Rebel Heart

Monday, 12 November 2007

Focus on the family

When I was 10 my parents got a divorce. Naturally my father told me about it because he was my favourite.

Honey, I know it's been kinda bad for you these past few days, and I don't wanna make it worse. But there's something I have to tell you. Honey, your mother and I got a divorce.

But daddy!

Well I know you don't want this but it has to be done, now your mother and I just don't get along like we used to... I'm already packed and my plane is leaving in half an hour.

But daddy, why do you have to leave?

Well honey your mother and I can't live together anymore!

I know that but why do you have to leave town?

Oh, well, um... I got someone waiting for me in New Jersey.

But daddy, will I ever see you again?

Oh, sure you will honey, we'll work something out.

But what? I mean, you'll be living in New Jersey and I'll be living here in Washington!

Well maybe your mother will agree to your spending two weeks in the summer with me and two weeks in the winter.

Why not more often?

Well I don't even think she'll agree to two weeks in the Summer and two weeks in the Winter, much less more.

Well it can't hurt to try!

I know honey but we'll have to work it out later. Now my plane leaves in twenty minutes and I've got to get to the airport. Now I'm going to go get my luggage and I want you to go to your room so you don't have to watch me. And no long goodbyes either!

Ok daddy. Goodbye. Don't forget to write me!

I won't. Now goodbye, go to your room.

Ok daddy... Daddy I don't want you to go.

I know honey but I have to.


Well, you wouldn't understand.

Yes I would!

No. You wouldn't.

Oh well, goodbye.

Goodbye, now go to your room and hurry up.


Well... I guess that's the way life goes sometimes.

- Vickie Crawshaw (14)

A child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talking before I knew it, and as he grew
He'd say, I'm gonna be like you, dad
You know I'm gonna be like you

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, dad?
I don't know when
But we'll get together then
You know we'll have a good time then

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, thanks for the ball, dad, come on let's play
Can you teach me to throw?
I said, not today I got a lot to do
He said, that's OK
And he walked away, but his smile never dimmed
Said, I'm gonna be like him, yeah
You know I'm gonna be like him

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, dad?
I don't know when
But we'll get together then
You know we'll have a good time then

Well, he came from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
Son, I'm proud of you. Can you sit for a while?
He shook his head, and he said with a smile
What I'd really like, dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later. Can I have them please?

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, son?
I don't know when
But we'll get together then, dad
You know we'll have a good time then

I've long since retired and my son's moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, I'd like to see you if you don't mind
He said, I'd love to, dad, if I could find the time
You see, my new job's a hassle, and the kid's got the flu
But it's sure nice talking to you, dad
It's been sure nice talking to you
And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, son?
I don't know when
But we'll get together then, dad
You know we'll have a good time then

- Harry Chapin

Always remember: the time to love is short.

The Hospital was unusually quiet that bleak January evening, quiet and still like the air before a storm. I glanced at the clock in the nurses' station. It was nine o'clock. I threw a stethoscope around my neck and headed for Room 712.

As I entered the room, Mr. Mills looked up eagerly, but dropped his eyes when he saw it was only me, his nurse. I pressed the stethoscope to his chest and listened. Strong, slow, even beating. There seemed little indication he had suffered a slight heart attack a few hours earlier.

He looked up, tears filling his eyes. I touched his hand, waiting. "Would you call my daughter?" he asked at last. "You see, I live alone and she is the only family I have." His respiration suddenly speeded up.

I increased his oxygen supply. "Of course, I'll call her," I said.

He gripped the sheets and pulled himself forward, his face tense with urgency. "Will you call her right away, as soon as you can?" He was breathing fast, too fast.

"I'll call her the very first thing," I said, patting his shoulder. "Now you get some rest."

He closed his eyes. Reluctant to leave, I moved through the shadowy silence to the window. The panes were cold. Below, a foggy mist curled through the hospital parking lot. Snow clouds quilted the night sky.

"Nurse," he called, "could you get me a pencil and paper?"

I dug a scrap of yellow paper and a pen from my pocket and set them on the bedside table.

"Thank you," he said.

I smiled at him and left.

Mr. Mills's daughter was listed on his chart as the next of kin. I got her number from Information.

"Miss Janie Mills, this is Sue Kidd, a nurse at the hospital. I'm calling about your father. He was admitted tonight with a heart attack and..."

"No!" she screamed into the phone, startling me. "He's not dying, is he?" It was more a plea than a question.

"His condition is stable at the moment," I said, trying to sound convincing.

"You must not let him die!" she said. Her voice was so compelling that my hand trembled on the phone.

"He is getting the very best care."

"But you don't understand," she pleaded, "Dad and I had a terrible argument almost a year ago. I... I haven't seen him since. All these months I've wanted to go to him for forgiveness. The last thing I said to him was, 'I hate you.'"

Her voice cracked and I heard her heave great agonizing sobs. I listened, tears burning my eyes. A father and a daughter, so lost to each other. Then I was thinking of my own father, many miles away. It had been so long since I said "I love you."

As Janie struggled to control her tears, I breathed a prayer: Please, God, let this daughter find forgiveness.

"I'm coming. Now! I'll be there in 30 minutes," she said, and hung up.

I tried to busy myself with a stack of charts on the desk, but I couldn't concentrate. Room 712. I felt I had to get back to 712! I hurried down the hall nearly in a run.

Mr. Mills lay unmoving. I reached for his pulse¡ª There was none.

"Code 99. Room 712. Code 99. Room 712." The alert was shooting through the hospital seconds after the switchboard operator was notified.

Mr. Mills had had a cardiac arrest. I leveled the bed and bent over his mouth, breathing air into his lungs. I positioned my hands over his chest and compressed. One, two, three. At 15, I moved back to his mouth and breathed as deeply as I could. Where was help? Again I compressed and breathed. Compressed and breathed.

Oh, God, I prayed, his daughter is coming. Don't let it end this way.

The door burst open. Doctors and nurses pushed emergency equipment into the room. A doctor took over the manual compression of the heart, A tube was inserted through the patient's mouth as an airway. Nurses plunged syringes of medicine into the intravenous tubing.

I watched the heart monitor, Nothing. Not a beat. "Stand back," cried a doctor. I handed him the paddles for the electric shock to the heart. He placed them on Mr. Mills's chest. Over and over we tried. But nothing. No response.

A nurse turned off the oxygen. The gurgling stopped. One by one they left, grim and silent. I stood by his bed, stunned. Wind rattled the window, pelting the panes with snow. How could I face his daughter?

When I left the room, I saw her. A doctor who had been inside 712 only moments before stood talking to her, gripping her elbow. Then he moved on, leaving Janie slumped against the wall. Such pathetic hurt in her face. Such wounded eyes.

I took her hand and led her into the nurses' lounge. We sat, neither of us saying a word, She stared straight ahead, glass-faced, breakable-looking.

"Janie, I'm sorry," I said. It was pitifully inadequate.

"I never hated him, you know, I loved him," she said. She whirled toward me. "I want to see him."

My first thought was, Why put yourself through more pain? But I got up and wrapped my arm around her. We walked slowly down the corridor to 712. She pushed open the door, went to the bed and buried her face in the sheets.

I tried not to look at this sad goodbye. I backed into the bed table and, as I did, my hand fell upon a scrap of yellow paper. I picked it up. I read:

My dearest Janie,

I forgive you.
I pray you will also forgive me.
I know that you love me.
I love you, too.

- Daddy

The note was shaking in my hands as I thrust it toward Janie. She read it once. Then twice. Peace began to glisten in her eyes. She hugged the scrap of paper to her breast.

"Thank you, God," I whispered, looking up at the window. A few crystal stars blinked through the blackness. A snowflake hit the window and melted away, gone forever. Thank you, God, that relationships, sometimes fragile as snowflakes, can be mended together again... But there is not a moment to spare.

I tiptoed from the room and hurried to the telephone. I would call my father. I would say, "I love you."

- Sue Kidd