It took a while to find my father’s grave. It had been a while since I had visited. Odd, the things you choose to remember about people when they are gone.
A frail and withered man lay sleeping in an oxygen tent. His breathing was shallow and uneven, and the medical apparatus in the room had tubes and wires that connected them to the man in the bubble. The machines beeped and clicked.
I was seven years old; looking through the clear, rectangular material at what my father was reduced to being. Were it not for the medication, oxygen tent and the other machines, my father would have died months ago. The tumor had been growing out of control for a while, but this last month had been the worst. The doctors weren’t sure how much longer he would hang on. I looked at him as he breathed uncomfortably and a tear rolled down my cheek, unhindered.
They used to call it a deathwatch. Now, it’s visiting hours. Now, it’s quality time with Dad. Now, it’s life.
My father looked different, distorted by the plastic sheet of the oxygen tent, so I cautiously bent down and stepped inside the tent, careful not to disturb any of the hoses or wires, practically tiptoeing around them to get a better look, and as I did, my father’s eyes fluttered open to a semi-conscious state.
He pulled a deep breath and strained to say, “Hey there. I got you something, Chief.”
It was a muffled whisper that I barely understood. His hand rose slightly from the bed and he was holding a Rubik’s Cube.
He knew how confining a hospital must be for a kid my age. He had asked a nurse to fetch something from the gift shop to keep me busy and keep my mind on something else other than his condition.
I took the toy, smiled and said, “Thanks Dad.”
He had already slipped back into unconsciousness.
I went back and sat in the chair, the only chair in the room, and focused on the Rubik’s Cube, slowly and deliberately turning the rows of colored cubes. I knew the goal was to get all the same colored cubes on each side, but the distraction of the toy was comforting, and I was really just going through the motions of turning and turning and turning without thinking about it.
The sharp, sustained noise startled me, and I realized the EKG machine connected to my father is showing a flat line. Another machine started a lower-pitch Beep! Beep! Beep! and about twenty seconds pass with the noisy alarms filling the room before anyone came in to the room. I sat there, watching.
Finally, a nurse came in and hurried to the oxygen tent. She checked the tubes and wires. A doctor and another nurse join her, the doctor opening the tent and putting his stethoscope on the man’s chest. They go through the process of trying to revive my father. Preoccupied with their tasks, none of them noticed me, sitting quietly in the chair, watching. Still clutching the Rubik’s Cube, my knuckles were white.
Life in Sixty-Four Square Feet
©Copyright 2015, Mitch Lavender
Rubik’s Cube® used by permission of Rubiks Brand Ltd. www.rubiks.com
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living, dead or undead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.