My father’s recent illness took me on a journey I have long dreaded. Hope turned into concern and then to despair. In an instant, my reserve to remember the warrior not the vanquished turned into a desperate need to be with him.
The journey to him was full of hope even though it took hours from my home to his. Seeing him weak, unshaven, and exhausted was shattering. He lay there so frail and ill. I wanted to wake him but didn't. I waited patiently until he stirred and then I saw the twinkle in his eyes. Even though it was too hard to move his lips, he whispered: you've come. That alone reaffirmed the reason for the long trip to him. He can’t eat, said my family. I know he can because he is our warrior.
Armed for battle, we made him foods he can eat, praying his body would agree to swallow. He and I created a rhythm. From one spoon we went to five and then I would stop to let him cough the demons out. Excitedly we graduated from food to food, determined to make him stronger and never let him go.
As confidence took hold, I went from five to six to seven spoons in a row. He too was eager to eat. One night as my mother and I cheered him to a recent best, the demon roared unexpectedly and violently. The next hour was simply hellish. His windpipe wanted to cave. How he brought himself back from the edge only he knows.
My brother and nephew cradled him, oscillating between the confidence of physicians and the fear of loved ones. My mother sat next to him quietly waiting for his breathing to return to normal. I helped how I could, overcome with guilt for being incredibly foolish. When we asked Baba if he was getting better he signaled yes even when it didn’t seem so. I know he did that for us.
Afterwards as he slept peacefully, I thought he won't be able to eat again. We will be scared and perhaps he will be too. Just then he opened his eyes. I will try if you will, said the twinkle to me. I kissed his head in solidarity. A little later he awoke and talked about his mother and I asked if he wanted to be with her. Quietly and firmly he said, not yet.
On my way back home, I realized that age will make him journey forward to his God and parents one of these days. I may not be there when he does, but this is what will make me smile: I know that my warrior Baba will pick me to be his little girl again. His eyes always tell me so.