The fluid from the dextrose bottle dropped one drip at a time down the narrow elastic tube. It ran into the needle that was inserted through the vain at the side of my father's left wrist. I watched sadly the shallow breathing of my 89-year-old Dad. A ventilator was attached to his nose and mouth. The heart monitor showed faint heartbeats. His condition was critical.
Daddy suffered a stroke about nine months ago. He had a hard time dealing with the tragedy of my eldest brother's death from heart ailment. But my father remarkably recovered, although it left him partially paralyzed on his right side. He underwent some therapy sessions which improved his physical strength for a while. However, his health remained unstable. Trips to the hospital got frequent as he had several "minor attacks". But yesterday was different. He went into seizure after lunch and had been in comatose since then.
Looking around the spotless hospital room, I knew my father would approve of its housekeeping. He was a very meticulous man when it came to cleanliness and orderliness. He was also a perfectionist. He either required or expected nothing but the best in everything my siblings and I ever did. We had our own share of spankings and scoldings from him. As I grew older, I realized I feared my father more than I loved him, that's why I had to respect him. While gazing at his now frail countenance , I had difficulty reconciling his infirmity with the once proud and strong person I used to know.
I was never really close to Daddy. I could not imagine sharing my dreams with him. When I was 13, I was scared to tell him about that first attractive boy. He screened all my suitors and found all of them unsuitable. For no reason, he did not like my husband either. That made me embittered. I decided then to distance my family from him.
Nevertheless, time had a strange way of healing. My parents were advancing in age and I understood it was important that I took an active part in caring for them. Although my relationship with Daddy did not develop into the warm, chummy type, we were able to communicate well, like two matured individuals, about many issues. It made me aware of Daddy's conservative views about marriage and family, and at the same time, about his liberal outlook on politics and education. I admired how logical my father could present his opinions and arguments.
My remembrance of the past was interrupted by Daddy's groaning. I held his hand and whispered into his ear, "Daddy, I'm here. I won't leave you." His face seemed to lighten up as his expression turned peaceful. Then he opened his eyes. He had a blank stare. I gripped his hand tighter. I saw tears in his eyes. He grasped my hand. He tried to talk but it was incomprehensible. I moved my face close to his. I felt his breath upon my cheeks. For the first time in my life, I was actually embracing Daddy. So this was how it felt! At that moment, I began to appreciate how wonderful a father he really was... that I failed to see his goodness because I was more focused on his strictness; that I refused to perceive how affectionate and gentle he was. "I love you, Daddy", that was the first time I said that too. I saw a smile on Daddy's face.
After that, he slept again. Suddenly, the heart monitor drew a straight line. The medical personnel rushed in and tried to revive him. A few minutes later, the doctor looked at me. He shook his head.
My knees turned weak as I moved toward the bed. I caressed my Daddy. Once again, I whispered into his ear, "You'll always be in my heart, Daddy. You can rest now. Thank you for being my father. I'll see you soon. Go home now to Jesus." As I raised my tearful eyes to the window, I thought I saw heaven's gate opening wide with my Daddy walking inside God's kingdom.