They were painting her toe nails when I arrived. I tried not to react, when there was only one foot.
These people were pretty much strangers to me, the internet boyfriend is talked about, but shrouded in distance, and by this time, I was not introduced.
The girl doing her nails disappeared, I never did see her again nor did I find out if she was paid or known to the family.
She told me she smelled bad, it was the gangrene. I told her I had been in airports and a stuffy airplane, and I probably smelled bad too.
I had the ring in my bag, it was a group effort. My friend who was getting divorced had given me her wedding ring for the diamond. Other old rings provided gold, and two diamond chips on either side of the main diamond I purchased as part of the design. I wasn’t going for any religious significance with a trinity, I just imagined a design.
The ring maker adapted what I said to his thoughts, and it was unique, which is what I wanted, even if not what I had envisioned.
The amputation was the result of kidney failure. We knew about the kidney failure, she had been on dialysis for years. The fistula, (a vein brought to the surface to facilitate dialysis), in her arm had failed.
So they tried to make a new one in her leg. That surgery failed and they had to remove the leg.
Removing the leg sounds straight forward, but the reality was she screamed on a consistent basis with the pain. Morphine made her psychotic, but seemed to help with the pain.
I gave her the ring, and she agreed. “Yes David, I will marry you.”.
Soon after this the morphine took her senses, and she called me Daddy, instead of David.
So I changed my kisses to on the forehead when I tucked her in. I bought her a giant stuffed toy. A German Shepard, that was half as big as her. She called him woofer, and he spent the rest of her days at her feet.
As her condition worsened we moved from room to room, and finally into acute care. In a meeting I wasn’t allowed to attend, it was decided to withdraw her from dialysis and not pursue further surgeries.
As the internet boyfriend I found out after the meeting, and cried into my coke can on a hot Tampa afternoon.
The routine became to sit with her, listen to her scream, comfort her as I could, and then go sit outside the hospital smoking cigarettes and weeping. Dry my tears come back and sleep sitting up in the chair beside her.
I do not remember how long I was there. It was all a blur of sitting and pounding down coffee, mountain dew and hospital cafeteria meals.
As time passed the end was approaching. Family arrived, and she was in a different hospital.
We gathered around, awkward strangers. I got caught crying, and they must have told her.
She held me in a hug, one last final hug that was goodbye.
When she lost consciousness and did not wake up, I booked a new flight home. Back to Canada.
I came home, and mostly went to bed.
The family left a message on my answering machine, I sent flowers.
I went back to bed. It felt like I went to bed for months.
I don’t remember when I stopped thinking about it every day; it’s been 18 years now.
It taught me patience, and humility. It prepared me to be who I am now, a father.