The last few months of my father’s life were spent in and out of the hospital.
At least once a week I would take him to the emergency room because he was having heart pains. On two of those occasions, they kept him in the hospital. In November of that year, they put him in intensive care.
I was a senior in high school, so I had my operator’s license and could drive by myself. I will never forget driving back home that November night without him. It seemed so odd to be driving our station wagon alone. By this point I had managed to buy myself a 1958 English Ford, which is another story for another column.
My mother had just gotten home from a long 13-hour day at work when I walked in the living room about 9 o’clock that evening. She was sitting in her chair and asked me what happened at the hospital.
I told her that they admitted him for observation and asked her if she wanted me to take her back to the hospital.
Since it was for observation, and she was so tired she decided to wait until the next morning. I missed school that next day spending it sitting outside the ICU in the waiting room. We could go in for a few minutes every couple of hours.
My dad had two or three more episodes with his heart over the ensuing week, each one we were afraid at the time could have been his last.
After two weeks in the hospital, they let him come home. At this point he was in really bad shape, barely getting out his chair. I missed some more time at school during those two weeks falling behind on my schoolwork.
With the exception of one of my six teachers, I was allowed to catch up on the missed assignments and tests. One teacher however gave me zeros for the missed test. Again, that is another story for another time. I will tell you that I failed her class three of the six-week periods, but finished the year with a “C.”
I would take my father to the emergency room several more times when he continued having heart pains. At the first of January I took him one night about 8 p.m.; they kept him again.
He was put into the ICU where he stayed for 18 days.
I will never forget visiting him one afternoon after school and work. He had been improving some at that point. We had been told he would probably be coming home the latter part of the week.
Standing at the side of the bed he told me something I have never forgotten.
“I’ve been in the woods and lost. I’ve been trying to find my way out of those woods only to get lost again,” he said.
I could tell he was frightened by the dream. I really didn’t know what to say to him, however, I do remember telling him that he was in the hospital and would be going home in a few days.
I’ve often thought about his comment about being lost in the woods. Over the years I’ve had several other people say similar things when I would visit them in the hospital after a serious illness.
My Dad passed away at 9 a.m. on January 21, 1970, the day before he was to come home and a couple of days after he told me about being lost in the woods.
I wish I had an answer as to why he would dream such a dream. I really don’t know.
My school principal would call me to the office that morning to tell me that my father had passed away. He offered to take me home, but I opted to drive myself.
On the way to the house, I thought about what he said to me about being lost in the woods and trying to get home. I assumed he had meant our house. Now I believe he was looking for his heavenly home and finally found it.
Byron Spires is a retired newspaper editor. He has written dozens of short stories and serials in the Havana Herald. He recently published “The Curious Life of Marci Bell” in a series of three books. You can email him at email@example.com.