|Ona better day|
Finally, I am on my way up to the 4th floor and the ICU where I am greeted by a plastic wall with a zipper I need to use to enter her room. A nurse greets me and tells me she was waiting for me and that I need to don a gown and gloves, along with my mask. I do as I’m told and enter, and there lies my daughter Ellen, an oxygen tube running from her nose while she is soundly asleep, and her mouth agape.
As I inch closer to her bedside, I see all the machinery that she is connected to, the numbers and progress lines lighting up the screens, monitoring, and keeping the staff informed of her physical being. She looks helpless, vulnerable, and sick and all I want to do is reach into the bed and hold her, telling her I love her that I will always love her that I wish I had her suffering and she was free to laugh and giggle once more. It hurts that I can’t do it.
Suddenly, she starts to move, her eyes still shut as she maneuvers the dark world of infections from unknown origin, restrictions of her hands so she won’t pull out the different pick-lines, and intravenous that invades her body. I look at her and I want to cry.
As she moves slightly, I call her name… “Ellen… pussycat… hey, it’s daddy!” Suddenly she hears me as her eyes flutter open, a soft smile crosses her lips, and acknowledgment of my presence. With great trouble, she lifts her head turning in my direction and opens her eyes a little. We have connected, for the first time since March 7th! My last visit to her at the hospital was two-days ago without any recognition or interaction.
I ask her how she is, I tell her I love her and that she is my baby. “You my baby?” She does something she hasn’t done in a while as she plays off those words and shakes her head ‘No’ just as she always did in the past. “You love me?” she smiles. “Are you a good girl?’ She smiles, “Do you love me?” She shakes her head ‘no’, but she is smiling. Suddenly my world is turned upside down, I forget about all the inconvenience that occurred to get to her room and am glad I did it. Her smiling at me, her shaking her head, her looking at me transforms my mood from one of despair to one of overwhelming joy. I won’t leave her while this is going on, even if I have to stay until the next day! It is special!
Then, just as suddenly as it occurs, she drifts off to sleep once more. I realize that I don’t want to make her upset, that if she is asleep, she won’t see me leaving her, making it easier for her and me. And so I remove the protection of the gown and gloves and quietly slip away into the rainy afternoon, but my heart is filled with the sunshine she has given me, and her greatest gift to me ever, her smile.