I laid on my back staring at the ceiling. It was going to be a very long day. I could feel it. In a minute or two the pitter patter of little feet would come trotting down the hallway and it would be time to get up. We’d go through our morning ritual and I’d have to put on my “Parent of The Year” smile and get my child ready for school. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this Drea. You weren’t supposed to leave us” I said to the picture housed in the Tiffany picture frame on my nightstand. I stared at the picture of my deceased lover. She would have been thirty four years old today. This shit never got any easier. As I studied the picture, I saw the similarities between our daughter and her mother. Tears stung the back of my eyelids. I closed my eyes and thought about the day Kennedy was born.
“Sid we’re losing her,” the worried Dr. Michaels said as she ripped the bloodied blue scrubs off her body. “We can save the baby but we have to make a decision quick” I felt like all life was being sucked out of my body. Drea was a healthy twenty eight years old. Why was I about to lose the love of my life for the sake of our child? I could not wrap my head around the notion of living life without her. I stared at Dr. Michaels worry filled eyes.
“Save them both.” I said, finding my voice momentarily.
“Sid,” she knew this was hard. I’d known Yvette Michaels since grade school. We were friends. We all were. She was holding back tears. She knew the inevitable was happening to me and my family. She sighed. “Sid listen to me, you need to be prepared. This isn’t looking good homie. I’ve never lied to you and I won’t start now. I’m going to fight to the end. But you need to pray. Pray and prepare.”
I rushed back to Drea’s side. I knew they were about to kick me out. I kissed her forehead; ran my fingers through her hair. My tears fell in a rush; I let all my “manhood” go. I was no longer Sid. In this very moment I was Sidney. I whispered “Baby I know you can hear me… I know you can. I love you. I love you like I’ve never loved anyone else. Please don’t leave me… please don’t leave us. We need you. The baby and I need you.” I cried freely into Drea’s hair. I felt the nurses’ hands pulling me out of the room. Fighting to stay in the room would be in vain. I said a quick prayer and stepped outside into the hallway. My mind rushed. There were things we needed to get in order. If Drea survived this I’m sure there were going to be things that needed to be taken care of. I immediately reached into my pocket to get my cell phone and call my sister. After two rings, Dakota picked up.
“She may not make it!” was all I could get out before the tears started again. My sister and I were all we had after our parents died when I was fifteen, Dakota just ten years old.
“I’m on my way Sidney. Stay there. I’ll be there in a half.” My sister disconnected the phone. I slid down the wall and sat outside of the door. Time seemed to stand still as I waited to hear something, anything, from Yvette. I needed for her to tell me Drea was alright and that her I and our daughter would walk out of here in three to four days and go home. Yes that is what is going to happen. I sat for what seemed like days on that cold hospital floor. In actuality it was forty minutes. I looked up and blinked and saw Dakota’s bohemian skirt flowing through the doorway. In less than seconds, my baby sister was on the floor next to me tears running down her burnt clay colored face.
“She’s dying Kody!” I said, using my sister’s nick name since we were younger. Part of my heart was being ripped out of my body. The other half was mending because my child would be here any minute. “I need to get home and get her things. I can’t remember what she wanted the baby to have as a middle name. I’ve got to call Stella and see if she can feed Madison while we’re at the hospital,” I was rambling things off to keep my head from exploding. Dakota grabbed my arm and pulled me close to her, hugging me.
“We’re going to get through this. We’re family. We are going to make it through. And Drea wanted her middle name to be Elyse. Kennedy Elyse Montgomery. Like mama, remember?” I praised my younger sister for maturing into the bright courageous and beautiful young lady she turned out to be. She looked like our mama, I more like our father. Drea continuously praised me for how wonderful a person Dakota had become because I refuse for my sister to become a victim of circumstance. I lost part of my childhood raising Dakota and I wouldn’t change it for the world. My sister laid her head on my shoulder and we sat, holding each other, in time of sorrow, just like we did when our parents died. The memory tore my heart even more. Not only was I losing the love of my life but my sister was again losing someone close to her. I tried my best to focus on the idea that in a few minutes I was going to be a parent. What scared me was that I may have to be that parent, alone, to a beautiful little girl. I thought about the times that my little angel is going to need her mother. I put my hands in my head as I waited for Dr. Michaels to reappear and tell me my life was not about to be turned upside down.
Seconds seemed like minutes. Minutes seemed like hours. Yvette came out of the door and leaned against the wall. Immediately I jumped up and looked her in the eyes.
“I want to say congratulations, it’s a girl first,” A slight smile spread across her face, “Sid your baby girl is absolutely amazing.” Just then a triage nurse comes through the door holding a bundle of pink blankets. Yvette takes the baby from the nurse and turns to me. I could hear Dakota crying softly over my shoulder. Tears pooled in my eyes as I looked at my beautiful daughter. For a split moment my world felt complete, whole almost, and then I realized Drea hasn’t seen her.
“Yvette is Drea going to make it?” Yvette looked up from the cooing baby she still had in her hands. I didn’t trust myself with holding such a delicate package. I needed to know if the person I had planned on spending the rest of my life with would see the rest of hers.
“Sid we were able to get her stabilized but she’s not responding. We were able to get a tube in her. She’s not breathing on her own. Sid you need to think about what you’re going to do. Keeping her on a breathing machine could be costly and time consuming.”
“I need to see her,” I brushed past Yvette and rushed into the room where they were still holding Drea. She laid there with tubes in her mouth, coming out of her hands, and wrapped around her arms. Alarms, bells and whistles dinged around the room. Nothing however was louder than the beating of my heart. She did not look good. “Oh God.” I whispered. I kissed her forehead and walked back out to where my sister and Dr. Michaels were standing.
“She’s not going to make it is she?” I already had my answer. In the morning I would make the decision to cut the life support off. Drea was looking down on us. She had no family. It was just me and Dakota. She was an only child, born to very devout Muslim parents who stopped speaking to her when she decided to be a Christian in college. There was no one to call. Of course our friends, but my heartfelt for Drea because we were all she had. She passed that next day. She took her last breath with her daughter her lover and her friends by her side. Six years later, I’m still trying to find my heart.
The phone rang loudly and I knew it could only be one person calling this early in the morning. I picked up without looking at the caller i.d.
“Is Ken up for school? Are you guys doing anything special today, you know, for Drea?” Dakota always made sure I got Kennedy up for school in enough time. She was like a mother to Kennedy, but she spoiled her just like an aunt.
“I’ve been doing this for quite some time Kody. She is up, I hear her in the room. I’m waiting for her to bust through the door any moment.” Just then I heard Kennedy’s feet on the plush carpet running down the hallway. The door slowly opens and I see her head full of lush curls peak around the frame
“Madi?” she whispers, thinking I’m still asleep
“OH MAN!! What time is it?! I have to wake Kennedy up for school? She’s such a big girl now!” She giggles slightly and jumps on the bed, her slippers making a “thud” on the floor. “Hey there kiddo. Are you ready for school today?”
“Look Madi, I’m already dressed” I looked down to see black and white stripped tights Kody got her for Halloween, a purple tutu from her princess dress up case, a long sleeve black shirt and a white sweater. The child was dressed, I must say. For what, was the real question?
“Umm Kennedy I don’t think your outfit is apropos for school”
“She’s six Sid. What the hell does she know about apropos?” Dakota interrupted. I’d forgotten she was on the phone.
“Auntie Dakota wants to talk to you,” I said finding my way out of this situation momentarily while retreated to her room for her uniform. “And when you’re done, you will have to change for school Ken. That outfit isn’t going to cut it.”
“Auntie Kody, guess what today is?” I walked down the hall to Kennedy’s room, Madison our white English bulldog, in tow. It was going to be a long day. Hopefully both Kennedy and I would make it through in one piece.
“How was school today pudding?” I asked Kennedy as she got into the truck after school. When I went into the school to pick her up I noticed her face had lost its luster from this morning.
“Fine.” she mumbled and fastened her seatbelt. I caught a glimpse of her face in the rearview mirror, and for a second my heart caught in my chest. She looked just like her mother. Her hair in a spiral mess. She wiped a lone tear from her eyes as I started the car. Today wasn’t the day for anyone to mess with my child. My protective instincts as a parent took over me and my grip on the steering wheel tightened.
“Kennedy, was there a problem at school today?” As soon as the question leaves my mouth, she starts to cry. If there is one thing I hate is to see any of the women in my life suffer, or cry. I jumped out of my side of the vehicle and rushed over to her side. “Tell Madi what’s the matter kiddo” My heart was ripping out of my chest and I would move the sun and moon, on this day, to give her whatever she wanted. Today was supposed to be a carefree relaxing day for us. “Help me out here Drea” I prayed silently to my partner. This was too much for me. I could deal with anything else, anything, besides Kennedy’s tears. “If you don’t tell Madi what’s wrong, then I can’t help you”
“The kids at school made fun of me!” her statement both angered and confused me. Kennedy is an exceptionally witty and strong kid. I’ve never known her to break down because kids were teasing her. If anything, she would have a quick comeback and go about her business. I think because of what today is, and she does miss her mother, things are affecting her more than they should. My heart went out to my child. And part of me felt sorry for myself. I picked my words carefully when I responded to her. I didn’t want her to breakdown any more than she already was.
“Ladybug, what did these kids say to you that has you so upset?”
“They made fun of the way I danced” she sniffed and pouted. I wanted to laugh out loud but I knew doing so would bruise her ego more so than it had already been damaged. I loved my daughter. And it made me laugh at how much of a kid she still was.
“Oh baby! I’m sorry they made fun of you.”
“Madi do you think my dancing is that bad?” I struggled for an answer. My baby was no Janet Jackson when it came to dancing skills. She was six though. Who cared if she knew how to dance? One thing was for sure, she had Drea’s sense of rhythm. And that was very limited. I smiled at the thought of Drea at our wedding rehearsal in tears trying to get a simple two step. She’d grown up in a sheltered Muslim environment. Things like dancing and just having fun was very new to her. I stared into my daughter’s eyes and saw Drea that day. My eyes filled with tears. It was supposed to get easier. They said we’d fall into a pattern and everything would get easier. They fucking lied. I still didn’t know how to deal with my daughters everyday nuisances. When she woke up in the middle of the night screaming for her mother… a feminine pair of hands to stroke her soft curls and lay with her she doesn’t get that. Kennedy and I were lace and cotton; day and night. She was a little girl. She loves her dolls and dressing up. I was a tech geek who fixed computers by day and lived for the technology section of the LA Times and NY Times. Both papers delivered to our home on Sunday morning. I brought Kennedy her first Apple computer at four years old. Her first real doll didn’t come until afterwards. I kissed my baby girl while she softly cried in my arms. “Hey listen to me kiddo,” Kennedy picked her head up and I stared into her grey eyes. My daughter was going to break hearts in a few years, “How about this weekend, we look for a dance class for you to attend?”
“And I can wear my tutu Madi?”
“Well Ken, I guess we’ll have to see first day of classes but I’m sure there will be a need for your tutu” Her eyes lit up like Christmas lights. I smiled at my beautiful creation. She made me do that a lot, smile. I put her back in her seat and fastened her seatbelt. I started the car and she called me again.
“Madi?” I looked through the rearview mirror at her, “Can we go see mama now?”
“We sure can Princess.”
I started the car and we were off to Saint Josephs Cemetery.