldn’t breathe. What we didn’t tell him is that it was up all the way and that there was nothing more we could do. He couldn’t breathe because his lungs wouldn’t let him. I still remember the sloshing of the oxygen bursting in and around my father as he struggled to breathe.
It is where that dull ache took birth. And maybe it is never meant to go away.