Deep in the wells of pain,
Swallowed by the world’s weight,
Under the heavy stone of worry,
Sadness steps on our laces.
When we fall our heads fall too,
When we hurt our heart gives up a little,
A bit of pain alters our functioning,
A lot of bad luck makes us question.
Bad things happen to whom,
And must hurt visit us so often,
Why when we try our best,
We are made to cry the most.
Maybe when we look up,
Or in the time we recover,
The pain forms us,
Ground level is a new perspective.
When we are saddest,
And nothing seems to make sense,
A little bit of light resembles the sun up close,
We appreciate the faint smiles.
We discover hope,
We discover ourselves,
We discover life,
We gauge happiness, from sorrow.
Jimmy is calling my name so I turn around in my chair to see him holding the phone out to me, the spiralled chord stretched as far as it could reach from its attachment on the wall.
‘Your mother is on the phone, she said it is important, if you need to leave early, feel free.’
My mother is talking fast and telling me that she is at the Lewisham Hospital emergency ward. She says my father is admitted and is with the doctors now, but she doesn’t tell me why. She promises it is not anything to worry about, and that she isn’t sure what time she would be home.
I grab my cardigan and my purse and run to the door, looking back at Jimmy who nods at me. I couldn’t stay at work not knowing why my father was at the hospital. The entire bus ride I thought about what could have happened to him. My mother said it wasn’t that serious so I imagined he maybe fell and sprained a hip or knee, or broken something minor. I felt a bit annoyed that she didn’t tell me the details. I am just as worried as she is, more so because my imagination is going wild with the possible causes of my father’s emergency.
When I get to the hospital I run to the administrator’s desk and ask for Gerard Barnsford. The lady gives me a visitor’s badge and the directions to his room. Before I go to the room, to prepare myself, I ask her a few questions.
‘What is wrong with him?’
‘Your father had a heart attack Miss Barnsford, he was not breathing for a full minute and is currently unconscious. The doctors are taking good care of him and have revived his heart.’
I let it soak in, that for a minute my father was practically dead, that in that minute I was probably operating the trimming machine, or washing my hands or doing something menial. For a minute I lost my father, and now he is unconscious. It all hits me at once and my stomach turns inside my abdomen, my heart beats faster. I can’t get myself to go to his room to see him like that. I am having trouble fathoming the happenings and that my father’s 57 year old body was failing him, unpredictably.
‘Miss Barnsford, your father is going to be fine, the doctors and nurses here are taking well care of him.’
I continue to cry, collecting my tears at the bottom of my chin. I fall into the nearest seat of the waiting room and bury my head in my lap, sobbing uncontrollably. I feel scared, threatened by the momentary turn of events. I was rejoicing just a few hours ago over the bonus Jimmy promised me, while around the same time my father was gasping for air and clenching his entire body with the rhythm of the sharp, pulsing paint moving from his heart, down his right arm.
Life without my father was unimaginable. My house, without him walking around barefoot, or humming his favourite jazz tunes, or telling us stories about his employees’ mishaps and thick skulls, my house wouldn’t be my house. I don’t know what this means. I don’t know the implications of a heart attack and what causes it. But I do know that people die from heart attacks and my father is approaching death, more rapidly than I thought he would, because of this incident. It would weaken him, and worry me, that he had fewer lives, and less chances of living.
I thought about our weekly trips to the supermarket, and when he used to put me up on his shoulders so that I could touch the sky, and how he praised me for the small things, like when I toasted bread for the first time. The toast was burnt, but he begged me to let him eat it and smiled all the way through.
I already miss his wrinkled smile and protruding stomach and cheerful laugh. I want to find some almonds to bring to him and count them as we eat them together. I want to let him have the last almond in the bag, as he usually did for me and lie next to him as he slept and snored and sometimes passed gas. In that moment I was glad that I wasn’t married, that I didn’t have a job that required me to move, or a boss that didn’t allow me to leave when my own father was in an emergency room, unconscious.
This morning my father stopped me on the way out the door, kissed my forehead and told me he loved me. Not a day goes by without my father telling me that he loves me. But this morning he told me that he is so lucky to have me as his daughter, and I told him that he sure is. This morning my father was fine.
‘Lana?’ A hand rests on my back. I turn around to see Fred. He is unaccompanied. I jump up to hug him, his embrace spurring on another bout of tears, and sobs.
‘Lana, don’t worry, your mother told me he is fine. They are retaining him for a few days to do routine tests. But he is fine, and alive, and I’m sure he is thinking of the first joke he could tell when he wakes up.’
‘I can’t get myself to go to see him. I’m in shock, what if they didn’t revive him?’
‘Honey, but they did, and he is alive. It was only a glitch in his system, a momentary lapse, but your father is healthy and has many years ahead of him. Would you like me to take you to the room?’
Fred rubs his hands up and down my back, stopping to tighten our hug every few seconds. I lean away from him and he puts his hand out for me to hold it. He leads me down the corridor with the shiny blue-tiled floors and white walls. The smell of injury, open wounds, urine and sanitizer makes for an unpleasant mixture. I hold onto his hand and imagine his strength being transferred to me.
He reminds me a lot of my father. They were best friends their whole lives, which must mean that they have a lot in common. Walking with him, being supported by him, seeing his confident strides and making mine in sync with his, all make me excited to see my father, less afraid of what happened. My father would never leave his best friend on the earth so early, on his own. Fred is here and everything is going to be fine.
‘Lana, you left work? I told you everything was fine, you didn’t have to come.’ My mother looks up from the book she is reading and is shocked by my presence.
‘He’s my father; I wanted to see my father. You didn’t even tell me what happened on the phone.’
Standing next to my father’s bed, Fred and I continue to hold hands. Fred thinks my father is smiling because his lips are slightly curled upwards. I look at the heart monitor and it tracks the normal rhythms of my father’s heart. His chest also moves up and down casually. He looks like he is taking a nap on a cool Sunday afternoon. But the right side of his body looks strange. His hand falls limp on the bed and his cheek hangs across his bone. I look at my mother.
‘The heart attack was caused by a clot that also restricted the blood to his brain. The doctors say that he will have to do physical therapy for his right side to return to normal functioning.’
My heart drops, and so does my hand, but Fred doesn’t allow me to let his hand go. I hold my father’s right hand with my free hand. It is heavy and unresponsive. I pull it up toward my mouth and kiss the top of his hand.
‘I promise we’ll get this hand working perfectly again dad; this is your favourite hand, I know. I love you dad, I love you.’ When I say this Fred squeezes my hand. I look at him and we sustain eye contact, smiling at each other.
‘You know your father, he will be weeding the garden with that hand and building shelves in no time,’ says my mother, breaking the stare. We all stay in silence for a minute and look at my father, communicating in his language. I finally let go of Fred’s hand and hug my father, kissing him on his right cheek. I know now that he will be ok, and that a moment of missing him and fearing the worse has made me realize the extent of my love for him, and how much I want and need him around and in my life. I appreciate him now, every aspect of him, and I anticipate the next time we will be together, sneaking out the house to buy snacks or just sharing space.
My mother and Fred were talking about how it happened, and that she thinks he was trying to lift heavy machinery at work because his employees were lazy and didn’t do their jobs. I snuck off to the bathroom to unreel four pieces of toilet paper from the roll. My father was always screaming for toilet paper from the toilet, so I write a message on the tissue.
I write: ‘we discover hope, we discover ourselves, we discover life, we gauge happiness, from sorrow. This is part of a poem I read on the day you had your heart attack. When I heard of your heart attack fear consumed me, and sorrow. I thought of all of the possibilities. One was that I could have lost my father. Losing you, just in my mind, made me realize how much I love you, and how lucky I am to have you as a father. I want to see your face every day. I want to be a better daughter. You told me the morning of the incident that you are lucky to have me, but really I am lucky to have you. Knowing that you will be ok makes me extremely happy, and I have gauged my happiness to be beyond words, because of that moment of sorrow where I thought I lost you forever. I love you dad, and can’t wait until you come back home. Lana.’
I fold up the tissue and put it on the table next to his bed, under the vase of flowers that my mother bought. She sees me do this and gives me a look of assurance that she won’t read it or touch it. She would leave it like she did the moments between my dad and me, when we connected on a personal and unique level. I touch my father’s hand again and then head to the door. I wave to Fred and my mother and confidently walk through the corridor, recognizing the smiles on the faces of patients and nurses and the fresh scent of cleaning liquid.
‘Wait, Lana,’ Fred says, running towards me. When he reaches next to me he puts his hands on my shoulders and looks into my eyes. ‘Are you going to be alright?’
‘Yes, Fred. My father loves life, he wouldn’t let himself miss too much of it. Thank you for comforting me.’
‘You’re certainly right. Gerry is a soldier, and so is his daughter. You know you can call me or come over whenever you need to talk.’
In the space of two hours my heart grew to twice its size. I have two brilliant men in my life, Fred and my father; two men who are always there for me and are of sterling characters and who love and care genuinely.
I walk home because I haven’t much to do for the rest of the day. The sky is grey and the breeze makes me hold tight to my cardigan and hug my arms to my chest. I can feel my heart beating, calmly. The cars go by at varying speeds and in all directions. Nothing abnormal happens. I still have my job, my friends, my mother, and my father. I have everything, I think. Life, Sigh.’
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