It didn’t look like much, just a standard hospital room with one of those beds from the late night informercials for old people. For some strange reason I take a mental note of the situation: there isn’t a “beep-beep-beep” machine. I didn’t know the proper name for the thing but there was definitely none of those cliched final moments, deathbed, hospital room noises you hear all the time. It is after all three in the morning so I’m not totally surprised. The only people here are some doctors, nurses, my mom, my sisters, me and of course my dad, and he isn’t going to be here long. A bad and inappropriate joke I know but my mind couldn’t help it. I mean in my defense, just three days ago he’d been making jokes with the staff. The family still has the picture where he pretends to drink out of the bed pan.
Also going against stereotype, there wasn’t one of those befuddled doctor that greets you at the door and is all, “Mr. Whalen I meant your father isn’t going to last till mourning, because he’s going to be okay!” Then the studio audience laughs, and I make a jump to shake the doctor out of relief-anger, and the credits roll. No, this was real life and like real life the doctor was probably right about my dad’s situation. I mean, this wasn’t the first time the family and I had all made the mad dash to hospital for the “final stand,” but somehow we all knew. Seventh times the charm.
So there I sat, next to the bed on the his right, while my mom and sisters all sat together on his left. Dad was still asleep, if that’s the right word for it? I’m not totally sure, let’s jus say unconscious. I think somewhere in the background I heard the janitor buffing the floor. You know what they say, my mind quoted to me, life goes on. I’d been getting a lot of crappy sentimental cards like that for the past couple of days ever since things took a turn for the worse. At this moment I wanted to make a card for anyone else who this situation would happen to. The outside would read “Well…” and then you’d open it and it would say “…this is some shit. Sorry.” Shorter was better, and so is honesty.
This was some shit. And it was also somber shit, which I knew, but I had a hard time remembering this. It was early and my mind was wondering about. Probably a defense mechanism, I said to myself. It kept making inappropriate jokes about hospital gowns, bawdy 1970s British hospitals, and bald jokes. Not a single follicle left on the man, I uncouthly noted to myself. I wonder how long it would have taken to reach that stage, with out the chemo and cancer, dad did start going bald at 17.
Nobody really said anything, I suppose nobody really had anything to say. Tired and emotional is not a good mix for moving conversation. It just stayed silent. People don’t even get to say meaningful last words, I thought, I no longer blindly trust the credibility of famous last words. Half hours turned into full hours, and we silently waited until he finally died. No revelations of hidden treasure or mysterious names blurted out at the final moments to signify dad’s death, just a general fade of the skin to a weird white color. Side note: I don’t know why zombies are green, they really should be white. It’s done, I thought, it really happened. That was, well… weird to be honest. What do we do now? I was generally confused. Do we walk out and leave a note to the doctor? I blamed that one on the shock, but I honsely don’t know where it came from.
The family sat in the room with the body for awhile mourning and then we all wandered out at some point. After that my mind gets a little hazy. We must have eaten at some point, because I remember spewing in the hospital bathroom. I tried to aim the flow of milk and adult brand Rice Krispie cereal into the toilet, but I think I mostly missed. The janitors were not happy about that, which is weird because they work in a hospital.
As the years passed I would off and on feel guilty about these joke I made to myself, but then eventually the guilt wained. Dad had been like me: sarcastic and obsessed with making people laugh. He did after all pretend to drink out the bed pan.