By Karen Brode
I thought it was sad that I wasn’t allowed to go visit my father on the fifth floor of St. Paul’s Hospital. I knew that my daddy would want to see me. I was seven years old and I didn’t understand what the nuns had against children. Daddy and I could read the newspaper together if I could just go up there, but Mother explained that no children were allowed.
It was Sunday afternoon, November 19, 1961 and I was so bored sitting in the waiting room. The floor looked like a black and white checkerboard. I glanced across the room at all the people sitting in chairs–some of the women were knitting, some were sleeping. I watched my Uncle Travis read a magazine. I played hopscotch on the checkered floor, but even that got old.
Just when I thought I couldn’t stand it anymore, two little girls approached me to see if I wanted to play Hide and Seek. They let me hide first but they found me right away. I knew I would have to find a better hiding place next time.
They went to hide. I counted to 25 with my eyes shut. When I opened my eyes, Uncle Travis stood in front of me with his hand out to hold my hand.
“We’re going up to your Dad’s room now,” he said.
I reminded him I could’t go up there, but he said it was okay.
We walked hand in hand through the hallway. I looked up at the statues of the Catholic saints with their arms outstretched as if to comfort me. To me, though, their eyes were blank and unseeing.
As we walked past the Coke machine, I saw the two little girls.
“There you are!” I exclaimed. I wanted to go back to play, but Uncle Travis shook his head and told me I needed to go with him.
He didn’t say anything when we were on the elevator going up to my dad’s floor. I wanted to remind him again that I wasn’t allowed, but he seemed distant and I got the feeling he didn’t want to talk.
The elevator doors opened and I heard my Aunt Winnie screaming hysterically. My brother, John, ran past me but didn’t seem to know I was there. My mother sat in a chair crying.
When she looked up, she said, “Honey, we don’t have a Daddy anymore.”
“Where is my Daddy?” I asked. Uncle Travis took me into the hospital room where my father lay. He didn’t look like Daddy, though. They had wrapped his head in bright white gauze bandages that made him look like he was wearing a turban. I knew he wouldn’t like that. Daddy wouldn’t like any of it.
“We’re going home now, Honey,” my Mother said.
“Is Daddy coming home, too?” I asked. Mother put her head in her hands and cried in great heaving sobs and Travis took me to the snack machine.
“Would you like a Coke or I think they have sandwiches in here, too,” Travis said.
I didn’t feel hungry. I just wanted my Daddy to wake up and we could all go home and life would return to normal.
Karen Brode grew up in Denison, TX and graduated from Denison High School in 1972. She took courses at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and worked in a church office for 25 years. She and her husband, Gary, have been married 39 years and they have one son, Brandon. Karen’s hobbies are writing, sewing, and gardening.