In the top drawer is Daddy’s inexpensive silver wristwatch with its flexible, stretch band. Without his warm flesh and steady heartbeat, it stopped. I tried wearing it when I noticed, but it was too late. So it lays here, the date feature, Mon 20, the time, 5:05 p.m. and ten seconds.
Funny that, since Daddy died on Monday the 20th. I wonder now, did it stop the day he died, or did it run longer? I can’t remember, which is strange, because at the time, I thought I’d never forget.
I’ve kept the yellow post-it notes he wrote and stuck on the side of the filing cabinet by the desk. Doctor’s number, appointment reminders, police and newspaper phone numbers. I like looking at his handwriting. Printing, really. The only time he used cursive was to write his distinctive and legible signature.
I was an adult before he confessed his handwriting was terrible, so he printed. I’d always thought his familiar script was his preferred writing; neat, precise letters in a straight line, the “a” like a typewriter “a” with the tail curving across the top. Not like the round “ɑ” they taught me in grade school.
I want to remember him in his strength; when it was easy to open drawers, when his watch ticked efficiently; when it was nothing for him to write a note to me, or to write in the checkbook. I don’t want to think about those days he wasted away to a potbelly on a skeleton frame, the minutes and hours and days of caregiving roaring loud in my ears as we inched across the horizon toward his setting sun.
His abdomen filled with fluid as his body failed from liver cancer. I was clueless. He hardly ate, yet his pants were too tight to button? I cringe now to think of things I could have done to make his days easier.
I don’t want to remember the last time he wrote. The first time we went to the lab to have 2 liters of fluid drawn off his belly, he signed and dated the forms with ease. The last time we went, his consent signature looked like the illegible scribbles of a two-year old. His precise, neat printing and his one concession to cursive writing were gone. It wasn’t long before he was gone.
I come often to this place that was Daddy’s domain. I sit at the big metal desk that’s marred by years of use and run my hands over the scratched and scarred surface. I can see how he grasped the handle of each drawer, the black paint worn away to gun-metal gray where his thumb extended to press for leverage to pull them open. In memory I see him here. He calls me honey. He sings, smiles, talks ethics, politics, religion and sports. He remains in my heart. Until I join him, I’ll hold on to the simple reminders. I won’t forget.