The Ticking Chest This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

November 12, 2010
The crisp autumn air
Nibbled icily against my cheeks
As I stood outside
Unknowingly about to witness
A memory I would forever keep.
After going through many trials
Of teaching my puppy how to catch
I stroked his ears one last time
Before turning on my heel
To go inside.
When I walked indoors
Something was new
A hospital bed
Set up in the family room
Cradling my father
Whom I hadn’t seen for a week or two.
Mommy had told me
After he’d left
That doctors needed to perform surgery
On his heart
And open his chest
While he’d been gone
My greatest fear
Was that after they were done,
What if his heart
Refused to restart?
But it must be!
Clearly I was wrong
As I could now see!
My daddy had woken
He had survived!
And was now back home!
Perfectly alive!
However,
This little moment
This joyous epiphany
Was soon disrupted.
I came to notice
How my mother was hovering
Over the hospital bed,
Helping dad lay down.
I came to notice
How the sheet of white blanket
Was so carefully placed over his bare chest.
And as they heard me come in
Turned to look at me,
Causing a shift so slight
A movement so small
That it was barely enough
To move the blanket at all.
But it did
Revealing the raw scar
Drawn down the center of his chest
The clear tape plastered over it
Was all that held him together.
It was all
That kept his heart inside
And as he looked at me
With a sorrow struck stare
I could tell
He was terrified by the trauma
He knew this sight
Would inflict upon me.
The memory imprinted in my mind
Much like the scar imprinted on his body
Much like that very scar that scarred me.
Instantly the fear returned
I had never seen a man as brave
And strong as my dad look so defenseless.
In a pained, raspy voice he muttered:
“Hey, Pumpkin.”
The nickname I was so used to.
I don’t remember
If I answered him,
I don’t remember
If I even smiled.
All I remember,
Is how scared I was
All I remember,
Is wondering if he would be okay.
I ran from the room
Sprinting as fast as my stubby, six-year old legs could take me.
In my own selfish fear,
I had been too frightened to give him a hug,
Or to welcome him home.

Eventually
As time went on
And days continued to pass,
My daddy grew strong again.
He was able to walk by himself
Do all the things he used to.
But
Never will I forget
The image of him so fragile
Despite how faded the scar now is.
And
Every time I hug him
I reminisce that day.
Ever since the surgery
His heartbeat has not been normal.
It does not sound
Like the pumping of blood
Rather
It now mocks the sound
Of a ticking clock.
The rhythmic thud replaced
By a tick, tick, tick!
Goes the artificial valve
As it performs the job
His old heart couldn’t do itself.
The sound of that tick
Which I had once thought
Was a countdown
Of the days left I had with my dad
Forces me to remember every time
I hear it as he passes by,
The scar,
The stare,
The pain I felt for him,
And how much I will always care.





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