Alexandria drove up to the senior apartment complex that her parents were living at now. It was a perfect fit because it was one of the few places with an elevator, which was necessary for her dad now, and it was close to the hospital, another necessity for her dad now.
She sat in the car for a moment, dreading the visit and wondering if these visits were even doing any good. Could she ever undo the pain she had caused? She was beyond angry now, she guessed, anger still seemed to creep in once in a while. However, right now she was just dreading being awkward and uncomfortable.
She got out of the car, reminding herself the sooner she started the visit, the sooner it would be over and headed to the second floor.
Alexandria knocked on the door and waited knowing that both of them would take a while to open it. “He’s lucky she came back. How would he take care of himself without her?” she thought while she listened to someone, probably her mom, fiddling with the locks.
“Almost done,” her mom yelled through the door.
“I’m in no hurry,” Alexandria said, mainly because she never wanted her mom to feel like she needed to hurry for her. Her mom had so many responsibilities now. She deserved to have people be patient with her.
The door opened and Alexandria could see her dad standing nearby, clutching his walker for balance. Her mom grabbed her and hugged her, “You’re here.”
“I’m here,” Alexandria matched her mom’s enthusiasm and hugged her back. Then she came further into the apartment, “Hi dad.”
Her dad nodded and she gave him a courteous kiss on the cheek. He went into the bedroom to watch his football game.
“Still not much conversation?” Alexandria asked.
“A little bit, he’s getting better at it. He still struggles,” her mom said.
Alexandria had not heard her dad complete a thought since the stroke although she was told that he was lucky to have gained back the amount that he did. He was walking with a walker now and he could be trusted to get food for himself too. After walking out on them when she was a teenager, Alexandria thought she was done with him. She thought men were built to be strong but he ran when things got too tough.
Her mom proved to be the strong one. As soon as they got the call about his stroke, she made Alexandria take her to the hospital with no hesitation. She stood over his bed and the past four years were wiped away clean. She had no bitterness, just a desire for him to be okay.
“I ordered pizza,” her mom said, “I thought it would be easy and give us more time to visit.”
“Yum,” Alexandria said and went with her mom to serve herself and get some for her dad.
“Dad,” Alexandria called out as she brought the slices into the bedroom, “I’ve got our pizza.”
Alexandria put his plate on the t.v. table next to him. He was engrossed in the football game. She watched him, wondering how much of him was still there. That day in the hospital, he had no words. He needed a drink of water and he couldn’t remember the words water or drink. He pointed to his mouth and mimed a cup instead.
Then the doctor asked him if he could remember us. It made Alexandria’s heart ache to remember that he could say the names Alexandria and Penelope, her mom’s name, but he could not say the word water.
They were still in there. Even when he lost so much, he never lost the memory of them.
Alexandria wondered if he lost what she said to him the day he left. She would be fine if he lost that. She hated it the moment it left her lips and that hate just grew into a small hatred for herself. She would be happy to have that moment lost. It would be a relief.
Alexandria watched the game with her dad, feeling like so much was broken. She saw a football player move like nothing she had seen when her dad would watch the game when she was a kid. “Woah, look at him go,” she said.
She got on the floor and closer to the screen, hoping to get a better look. “He’s tiny but probably not. Does he look tiny to you?” she turned and asked her dad.
Her dad nodded and struggled to say, “He’s not though.”
She went back to looking at the screen. She saw the player get the ball and dodge under other players. He was small enough to find holes in the crowd of ball players and would just duck under their arms to avoid getting tackled. “Look at him go!” she said while she followed his trail with her finger. Her dad laughed. It was the first time she heard him laugh since the stroke. Guessing that her enthusiasm was the cause, she kept on going.
“Sproles,” she read on his jersey, “Is he as tiny as he looks?”
Her dad thought for a moment, “Five foot six?” he said, “Small for a football player.”
She looked at her dad in awe. He remembered how tall this guy was. Although, if she remembered correctly, that was about the same height as her dad so that might have made it easier to remember.
“It’s amazing, like he discovered a magic trick that the other players don’t understand. He just goes under them,” she said.
“Sitting there,” her dad said, “You look like a kid again.”
Alexandria chuckled, “I don’t feel like I ever grew up.”
“Nobody does,” her dad said, “We think we should have all the answers when we grow up. We don’t.”
Alexandria wondered if he was referring to the day he left or just talking in general. It would hurt too much if he wasn’t referring to that day. If she asked him about it and he actually lost that memory with the stroke, it would hurt a lot, not just her. It would hurt him too.
“Yeah, I’m still waiting for all of the answers,” she said light-heartedly.
“Maybe we try to be happy with the answers we do get,” he said.
Alexandria looked at her dad. He was smiling and had a softness to his gaze.
It was time to give up on having all of the answers.
Moving forward with what they had right there was the best she could hope for.