[Continued from ‘Ambulance’]
The next day, I asked my aunt if I should miss work to be with my dad in the hospital. My aunt said not to worry, that she would go to the hospital to spend time with him and that I could go after work.
I went to work at the high school for my summer assignment, but I couldn’t think of anything else but my dad. So I called my aunt around 11:30am.
“Tía, ¿Cómo está mi apá?”
“Sigue dormido. Pero no te preocupes, ya que salgas te vienes de paso al hospital.”
I agreed to do just that, and I hung up. The plan was to leave work at 3pm and drive straight to the hospital, but five minutes later, my phone rang… it was my aunt again.
“¿Sabes que? Mejor salte del trabajo. Tu papá pidió verte a ti y a un sacerdote.”
I hung up.
I felt a stabbing pain in my heart, and I started crying because I knew my dad didn’t have much longer to live. I told the principal at the high school that I was sorry but that it would be my last day of work. I said, “I think my dad is dying.”
The principal was very understanding. “Claudia, don’t worry about it. Go!”
I was driving to the hospital and called the nearest church. I remember telling the receptionist in between sobs, “I don’t know how this works, but my dad is asking to see a priest. I think he’s dying. Do I have to pick up the priest? I’m not sure what to do!”
“What’s your dad’s name, and what hospital is he at? Room number?”
“Anaheim Global Medical Center. José Ángel Armenta. Room 416. Can we get a Spanish-speaking priest, please?”
“Yes. The priest will meet you there.”
I hung up.
My dad hadn’t recognized who I was for the past few days. So on my way to the hospital, I prayed that my dad would remember me when he saw me.
I parked frantically and walked to the reception area as fast as possible. The security guard greeted me there and asked me a bunch of questions, but I was too anxious and worried to come up with the answers, let alone the right words.
“My dad’s fucking dying! Give me a visitor’s pass!” He immediately put a wristband on me, and I was on my way to his room.
The priest was already there when I entered the room. First, I looked at my aunt and then at my dad. The different feelings of defeat, sadness, anger, confusion, and love were palpable in that room.
I set my purse down and said, “Apá, ya llegué.”
He looked directly at me, his eyes watered, and said, “Gracias, mija.”
He recognized me! At that moment, I had my dad back. He knew who I was. I cried tears of joy.
After the priest left, family members trickled in throughout the day to see my dad. That last evening with him was memorable for many reasons, moments that will remain engraved in my mind.
However, because of covid restrictions, we were asked to leave at 5pm, but we ended up staying past 5:30pm. My cousin and I were the last ones there. He walked out of the room first. I stayed behind and looked at my dad. I held his hand, incapable of holding back my tears.
I managed to say, “Apá, si ya estás cansado de esto y tienes que irte, vete. No te preocupes por mí, yo voy a estar bien. ¿Si me entiendes lo que te estoy diciendo?”
He nodded. I repeated myself another two times, reminding him how much I loved him. He nodded yes, every single time. I finally kissed him goodbye and said I’d be back the next day.
Unfortunately, the next day never came.
About three hours after we left the hospital, I received the dreaded call.
My dad, my hero… had passed away.
I love you. I miss you every day.