Goodbye Uncle Tom

I said "Hi, Uncle Tom," and I hope you heard me. I was the only one in the room. Your eyes were open for a few moments, and I hope you saw me. I hope I smiled at you, because I can't remember.

And I hope you saw your daughter when she came back in the room. I hope you heard her say I love you one last time. I hope you heard your sister at your side, telling you we were all there and that everything was okay. I hope those last moments were peaceful.

A part of me wants to forget these moments, to forget the hospital room and the look on everyone's faces and how everything was painfully clear and seemed to move in slow motion. How I couldn't stop crying, even for a moment, even when I wanted to. But a part of me wants to hold on to every last detail, to keep whatever memories I have in tact because I have so few.

Or rather I have so many but they've all lost their sharp edges and blurred together into one big family breakfast at the ranch, where you are always smiling and joking and giving everyone a hard time. You're calling my brother Bubble Boy over scrambled eggs or calling Margaret's horse Crackhead Bob (because Pepsi is no name for a horse) between bites of thick cut toast. And you're wearing that black John Deere hat that I saw hanging from a hook on the wall of your hospital room, and a thick red flannel you always wore. You're talking to my grandpa about work that needs doing, and I'm looking out the window because I don't care about these things. I hear your work boots on the deck. I see you coming down the hill on your 4x4 with the dogs standing on the back of the seat. Your teeth are crooked and yellow, but you never stop smiling. You make everyone at the table laugh. It's all one big jumbled memory. But it's a happy one.

My dad and I left the hospital quickly. He stood in the doorway while I hugged you. I said, "Goodbye, Uncle Tom. I love you." But you didn't hear me. You were gone by then. We rushed past a nurse muttering apologies as she entered your room, stood numb in the slow moving elevator, followed some happy family with a smiling baby out the sliding glass doors into the bright, warm day. Time sped up again. It felt sudden, and jolting.

I hope you heard me when I said "Hi, Uncle Tom" and knew that I meant to say goodbye.