It was an innocent question from a nondescript hospital gift shop employee, but it hit me like a punch to the gut. I shook my head and turned away, busying myself with a rack of tiny stuffed animals with huge glassy eyes.
The question could not have come at a worse time. At that exact moment, my dad was having a procedure where they were trying to determine why he was bleeding. He had been filling bed sheet after bed sheet with pools of blood, like someone had amputated one of his limbs. And, they couldn’t find a reason for it.
At that point, it was his tenth day in the hospital and the bleeding was a new development, not the reason he was admitted. The few days before, he had vacillated between the transitional states of awake, but not knowing who I was, and being completely out of it and delirious.
I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about the importance of Father’s Day this year, what may be the last Father’s Day with my dad. It would be hard not to think about it, even if I didn’t want to, with all of the commercials and advertisements and emails telling me what would make my dad happy for his “special day.”
It seems so ridiculous to me this year, all of that “stuff” — the cards and the barbecue grills on sale and the latest tech gadgets. I think of the trinkets I gave him as a child, like those cheap resin statues of cartoon-like caricatures holding a fishing pole with “World’s Greatest Dad” engraved across the bottom. Or, I think of the year my husband got him one of those hammock chair swings that hang from a tree, an idea I said my dad would hate for Father’s Day, but he ended up loving, especially when the grandkids would pile in it and he would push them.
No, none of those things would do for my dad this year. Instead, my dad would like to have a piece of ice-cold watermelon, so ripe that you can feel the graininess when you crunch down on it. He’s been talking about it and describing it just that way for almost a month now.
But, he can’t have that, because he hasn’t been able to eat real food now for 32 days.
If my dad had his way for Father’s Day, he would be at home. I know this because during one rare, lucid moment over the past month, he raised up out of his hospital bed, looked me right in the eyes and said, “Bail me out of here.”
But, I can’t give my dad that either for Father’s Day because he will likely never go home again.
Or, if my dad could have a Father’s Day gift this year, he would just want to get out of bed, because, after 32 days of not being able to get up, he’s just … done.
Although I can’t get my dad any of the things he wants this year, I am going to sneak a homemade frozen watermelon purée into the hospital. And, I’m going to sit by my dad’s side and feed him what will probably be his last taste of watermelon … because he deserves at least that for his final Father’s Day.