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Watermelon Sugar

by Nina Amaral 6 months ago in family

Mourning can taste as sweet and longing

Life is a funny little thing. Over time, our stories are weaved by the unexpected. This is a story of a girl who could never again taste watermelon and the curious yet heartbreaking tale of what led to it.

Moving back home at the age of 30 is never a simple decision. Her early marriage to an abusive man led her to finding herself out of options just as she should be celebrating that milestone birthday and at first it felt as if faith had decided to prank her with such setback, but as her father became ill she decided it was destiny that had taken her to a position of caring for his ever growing needs at such a time.

That in itself was a hard pill to swallow. That man who have always carried himself as a dictionary definition of strength found himself a prisoner to decaying cells that multiplied within his body regardless of his actions against it. He had tried to remove the tumor on his throat not once, but twice, and was still a victim of his own weakened system as it insisted to grow larger and faster each time it came back until it took over his breathing to the point tracheotomy became inevitable. So much weight lost in a matter of days, his once muscled and tones limbs turning shivering and useless with each passing day as she watched from the first row as her father became more and more a shadow of what he had once been.

She felt more and more powerless as the days went by. Never long enough at his side and yet uncomfortable looking at him as his skin lost its color and his voice disappeared behind the plastic tube that stuck out of his throat and all the communication he had left was a blank pad to scribble his desires into, which felt more like demands the more the cancer ate away at him. Soon, he was not heavier than the backpack she carried to work each day, easily manageable with a single arm.

Each night, and earlier ever time, he needed help to go up the stairs to the bed he insisted on maintaining. She thought it was his pride that pushed him to continue the climb, despite the fact he could no longer do it for himself. She would go down to pick him up every time, allowing him to rest his right arm on hers for support as his left one leaned over the rail so he could use his leftover strength to pull himself forward. For her, it was nothing more than an inconvenience yet, for him, it was a manner to prove himself he was still self-sufficient enough to get himself to his own room.

Nearly six months had passed until she accepted his death was inevitable. IT was the middle of the night when she was woken by the sharp sound of her mother’s shrieks piercing her ears. She felt it in her stomach before she had fully waken from whatever state of sleep she had been in. Still stumbling on her own feet, she ran toward the sound and found her mother in tears holding him as he struggled to stay awake. Blood stained the walls around her, dripping from her mothers finger as she tried to control the spurting pulse of the dark red liquid that squirted from his broken sking. The tumor had finally grown past the limitations of his weakened body and ruptured the tissue that contained it to his skeletal neck. She rushed towards them, helping to get him up just enough to be dragged into their family car for a rush visit to the nearby hospital. As her mother took the wheel and drove away, her eyes finally looked down to see her fathers thick blood had stained the fabric of her clothing and had started to dry on her trembling fingers. She knew then and there, on the lawn, that there would never be a return to normalcy and her only solution was to distract herself with bleach and rags as she scrubbed the stained walls enough so that the man would not have to stare at his own blood stains when he returned home to rest. She wanted to cry, she wished hard for warm tears on her cheeks, but the tears never came. There was no time to cry if she wanted to wash away the reminders of that dreadful night, but, just as Lady Macbeth, the stains would never fade from her tired eyes. She could see them growing and dripping in her sleep, and the certainty of death started to loom over her uninvited.

As the weeks went by, her routine remained, carrying him to bed every night and avoiding spending too much time near him because the sight of this wonderful man decaying before her eyes became more and more overwhelming.

It was august when things changed. She had made plans to celebrate her 31st birthday with friends so, the night before, as she sat him in bed once again, she kneeled to his eye level and told him:

“Tomorrow is my birthday but I don`t think I`ll be home in time to see you. Can I get my birthday hug tonight?”

Later that night, her mother knocked on the door in tears. He had stayed up until that late hour crying to himself, overcome with emotion with her request.

Only four days later, on a Saturday afternoon, her life would change forever. IT was the day before father’s day and her mother had other commitments to attend to. She was left alone in the house with him. He stayed on the couch, as he always did, watching something silly on TV to distract himself from reality. She felt uncomfortable but at every 30 minutes or so she would walk down the stairs to check on him. That day, he seemed even more distracted than usual. She asked him if there was anything she could do for him. He picked up his little notepad and simply wrote the word “watermelon”, referring to his desire for juice, as liquids were the only thing left on his dietary plan that still had any sense of taste in his mouth, since he started taking intravenous meals months before. She went to the juice bar around the corner and got it for him, receiving a thankful nod in return. Once finished, he leaned his back against the couch’s arm and turned his attention back to the television, his eyes fluttering with sleep. She went back to her room and cried silently to herself for the next 30 minutes until she had to check back on his again.

His body seemed more limp than ever. She walked up to him and asked if he wanted help to change into a laying position, to which he nodded in agreement. She wrapped her arm around his tiny waist, holding his hand with the other and helped him to lay his head into a pillow and pull his thin legs up to rest. As she started to get back up, he pulled her hand to grab her attention. They locked eyes and he stared intently into her, holding her hand up to his lips and kissing them not once, but a few times to the point she lost count before looking back up to her.

“I love you too, dad.”was all she could say before putting his hand back over his chest for the last time. She didn`t know in that moment, but this would be the ever time he would ever communicate with anyone. In the next hour or so, his mind closed up into itself and he fell into a world of silence and solitude. That night, he was taken into the hospital for palliative care and, by the early hours of the following Wednesday, he would leave forever with her mother by his side as she got ready for another day at the job she barely even remembered to go to.

As her phone rang that morning to her mother’s voice simply whispering feebly “He’s gone”, she swore she could smell watermelon all around her. She could taste it, watering her mouth and making her nauseated. The pad still resting beside the couch with that silly word scribbled in his handwriting. The last word he ever wrote. Watermelon.

Now, the one thing about death that nobody talks about is how much work it entails for those who remain. Funeral costs, picking caskets, organizing a funeral and a burial. It doesn`t matter who we are in life, death is the same boring process for us all, and for those making the tough decisions there is no time to indulge themselves in sadness. By the time the funeral came to a close and his casket was being closed, she was yet to drop any tears. Her mother pulled her close and whispered as her father was locked into the box that would become his forever home: “You know you were the love of his life, don`t you?”. She did.

She had always known since she was little that she had been his favorite of all three children, his pride and joy, the one that shared his view in life and would carry his legacy, but in that moment, in that exact moment, all she could think of is how death really, really tasted like Watermelon.

family

About the author

Nina Amaral

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