Cara Mayo and Lisa Reutzel

Cara Mayo
By Lisa Reutzel

Inspiration Piece

Whenever I think about my father, white is the color I remember.  Everything in that room was white.  White curtains, white walls, white sheets, white tiles on the floor.  This was long before someone figured out that hospital rooms didn’t have to be white, before nurses were allowed to wear pink and blue and scrubs could be found in all colors of the rainbow.  Back then, no one had yet realized that white didn’t necessarily equal clean, that white was perhaps the least pure color of all because it showed all the stains.

In the middle of that white room lay my father.  I went to see him everyday for a week.  Each time I walked into that room, it was like passing through the gates of Heaven.  Only Heaven could be this white.  I wore the same white dress each time I went, realizing that the shock of a pair of blue jeans or a red sweater in all that colorlessness would be too much.  There was a chair next to his bed, wood-framed with a cream colored cushion, the only thing in the room that wasn’t strictly white.  I sat in the chair and stared out the dirty window, watching the wind blow green leaves off the tree branches and birds flit amongst purple flowers in the garden and gray clouds float across the sky.  But in my father’s room, everything remained white and silent, the stillness broken only by the bleeps and whooshes of machines.  Even the noise in that room was white.

I don’t know why I went to see him.  I doubt he even knew I was there.  He only opened his eyes once.  I don’t think he would have recognized me even if he did see me.  My father and I had never been close.  In fact, I hadn’t seen him since I was fourteen, and even before he disappeared from my life completely, I barely knew him.  He wasn’t around much while I was growing up.  He wasn’t the one who had rocked me to sleep when I caught the measles or taught me how to ride a bike or walked me down the aisle when I got married.  I didn’t owe him anything.

Still, I sat beside his bed everyday, watching him sleep beneath the white sheets, holding the pale hand that had never held me.  I read to him from magazines I found in the lobby and I talked to him about my life, though I had no way of knowing if he heard me, or if he’d be interested even if he did.  He’d never shown any interest in me before.  I told him about my children, the grandchildren he had never met, and my job at the library, and my mother, whom he had left when I was just a little girl.  I told him that I forgave him, even though I wasn’t sure this was true or whether or not it had ever occurred to him to seek my forgiveness.  I had no idea if he’d thought of me at all.

I was the only one there when my father passed away.  The whole week I spent sitting next to his bed, he never received another visitor.  I don’t know if he had another family, one he created after he left us, but if he did, they didn’t think enough of him to visit.  I watched him draw his last breath, and I felt nothing at all.  I didn’t know if that reflected more on the type of daughter I was or the type of father he had been.  Either way, it didn’t seem to matter.  A nurse came in and turned off the machines.  She said I could take as long as I needed to say my goodbyes, but I told her I was finished.

How do you say goodbye to someone you never really had a chance to say hello to?

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