Happy birthday, Dad. I thought to myself as I rode on the carrousel. It was a white horse with a pink plastic mane and blue eyes that were glazed over. I used to come here every time the carnival came in when I was a little girl, clinging to my father’s hand as he pointed to the array of boats on the lake, promising to take me out onto the ocean someday.
It has now been twenty years since he made that promise, and it still hadn’t been fulfilled. It couldn’t. Not when he was six feet under. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer six years ago and died the following year. I went to his funeral, but couldn’t shed a tear. There I was, amongst dozens of sobbing women and somber men, and I couldn’t shed a tear for my own father. I don’t know why he stopped chemo. It was helping him a little. Not a lot, but at least it helped a little. He stopped treatment and went to live at our beach house. I went with him and spent the whole year there. One whole year out of my life for the man who’d given me nineteen years of his. I wish I could have done more. More to show him I love him. More to repay the wonderful years he gave me.
So I did.
I made sure that he never wanted for anything during that one last year. I made sure he was happy and content and loved until the moment he took his very last breath. I took him out every day just so he could walk along the beach like he used to with Mom before she died in the crash. As time went by, he would take more “breathing stops” until he finally couldn’t get out of bed to go any more. He made me go, though, and when I came back he’d say “You smell just like the sea, Tillie,” giving me that soft smile that now took up so much energy to make.
And here I was, five years after he died, riding on the carrousel and looking out toward the ocean that seemed to stretch on forever.
He was happy.