All I Can Do Is Stare

I saw a story on the news this morning about a woman in California who found a deflated mylar balloon in a restaurant parking lot. On the balloon was written a letter from a young girl who lived over 450 miles away, to her dead father. the girl, it turns out, releases a balloon letter to him every year on his birthday.

During the interview, the 16 year old girl sniffled as she told the reporter of her regrets–of the hundreds of letters her father wrote her while in prison that she refused to answer and the ugly truth that she refused to answer the last phone call he made to her as well.

I stared blankly at the television while Sam played noisily next to me, watching this girl expose her truths on national television. Truths she will carry with her forever. A fellow beast of burden.

Sometime yet to determined in the coming weeks, my father will be undergoing surgery to have his right foot removed. It could save his life. It could. But it has the distinct possibility of also killing him. On the table during surgery. From infection in the days that follow. Or slowly from losing his own will to live.

I’m having a really hard time these days seeing a scenario that could play out positively here. There are days when I lose myself in thought, searching. Future-thinking. Trying to figure out what is most likely. Playing the practicalities and logistics over in my head. In a very sad way, my sister and I have prepared for this inevitability so many times. And he survived. And so did we.

I feel frightened, angry, frustrated, and sad. Empty, even. But the guilt…the guilt is paralyzing.

I’ve tried to call him a few times, with no answer and no return call. He’s on Percocet currently, and taking the maximum dose so he doesn’t have to deal. I know how he feels. We’ve put a few cards in the mail to him, too.

Truth be told, I’ve seen him Christmases only for the past two years. I don’t call. He hasn’t had computer access since last spring, so we don’t email. He called me, once, to rail at me about how my sister is managing him and his expenses. I was sending him bits and pieces of Sam’s art projects, for a while. It’s just hard to talk to him and he’s grown into someone different than he used to be. It’s hard. So, I turn. And I hate myself.

Suddenly, I’m the girl on TV with my own ugly truths. My quiet regret tucked in my pocket, with my tissues and a Chapstick. And all I can do is stare.