I sat in the chair and held his hand. He was adrift on his morphine sea occasionally raising himself up from the depths of some deep warm waters to surface in our reality for a brief interlude. His eyes would flicker open and he would see the ward and me. He would look around. Who knew how much he took in? I squeezed his hand and the eyes shut.
I watched him as he cruised the oceans of Morpheus.
The eyes sometimes swivelled round deep in their black sunken sockets. Sometimes they were still. The hair on his head had become thin a frizzy. The skull underneath was evident beneath the waxy stretched yellow skin. The bones on his arms and body were etched out starkly beneath the slack thin skin. The flesh had dissolved completely away so that the veins bulged and throbbed, dark blue and clearly outlined beneath the transparent jaundiced cellophane that served as a boundary layer, that was once skin, now a transparent film. He had wasted completely away to the point where you had to wonder how it was that he was still capable of life. Only his will and strong heart were keeping him alive.
“Good night, Dad,” I said, rising to go.
“Night, God Bless,” he said clearly. It startled me. I had thought that he was completely out of it.
“See you in the morning.”
He did not answer. I walked out and looked back from the door. I didn’t see my father. I could see traces of my grandfather in that emaciated body. His nose, that had seemed so normal, now stuck out in profile like a huge beak. The skinny chest rose and fell.
I went home.
In the morning I got up and was in no rush.
The phone rung. He had passed away in his sleep. They estimated death as about three in the morning. No one had been with him.
It was a shock. We’d known it was imminent. It was still a shock.
We went into the hospital. The ordeal was over.
There was the same unreality. We were in our bubble. Nothing had changed.
I stood in the room and looked down at him. He looked the same as last night. It was just that his chest no longer moved, his eyes no longer moved. Nothing moved. I walked over and touched his face. It was cold. My eyes filled with tears. He had died alone. I hadn’t been with him. I had thought I would be. I had wanted to be. It was like closure. But now he had gone. Slipped away.
I looked out through the window. The curtains were drawn. It was another bright day. The tears slipped down my face. A man walked past on the pavement the other side of the fence with his dog. He ambled along and looked around. If he had looked my way he could have seen a young man with tears in his eyes standing by the bedside of an old emaciated corpse. He would have seen death.
He did not look. For him, this day was the same as any other. He was out there in the world living in a place where death was a long way away.
I was still trapped in this place where time ran differently. I was still in a place where that reality was unreal. Death was real and the world would never be the same again.