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  • Father's Day 2012.

    My sister, my mom and I, wheel Dad down the street to the Public Gardens where he can enjoy the sun and the music during his precious few hours of freedom from the hospital.

    We gather around him, watching and listening intently for the hoped-for moment when a piece of his old self finds an open channel to escape the weathered infrastructure of his damaged brain which holds him hostage.

    The moments of escape often reveal themselves in subtle ways. Hand squeezes are the most common. During the darkest periods of this journey, I do not know what I would have done without his hand squeezes. I dismiss anyone who dares to suggest they might be simply a reflexive response.

    His eyes are only open for a total of 5 or 10 minutes a day. When he is awake we compete to capture his direct and focused gaze.

    The occasional thumbs-up in response to a question is always thrilling. It means he understands.

    Most of all, I crave his voice. Before he became ill, our house would fill with the booming sounds of his off-kilter singing. He was famous for his loud, exuberant greetings and his uproarious laughter. Now, when he does speak, his voice is a faint whisper; the words often indistinguishable. Yet we are a captive audience. Our ears are trained to stitch together the whispered sounds into sentences.

    He sits in his wheelchair with his eyes closed and his mouth parted slightly. I'm reminded of how strong and full of life he used to be, and how frail he looks now. It seems as though he has aged 10 years in the past 10 months since his brain infection.

    My sister and I become increasingly restless as we wait expectantly in front of the man in the wheelchair, waiting for a glimpse of our father.

    He coughs.

    Then a channel opens briefly.

    "I think so, yah", he whispers.

    My sister bursts into giddy laughter. He speaks!
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