The last time I saw my dad, he was sitting in the Port Lincoln airport, all by himself. I felt bad for leaving him there. Ill, tired, and hours early for a flight home he was determined to take. I would have liked to stay, but there were four kids whose only form of entertainment was running up and down the empty building’s hall, and so I left. I said goodbye, and walked out, every step laden with guilt.
I worried then, that I would never see him again.
My grandmother had an aneurysm in her heart, and years ago, she elected to have it operated on. I was barely one when she slipped into Heaven. I have no recollections of the mother my father had. She lives on purely in his stories.
When Dad was diagnosed with the same aneurysm in the same place, he chose not to have surgery. He didn’t want to suffer his mother’s fate. Yes, it was a game of Russian roulette, but he rolled the dice.
For many years, he has lived with that clump of cells in his chest, one kidney, and blood that clots over enthusiastically.
Against all those odds, he lives.
I’m sitting in the Adelaide airport writing this. At gate 25. I am awash in irony. I think. I’m not even sure if that’s the right word, but I’m too tired and worried to care. Gate 25 is next to gate 50 — that’s the Port Lincoln flight. 25 is to Darwin. Two ways to go home, right next to each other. One plane that would be simpler, and one that needs to be taken.
I’m catching the same flight my dad caught, exactly two weeks ago. The same flight from Lincoln, and the same from Adelaide. There’s a long wait in the city of churches, and I can’t help but wonder what he did. He was in a wheelchair, because of the virus that had beset him that very morning. I wonder if someone parked him somewhere and he sat, unable to do anything. I hate that thought. I hated it when he made me book that wheelchair. I hate it even more now.
I wonder if he sat here, next to gate 50 and realised where it went. Did he wonder if he should have stayed with me? In hindsight, it’s good he went home. It may have been his only chance.
He’s been in the hospital for ten days. All the antibiotics in the world can’t fight the pneumonia. That lone kidney is tired of working so hard. And that aneurysm? That gamble that he took, that paid off for so many years? It’s leaking.
On Wednesday, I asked him if I needed to come. To go to Darwin and see him.
‘Not yet,’ he told me. ‘We’re not there yet.’
Friday lunchtime, and I’m rejoicing over submitted assignments, and planning to pick up 300 hot dogs for the school fete, and the call arrives. ‘Come now. Now is the time.’
I never pick up those hot dogs.
Instead, I walk past a wheelchair in the airport and wonder if that’s the one my dad sat on.
It’s 7:10 pm. The hours fly by and drag slowly. I pray that he holds on. Not just for me, but for the two other sisters en route. It’s been 22 years since all my sisters were in the same room. I was 10. I don’t even know how to be whatever it is that we are.
But whatever it is, we will all be here for this.
We will all arrive to say goodbye.
The last time I saw my dad, he was sitting in the Port Lincoln airport, all alone. 14 days later, I sit in the Adelaide airport hoping that won’t be the last time. Hoping that there’s at least one time more.
Hold on Dad. I’m coming.
My dad passed away at 15:15 Saturday the 24th of October. He waited for me to come home. For that, I will be forever grateful.