Papa

My fingers curled on the turquoise handles of the oxygen tank. They trembled; not to the frantic screams from the hospital bed across the hall, but to the eerie calm that remained in Papa’s room despite them. I peeked through the gap between the window blinds to try and witness the chaos. The walls outside were painted with a subtle beige embellished with maroon flowers, blooming with dried blood that splattered from the slit arteries of the dying man.

Still grasping onto the vibrating oxygen tank, I leaned my ear on the wooden door that led to the hallways. The back of my stud earring pierced my skin. It hurt, but I was alright.

“What happened?”

“His BP just bottomed out.”

“Push one of epi.”

“He’s still crashing, Doctor.”

“Charge to 300! All clear.”

“Stay with me, Mr. Barnes.”

A pause. The hysteria simmered down.

“Time of death: 12:32.”

A click muted the monotonous scream from the heart monitor. I felt a scathing hole in my heart even though I never knew the dying man.

The sudden silence woke Papa up. He groaned and yawned, using his free hand to rub away the sleep in his eyes. The tube in front of his nose fogged. The Nurse had reassured me multiple times that the fogging was a good sign; but I still didn’t believe her. Papa’s face was ghastly white – the wrinkles around his face highlighted the tiredness that he carried throughout the three months that he had been here.

“Oh hello there. Are you here for my breakfast?” Papa asked, mumbling under his breath.

“For lunch, Papa,” I corrected him. “Let me get it for you.”

I scurried out to call the Nurse. She arrived five minutes later with a tray of mashed carrots and watery porridge. It looked dull and moist; but that’s how Papa likes them. The Nurse spoon-fed him the way Mama used to when I was five.

“Thank you for the breakfast,” Papa said. “You are so kind. What’s your name, sweetheart?”

“My name is Regina, Papa,” I said. “I am your daughter.”

“I have a daughter? Well then, do I have a wife?” Papa asked again.

“You do, Papa, but she’s in heaven right now. You buried her, remember, Papa?”

He looked at me, puzzled. The Doctor tells me that in Papa’s distressed state, his memories would jumble up. I didn’t blame him for not remembering Mama. In the past, Papa loved her; their love was radiant like an immortal sunflower. After Mama died, Papa was miserable. I recall hearing him wail all day long and bang his fists against the hollow walls of the house. He even tied a thick rope around his neck once. Shortly after, Papa was wrongly admitted into a mental asylum, then moved to this medical institute where he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

The Nurse had an awkward smile plastered on her face. Papa’s Nurse is my friend. Once, Papa thought I was someone else and started hurling curse words at me. His words were painful; I felt as if I was reliving the tears that trickled down Mama’s cheeks on her deathbed.

When the Nurse caught me crying in the corner, she brought me red roses. She said I had a beautiful heart that bore the color of red roses. Now the roses sit next to the TV in Papa’s room, but they just remind me of the dying man, since nobody bothered to water them. And I never bothered to learn the Nurse’s name.

After his meal, Papa ordered me to turn on the TV. A black and white movie was playing. Papa loves black and white movies, he said that they relax him. I let him sleep. I took my stuffed monkey and went to get my own lunch in the hospital cafeteria. Papa’s Nurse joined me.

“Regina, you are a very splendid and patient young lady, you know that?” the Nurse said, gently patting my shoulder.

“I’m not a young lady yet. I’m only ten,” I said.

“Well, you still have a beautiful heart. And I know that your father is very proud of you,” she said.

“I highly doubt that, but thanks,” I responded, getting up and taking my half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich back to Papa’s room.

The closing door startled Papa. He jolted awake from what I assume was a brief slumber and wiggled his eyebrows. He recognized me.

“Regina?” he said weakly.

He was lucid. After two years of praying and waiting, he finally remembered my name. An electric current propelled through my veins. I was overjoyed.

“Papa!” I cried, tears welling up in my eyes. “I missed you.”

“Oh darling, how long has it been?” he asked, enveloping my hands in his. “You’ve grown so tall!”

“I have, Papa! I’m now four feet and nine inches, almost as tall as you!” I joked.

Papa chuckled. “Mama would have been so proud of the young lady you’re becoming. I love you, monkey. Please remember that, okay?”

“I love you too, Papa,” I said, kissing his trembling calloused hand. “I’ll be back. I have something for you.”

I sprinted out of the room pumping fists in the air, skipping through the Special Care Units like I had just resurrected a dead man. I had always thought about giving Papa a gift when he finally became lucid. It was a teddy bear. Papa loved teddy bears. They make him think of Mama.

I kept the teddy bear in my bag in the locker room. Ground floor. It took me eleven flights of stairs before I could reach the ground floor. I was panting, but I had never been more energized. The sweat from my oily scalp trickled down my forehead rapidly, stinging my eyes with its saltiness. It hurt, but I could simply blink the pain away.

When I arrived on Papa’s floor with the teddy bear in my hand, all I saw was fear in everybody’s eyes. The Doctors and Nurses were all running, scrambling frantically with crash carts and metal trays. I followed closely behind them to see who was dying next, but to my horror, they were all rushing into Papa’s room. I stood rooted to the ground; my eyes became glassy and my lungs were constricted.

“What happened?”

“His BP just bottomed out.”

“Charge to 200! All clear.”

“He’s crashing, Doctor.”

“Charge to 300! All clear.”

“Stay with me, Joseph. You have too much to lose.”

A pause. The hysteria simmered down.

“Time of death: 16:38.”


Our stuffed teddy bear collapsed on the cold ceramic tiles.