Danny wrapped his arms around her shoulders and whispered in her ear.
“You have to decide soon. No matter what I support you. Ask yourself this – what would he say?”
She could hear the tiredness in his voice. They were all so tired now. He kissed her hair, stroked her arm gently and moved away. Lisa heard him pull the door shut behind him.
What would he say? Her father had helped prepare every step of the way for this new chapter in her life. Lisa had used him as a sounding board as she wrestled with what came next. The culmination of it all had been the job offer that arrived ten days ago. THE job offer. THE JOB.
She’d called him even before she told Danny. The phone rang. And rang. And rang. That was worrisome. His years of working in the steel mills in Lackawanna had left him bent and crippled. Unless she or a neighbor was there to take him someplace he virtually never left the house. Lisa drove back to the old neighborhood, to the little row house where she had grown up. When she opened the door she saw her dad lying on the living room floor. He wouldn’t wake up so she called the ambulance and it took him to the hospital.
Lisa turned from the window and looked at the figure in the bed. The fixture above the head of the bed threw the only light. In its harsh glow her father looked dead, his mouth slack, cheeks shrunken. The diagnosis had been a massive stroke, a brain bleed. At first the doctors had tried to give her hope. If he woke up soon things would be better. They talked about the power of the body to heal itself, of the brain to re-wire itself. With each passing day she saw the tension in their faces as they looked at charts and scans. And their words of hope faded.
Ten days later and there was no improvement. They’d gotten him off the ventilator. That was really the only change. Tomorrow he would be transferred to a long term facility, though the doctors said they had no idea how long that long term might be. A day. A week. A month. Every case has its own timetable.
But she didn’t have a month, a week or even a day. She’d put off accepting the position as long as she could, pleading her father’s illness. They had been caring and generous. A decision had to be made. The opening couldn’t be held forever. It was clear their patience was running out.
How do you leave in a moment like this? The job was a thousand miles away. Once she was there she would have to be there for at least a month learning her way through new procedures and relationships. There was no way she could be here. No way to be with him at the end. How do you pass up the dream? If she sacrificed this chance there might never be another. Was it possible to simply walk away from everything she had worked for?
What would he say about all this? She reached down and took his cool, limp hand in hers. Her thumb stroked the back of his hand. Tears welled in her eyes as she leaned over the bed to gently kiss her father’s forehead. She smoothed his thin hair, kissed him again and whispered
“It’s time for me to go, Daddy.”
(This was supposed to be my entry in a local newspaper’s annual writing contest. Unfortunately my e-mail provider decided to burp right when I sent it and it never made it. The parameters were: 600 words or less, had to take place in WNY and involve a man, a woman and a job offer)