Patrick gave his mother’s unresponsive hand another squeeze before letting go. He stood up and walked over to the window. The view of the park was something even he could admire and he thought again what a shame it was that his mother couldn’t see it. She’d worked hard for a long time to save up the money to pay for this place, it was unfair that she went into a coma before being able to appreciate what her hard work paid for.
With his back to her, he started his carefully rehearsed speech. “Mom, I have something to tell you.”
He turned back to glance at her face and to the machines that monitored her heart and lungs. No change. “You have a grand-daughter, her name is Lilly and she is 36 years old and she has two kids and she lives in the city.” The words came out in a rush, as if now that he’d finally decided to tell her, after almost four decades of keeping the secret, he had to get it over with as quickly as possible.
Was that a change in her heart rhythm? The doctor said there was no reason to assume she wasn’t aware of what was going on around her. He watched the monitors for a moment longer. No, nothing had changed.
He turned back to the window.
“Do you remember that time I called home from school and said I crashed into a professor’s car and needed to get it fixed? You and Dad sent me two thousand dollars? Well…”
Patrick cleared his throat and realized telling his mother about an unknown grand-daughter wasn’t as hard as telling her about the lie.
“Well, there wasn’t any car accident. I gave the money to this girl I was seeing. She was a really sweet girl, mom, smart and funny. We were friends for a long time before… The point is she ended up pregnant. And I gave her the money to pay for an abortion. She said she’d take care of it.”
Many years later – a little older and wiser, he’d realized that two thousand dollars was too much for an abortion, but the girl hadn’t come back to school the next semester. In fact, he’d never heard from her again.
“I guess she lied to me like I lied to you.”
He watched through the window as a breeze picked up some early fall leaves, swirled them in a mini tornado then disappeared.
“Anyway, she took the money and moved to the city. She raised Lilly all by herself for a few years but eventually she got married. Lilly grew up calling that guy ‘dad.’ She says he was a good dad, but a little while ago she decided to find me.”
Lilly tracked him down to the law firm in the city where he’d worked since graduating. She didn’t call ahead, she just showed up one day. He’d known almost immediately who she was. She looked just like her mother. But it was his own lopsided grin he saw on her face that clinched it for him.
“She didn’t ask me for anything, she just wanted to meet me and to see what kind of guy I was.”
Patrick paused for a moment. The park was almost empty this early on a weekday morning, but he could now see a woman walking along the path towards the front door of the nursing home. The woman led two kids, a boy and a girl, by the hands. The girl had red hair like his. Her name was Patty.
“She wanted to know if I could handle being a grandfather, since I missed out on being a dad.”
He’d never married. His college sweetheart left without saying goodbye and took his heart with her.
A joyful sound came from the heart monitor. As he turned back towards the bed, he watched his mother move her hand on her own for the first time in weeks.
“Doctor!” Patrick yelled.
The attendant burst into the room. He scanned the equipment then pulled out a stethoscope and listened to the old woman’s chest.
“What’s happening?” Patrick asked.
The man took off the stethoscope and pulled out a flashlight.
“Well, I think… maybe,” he said, flashing the light across his patients eyes. Patrick’s mother blinked slowly, once, twice. “Yes. Good. It looks like your mother is waking up.”