Short Story: “Papa”

By Sally M.

My dad and I didn’t have the best of relationships. He was constantly pressuring me to get straight A’s, forcing me to take after-school classes, saying no when I wanted to hang out with my friends.

We had a fight that morning. My friends wanted to go to the library to study, and I asked him if I could go with them when he was taking me to school. Of course, he said no, but I still wanted to go. I kept arguing with him, and he argued back. We had even gotten to the point of yelling at each other, and when we got to school, I had made sure to slam the car door.

I had thought about it all day at school  and I decided to apologize to him. So after school when I had finished all my homework, I went to the living room and waited for my dad to come home from work. After a while, the doorbell rang and I went to open the door.

I was supposed to see my dad in front of me. I was supposed to say I was sorry and be told that it was okay and eat dinner with him and my mom and we were supposed to be happy.

But none of that happened. Why?

Because the snow that day  kept some drivers from being able to see the road clearly. Because one of those drivers didn’t see that the stoplight had turned red. Because that driver crashed into my dad.

I don’t know how long I was waiting for him, but it felt like an eternity and the feeling of guilt was kept bothering for every second. So when I saw the police officer where my dad should have been, the guilt seemed to get even bigger.

He told us that he was sorry, that my dad had been involved in an accident, that he was in a coma.

When we got to the hospital, we found him lying in a hospital bed with multiple tubes sticking into his arms and hooked up to a ventilator. His eyes were closed and he wasn’t moving. So this is what a coma patient looked like.

My mom immediately kneeled next to him, his hand in hers, tears in her eyes. I couldn’t do anything but stare at him from behind her, unable to do anything.

My mom visits him almost everyday, talks to him, holds him, cries for him and yet, even now, almost a month later I haven’t been able to say a word to him.

It’s not because I’m sad or because looking at him hurts. It’s because I’m mad. I was mad at my dad for leaving. He left me only as a memory of pressure and stress and restraint. He left me without letting me say what I wanted to say.

But even more than that I was mad at myself. I shouldn’t have fought with him. I shouldn’t have slammed the door. I shouldn’t have been such a terrible daughter.

But today was different. I had started to feel less angry at us and more wishful. I wished that my dad would wake up so I could apologize and make it up to him. I wished that he would be okay, that everything would be okay. Today I decided to talk to him for the first time.

When we got to the hospital, I must have had run through my mind everything I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it at least a million times. My mom went to the food court to get us lunch, so I had time to say what I wanted to say. I kneeled down next to him and started talking.

“Hi, Papa,” I started. “Can you hear me? It’s your daughter, Ava. I miss you. And I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled that day. I shouldn’t have slammed the door. I’m sorry, Papa. I wish you were here and that you could understand me. I know I don’t say this enough, maybe not even at all, but I love you, Papa.”

And at that moment, the hand I was holding was suddenly holding mine back. I looked up at his face and saw that his eyes were open, and even though there were tears in them, he was smiling.

Papa was back.

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