Starting Over

The world seems to have ended when Tom's father dies in the middle of his AS exams. He struggles to cope with life, with coping all alone.

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1. Why Me ?

It's funny how life kicks you in the teeth isn't it? Standing outside the hospital I stood for a moment breathing in the early morning air. After the antiseptic smell which had pervaded my nostrils for the past few hours I drank in greedily the heady aroma of the fresh air, allowing it to fill my lungs again and again purging the hospital smell from my body.

Dawn had broken minutes before, the streaks of light wiping away the blackness of the night filling the day with hope and brightness, two emotions that were contrary to my state of mind. I looked back at the doors through which I had just exited with a mixture of relief and dread. It seemed only a few minutes before that I'd rushed through them hurling myself between the rush of people coming out desperately trying to get to the ward. Since then the stars had made their slow progress across the heavens, the moon rising and falling. Glancing up I spied Venus still sharp against the brightening skies. There was a sense of order about it's appearance that was reassuring to me.

An hour before I'd sat by my fathers failing body as he went through the last moments of his life. During the night his condition had worsened. When I'd arrived at teatime, he had already slipped into unconsciousness, the strain on his face from the pain he was suffering evident with every breath he took. I'd sat alone at his bedside, kept going by the frequent cups of tea that I neither wanted nor tasted. Occasionally I'd been asked to wait in the corridor as the doctors came around and checked him over. The last time, an hour before he died a doctor had told me they'd made him comfortable and he wouldn't feel any pain from now on as they'd increased the drug dosage.

When I'd gone back into the ward, the curtains were again round the bed. It was dark apart from a light shining on the nurses desk and one by my fathers bedside. looking around I saw all the other beds residents were asleep. Mr. Bartlett in the end bed was snoring annoyingly again, tonight as usual it sounded like a plane taking off. The nurse smiled from her desk and raised her eyes in the direction of Bartlett's bed.

When I'd gone back in I could instantly tell the difference in my fathers demeanor. His breathing wasn't as rasping as before, in fact it had settled into a quiet rhythmic pattern that at first gave me hope that he was recovering. I sat back down and stroked his hand. The skin felt leathery beneath the touch. The nurse reappeared and told me to contact her if anything changed. I looked at my watch and saw it was three in the morning. An irrational fact popped into my brain, somewhere I'd read that more people died at this time of the day than any other, an ironic thought at the moment.

I think I'd sort of dropped off, but was brought back to the present when I felt my father move. It took a few moments to focus my eyes again but I sensed the change. The breathing was shallower and a rasping sound had taken hold. Even is his weakened state he was trying to sit up. I stood up and put my hands on his shoulders, feeling just how bony his body had become, how much the leukemia had ravaged his once muscular torso. He seemed to settle a little under my touch and I briefly saw his eyes open but the pupils were dilate and he wasn't conscious, his eyes not seeing the world around him.

I was just about to call the nurse when I realised that if I left now, I might not be with him at the end. I leant down and kissed his forehead. For the first time I was aware what was happening and felt the first tears being released from my eyes and cascading down my cheeks. My eyesight blurred until I wiped the tears away with the back of my hand.

Memories of the past year came back thick and strong in those final few moments. I remembered the look on my dad's face when he found out he had Leukemia, the agony and pain of the chemotherapy which was designed to help him but left him sick and low. The moment when it went into remission and I began to think that he had recovered. Life went back to some form of normality for a precious few months. Then came the checkup which revealed that the cancer was back. Was that only really a few weeks ago. This time it was more aggressive and the chemotherapy had an adverse effect on his body triggering a heart condition that meant they had to stop the treatment. The last week he'd slipped from looking quite healthy to a sunken almost skeleton like appearance. It had been exactly a year since he had been diagnosed.

The rasping got more infrequent and suddenly it stopped. It was as though I had gone deaf so sudden was the silence. Then the alarm on the machine he was connected to went off and the nurse came running. Switching it off she quickly examined my father before turning to me. I knew the state I looked, tears were streaming down my cheeks, I felt suddenly lost and alone. My dad's husk of a body lay in the bed. I started to shake and felt my legs collapse beneath my body as I frantically tried to sit down on the chair. The nurse came to my aid leaving the dead for a chance at helping the living.

The next hour had passed with me not really taking in the surroundings or what was happening. I'd eventually been left by my dads bedside alone again. Looking at his face I could see the pain and anguish of this past year had passed and he looked at peace with the world. I stood for a few minutes looking down at his face, taking a mental picture that I'm sure I would discard in favour of one of happier times. The enormity of the situation suddenly struck me. here I was alone in the world. I felt anger towards him, self pity for myself to be in this situation. I wanted to shake his body and tell him he couldn't leave me. I had never felt so alone and useless in the world.

Eventually I leant down and kissed his forehead and then suddenly realising that this would be the last time I saw him and could hold him. it's awkward trying to hug a dead body. the heat is gone and it didn't feel like him I did the best I could at the last moment whispering I love you in his ear. The tears came once again as I left the ward for the last time and walked slowly through the hospital towards the main entrance.

So here I was, a plastic bag was all I had of my father. His meagre possessions that had been with him when he went into hospital now returned to me.

Not knowing quite where to turn to after his death I'd rung my old friend Melanie. She'd ben shocked by my dad's death, genuinely upset and for the first few moments had been unable to speak. When she had it had come in vast gulps before I heard the tears again.

Melanie and I had been friends since we were little playing together in our gardens before graduating to the school yard and further afield. When we were 14 we'd sort of ruined it by deciding that we wanted to be boyfriend and girlfriend. Although we'd been together for nearly a year it all ended in a bit of a mess and the recriminations that followed sort of put paid to any friendship. We were stiff in manner towards each other for a long time. Over time though we'd thawed but now no longer lived in each others pockets.

She'd put her mother on who too was horrified to hear the news, our families had always been close. She said to stay where I was and they'd be there to pick me up. I stood at the kerb looking down the road trying to spot them. At the front of my mind was my AS Maths exam that I had to sit in less that three hours time.

I saw the car trundling up the hill, Melanie's face etched with a look of concern in the front seat. It pulled up and she ran from the car straight into my arms. At less than five feet tall she was still a formidable person making up for her lack of height with a personality that crackled. I felt her tears against my t-shirt, felt her body racked in sobs. Inevitably I joined in, our bodies racking with tears and pain, anguish evident with every sob.

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