Leave the Window Open by Tina Gascon

Christmas was a wash. Of course it was. It was obviously the last which made it worse. You can narrow death down to window of time, days, weeks, years… but when they closed him back up instead of completing the surgery at the end of August, it was obvious that time was at a premium.
My Daddy was losing his battle with cancer.
He remained strong for us. He remained alive for us as long as he could, despite the disease. He never turned down a treatment or an option. I saw him as often as I could. When he had a day where he could function, he would go to gamble at the casino. First at Casino Rama, and then when he could not longer make the drive, Blue Heron
He spent Christmas alone in the emergency room because of covid rules and came home to be admitted to Lakeridge Health Port Perry. Visitors were limited to just my Mom but I tried to see him all the same. I called him daily. Sometimes he could talk and sometimes he couldn’t. Then he told me about his window.
Despite being in the hospital, he liked being right near the window and even though the temperature was hovering at almost minus twenty degrees, they let him keep it open.
I rounded up my kids, on New Year’s Eve, after I knew he would have had time to rest up since the end of my mom’s daily visit. We found his window and for the first time in days, we got to see him. Our visit lasted about forty-five seconds because it was too hard on him. The kids got to wish him a “Happy New Year” and it made them feel a little better.
The next day, January 1st, I decided to make the half an hour trip to see him myself. I found his window again but the man I saw was different from the day before. They had figured out his medications and he was so much more comfortable and talkative.
He told me the doctors had given him another month or two. Before he said that he wouldn’t see the spring, now he had a chance. It was hard to communicate through the window; the open part wasn’t visible from his bed but he wanted to see me. If I looked through the window at him, he couldn’t hear me. He had spent the day staring at the sheet surrounding his bed and wanted to look at me instead. I was dumbstruck that my face could mean so much to someone. He wanted to see his “sweet girl”.
Dad was worn out quickly and within 15minutes, I was on my way back home. Our visit struck a chord with me. It was so much like when I was younger. We were both such terrible sleepers, but we loved the night sky. We would tell each other about the weird little things we had seen in the night. It was something we had that was just for us.
I tried to time my visits and phone calls apart from Mom’s visit time so on January 2nd, I was surprised to get a call around 10am.
My Dad was worse than they suspected. He had his last big choice before him: assisted suicide, medical coma or continue to suffer terribly. He chose the coma. His fight was nearly through, and the coma was set to begin that afternoon.
And just like that, the door to any of his future slammed closed. It was time to see him off.
With his death so near, the hospital allowed my brother and me to accompany my Mom into the hospital. Everything happened so quickly. They gave him a new room, with a better window. He could see who was outside as well as talk to them. The window stayed open just like he wanted. Word was passed around the family and those that could make it rushed to the hospital. One by one, the people that loved him, came to his window to say goodbye. Everyone did their best not to upset him. To see such strength, all for my Daddy, to raise him up and send him off in peace awed me. Mostly I watched my Daddy, wishing everyone a good life, through the open window.
When they were about to put him into the coma, he arranged us in a semi circle at the foot of his bed. For a man of few words, in the end, he knew the ones I needed to hear. He left nothing either unsaid or to regret. I can only wish for such grace when I reach my end. His last words of advice to me were “Stay strange Teen”. This may seem odd to some, but it was exactly what I needed to hear.
To go into further detail is much too painful, but he was put into the coma with us surrounding him. I sat with him that night, with the window open as much as I could handle it (I kept having to warm up and then I would open it wide again).
In the early morning, my brother relieved my vigil. And later that morning, my mom came in. She was with him when he passed on January 3rd, less than a day into him medical coma. His strength still astounds me.
This past year without him has been a blur; I walked through it partially dead myself.
I think about him and miss daily but the night is still ours. I sit out in the yard by myself but not alone. I’m surrounded by 100 acres of corn and the type of clear sky you can only see in the dark of the country. As I watch the sky, he sends me shooting stars, and the breeze that lifts the bird’s wing in the day also lifts my hair at night. It’s my Daddy. He’s travelling the wind.
When I die, make sure to leave the window open. He’s been waiting for me.

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