Once again another day blurs into night as I sit here staring out the window of room 640 at Baltimore Washington Medical Center. To the right of me Dad is sleeping in his bed, to the left an orange glow of sunset is settling over Baltimore. For a moment I have to think what day it is, what month. Time is moving outside my window, but here on the 6th floor it feels like it is standing still. Life is on hold waiting for Dad to get better.
Halloween has come and gone, the clock is beginning to tick away at November. The orange of sunset is now being replaced by darkness expanding over the horizon. The landing lights are now visible and I can see the planes as they line up for the final approach at BWI airport. One, two, three, four, five, six planes I count waiting for their turn to land. They form a straight line of bright dots. I wonder where the flights are coming from? I try to imagine an exotic location warm and beautiful. Where the nights are filled with gentle ocean breezes. I try to envision a hamlet full of laughter and life. A place where I can escape the sounds and smells of the hospital. For right now I long to be at any locale, any city, any abode, anywhere but here.
Looking out the window I am lost in a day dream, a place unknown when the cries of pain from my father transport me back to reality. I call for the nurse, ask for more pain medication. Feelings of helplessness envelop me as I take his hand. I understand there is no physical comfort I can give him. I can only wait with him until his medication takes effect.
I hold his hand and look out the window at the traffic on route 100. I look away so my Dad will not see the tears forming in my eyes. His moans of agony break my heart, tear at my soul. I squeeze his hand, try to comfort him with words. I remind him I love him, everything will be okay. I hear his breathing begin to slow, his moans begin to fade, the medication is slowly taking effect. His grip begins to loosen on my hand, I know he is now asleep. I continue to peer out the window and begin to have selfish thoughts. I look at the highway below and wish I was on it. I long to drop the top on my Mini, crank my iPod and feel the wind on my face, through my hair. I am surrounded by sickness and I hunger to feel alive. I yearn to drive to distances unknown, somewhere fun. I wish I was anywhere but here.
I am lost in a memory of spring break when I am awaken by the red and white flashing lights of an ambulance as it arrives at the emergency bay below. Several times a night I see the lights reflect off the windows in the distant darkness. Every time I see the lights, even though I do not know the passenger I still say a prayer. I pray that whatever injury or illness brought them to the E.R. can be fixed and they can return home. I pray their family never has to stay here. I pray they have the choice to drive anywhere but here.
3:27 a.m. a cry breaks the quiet of the night, I hear the nurses call to each other. I lean forward, I can see the family crying. I can’t remember their names, only where they are from, how they like their coffee. I learned the day before their mother had stage four lung cancer. I witness them consoling each other. I realize their mom has passed. I squeeze my Dad’s hand tighter. I feel tears begin to pour down my cheeks. 4:00 a.m. the ding of the elevator reverberates through the hall. I look out and see the gurney with the unwanted empty burgundy bag turn the corner. A few minutes later the gurney returns, the bag no longer empty. It carries what was once a mother, grandmother, the love of someone’s life. The sight is more than I can endure. I let go of my Dad’s hand and rush to the bathroom to regain my strength, my composure.
I lock the bathroom door, I need to be alone. I feel everything closing in around me. I am afraid I am not strong enough to handle another day, another night. I am scared I am moments away from losing my sanity. I wash my face, stare at myself in the mirror. The reflection I see is not me. My face is so tired, my eyes appear sad. I look like I have aged a hundred years since Dad first arrived on the sixth floor. I hate this place. This floor is taking everything out of me, I am losing hope. I fear the optimist in me is slowly dying. I lean against the wall, catch my breath and ask God why can’t I be anywhere but here?
After a few moments of self pity I remind myself I need to have faith in God, in myself. No matter what the outcome it will be God's will. He will not give me anymore than I can bear. I grab a paper towel and remove all remnants of tears from my face, take a deep breath and head back to Dad’s room. I grab another pillow and sit in my chair between Dad’s bed and the window. I change the play list on my iPod, try to get as comfortable as possible. Once again I take Dad’s hand, stare out the window hoping to find a star to make a wish on. I slowly drift off to sleep, dreaming of happier times when life was the way it was suppose to be. I am almost off in peaceful slumber when the tech wakes me, she has to take Dad’s vitals. I need to move my chair. I stand and continue to gaze out the window. Light is beginning to penetrate the darkness. Another day has arrived. I feel a gentle squeeze on my hand. Dad is awake. He smiles at me. As the warm glow of the sun enters his room I realize here is the only place I want to be.