“The...” her smile faded. “Oh no, Jimmy!”
“We have to go now, Andrea. He slipped into a coma and they said it doesn’t look good. Get your purse and I’ll wake Lee.” Rick started for the stairs.
He turned. “Andrea, we’ll talk in the car. Please, get your purse.”
She jumped to her feet and followed him up the stairs.
Rick hurried through the kitchen and into Lee’s room. “Lee, get up.” He turned on the light and went to shake his brother. “Let me help you get dressed. We have to get to the hospital.”
Lee’s eyes drifted open. “Rick?”
“C’mon, get a move on. We have to get Andrea to the hospital.” Rick began tossing clothes to him.
“What happened?” Lee swung his legs off the side of the bed and reached for his shirt.
“Jimmy is in a coma.” Rick set Lee’s walker next to his leg. “Hurry up.” He trotted out of the room to find Andrea. She was standing in the middle of the kitchen, her arms wrapped around herself. “Andrea, lets get into the car.”
Her frightened eyes met his. “I’m...so...scared.” she whispered.
He grabbed her by the shoulders and led her out to the garage. “C’mon, hon, climb into the car.” He settled her into the front seat of the Mercedes and closed the door after her. Trotting back into the house, he almost ran into Lee. “Are you ready?”
“Yea.” he shuffled quickly into the garage and let Rick help him into the car.
Rick folded up the walker and shoved it into the back seat next to Lee. Circling around the car, he got in behind the wheel and touched her trembling hand. “We’ll be there before you know it.”
He broke all the speed limits getting to the hospital and quickly found a parking space. Hopping out of the car, he unfolded Lee’s walker and let him pull himself out of the car. He turned to help Andrea but she was already heading across the parking lot, her dress swirling around her legs.
“Go on.” Lee urged him. “I’ll catch up in a few minutes.”
With one last glance at Lee, he trotted after her. He finally caught up with her near the nurse’s station where she was leaving a message for Dr. Raros.
She barely acknowledged him as she started off down the hall.
“Andrea, we need to talk.” he quickened his steps to keep stride with her.
“Jimmy first.” she mumbled, practically running into his room.
Rick followed behind her, then hung back to let her check Jim over.
Andrea almost burst into tears. She dropped her purse on the chair and leaned over to stroke his forehead. His face was pale and slack, the skin still smooth to the touch. “Oh, Jimmy.” She pulled his covers up a bit and smoothed down his hair. “I love you, do you hear me? I’ll always love you.”
She looked up to see Rick and Lee in the doorway. “He looks so old. I don’t ever remember him looking old.”
They watched as the tears rolled down her cheeks. Rick went to her and gave her his starched white handkerchief.
“Honey, we need to talk about Jimmy.” he repeated softly.
She wiped her face. “All right.”
“He asked me to make sure you knew that he does not want to be kept alive on machines.” he said softly.
“Oh, God, don’t talk like that!” she tried to turn away from him.
“Andrea, this is important. It’s what he wants and you have to be prepared for this. Do you understand what I’m saying?” he asked.
“Yes.” she whispered and returned to Jimmy’s side. “As liberated as you are, Jimmy, you’re old school about some things. But I would never go against your wishes. Never.”
Dr. Raros came quietly into the room. “I’m sorry it took me so long to get your message. I’ve been monitoring Mr. Womatt since about ten o’clock when the machines detected some changes. He went into the coma at about 11:45pm and we immediately called you. We’ll continue to watch him in case there’s something we can do for him.”
“No machines.” Andrea whispered, holding onto Jimmy’s hand.
“You don’t understand...”
“No,” she interrupted. “Jimmy said no machines and I mean to respect that. You can just take the machine out of the room.”
“We’ll talk again later.” Dr. Raros soothed before leaving the room.
She kept a firm grip on Jimmy’s hand as Lee sank into the chair across from her. “You two don’t have to stay. Who knows how long he’ll be this way...” her voice faded out.
Lee’s gaze found Rick’s. “Does he have a living will?” he whispered, being intimately familiar with the legal document because of his own illness.
He nodded and spoke loudly enough for Andrea to hear. “His living will is on file with his medical records, which Dr. Raros received when Jim was first admitted. It says exactly as I’ve told Andrea... no machines.”
The room fell silent, leaving the beeping of the monitors to fill the air. Lee leaned back in his chair, trying to make himself comfortable while Rick hovered near Andrea’s elbow.
“I wish I had known so many years ago that this amazing man was my blood.”Andi finally whispered. “I don’t know what I would have done differently, but right now I feel like I missed so much.” Her eyes never left her father’s face. “You sweet, stubborn man... I’m not ready to let you go yet so don’t die on me!”
Rick moved behind her, working his strong hands against her tight shoulders. “You know he wouldn’t go if he had the choice. He’s always loved you and done what he thought was best for you.”
Tears began dripping down her cheeks again. “I’m not ready to let him go, yet.”
It was close to dawn when a noise jerked Andrea awake. She’d been slumped over in the small chair, her legs splayed out in front of her and her head almost resting on her shoulder. She was sure her hair was a mess and her makeup was either cried away or smeared beyond belief... but her first thought was to check on Jimmy. He was in the same position, prone on the bed, no detectable movement. Raising her eyes, she saw that Rick was standing in the doorway to the hospital room, watching her carefully. His arrival must have been the noise that had awakened her.
“Is Lee all right?” she asked hoarsely, trying to push herself into a better sitting position.
“He was exhausted and went right to bed.” Rick told her, setting a small suitcase down just next to her chair. “I brought your things.”
She looked down at the ‘emergency’ suitcase she’d had packed for months, mostly during the time when Lee was at his sickest. She would often grab the bag and just stay the night in Lee’s hospital room. It contained an extra set of toiletries and several changes of clothes. “Thank you.”
“You sitting here indefinitely is not going to change the outcome, Andrea.” he said softly, stroking his hand gently over her mussed up curls.
“I can’t leave him.” she answered in a small voice. “No matter what, I won’t let him be alone.”
He sighed and pulled the second chair up next to hers. “He knew this was coming, honey. He was prepared for this.”
“He may have been, but I’m not.” she pushed her hair out of her face and turned to look at Rick. “I went through times like this with Lee so you’d think I could be practical about this, don’t you? But somehow, practicality flies right out the window when you love someone. I didn’t leave Lee’s side and I won’t leave Jimmy’s.”
“I’ll do whatever I can to help you.”
“I know you will.” she smoothed a hand down his darkly stubbled cheek. “I’d like to clean up a bit and change, will you stay?”
Nodding, he moved aside so she could pass by him and go into the small bathroom. Even now, in this horrific time, she moved with a gracefulness you would not expect from a woman of her size. When the door closed in between them, he settled into the chair she had vacated and turned to look at the man lying on the hospital bed. “Jim, I’m doing my best to comfort her... I just wish I could do more.” He sat silently until Andrea returned, dressed in knit pants and a long cotton tee shirt.
She waited until he had given her back her chair, then she sighed and grasped Jimmy’s cool hand in hers. “Tell me what he wants from us, Rick.”
“He wants to keep his dignity, which is why I think he doesn’t want to be on life-support.” he responded.
“What about other means of support? Did you see his living will? Do you have a copy I could look over? I want to make sure that anything he’ll let me do, they are doing.” she said determinedly. “I want to do everything we can to keep him with us.”
“I don’t have a copy of the will, but I’ll try to get a copy from the nurse’s station.” Rick promised.
“He lived a great life... traveled all over, saw things that most of us will never even hope to see. He did things that most of us would never even think to do.” she said proudly.
“He also had a loving wife and a daughter he was extremely proud of.”
She turned to Rick, tears sparkling in her eyes again. “He was the father I always wanted. Even when he was traveling and we didn’t see each other too often, he was the man I wanted to be my dad. I wish we had the time to be father and daughter as well as friends.”
They both looked up when one of the machines sounded an alarm. Andrea panicked because although Lee had been in the hospital many times, he had never been in a coma and she had no clue what the alarm was indicating. She was on her feet as a nurse rushed in, followed immediately by a doctor and a second nurse.
“What is it? What’s happened?” Andrea called, letting herself be pushed out of the way by one of the nurses.
Rick grabbed her arm, yanking her back even further and into his arms. “Hang on, honey, just hang on.”
Her fingers dug into his arm, the nails too short to pierce his flesh but she left marks nonetheless. “What’s going on?” she called desperately, knowing they needed to tend to Jimmy first, but still wanting answers.
The second nurse turned to her with a tight smile as the doctor backtracked from the room. “It was a false alarm.” she told them. “One of his EKG leads pulled away and the alarm went off because we lost the connection.”
Andrea sagged against Rick’s chest, her whole body shaking, her legs almost too weak to hold her up.
“I’m sorry.” the nurse called before leaving the room in her squeaky white shoes.
Rick helped her onto the small sofa under the window so that he could continue to hold her in his arms. “Shhh, it’s okay, it’s okay.” he whispered, cradling her carefully.
“I thought he was gone! I thought he was gone and there was nothing left to do.” she sobbed against his shoulder. “I can’t let him go! I’m not ready, I’m not ready!”
Rubbing her back, he put his lips very close to her ear and said, “You’ll have to be ready when he is, honey. It’s his choice, not yours.”
She shook her head back and forth, still crying and clutching at his shirt. “No, no, no...”
“Andrea, listen to me.” he continued. “You don’t want him to live like this... it’s not what he wanted and so it can’t be what you want.”
“I want him here with me!”
“You know he’ll always be with you. He lives in your heart, in your mind and in your blood.” With nothing else left to say, he just held her as she continued to cry.
Andrea hid in her studio, avoiding everyone and everything for nearly two weeks. The words burned in her heart and she could no longer ignore them... so now as her fingers trembled, she wrote. The writing was shaky, the paper littered with drops of wetness, the words blurred beneath her fingertips, but still she wrote.
Rain beats steadily
Against my window
It's quiet pitter pat
Lulling me to sleep
Where I can forget that you're gone.
The day you died was bright and sunny
I remember it well because I hated the sun
For shining on that day.
I wished for the clouds and the thunder
to come to me with the rain
So the day would be as somber
As I felt.
But the sun continued to shine
No matter what I said or did.
So now, here I am
Listening to the soft pitter pat
Against my windows.