I must get up, I must get up. It was 5.30am, the hour when the world was still sound asleep, when nothing stirred and the voice of silence was in the air, there was only one reason she had to pull herself up.
Like the mornings before, she felt the warm and gentle peck on her cheeks. One so familiar, one so endearing which she grew up with, one she could relate to even after all these years and all that had changed. She rubbed her eyes, making sure she could see clearly. She didn’t stop at the mirror to look at herself. He still loved me no matter how I looked like. Slowly opening the door, squeaking and creaking. Gently shutting it, so as to not wake her siblings up.
The kitchen lights were on. The rhythmic flipping of newspapers put a small smile on her face. She knew what was install for her. Hands reaching for her head, pressing her hair down, she walked slowly into the kitchen. Her hero, her man, was sitting at the kitchen table. Newspapers in his hands, reading lens over his nose. He looked up, the charming smile curved around the edges of his lips. Her heart melted, again, as always and as ever.
The sight of him sitting at the table, calm and steady, reminded her of the good days they had. The days while he would still pick her up and throw her into the air; the days where he would still spin her until she goes dizzy and eventually fall into his arms; the days she would cling onto his neck whenever she’s afraid of the thunder or when the lights went out.
She quickly walked to the sink, behind him, as she fought back the tears. She woke up every morning, at that ghostly hour, just to hear those words. Words that were now hard to come out, words that no longer sounded the same at any other hour of the day. She knew that if she missed this moment, she would have to wait till tomorrow morning to hear it.
“Morning daddy,” she said, trying her best to not choke on her tears. “Did you sleep well last night?”
Her hands reached for the coffee powder container but immediately retracted it. She forgot and remembered immediately that daddy could no longer take coffee. It would make the symptoms worse. She poured 2 glasses of milk and walked back to the table. She sat beside daddy and rested her head on his shoulder.
“Yes..” he replied slowly and softly. “I slept well. Did.. my princesssss.. sleep well?”
“Yes daddy.” I dreamt about you, daddy. I dreamt that you were alright, you were fine. I dreamt that you held me like last time and hugged me when you came walking back in the door. I dreamt that you walked me down the aisle and gave me away.
I dreamt that you were still healthy. That everything was fine and ok.
Her hands locked into his. She felt the flesh of his palms. Hands roughen by hard work, the years of labour and struggles he endured before he was struck with Parkinson. How he gave up the best years of his life for the family, and in the months leading to his retirement he developed the symptoms. Now, in due reversal, the family is taking care of him.
“Princesss..” his slurred voice, reminded her that sometimes things simply do not turn out the way we hope it would.
“I regrettt.. that I didddd not.. give yoouuuu… my beesst..”
The tears came out again. She hated it every time he went into that talk. She turned to him and held his face in her hands. She looked straight into his eyes.
“Daddy, you don’t need to do anything to be my best. Our best.” He smiled, and slowly reached for her tears, wiping it away. She felt the tremors in his fingers as he stroked her cheeks again. She knew it was time to take the medication.
The medication was kept in a drawer, somewhere near the table. She dreaded the moment of daddy taking his medication every morning. It would mean that daddy would become cranky, the muscle spasm would still kick in every now and then, he would continue to stammer for the rest of the day. But he needed it to reduce the pain and the frequency of the spasms. She took the correct tablets and planted them in daddy’s palm. She turned away, not able to bear the sight of him taking his medication. He swallowed it with a gulp of the milk, and that was the day’s turning point. From that moment onwards, things wouldn’t be the same anymore.
And just as before, she would hold his hands, walk out of the kitchen, switched off the lights, and walked daddy back to his bedroom. And as always, she would part with daddy when they reached daddy’s bedroom door. Just like before, she would tiptoe to reach for daddy’s forehead. And as daddy bent over to reach her height, she would kiss him on his forehead.
“Goodnight princesss. I love yoouu”
And just as always, with the sound of daddy's bedroom door closing behind her, she would run back into her room, closed the doors, and wept uncontrollably again. For all the tears and pain, those 10 minutes with daddy in the morning, was worth it all. And for all that has changed, some things still remain the same.