Coming Home

I walk down the polished floors of the hospital with a heavy heart. After five years my father’s kidney cancer has come out of remission with a vengeance and spread to his bones, liver and lungs. His doctor is talking aggressive chemotherapy to give him an extra six months, but Dad’s been marking time here since Mom died.

He loves me and his grandchildren, but his heart belongs irrevocably to Lily, the woman to whom he had been married for forty-nine years.

She died a month before their fiftieth. He still hasn’t gotten over it. “The first time she was ever early for anything,” he always says.

Now I slip into his room to kiss him. His skin has grown as papery as the skin of an onion, and his veins are purple snakes twisting up his arm. We talk of simple things: the warm June weather, baseball, Mom’s roses. I tell him that the kids are starting summer camp in a few weeks, and take a breath.

“The doctors want you to take a course of chemotherapy. Is that what you want? Or do you want to come home with us? We have plenty of room.”

I tell him this knowing he has already given me power of attorney and knowing he doesn’t want any extreme measures taken.

“Oh, no, Lily. We discussed this,” he says and shakes his head. “Don’t leave me here.”

“No, Dad, it’s me. Susan.”

He just smiles. “You’ll do the right thing.”

I think about that conversation when I argue later with his doctors who tell me my father was in full agreement with their chemo plan. We bring him home anyway, and he dies peacefully in his sleep on Father’s Day morning surrounded by his family.

“It was a gift,” my husband tells me. “You brought him home.”

All I can hope is that somewhere he’s sharing a drink and laugh with his beloved Lily.