The next morning.
I made my way to the hospital and towards dad’s room. As I walked closer, I became aware of the beeping, the hum of voices, the activity. A few hospital staff exited from his room and I knew.
Something was wrong.
I rushed in to find an older woman nurse finishing with an IV next to his bed.
Dad was weak, grey. Barely conscious. Christ. What was happening? The nurse made her move to leave, but I stopped her. She motioned back to the IV.
“We’re making him more comfortable. The doctor will be in shortly,” she said. She was friendly, I guess. But not enough.
She left and I rushed to dad’s side and grasped his hand. “Dad! Dad! What happened?!”
He opened his eyes and smiled weakly. “My heart, Nore. The old gal’s working too hard.” He smiled, then winced.
No, no. He was going to be fine. I would stay. He’ll be fine. “Dad, I’m staying, ok?” I begged. “I’m going to stay here with you.” That had to fix things. Why hadn’t I said that last night? Why was a such a horrible person?
“Sweetie, I -” he started before grimacing with a deep, primal chest pain. Then, “I love you, Nora.”
No no no no no this isn’t happening…
“I love you, too, dad. Please…” I said.
“Nora,” dad said again, labored. “I need to explain something. Something’s happening…”
“Sssssssh, it’s ok.” I just wanted him to save his strength. To relax. I would make everything ok again. I really would. I just had to get him to see that. “I’ll talk to the doctor. We’ll get you the best care and I’ll stay here with you, ok?”
“Not my health, hon.” He patted my hand. Then with great effort, he looked toward the hall. Satisfied no one was there, he laid back down. His speech was labored. “Well, not exactly, anyway.” He got almost angry then. Stern. “I always thought I was doing the right thing. I did.”
Another chest pain. I looked around for help. Nothing.
Dad squeezed my hand tighter. “I wanted to help people. Help families.”
What was happening? Was he hallucinating? Was he dying? “Of course you help people, dad.”
He got even madder. His brow furrowed. His jaw clenched. “I couldn’t stand by while people got hurt. I couldn’t!”
“Dad, it’s ok. I don’t think…”
“It can’t go on like this,” he said. Then another pain, worse than before.
Isn’t there a call button somewhere? Fuck! I reached around the side of the bed and pushed the button on the wall a hundred, thousand times. Where the hell was everyone? I rushed to the door and screamed, “Help! Someone! PLEASE!”
I rushed back to dad’s side and couldn’t control my sobbing when he winced in pain again.
I could calm him down. I could! I could do it.
“I’ve got some great news, dad.” He tried to speak, but I put a gentle finger to his lips. I didn’t want him to tire himself. “This deserves a lot more fanfare, but, you’re going to be a grandpa!”
Tears filled dad’s eyes. He looked elated. And frightened.
“Oh my sweet baby girl. How wonderful.” We cried together then. I prayed to anyone who was listening to please keep him here.
“Sweetie,” dad started again. “I’m so happy for you.” He paused again to gather himself. He got that Professor Dad look on his face. “Now…make sure you let Rafael help you, ok? You don’t know it yet, but you can’t do everything yourself.” He was happy, but concerned. He squeezed my hands, willing me to listen. “I know my stubborn little girl.”
There was a patter of steps and voices of nurses from down the hall. His monitors became more insistent.
As the patter got closer, he pulled my ear down to him. He had a look of terror.
“Dad, everything’s going to be -” I started.
“Don’t bring Rafa here,” he whispered, with urgency. “And don’t tell anyone here you’re pregnant.”
He brough his hands to my face, the hospital staff at the doorway now. He looked me eye-to-eye. “You can’t trust any of them,” he whispered so low I couldn’t even be sure he said it.
But he did.
The older nurse from before gently tugged at my shoulders.
“I love you, Nora.”
“I love you too, dad…”
The nurse tugged at me again. “Let us take care of him, Ms. Nash.” I was whisked outside and the door shut.
I sobbed in the hallway, lost.
I made my way back to the lobby, found the nearest seat and slumped down into it and cried. A small handful of other people scattered around the waiting room politely ignored me, in the most Midwestern of ways.
After a few moments, I collected myself, because crap I did not want to throw up right now. I put a hand on my stomach and breathed deep.
I searched the room and saw a vending machine in the corner. I headed for it and clicked the buttons for the least awful thing, trail mix. When I leaned over to fish it out, I saw a newspaper on the chair next to the vending machine. I picked it up to read the title:
Couple & Newborn in Single-Car Accident Outside Emerald
I was examining the paper when the older nurse was suddenly, out of nowhere, in front of me.
All I heard was that dad was stable. Nothing else mattered. She didn’t say he was dead. She said he was stable. Oh thank the Lord. I couldn’t help but cry and the stoic nurse patted my shoulder and led me back down the hall towards dad’s room.
I couldn’t really wrap my brain around anything that had just happened. All I knew was that dad was ok. Or if he wasn’t ok, he was at least going to be ok. He had to be.