**Author’s Note-Check out parts one, two, and three from the previous weeks to catch up if you haven’t yet. Thank you everyone, for staying tuned throughout this essay. I hope you enjoy the conclusion!**
“I must have been somewhere in my early teens when I was confined to my bed with the worst intestinal pains I ever felt. It felt like cramping muscles but extreme, almost like I, not that I know what it feels like, but almost like I was giving birth. I had a fever that left me drenched and shivering. It didn’t help that my blankets clung to my overheated body.” He paused to drink from his beer. “I was bed-bound for a few days before my mom and dad realized this wasn’t any ordinary cold or flu. They rushed me to the hospital where doctors scratched their heads at my symptoms. I’m convinced these guys in white coats aren’t real doctors because they had no fucking clue what was wrong with me. They decided they would find the problem by doing some exploratory surgery.” He lit a cigarette, took a puff, continued, “The crock-head doctors wheeled me away into the surgical room where they probably cut me open, unraveled my intestines on an aluminum tray, and probably took some of the soft tissue for their experiments. After I woke up, I remember hearing the doctor tell my parents what the problem had been.” The smoke billows around his head before it’s swept away on a breeze.
“My appendix was perforated and leaking toxic fluids into the surrounding organs and muscles. After it was removed, the doctor had given me a fifty percent chance of survival. My parents didn’t know what to do with me, so they brought me home and put me back in bed. Next thing I knew the priest from our church was standing beside me. All nine of my siblings and my parents were huddled at the foot of my bed listening to the priest read the last rites to me. It was like previewing my own funeral,” he sipped from his beer, the sliver of a smile creasing the corner of his eyes.
I pictured Dad with skin so pale it was near transparent, dwarfed in his bed with the lights turned off. The only light would come from a single flickering candle on the bedside table, priest looming over him. Picturing this, I couldn’t help but imagine how surreal it must have been. His family was watching him walk up to Death’s door, raise his hand to knock, then pause just before his knuckles tapped the hardwood to greet the shadowed face.
Dad takes another tar filled breath before continuing his story, “In the coming days, while everyone in my house waited for my last breath, I heard them live their lives outside my door; my brothers and sisters screamed and giggled as they chased each other down the halls; the smell of mom’s homemade meatloaf drifted up from the kitchen making my mouth water; the sunlight outside my window, and mom calling in my siblings for dinner.”
“I wanted to be outside with them. I longed to feel the prickly blades of grass under my feet, and to feel the strong breeze carrying my mother’s sweet voice to my ears. When I thought about leaving my bed to join them, I was forced to look at how scrawny my arms and legs had gotten from days without proper food. There was no way my legs would be able to lift myself out of bed. Every now and then, siblings would poke their heads in my room to see if I had died yet, and when they saw my chest rise and fall, they ran downstairs leaving me alone. No one was there to sit with me while I teetered between life and death.” He finished telling the story by pouring another shot of liquid amber down his throat.
Dad was alone when he needed someone the most. Those days of staring at Death’s door with no one to offer their love and comfort changed him many years later, when he thought he was watching his daughter slowly making her way towards the same hardwood door with her hand ready to knock. I imagine he shared that story with me as a way of indirectly saying he would always be there for me when I needed support. He wasn’t going to let me live a similar childhood. I knew, then, the moment I would step into the hoarder’s garage, seeking love and comfort from Dad, he would put away his guitar, set aside the whiskey bottle and listen to me. He had known, to some extent, that I was running away from my emotions, so he was more than ready for the task. He couldn’t allow himself to sit idly by and watch me go through one of the most difficult experiences I would face so soon in life.