I stared at the slow rotating blades of the fan. The warm humid room was hardly a good place to struggle to keep awake after a 30 hour shift. Sneaking a glance at my watch; I see my duty at the clinic was drawing to the end, thank god. The nurse outside calls out a name, and I waited. I nearly nodded off but was awakened by the soft shuffling of footsteps and the sound of a woman’s voice talking to an old man that seemed to be her father.
As they sat down I couldn’t help but notice the face of the old man. One eye was barely open, and his mouth was twisted in a lopsided smile as we made eye contact. They were plainly dressed, clean but withered old articles of clothing that had clearly seen better days. The woman was both pleasant and to the point. 5 minutes and several questions later, it was pretty clear the old man had had a stroke. He had to be admitted for observation lest his condition took a turn for the worse. As the doctor drew up the necessary papers, I saw the old man turn to the daughter. He put his hand on hers and gave it a squeeze. He whispers to her in her ear, something I cannot catch nor guess. They left together, the father leaning on the daughter’s arm, his feet still shuffling on the clinic floor.
Minutes later, the daughter comes in alone. Her head is low, her hands clutching the admission papers. They’re shaking uncontrollably. She patiently waits as the doctor finishes up with another patient, a man with a headache, nothing important. As the other leaves, she sits down quietly and takes his place. Even before she says it, I know what she came back to say.
I cannot have him admitted, she says, there is no one that can be here with him. I have three young children at home, I have to be there for them, she says. He refuses to stay here alone, he wants to go home, she says.
The doctor seems almost callous as he looks her in the eye and steadily says without a trace of emotion, that it is entirely her choice.
“But if he dies, are you ready for that?”
The line shatters me, it breaks my heart. I scream inside my head withholding the urge to shake her and tell her to say NO, NO, NO. But she nods her head and she says yes. The doctor takes back the admission papers, writes a release form and hands it to her to sign. I watch as she takes that wretched piece of paper, almost a death warrant in its right, and she signs on the dotted line. She hands back the paper to the doctor, and as he places his signature, she turns away and I watch her wipe the tears from her eyes. Even though she doesn’t say it, I know what she means to say.
We cannot afford it, she says, there is barely money for essentials every month. I have three hungry mouths at home, to clothe and feed, she says. He refuses to let them suffer because of him, he wants to go home, she says.
I watch her leave. I smile and say thank you to the doctor for letting me observe his work. I make my way to that empty stairwell where I know nobody ever passes by. I sit down and weep, wondering why anybody should ever have to make that choice.
I stop when I realize it’s almost dusk, and I feel like I’ve aged years in a day. I can only guess what happened to that old man, but I’m sure he passed on contented, set on his decision for his daughter and grandchildren. All he had left was his life, and he gave it away, because they could not afford it.
I do not know if he was a fiend, a thief, a cheater or a liar. I do not know if he was a beggar, a roadside hawker or a cleaner. I did not know the story of his life, but this part of it seems mine to share.
I do know that he was a loving father and grandfather, and to me, an angel in his own right. Why look to the heavens for angels, when they walk among us?
Ever get this warm-in-your-belly secure feeling you're on a lucky streak? I mean, come on, I got a birthday wish LIVE from DUTA at few minutes past midnight. Godammit I was born 0011. Hehe.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE LET IT CONTINUE. Hope I'm not jinxing it by typing it here and announcing it to the world. * * * * * * * *Silently mouths it and swears to not swear for a month if it comes true*