posted on Sep, 5 2008 @ 09:55 AM
Note: I originally posted this on my blog, so if you magically came across it before -- or since reading this -- it's legit.
We played solitaire that night, her mother and I, as she lay dying only a breath away from us. It sounds bad now, insensitive, but it was all we could
find to distract ourselves from the grief at hand: that stupid little video game that our daughter used to carry around with her everywhere she went,
much to our annoyance, was now our only hope for sanity.
My wife slipped over an Ace before I could say anything. I almost snapped at her, but my daughter's breathing stuttered for a moment, stopping me. It
steadied again, and again I was torn -- it was more time with her, the little girl with my wife's eyes and my laugh; but it wasn't, really. She was
gone, and every breath was less a fight to survive than a mockery of the life she'd been given.
We'd given up any hope that there'd be a miraculous recovery, with glowing sunbeams, handsome doctors, triumphant music coming from nowhere. She was
dead, breathing only out of sheer habit, while my wife and I played solitaire waiting for the end.
I watched it happen, too, the fall that brought her to that hospital bed. It was almost trivial, the kind of fall that just about everyone's had at
one time or another. The stairs were slick, freshly polished, and perhaps a little too steep, but nothing different from any other day for the twelve
years she'd been able to walk down them herself. She wasn't clumsy, but she had all the grace of your average, lanky fourteen year old, and she
happened to run a little too fast when I called her down for dinner.
What had excited her I'll never know. A guy asked her to a dance? Maybe; though she probably knew we'd be hard pressed to let her go. Probably
wasn't joy over a good grade on a test -- she was a smart girl, and got plenty of A's and high B's, so that wouldn't have impressed her too much.
Odds are it was just standard, school girl giddiness over some bit of gossip she was anxious to share with her mother (probably not her father -- dad
was never very good at a girl-to-girl chat). I've wondered what she was so excited about many times since she fell, and wished she'd held back a
little, at least until she sat down.
She came to the landing and most of her stopped, but her feet betrayed her, continuing on out from under the frame they were supposed to support. It
took me almost a full minute to realize that something was wrong with the dull thunk I'd heard. Half an hour later, my wife and I walked into
the emergency room as she arrived in the ambulance. Two days later we were told she was all but gone, and, still mostly in shock, we agreed to have
her taken off the machines that were breathing for her.
I'd like to think it's because my wife and I both knew for certain that she would rather have died than stay on the machine; in honesty though, I
think it was because the word "yes" comes out easier when you're scared to death. We held her hand and brushed her hair and hugged her and talked
to her for several hours. Then we played solitaire, not wanting to stay and watch her die, but not wanting to leave her.
It's strange to say "we" played, but that's what it was. We'd point to which card to play when the other was about to miss it. We'd suggest
playing one red nine over the other red nine when there was a choice. Not that there's any real strategy to the game, or that either of us knows
what to do better than the other. It just makes it seem a little easier when we both play together, even though it's still just as difficult as when
you go it alone.
My wife gasped silently with modest delight, and I could see she'd finally beaten it. I smiled and kissed her head and placed my hand on her
shoulder. She started to sob, silently though it shook her body, and I started to try and calm her -- emotions were running high, and though I
couldn't explain it to anyone, I could understand how beating a simple game might cause her to break down. Before I could say anything though, and
without really knowing why, I glanced briefly at the equipment attached to our daughter. I did a double take as I saw the green lines on the monitor
give a short leap, then fall still.
Later that night, as my wife lay next to me in bed after crying herself to sleep (I'll admit I wanted to do the same, though I couldn't break down
when she needed some kind of a rock), I crept out to my daughter's former room. I pulled the chair from her desk and faced it towards the window,
overlooking the beautiful rose bushes at our neighbor's house, now gray with night. I grabbed the solitaire game from her bed, where we'd set it
with an aching despair when we returned from the hospital. I played it, letting tears I didn't know I was crying hit it freely.
After some time, I wiped it dry, intent on trying to steady myself. Another tear landed on it, and I looked over my shoulder to see my wife standing
above me. "You missed an Ace," she said, her voice thick and trembling. She reached down and I hugged her, closer than I knew possible, and after a
moment she sat on the bed next to me. My wife and I played solitaire that night, in the walls of the room our daughter had called her own, walls that
would never echo back the sound of her voice again.
[edit on 9/5/2008 by MCory1]