A.. B.. C.. D.. E.. Blink.
A.. B.. C.. D.. Blink.
I recite the entire alphabet over and over and wait for the eyes to blink. My voice trembles the first time. I’ve never felt so desperate.
Letter by letter, blink by blink, we form words. We slowly put disparate words in context, trying to form sentences, while comprehension challenges our fortitude.
The systems have shut down. Muscle by muscle, limb by limb, paralysis has taken over his entire body, trapping him in a horrific nightmare. From the neck down, his body has estranged him from himself. He never loses consciousness. He watches himself stop feeling.
Patiently, we let the restlessness slither out of us. When speech fails us, we invent new forms of communication. Each day, I recite the alphabet and through blinks of his eyes, he ‘speaks’ to me in the beeping three-walled intensive care alcove.
Just 48 hours after the accident, he has accepted his condition in its totality. He has gulped down the pain of reality, or rather, the reality of pain, as bitter as it was. The dire predicament came a little too close to his face. Leered a little too long into his eyes. But in the break down moment when it was easier to shift gaze awkwardly and look away, he chose to stare right back.
Over the months, we shared jokes and laughed about misspelled words and misunderstood sentences. He asked about my day and slowly, we talked with such ease about things that speech could never convey. I forgot missing sound.
He spent 58 years carving a life out for himself, bit by bit. It took less than 58 seconds to steer him to an uninvited turn. But even in the worst conditions of his life, he didn’t stop being my father – completely present with me, giving, strong, protective, nurturing, even uplifting.
His will to stick it out superseded the medical textbooks, the depression, the fear and the body. Today, about 3 years and 3 months later, he walks independently by my side, recalling the seven months in the hospital fondly. He has recovered partially but exceptionally from paralysis, after a critical cervical surgery, years of excruciating physiotherapy, medication, innumerable massages, and a lot of resilience. While he still undergoes treatment every day, his unwavering faith and unyielding perseverance are enough to numb the pain and pull us all through to the other side with a grin that yells, “booyeah”.