A Strange Touch

I felt a strange touch on the back of my neck, like spiderwebs or cotton candy, but in spite of the unlikelihood of finding either in the antiseptic hospital room, I put my hand to the back of my neck in an exploratory gesture. Finding nothing there, I returned my hand to its automatic turning of pages. A Good Housekeeping magazine years out of date furnished me with exercise more physical than mental as I merely turned the pages without reading them.

It was my third hurried flight back to Tucson in as many months. Each time I had arrived to find my dad in the hospital, my mom holding his hand or brushing back the long hair of this comb-over. We’d listen to all of my dad’s stories that we’d long-ago memorized ourselves, correcting errant details, nudging his ever-changing stories back into the particular form we enjoyed most.

But this time I had arrived from the airport to find my dad sleeping, and three hours later he still hadn’t awakened. While my sister took my mom out for a meal, I sat by his bed listening to the somewhat aquatic beeping of his heart monitor—like a submarine tracking device sweeping the water for unusual activity. And my father’s body went on giving out information even as he slept.

Once again, I felt the soft scratching movement against my neck and brushed an imaginary spider or tick into air devoid of insects or conversations or even scents. Almost everything around me seemed already dead, my ear interpreted the monitor beeping as a sort of lullaby assuring me all was well.

My dad and I had had our ups and downs over the past few years, and I was glad to be the one left alone with him. I was hoping we could have the conversation I’d always wanted to have with him but never had. I wanted to tell him all was forgiven on my side and to give him an opportunity to do the same.

I decided to apply myself more diligently to the magazine and dedicated myself to actually concentrating on the story of yet another housewife finding her epiphany in a supermarket parking lot, and so I wasn’t quite sure of when the lullaby ended. I just looked up and there it was—the thin straight line, a slight droning sound replacing the uniform mountain range of beeps.

Grabbing his hand, “Dad?” I said, “Dad, come back. I love you!” I tried to pull the tubes from his nose and mouth to restore some semblance of normality, but they were implanted too deeply to be easily removed. “Dad?”

The fine line raised into gentle sloping bumps as I felt my dad squeeze my hand three times. His mouth grimaced into a slight smile and then the line smoothed out again.

I sat holding his once more motionless hand, the back of my neck itching again from that slight irritation that I now recognized as a blade of wheat, my dad sitting behind me on the porch, laughing at me slapping at mosquitoes, flies or whatever was bothering my neck while he brought the blade of wheat back out of his mouth where he used it toothpick-like  and fluttered it  teasingly, again and again, over his gullible daughter’s exposed neck.

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Judy Dykstra-Brown
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2 thoughts on “A Strange Touch”

  1. Thanks for sharing this sad but blessed moment Judy. I have been there too, and that moment sticks in our minds for the rest of our Lives, we think about or experience something and want to tell them about it. An aroma, A beautiful sight, or a new adventure somewhere that you know they would have enjoyed sharing with you. I have a large portrait of her in the place where I have memorialized my loved one. I look at it several times almost every day. Sometimes she has a beautiful smile with her bright eyes, other times is looks sad.

    1. Thanks, Sam. There is something very reassuring about being with a loved one when they pass away. There are no questions left regarding their passing and each of the 5 I’ve witnessed was peaceful. It’s also comforting that they knew you were with them until the end.

      Again, thanks so much for commenting. The response of those who read our work is the only compensation other than the wonderful experience of the writing process.

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