Just Short of Redemption

by Lyle  De Kaye

His knees ached.  His head pounded.  The cool white towel bore a stain of red hot blood upon it, a brutal reminder of why he was here.  As he pressed the towel onto his bleeding forehead, he slowly began to recall the sequence of events:  The yelling.  Walking out.  Speeding away.  That yellow light he should have made.
The impact.
Nothing mattered now except his daughter.  He stood there staring at her, connected to all those different machines, all those tubes going in and out of her.  She was an innocent victim, in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Now she laid there in critical condition.  He didn’t know if she would even make it through the night.  And he could do nothing but stand there and watch her.  Little Sofie.  Little innocent Sofie.

*     *     *

He hadn’t touched a drink in a little over three months.  He was a man hell-bent on changing his life.  Being a Father suddenly became more important than being friends with Jack Daniels.  At 26, he was old enough to know that he wasn’t going to be his Father.  But at 26, he wasn’t old enough to know who exactly he was, either.  All he knew at this moment, standing there, waiting, was that his little girl lay there, slowly dying before his eyes.
And he needed a drink.

*     *     *

Seconds felt like minutes.  Minutes, like hours.  And each hour was endless as he paced up and down that waiting room hall.  Periodically, a nurse would walk into her room, check her vitals, and walk out.  Each nurse looked more hopeless than the last.  Nobody, however, looked more hopeless than this distraught father whose daughter lay there, fighting.  As a baby, he promised to always protect her.  But he let her down, like he always did.  Whether it was forgetting her birthday, or falling asleep drunk on her bed, or simply not having milk in the refrigerator, he always found a way to let her down.  And yet, she always loved him.  Unconditionally.  A love he couldn’t understand.  A love she unmistakably inherited from her mother.  A mother, who was gone now, an unfortunate victim of her own demons, three months earlier.  It was the moment that changed his life forever.  It woke him up.  He couldn’t save her, because she was already too far gone.  But Sofie was still within his grasp.
Even if she was just barely hanging on.

*     *     *

The rays of sunlight blasted through the window.  His little fighter made it through the night.  Her next challenge was to make it through the next morning.  Baby steps for his baby girl.  He stood there like a statue outside her room.  He hadn’t moved in hours.  He couldn’t.

*     *     *

Afternoon.  His baby was put onto life support.  Her heart was failing.  But not as much as his.  If she didn’t make it through the day, he wouldn’t make it through the night.  That was a fact.  He was no doctor, but he didn’t need to be.  He had already lost too much.  There’s only so much a man can take before he has to throw in the towel.  Some men can take more than others.  Some can withstand a tidal wave.  But this man was on his last legs.  He had no support, be it physical, financial, or spiritual.  He was on his own.  His one-way ticket to Hell had already been written, but he would be damned if he would be bringing anyone with him for the ride.  A man can only change so much.  His daughter saved his life once.  But she laid there, dying now.  And saving herself was more important now than saving anyone else.

*     *     *

The evening passed and the sun rose again.  She made it through another night.  But the longer she stayed on those damn machines, the less of a chance she had to live.  He had not moved from her side in two nights.  No food, no water.  Nothing.  All of his energy focused on her.  Yet she wasn’t responding.  He held her hand and whispered to her.  He told her everything was going to be ok; told her how much he loved her; told her to keep fighting.  He told her to stay strong as he cried his eyes out over her.  He was slowly coming to terms with the fact that she was reaching the end of the line.  And though he was right by her side, he couldn’t help wondering how alone she felt.

*     *     *

Day Three.  The pressure began to be placed on him.  He saw her suffering.  He felt her suffering.  He didn’t need to look in her eyes to know the pain she was experiencing.  The doctors told him that he needed a miracle.  He didn’t believe in miracles.  The first doctor to tell him to pull the plug would end up 6 feet under.  He wasn’t going to quit on her.  But as the continuous sleepless hours mounted, and he stood there all alone with his thoughts, he wondered if he was trying to save her for her, or if he was trying to save her for himself.  He didn’t know.  We never do know.

*     *     *

Day four.  The weight on his shoulders was almost unbearable.  She was slowly losing brain functioning.  Her heart was beating slower.  The lack of oxygen to her brain began to turn her skin a light blue.  The blood transfusions weren’t working.  The meds weren’t working.  The waiting game wasn’t working.  His knees were buckling and his shoulders ached as he tried to figure out how to carry the weight of the world without falling.  As each second ticked away, the weight became heavier.  The hurdle higher.  Her chances for recovery were fading into the sunset.  He wished he was never born.  If he had never been born, she would never have had to die.  He wished he could do it all over.  He wished he could start from the beginning.  He couldn’t.  As day slowly faded into night, he watched his daughter fight, as his own life began fading.  Exhaustion encapsulated him.  He would not fall.  As long as there was breath in her body, he would not fall.

*     *     *

He hadn’t left the emergency room in five nights.  He hadn’t eaten in five nights.  His skin was pale, his eyes beady.  The last time he slept was almost a week ago.  But he knew very well that the next time he slept, it may be the last time his eyes would close.  How much he pleaded with her to open her eyes!  But his requests fell on deaf ears.  How he wished the sun wouldn’t come up tomorrow.  The longer the sun stayed away, the longer he would have with his daughter.  He knelt there on his knees by his daughter’s bed.  He wasn’t sure exactly who he was praying to, but he knew he needed help.  His crossed hands were filled with streams of tears.  To his right, the sun began to peek through the clouds.  He held his daughter’s hand between his as he looked towards the Heavens.  She was still breathing.  She was still fighting.  She made it through another night.  They made it through another night.

*     *     *

The doctors gave her till the end of the day, at best.  She was fading.  As the morning slowly faded to the afternoon, the realization hit him, and it hit him like a ton of bricks:  The doctors were right.  She would not make it through another night.  The fight she fought would have made men like Ali and Frazer proud.  She had her father’s blood in her veins, and her father’s heart in her chest.  But much like her father, she could only withstand so much.  Today was going to be her last day on earth.  And her father knew it.

*     *     *

As the chilling breeze passed through her window that Saturday afternoon, she left this world without a whimper, her father never leaving her side.  But he had no more tears left to cry.  At that moment, sitting there in the room next to her, he never felt more alone.  He would have laid down his own life to save hers.  He would have sold his soul to the devil.  But he knew it wouldn’t have been enough.  Her life was golden compared to his, and he knew it.  Her body felt cool as her temperature slowly began to drop.  The machines were off now.  But they let them sit there with her, one final time.  He embraced her.  He suddenly found the tears he couldn’t find.  She didn’t lose this final fight.  The Ref up above stopped it.  As he laid his daughter back into bed, he looked Heaven-ward and uttered one final phrase:  “Please, be the Father to her that I never could be.”  He laid down next to her and closed his eyes.  The weight had been lifted.  Soon, they’d be together again.



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