The assignment was to write an event in my life that will be engaging for readers, at the same time, help them understand the signficance of the event.
Did I live up? Let me know!
Essay # 2 – Remembered Events
“Filling the Moments”
I remember the taste of snow on my tongue. The cold had permeated through my
cheeks and numbed my whole body despite the layers of warm clothes. It was far past the time
to retire for a nice steaming cup of hot chocolate toppled with marshmallows, yet I stubbornly
remained outside. We were in the middle of another cold New England winter and as a five
year old girl, I cherished every single minute in the frozen wonderland. Even with my blue lips,
chattering teeth and shivers, I had begged him for one more turn.
Gripping the sides of my sled, I could still hear the muffled voice of my father despite
the triple set of knitted hats which sat atop my head. He leaned in close and I remember that
even through the constricting and frigid air, I could still smell him.
“Are you ready?” he asked with unmistakable mirth in his voice.
I eagerly nodded my head and felt his strong hands start to turn the sled in a counter
clockwise motion. Sucking in my breath in anticipation, I closed my eyes as I felt the world start
to spin. In almost one fluid moment, my father’s strength propelled me down the large hill
behind our modest little raised ranch in the middle of suburbia.
I also remember the smell of freshly made coffee and the warm sunlight on my feet as I
made my way down the hall to the living room. I knew I would be chided for not wearing socks
once more, but I didn’t care. This was my time with my father, half-hearted scolding aside. He
fondly called me his “early bird” as I plopped my small body down next to him on the couch.
Sitting there in his neatly pressed khakis, steel toed work boots and buttoned-down
dress shirt, he would switch the news to cartoons without complaint. I would usually fall asleep
again before he left for work, barely noticing the kiss he would place upon my forehead or in
some cases, the blanket that he had wrapped around my frigid feet.
As I sat in the small and unfriendly ICU waiting room last year, these specific memories
were the glue that held me together on that unforgiving summer day in August.
Shortly after what was supposed to be a routine surgical procedure, my father’s heart
had suddenly stopped beating. Medical personnel were successful at bringing him back, but
the trauma of the evening warranted a crude, plastic tube down his throat to manage his
breathing. It was only after the doctors were confident in his prognosis that he was allowed to
waken from the medical coma and breathe on his own.
As we consulted various experts in the small and plainly decorated hospital room, it was
agreed that in order to repair the damage to his heart, he would need major bypass surgery. It
was also discovered that one of the valves allowing blood to pass through the heart was
severely damaged during the attack and also needed to be replaced as well.
They moved him from one hospital to another, but despite the change in location, many
things remained the same. The room was painted and draped in stale pale colors with minimal
decoration, save for a small TV that hung from an L-bracket in the corner. The only noticeable
difference was the noise that usually accompanied big city hospitals. Sirens and traffic could be
heard outside the window of his room, despite the attempts to sound proof.
I remember eating my lunch as he picked at the tasteless and under-salted slop the
hospital provided for their patients. My father would barely touch most of the meal, saving his
Jell-O cups for when I brought my children to visit. He was thrilled to see them every night in
the week leading up to his surgery and it warmed my heart to think they were a source of great
strength and comfort for him.
Invoking memories of my past, he’d allow my children snuggle up to him as best he could despite the wires leading to various monitors and IVs, and immediately turn the TV to something child friendly. Even in those difficult hours and his fate in the hands of doctors, he still placed the needs of others above his own.
On the night before his surgery, I took the opportunity to bring in my digital camera,
taking pictures and videos of him with his grandchildren. The tension was tremendous as I
caught various hugs and timid smiles. Some part of me shuddered to think that if something
were to happen on the operating table, these would be last moments of my father’s life
captured in perfect stillness.
Holding his hand, I flipped through the pictures on the tiny LCD to see how they had
turned out, and saw something that had caught me off guard. For the first time in my entire life,
I could see the fear in his eyes. It was at that moment, every reserve of strength that kept the
dam of emotions from breaking, instantaneously failed. I squeezed his hand tighter and barely
managed a whisper through my tears that everything was going to be okay. He slowly nodded
as the words “I love you” exited my lips, his own pale blue eyes growing moist with anxious
Being a single mother, I had no choice but to take my children home for the night. Guilt
racked my body as I left, knowing that as soon as I crossed the threshold of his room, it could
very well be the last time I saw him. I often wonder how I managed to find my apartment
through the veil of tears that clouded my eyes that night.
I called him once more that evening, telling him again that I was looking forward to
seeing him the next day, and I reiterated numerous times how much I loved and cared for him.
If it had been up to me, I would have stayed on the line all night, but he must have
sensed the profound worry and exhaustion in my voice and urged me to get some sleep. I can’t
explain to you what it feels like to have so much to say to someone and yet leave so much
unsaid. I couldn’t bring myself to say, “goodbye” when I finally hung up the phone.
As the sun filtered through the blinds of my apartment, my head pounded with lack of
sleep. My youngest daughter had slipped out of her bed during the early hours of morning and
lay curled against me upon the couch. With her baby blanket wrapped tightly around her
sleeping body, it was this act of comfort that let me close my eyes for some much needed rest.
Too soon did the hour of six strike the clock as I dialed the number to his room, while
wiping the sleep from my eyes. I felt the chill slide down my spine as the nurse who answered
informed me that my father had already been moved down to the operating room. There were
no more words to be said until I could be with him later, in the best or worst of outcomes.
Shipping my children off to school and daycare, I grabbed a few muffins and a hot chocolate and drove to the hospital. It was going to be a very long day.
As I sat there next to my uneaten breakfast, I passed the time away by reading, writing
and remembering. I also quietly shared in the experiences of others who were waiting for
doctors to emerge with news. Good or bad, I got the impression that some were just anxious
for any word on their loved one.
An elderly Indian woman silently sobbed against her brother’s chest as her family
surrounded her. Her eyes were red and puffy as she took a moment to look around the waiting
room, drawing in a much needed deep breath. I offered a warm smile and inclined my head as
she folded her hands atop her brilliantly colored yet wrinkled sari.
As she caught my eye, she returned an exhausted nod, and then spoke something in her native language to her family. Excusing herself, she made her way to the small women’s lavatory. I would later find out through her brother that her husband had taken a turn for the worse and they had been informed by doctors he would probably not live through the day.
A tall, well-dressed man who at my best guess looked to be in his forties, paced back
and forth through the white painted halls eagerly asking any passing medical professional if
they had an update on his ailing wife. When he got tired of pacing, he would linger by the vase
of freshly cut flowers that sat upon the reception desk, carefully running a finger over what
looked to be a yellow rose. I’d like to think he was drawing up some wonderful memory of
their past together, in an effort to steel himself against the agonizing wait of not knowing.
In one of the corners of the room, where worn cushions provided little comfort, an older
Japanese woman quietly wiped away tears with an ornate red silk handkerchief. She was
surrounded by four women who looked just like her, and I would later hear that they were all
sisters waiting for news on another sibling who recently had bypass surgery.
Throughout the long day, the elevator doors continued to chime, open and close.
Worried families arrived and departed; some relieved and other grieving. While I was the rare
case in my solitude, I remember thinking to myself that despite the fact that we were all
strangers, we all had something in common. We were not alone in our ordeals; we all deeply
cared for someone who was behind the ominous security doors.
It was a total of eight hours until I was called into an even more tiny private room to
learn my father’s fate. I sat there adjusting myself. I crossed my legs, sat up straight, played
with the old, cream colored rotary phone they kept on a battered wooden coffee table and I
kept telling myself it was going to be good news.
The doctor knocked on the sturdy wood door and walked into the room, dressed in
clean, green scrubs. I found it odd that he still wore clear plastic booties around his feet and a
similar dressing over his dark hair but I realized he was trying to stave off infection when
I noticed he stayed confidently standing before me and there was something comforting about the fact that he hadn’t put an arm around my shoulders upon his arrival. I had always associated those types of greetings with bad news. As he pulled the germ mask below his lips, I secretly rejoiced at finding a smug smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. He was proud of himself as he told me that my father’s surgery went according to plan.
Although he spoke of recovery risks and symptoms, I could barely listen as relief swept over my
body. At that moment, I was glad to be sitting as I’m sure my legs would have given out during
He was okay.
I was trembling.
Just five days after opening his chest, he was allowed to go home with me. I will never
forget the image of him sitting in a hospital wheel chair, with newly washed hair and a defiant
smile on his lips. He had cheated death once more.
As he clenched the little heart shaped pillow that the hospital gave to outgoing patients, I
could feel the excitement build. He was ready to be home. It was in that perfect moment where
I leaned down and whispered in his ear.
“Are you ready?” I asked with unmistakable mirth in my voice.