“How You Met My Father?”
the first visitor and his story
The silence that followed was one I still could not comprehend my senses with. It felt like deafening noise had finally found a way not to exist anymore, as I savored the maddening silence, and feel my chest grow unsteady with the organ beneath it. I knew within myself that it shouldn’t be silent. I understood the position I was in where the noises should come crawling in and the yells of pain and agony should screech through my consciousness until I cannot take it anymore.
But, the silence rang on, and it felt stifling.
My name is Laila Martin, and the waiting room of the Roosevelt Hospital is where my story begins. My body had begun to tremble softly with a hint of how confused it is about the situation after we arrived, but I kept my calm as best as I could. This wasn’t to say my knees didn’t feel weak, or my eyes weren’t tired from the continuous stare at the blank wall before me.
Hospitals were the last place on earth I favored, and the fact I was there at such time and under such circumstance irked me within and with a mixed feel of uncertainty about what would happen next. I tried pulling up a bold face, but the façade was too terrible to pull off, as even I could tell I was merely trying to con myself out of believing I was comfortable with what had happened and that I was in the hospital when I could be crawled up in bed and having a nice snooze.
I got up from the bench the waiting room provided me to look outside the window west of where I sat, but nothing outside provided my heart with enough distraction, I wanted to know other things. I wanted information on what was going on in the room next to where I was, but nobody was around to provide me any. My feet had begun to hurt with the inappropriate footwear I donned upon the case of emergency coming to be, and my ankles were equally suffering for it.
I hadn’t seen anyone asides the nurse by the phone making a lengthy call about a heart patient who just gave up the ghost in the middle of the night. It got me thinking, and suddenly ramped up my pulse as my heart began to beat tremendously fast. I didn’t know why really, seeing he wasn’t the best of persons to me or anyone in the world, but I guessed the relationship remained as I hurried back to my seat to continue my lonely experience in the hospital waiting room.
The air stunk of alcohol, and it reminded me of things. It brought with it memories of the reason we were in the hospital at such odd time, and why I was sitting alone in the waiting room and “He” was with the doctors in the other room where they surrounded him and accessed his dangerous condition. It didn’t look good when they arrived in our home, and their expression as they wheeled him out from the back of the ambulance wasn’t any better.
The minutes trickled by slowly, and the wall clock reminded me of the passing moment every time I looked up at it. I still hadn’t seen any nurse or doctor since they walked into the room to make whatever assessments they needed and it was beginning to feel like those moments when you cannot do anything until those in power come to give you what you need from them.
I needed to wait to receive whatever information they had. The wait was the problem…felt like it was killing me.
Finally, two nurses jet out from the room in hurry. Their faces looked stressed, and their lips were curled in no show of encouragement towards the man they were treating. I ran towards the closest one donning her cute looking scrubs and thick glasses above her eyes.
“Excuse me…Excuse me, how is he?” I managed to ask with some level of nervousness in my tone.
“We have to allow the doctors make their diagnosis ma’am…You will get your response soon…please”, she excused herself politely while I still remained without any answer.
I recognized her. She was the lady who had helped me wheel him out from the back of the ambulance while her other three colleagues helped fix an oxygen mask for the man. The incidence which had occurred yesterday had begun to dawn on me as frightening, and how badly the excessive use of alcohol can come to be.
For a man his age, old enough to know better, but still bent on dealing so much to his kidney, I felt little to no pity for him, but with hopes on finding out what was going on soonest. The doctors looked capable, but I had much more trust in them than I did the kidneys of the man they were working on. If by the measure of the spirit he had dealt his kidney was the determinant for whether he would live or not, I know too well he shouldn’t make it out.
The uncertainty of things was painful to think of. The pain behind the wait as one of the doctors ran out possible to acquire something important while he ignored my call, made my heart sink further. Nobody had regard for my presence. It made me feel like I was dealing with him all by myself at home again; the all too familiar theme of being ignored and neglected when I seek the attention.
The two doctors stepped out to speak while they left the nurses to continue in there and I waited with my head bowed, my hands together and my heart racing like a made zebra trying desperately for it not to be ridden. I had learnt zebras don’t allow people ride them and anyone who attempted to would find out they never stop running till they either die of the rider fall off.
With the hopes of my heart not racing itself hard into any damaging effect, I continued to wait for the doctors or at least one to come to my aid and tell me what was wrong. I needed answers and not the thoughts in my head which were beginning to get filled with crazy ideas. Something about the way the slumped in the kitchen the night before brought ill thoughts to my mind every single minute.
The fact he had collapsed on the kitchen floor and hadn’t regained consciousness even after I called the ambulance and they wheeled him into the van. He made no movement till we arrived, and the nurses weren’t looking particularly encouraging about the status of his health either. His consciousness wasn’t anything to regard either as he could barely recall who I was or what was going on around him.
All I need is an answer about how my 55 years old alcoholic father was doing. The silence in the waiting room had slowly begun to creep in as I bowed my head once more. He was in coma, and I was kept in the dark on what they knew about his condition.
I was barely aware of my surrounding since I had grown tired of the lengthy wait, when the footsteps approaching me alerted my consciousness east of where I sat. I hadn’t heard anything through the night except for the rusty fan above my head and the occasional creaks from my chair. They were the only company providing me sound until the man donning his lengthy lab coat and a rather disturbing look across his face called my name.
“Miss. Laila!“, he said, looking at the file in his hand upon which I had already filled the necessary details about me and my father.
His eyes were without comprehension of sympathy and his lips barely moved when he called my name, meaning he was tired as well and could do with some rest. I was equally fagged out. I sat up immediately like an expectant student of her grades after a difficult test. My heart stopped beating or at least it felt like it stopped beating totally.
The handsome man had the alluring appeal of his looks though. I noted his well chiseled jaws and face, as well as the perfectly hung shoulders underneath his coat. He looked like on who works out and takes proper care of his body, but I had other matters troubling my mind at the point in time. I simply looked away from his face to give a response.
“Yes”, I simply said.
“You need to catch some sleep”, the man with the tag “Doctor Parker” said.
I looked at him with the heavy pair of eyes but with the desire not to let them close.
“How is he?” I managed to ask in persistence. “Is he okay? Is he going to wake up anytime soon?”
He didn’t twitch a brow. His expression was disturbing and equally baffling. I have seen doctors deliver news to their patients and never really been able to understand how they detach themselves from the emotional side. The man before me carried out the task exemplarily well. He looked like he hadn’t much to say and he wanted to be elsewhere, but the desire burning in my eyes made him sigh as he walked me back to the seat.
Any information then would have been enough for me to spend the night through with. I just wanted something, anything at all.
“We’ve carried out a series of tests on your father, some of which are yet to come back until early tomorrow, but we still cannot confirm with certainty the prognosis to his coma”, Doctor Parker sighed.
“Is he going to be okay? Why can’t you make anything from the tests you just ran?’ I asked in a bothered tone.
I could tell I was already shoving too much disturbance down the man’s throat. He kept on glancing at his watch which gave the impression he was probably waiting for his shift to be over and someone else to come take over the problem in hand. He was stuck with me for now though and there was nowhere to go about it.
“I will be honest with you”, he cleared his throat to sit by me.
He let don his file and took out some gum from his pocket which he popped into his mouth after offering me and watching me decline.
“He has substantially abused his body with the things he regularly takes, but we still don’t know how severe the damage is”, he sounded sincere. “The cause of the shock which had led to his collapse is also unknown, and until we do know something, I would like you to have some proper rest because you need it”, he added.
I believed him when he said they hadn’t the complete idea on what was wrong with my father. I wish I could tell him everything and how much harm he had inflicted on himself. To a good degree, it only deserved for him to go through all of this after the life he lived. The old man couldn’t get much sympathy from me either as no tear had dropped since the incidence except from the throbbing heart which is a norm expected to happen.
He hadn’t given me anything that I could use other than the things I already knew, but I decided to keep myself unbothered.
“You were the one who called it in when it happened I believe?” the doctor asked.
I simply responded with a nod.
“Like I said, it has been hours and you need to get yourself some well needed sleep”, he said upping himself from the chair. “Your father will be here by morning, he isn’t going anywhere”.
“Thank you! I will stay here”, I replied sincerely as I watched him walk away.
I was left in the silence I previously drowned myself in. I lingered my thoughts around the old man attached to a heart monitor beeping away through the night and indicating his heart was still struggling on. It might just be the only organ the irresponsible man had that functioned almost properly, and the one thing saving his life right now.
There was one thing I read from Doctor Parker though, and it was that there wasn’t much hope for my father. If there had been, he would have said something about a possibility, but he didn’t make such mention and it spoke volumes.
I tried getting some sleep as the good doctor asked but it was barely a nap talk less of being considered as sleep. My eyes ached as my mind did. I had things running through there I could never forget even if I wanted to. My father lying barely alive in the room a few feet from where I was, the reason for my thoughts, and basically the reason for a lot of things that had to do with my life.
The waiting room had begun providing some comforting feeling even though the bench I sat on felt too disturbing and painful to provide me any form of comfort. I’ve spent a while in there and it was beginning to feel like leaving would be impossible to achieve. I felt trapped in the hospital’s waiting room and in my own head.
Bludgeoning thoughts marched and paraded the fields of my mind in a timely manner that sent down ripples of sadness and horror down my spine. On my mind were thoughts of my father, the man I called my father, and the one I could sincerely regard as nothing of such if the meaning of fatherhood gets described. He simply just wasn’t worth the label or the attribute.
Images of the life of the loser he was kept flashing before my eyes. The interpretation into visualization of the years he was a phony of a father was something I could see and recall and it brought my heart sour feelings. The man was nothing but a dud as a father. He was and always had been someone I could never find myself being proud of through the years I could remember.
He was a failure I could never see myself speaking positively about.
As the clocked slowly ticked away loudly through the silence of the early hours of the morning, I began to think about all his woes and problems. It felt like a hassle trying to pinpoint them all when the list was endless and unimaginable to script down in my head. Either ways, I could remember a few. I could recall a few of the problems the old man had and never seemed to be willing to part with.
The first of his woes was drinking excessively if he wasn’t either gambling or making sure he loses money playing poker that he would never come to win, or drowning himself underneath an empty colored bottle of alcohol. His addiction was a well-known fact in gambling homes and any table small enough to bet on. He would do anything to commit any of the three sins without so much as a moral sense asking him to desist from them.
His ritual of drowning himself in alcohol was a thing he would come home doing or stay out in the pub wherever his legs could carry him to after losing his poker games. His favorite bar on his way home was Mrs. Smith’s just around the corner of his poker house where he would indulge the whisky bottles till the following morning. He was a regular who would remain till the bar closed or till he would be forced to leave when they want to close up shop. It was the norm and they had grown to accept the man after the first few months of him performing the annoying act in their shop.
He brought them money as a regular, so it wasn’t much of a problem unless he began piling debts.
On such days when he would pile up debts, which was regularly, my mother would have to make the disturbing and embarrassing journey to the store to plead on his behalf and pay up what he owed. It wasn’t in anyway exciting to think about my father being the joke in every liquor store through the years.
Slowly through those lengthy periods of absence, his image began disappearing and soon enough he was invisible in the house. His recognition as a member of the family remained limited to the donation of the sperm which was evidence of my conception and nothing more. We will spend nights upon nights waiting for the man to show up from the casino he visits at times, only to return with a souvenir; a wine or any other alcohol bottle in his hand.
He would walk past us and towards his bedroom without some much as recognition for our efforts. There were times he would look battered and bruised, resembling a man who had gotten into some sort of fight. His torn clothes would become my mother’s problem by morning, and his wounds would become her bother.
My belief over time was either the man lost too much money and when he couldn’t pay, things get rough, or he simply moved with the wrong crowd and got himself into all sorts of troubles after having too much to drink. He was everyone’s little sloth who they could make into whatever they liked because he held no self-respect for himself or to his family.
To coin it all, my father was nothing but a loser me and my mother lived with until she finally decided it was enough.
I had just turned eleven when my mother decided to leave her man. She had decided to move with me and leave him behind, but somehow, my father, Jack Martin as the judge blindly called his name on that day, gave him custody over me, forcing me to continue the life of hell I was trapped in with the man. My mother had planned to move to the city and begin a new life without his drunkenness in it with me.
My mother had no problem with him getting custody of me even though she loved me dearly and without doubt. I loved her as well and the decision was surprising for me as it was for her, but I accepted it in good fate. I was not of grown age to do anything about it then. It was to become the beginning of more misery for me. It became my problem to bear at that time. I was young and obviously too small to take on such responsibility, but I was thrust into it nonetheless and it was an experience I couldn’t forget. My childhood had being tainted with much more problems.
It began with watching the man come back home in the dead of night with the nauseating odor of alcohol on his breath and his body in entirety. He would have gone out to spend the puny earnings he got from his work which wasn’t enough for me alone, let alone the both of us, talk less of deciding to spend it on a poker game he just was bad at.
He worked for a horse farm in the local town where he would spend most of the day waiting for night to dawn upon him and for him to go blow his petty earnings. The bar where he went to became my place of responsibility to know. He would drink alone and keep away without having friends. In all honesty, nobody wanted to be associated with him for any reason at all.
Everyone, including those he gambled with saw him as a stain to their image should they get close enough to him. The exception was Mrs. Smith who spent time talking to him who I guessed it was because she wanted a good bond with her customer and not let him slip through her grasp. The risk was high, knowing father’s petulance for drowning himself in bottles.
He had some good level of depression in him then too and I could recall those troubling times. I remember he would sit alone talking to himself and kicking hard against anything in his path. His sadness would often translate into anger which he would take out on anything around him. In such moments, I made certain to keep away any breakables from his vicinity else they wanted to meet their ends.
He would never share a moment to laugh or smile, and his mask of pain, aguish and sadness had become so synonymous with him nobody expected him to do otherwise. Little children avoided him like he was the plague and their parents wanted nothing to do with him. He simply had a depressed life with nothing of fun for him to dally in or try to enjoy.
The monotonous lifestyle brought him joy in the casino alone after finishing his work on the farm every day. I was always by myself, alone at home and all by myself in life. I began to feel hate towards my mother for leaving me with such a terrible man I couldn’t call father. I couldn’t believe my luck and the hideous luck ran for years and never seemed to come to a stop.
There were no moments of happiness or joy to be remembered. I had no positives from my time with him and I definitely wouldn’t take those years back or even relive it if I had the opportunity presented to me with a huge cash reward of some sorts. He was a stain to my past, and an embarrassment to my existence.
I never dared speak with him about how my studies was going in school and when I was with friends and the topic of parents came through, I simply kept to myself and praying within that they would change the topic of discussion as soon as possible. Just hearing about it brought me too many pains and I couldn’t deal with them during all of those years.
My friends would ask for night outs and sleepovers in each other’s houses back then and I would keep myself out of it and never volunteer to invite anyone to my place. I couldn’t risk them coming over and seeing my stone drunk father walking past after his nightly moments. There was a plus side to his madness though, and it was that the man never drank in front of me. I couldn’t figure out why he had adopted such act, but he would rather slam the door to his room shut and wallow in his drinks in there than to do it in front of me. He would simply enjoy his bottle of whiskey in there and the sadness and depression that comes with it.
I thought of it to be some kind of self-respect the man conjured for himself even though I couldn’t figure it out. It was the only moment of sense in the man’s endless list of madness and silly character.
My university days weren’t different either. I still hadn’t gotten off the rollercoaster involving the trauma the old man had set within me. I had a really cool friend by the name Steve then with whom I shared wonderful moments and some good parts of my years growing up. He made up a great deal for my previous life which was sour and repelling with his vibrant presence.
His influence in my life through the university days couldn’t be over stated, but I felt down on one such occasion when he began speaking about his parents, specifically about his father right in the midst of some other colleagues and friends. He seemed so proud of his father and it bore a stark contrast to my story.
I still could never make mention of anything of such to my father even if I tried telling lies.
The sun tenderly rose from underneath the coverings of the cloud. Morning was upon me in the hospital guest room as I turned and shifted uncomfortably in the seat I had managed to find comfort in. The morning sun slowly peaked its head while I decided to get up from where I had been sitting for hours. It felt unreal that I would spend that much time in the hospital and discomfort myself for the man but it is something I found myself doing.
As I felt the morning sun rising gently, I walked towards my father’s ward where I could see him perfectly through the transparent glass which was his wall. Within the box made of half glass casing and cement wall, he remained in his bed with tubes plunged into his body and an EKG monitor beeping in attestation to his heart rate.
The man looked unshakable from the coma he was in. The look of whiskey destroying him so well came to mind as I wondered what lasting damage the drink had caused his insides and if it could ever be fixed again. He never seemed to care while taking the bottle and I’m certain one or two people who might have card for him in the past about his negative drinking habit, but he played deaf to their warnings.
The state he was in at the moment was obviously in testament to his negligence towards keeping a stable health and making certain he wasn’t harming himself. He had taken it upon himself as a personal mission to create more harm than assist his aging body. I doubt he ever even went into the hospital for a checkup talk less of finding out how fit and healthy he was.
The only doctor he cared about was the whiskey bottle, which was now dealing his health the desired blow at that moment.
Of recent he had begun showing signs of hallucinations and dementia when he would ask me question relating to things that were no more or ask me to go and call my mother which was an impossibility. He would order me to get my mother so she could make dinner for the family.
“Go get your mother Laila”, he would say in the croaky tone. “She needs to begin making dinner for the family”, he would add afterwards.
With a sigh indicating how tired I was as I stared in a prolong manner at him, I felt my neck with my hand and tried to rub away the pain therein. The position I took on the bench in the guest room wasn’t favorable for me in any way, and I could feel it well. I still could not sleep and it had nothing to do with worrying for the old man, but it is something I have been battling with for a while.
Insomnia had been a disturbing issue I found myself struggling through for a while. It stemmed from the shift jobs I was running as at that time which had their way of morphing one’s body into not wanting sleep. I had both day and night shifts all in bid to make things work. I simply returned to the seat to relax as I decided to rest my head for a while and let the day birth itself into morning properly.
It was exactly an hour after I got up to see my father when a man walked over to where I was in quick steps and a rather curios manner. I was surprised by the manner in which he coordinated himself and got even more surprised when he spoke. He wasn’t young obviously and he looked like he was forty years give or take one or two.
Two soldiers had accompanied him towards me, while another two had stood just some feet away on the corridor. Their presence was intimidating within the hospital and the nurses walked past briskly as the military personnel.
He had a rather expensive looking suit over what he wore underneath and a very elegant air around him that told he wasn’t just any commoner. He bent over to me with a smile across his face and a hint of anxiety in his voice as well.
“Could you direct me to Mr. Martin’s room please?” he said in a polite manner as he took off his large coat to reveal his US Army uniform.
I was partly confused, as I stared at the man. He wasn’t a civilian obviously, by the fitted US Army uniform he had on. The black colored uniform with stripes around the arm, and medals well-arranged above the breast pocket on either sides of his chest meant the man was a decorated personnel. The manner in which he had walked over made it rather convincing too.
His eyes darted around the room before he let them remain fixated on me. His face bore slight scars, which I could assume were from battles of some sorts, but he looked fresh and his uniform bore nothing but respect for the man as he stood close. His black shoes commanded respect, and the cap underneath his arm made me wonder what an Army official was doing in the hospital and asking of my father.
It was terrifying to think about, but equally baffling. I strained my eyes to get a good grip at the name on printed in black above his breast pocket but I couldn’t get a good view of it. All I could see were the shimmering and shining Medals of Honor the man donned proudly.
“Do you mean Jack Martin?” I asked in a startled tone.
He nodded briskly. “Yes…yes…yes…please”.
“You’re standing right in front of his room sir”, I pointed to the glass wall. “May I ask who you are and what business you have with my father?”
My questions sounded intrusive towards someone I didn’t know, and considering he hadn’t any idea I was the man’s daughter either. He was a wealthy looking man and the connection between my father and him just wasn’t something I could make out there and then.
He cleared his throat proudly and said; “I’m Colonel Fabian of the US Army”.
The two men standing with him walked to the door of my father’s ward and stood on either side like they were protecting a terrorist from escaping his holding cell. It sent shivers down my spine.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand, does my father have a problem with the US Army?” I asked in a bothered tone.
He simply shook his head intensely.
“I’m sorry but I’m not allowed to say anything in specific at the moment, but no, he isn’t in any kind of trouble”, he responded. “You just have to know that in a few hours, some more important people will come here to tell you everything”.
I could barely understand anything from all he had said. There was no reasoning behind any of them.
“I was only sent here to make the necessary security checks and to prepare a place for those coming”, he explained with his hands tucked into his pocket. “Please would you be so kind to tell me about his condition?”
I was too shocked to say anything at first, but I regained composure soon enough. The man slid into the seat next to me with keen eyes and even keener looking eyes waiting to be regaled about my father and what ailed him. I wasn’t sure about how to begin, but I did eventually and I spilled all I could to the man who called himself Fabian.
…to be continued…
Laila could never believe that the only person she was always sure to know very well about, her shameful father, was actually the person she completely knows nothing about. In the last 7 days of his life in hospital, the pitiful and shameful father of her, each and every day there was a different guest came to visit her father, all the seven visitors drank tea with Laila in the opposite room of her father's, and tell her seven different stories about him, Jack Martin. The surprises and unbelievable things came one by one everyday. The real person of her father was gradually revealed day by day and then came to her true identity. How would Laila deal with the unexpected truths about her father's life? And how did she overcome them and continue to live her own life?