Unit 15 A Favor at the Gates………………………243
I hate February. Maybe I do misunderstand it but it’s the most desolate time of a year. White-gray skies and coldness are its only equivalent features. February signifies death. I know this is true because on a cold gray mid-February day, seven years ago, came the news of my father’s terminal illness.
We had suspected for some time that whatever was wrong with Dad would be something petty and curable. He had always maintained an active life even in his seventies, but this winter had hit him pretty hard. A cough that wouldn’t go away was followed by episodes of fatigue so severe that he wouldn’t or couldn’t look after himself. Eventually he had to be hospitalized and the tests confirmed our worst and ever-present fear--cancer. Though his pension could help cover his prescriptions but the diagnoses came too late for any type of treatment to have effect. There was nothing feasible to do but bring him home and wait for the inevitable outcome.
When Dad first came home there was an air of denial surrounding everyone whom came to visit him. They talked to him as if he would recover soon; wished him well when they departed, and if anyone ever gave him the chance to talk about the finality of his life that I never knew. Good-bye shouldn’t be so hard to say, but it often is heart-breaking.
February gave way to March and then April came with its vitality and promise of new life. I suppose everyone feels the irony(具有讽刺意味的事) at the times like that. We sit by the side with no option but hopelessly watch the life drain from someone we love while the seasons turn and we can do nothing to stop death from its approaching. As my dad decayed and faded inside the house,the lawn turned green, the pond glowed like porcelain, all the trees leafed to fullness and the tulips(郁金香) sprang forth as though all was exactly as it should be. There is no fairness in destiny.
I often spoke with my mother during the final weeks of dad’s life. She talked endlessly about the magnitude of her frustration and fatigue. There were times when she angered me with her negative and insensitive(麻木的) comments and there were times when I felt how tired she must be.Mom never said she was afraid to be widowed but at times I could sense how uneasy she was; I was not aware how she might react when the end came. The truth about death was hidden somewhere between our interpretation and what we refuse to admit. I carried the guilt of mutely hoping my dad’s death would be quickened, thus sparing him and myself the agony of prolonged pain.
Death seems to determine to rip apart any fragile bond that exists between the living and the dying. On the last Sunday I was ever going to see my father, while talking leisurely, he mentioned how much he loved French fried potatoes and how he wished he could have a big plate of them now.Mom overheard his comment and began screaming that how she had cooked everything he had asked for and he didn’t eat any. She screamed so loud that I was embarrassed for my father and myself.She was like a pirate who left my father shipwrecked. He looked away from my eyes but I saw bitter tears rolling down from the corners of what once were the greenest eyes I’d ever seen. At that moment I hated my mother. I hated her for making me pity my father. I hated her for being spiteful,though mostly I hated myself. It would have been a simple thing for me to accommodate my dad’s request of French fried potatoes. I could have jumped right up and told mom I knew how tired she must be and even if dad didn’t or couldn’t eat them, I’d fix them for him. I could have told mom to go sit down and rest. Or I could have told her Dad was just talking about the recipe of food he enjoyed. I could have done a million things different from what I did. Sadly all I did was far from my emotions. As Mom was still yelling and Dad was trying to conceal his hurt, I made some lame excuse for leaving.
During my drive home I thought of how Mom had made my visit with Dad so depressing. The picture of Dad’s smiling face turning so quickly to one of hurt wouldn’t leave my mind. Why had she screamed out at him? Dad only wanted some fried potatoes. Mom could have said no or maybe later. On the contrary, she had lashed out at him with such rage that he shrank in fear at her onslaught (冲击), as did I. Why didn’t I gather an ounce of courage and stand up to Mom? Would it have been so hard for me to intervene? My father was dying and all he had asked for was some French fried potatoes. We were just talking about foods we enjoyed, like prawn(对虾), lobster(龙虾), beef stew with pepper and mushroom soup, etc. The worst criminals condemned to death can request a last meal and get it. Where was the justice in refusing my father a plate of French fried potatoes? I couldn’t stop the tears as they overflowed from my eyes.
I opened the door to the home I shared with my husband and daughter, hoping to get in the bathroom before they could ask any questions. Luckily my husband was on the telephone and he barely glanced at my way as I came through the kitchen. I splashed cold water on my face and tried my best to conceal the redness the crying had created in my eyes. When I finally opened the door, my husband was standing on the other side, waiting for me to come out. He pulled me gently into his arms and whispered how much he loved me and how sorry he was to have to tell me my father had just passed away.
As my husband drove us back to my parent’s house, I kept thinking about how I had just left Dad, alive, not more than thirty minutes past. One of the ironies of death is even when you are expecting it, it comes as a surprise.
Seven years have passed since we buried Dad. I’ve only just begun to forgive Mom for her final outburst(感情等的爆发) during my last talk with him. I’ve been less forgiving myself. Each day I’m ridiculed(嘲笑) by my own thoughts. How could I have left Dad disappointed knowing he had a want? What was wrong with me to have not done something? Whenever I’m at a restaurant and hear children asking their parents for fries to go with their hamburgers, I fight not to interfere. I want to say let them have fries. I’d offer to pay for them myself, too. But that would call for some kind of explanation and I’m not ready to share this with strangers.
There will be a time for an explanation when I am visited(遭…的报应) by the only principle of fairness. If those gates of Heaven are really there and a short pause exists while the records are reviewed, I’ll tell my story then. Before I am judged, I’ll bargain, would it be too much to ask if I might be awarded with time to prepare a plate of French fried potatoes? And if you could, would you graciously have them delivered to my father? I know he is here and he’ll know who sent them. If you could allow me this small favor I think I’ll be all right no matter where I might go from here.
I hate February... it is the most desolate time of a year.