5 am came early and 9:15pm seems so late. Days last forever and nights crawl by.
A bottle of Windex, 2 cans of Fabreze, a canister of Clorox wipes and3 rolls of paper towels: my sister in laws and I clean thru the day to help pass the time between visitors, nurses and aids.
Prayers are said, tears are shed, the sign of the cross is made. The smell of cigars and fresh rosemary fill the evening air. A message is delivered in her ear and she has her peace at last. All she needed to know was that she and all she did for him mattered. Eventually it all quiets down till all you hear is the hum of the old refrigerator and the whirl of a box fan.
He struggles in the back room, silently searching his pockets for a coin to pay the ferryman.
No call went out, yet we all gathered tonight to sit vigil with my mother at the bed side of my father as he slips further away.
I didn’t think I could go to the back of the house and into the spare room where he lay curled up on a hospital bed. I told myself I was here for my mother. She shuffled back and forth from the front room to the back. One time carrying his next morphine dose another time a cool rag to sooth the fever that racks his body as it tries to shut down.
My youngest brother came and I pointed to the back and said, “You can go back, it’s okay. Wanda is with him.” he choked back an answer and just shock his head no. He couldn’t do it and I understood.
My older brother kept milling about back and forth, sitting in one chair and then another. Room to room we all seemed to pivot avoiding the obvious as best we could and making small talk about this and that.
My sister -in-law look at me as if to ask if I had taken my turn yet….I shook my head no. But again said ,”feel free to go back, Wanda is there.” I then realized my mother was in the room and that Denver was alone. I took Olga’s hand and she gripped it tightly. Silently we walked down the narrow hall to the spare bedroom together. His breath labored and infrequent, he seems so slight and fragile. Not at all the giant and imposing figure he has been all my life. There was a softness I had never seen before. And I knew then that I could do this. Not that I should, but that I COULD.
The hours pass by and we convinced Wanda to go lie down. She is afraid to relax too much or even sleep but she knows she must. The men we sent to rest at their own homes. We sit up, we women. Cleaning and shuffling about and listening. Waiting.