My Father Under The Oxygen Mask Took Hold—by Barbara D. Holender

My Father Under The Oxygen Mask Took Hold
Barbara D. Holender
On the Yahrzeit of my father

The taxi arrived for me
at the same moment the paramedics arrived
for him. I want you to leave, he gasped.
Sure, I said, right now I’m leaving the country.

At eight we called the family. At ten,
the doctor asked if we wanted heroic measures.

At two, he struggled to tell me something.
Don’t, I thought, Don’t say goodbye.
I leaned closer. Pay the rent, he wheezed,
Tell Mom it’s the first of the month.

At three the doctor gave him, maybe, six months.
At four my uncle choked back tears.
Hey, you owe me two cents.
I’m broke, said my father,
Loan me two cents so I can pay you.

The day we brought him home
he recited a birthday verse
he’d written for me years before,
full of our secret Latin fooling.
It ended with “Amatus you”,
which he wasn’t sure was right.
It’s perfect, I said, Amatus you too.

Eight months later, on their sixtieth wedding day,
he said to his bride, We made it!
The family came from all directions.

In four weeks we were back. The day he died,
my uncle gave my mother two cents.