I’m in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital. The man who is laying there with all the tubes, wires and machines around him is my 79 year old father, Larry.
I stand beside the bed trying to figure what is going on. This is a man who was never sick one day in his life, but now he is doing battle with emphysema.
I have the uncomfortable feeling that he’s failing.
As I hold his now-soft hand, his index finger taps nervously against mine.
Tap-tap‑tap. STOP. Tap‑tap. STOP. Tap-tap-tap. STOP.
If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was sending an SOS.
Though he is unconscious, I know it’s time for amends to be made and to tell him I love him.
He was proud of me and often told me so. I was the youngest of three and the only child who showed an interest in music. His father was a music teacher from England and all his siblings played music. Music is well said to be the speech of angels.
I remember; when I was a kid, going to my Aunt Wilma’s house after church on Sundays and having family sing‑a‑longs. She was a great piano player and actually played background music for silent movies.
Dad played the violin and I played the ukulele and banjo.
I believe that vaudeville, burlesque and circus entertaining is in my genes. Although whenever I told my father that I wanted to entertain or play music, he’d say, “Get a shovel. Get a good job. One that has benefits and a retirement plan.”
As I stand at his bedside, tears are pouring down my cheeks. I look around at the powder- blue walls and an IV pole with some sort of pump that reminds me of a cross between a parking meter and a tape recorder reel. The TV above his head reads like a Dow Jones stock exchange report. I think to myself, “Should I buy or sell?”
His loose-fitting nightgown hangs on him, so I can see the wires stuck to his grey-haired chest. I look at his face. A small yellow tube is inserted into his nose. A large corrugated tube fills his mouth. Surgical tape holds them both in place. There is rhythmic song from his breath and the beeping of the machines that have become a part of him. It reminds me of my playing music with my family as a kid.
I stare at him and say, “Dad, where the hell are your teeth? You look terrible!” I look in the drawer of the night stand but, they are not there.
Its getting late and its time to go. I stop at the nurse’s station and get one of those fluorescent pink sticky notes. I take a $5 bill from my wallet, fold it, place the note on top of it and write,
“Dear Larry, Thanks for the teeth. Love, The Tooth Fairy.”
Back in the room, I lean over the bed to give him a kiss and I slip the bill and the paper under his pillow before leaving.
That night, my father had a complete turnaround. They took him off the machines and were cleaning him up when a nurse found the money.
The room was full of laughter and joy. My father placed that money along with the note on the refrigerator back at the homestead, and told the story to everyone who visited. Miracles do indeed happen.