I hear a commotion down the hall. I think I recognize my father’s voice, but I’m too groggy to zero in on it. It’s dark, except for the bright lights outside the door.
The voices become clearer. My father is arguing with the nurse, saying he wants to see his daughter, his daughter who is in the hospital following a tonsillectomy. I hear him say that he couldn’t sleep, so he brought my stuffed bear for me.
He sounds angry, and I register embarrassment that my father is raising his voice at the people taking care of me. The nurse, however, is insistent that he can’t just barge in after visiting hours and that he should come back tomorrow morning. I hear slamming doors and then silence.
The nurse quietly enters my room and puts the bear in my bed. When she leaves, I grab for it and snuggle it. It’s not just any bear – it’s the bear my dad bought me after my mom dragged me away from it in the store, telling me it was too expensive. A few months later, I had found it on Christmas morning in the bottom of a big empty box “from Santa.”
Today, I am the one going to see my father after visiting hours. After spending the evening with my mother, his room is a stop on the way home. He, too, is often sleeping when I sneak in the employee entrance, but nurses today know it’s better medicine to get a goodnight kiss from a loved one than to toss and turn in a fist-clenched sleep. I try to bring him special treats that I hope he’ll enjoy. And I can’t help but note that I too have sounded angry at his caregivers from time to time in my zeal to protect him.
The circle remains unbroken. And the night is a little less dark thanks to night visitors.
-Excerpt from They Live On: Saying Goodbye to Mom and Dad by Patricia A. Nugent