Baystate Medical Center, July 2014
I am having trouble meeting the gaze of the doctors as they tell me what I already know: my father is as good as dead. I study my hands, hoping that I am adequately playing the part of Distraught Daughter.
The truth is that I had made my decision before I even found myself in that too-bright conference room. Still, I politely listen as these strangers in lab coats detail my father’s drunken fall, the neighbors finding him the next morning, and his helicopter flight to the hospital. Doctors detail his head injury and spew trivia and percentages to which I am numb. As they subtly urge me to end what’s left of my father’s now-robotic life, I feel certain that they can’t imagine the complexities this situation presents to an estranged daughter who has crossed an ocean solely to do so.
“He is gone,” they reassure me.
But he has always been gone.
The doctors take their leave and I find myself looking into my uncle’s fatigued face. He is worn from pacing the hospital corridors, waiting for a niece whom he does not know, and listening to the mechanical beat of his brother’s heart monitor.
“You know what my choice is, right?” I ask carefully.
“I should hope so!” he says a bit too quickly, before trying to console me, “This is just a tragic accident. I don’t believe that he was drunk. It doesn’t make sense. We all know your father had a drinking problem, but even if he was drinking the night before, he was fine! The coffee pot was on so he was probably running across the street to the store and he fell!”
When I don’t respond he again emphasizes, “This is just a really tragic accident.”
I let out a long sigh and turn away from my uncle’s ashen face. His voice, identical to my father’s in its cadence and tone, seeps through my skin and sits like a stone in my stomach.
More urgently now, “Your father was a good man. If he had nothing but a piece of bread for himself, he would have broken it in half and given it to a stranger.”
I turn to him and try to keep the bile from my words: “Oh yeah? And what did he give to his daughter?”
As I leave the hospital I glance into his room once more.
I do not know this man.