I'm sitting up in the all too familiar bed in my room at the Omaha Methodist Hospital, braiding my too-long brown hair over one shoulder. I should cut it - it's long enough to be too long now, but when you've had to spend a handful of months with no hair, too much sort of feels like a gift.
Dad shuffles through the door with a brown to-go bag in one hand and shrugs his coat off to toss on a chair near the door. He sets bag down on my bed tray with a flourish. "One D&M burger," he recites with a smile, leaning over to kiss my cheek.
"Thanks, Dad." I smile back at him. He leans back in his chair and watches me pull the food from the bag. Half the time the keeping-you-comfortable medicine does not keep my appetite comfortable. But today's a good day, so I'm taking full, cheeseburger included, advantage of it. "How's Mom?" I ask.
Dad shrugs. Mom has taken a leave of absence from her teaching job at the high school in my small town so she can be here almost 24/7. I wish I could say that I think she should go back to work because at some point I'm going to be a back burner concern, not to mention gone, and they're gonna' need the money. But she wouldn't leave even if I told her that. And you know how when you're sick sometimes you just really need your mom? I have a very extended case of wanting to spend as much time with my family as possible. So, selfish or not, I'm glad she's around.
"Fine," he tells me, though I have a feeling it's not all that true. I don't remember the last time anybody around here was actually fine.
I've heard people say that you should never outlive your kids, and even as the kid who doesn't have to watch their parents die, I still think it's true. My mom's one of the best people I know, and watching her watch me go is both unfair and completely sucky.
I take a bite of my cheeseburger and nod at him anyway. "Who's on the agenda today?" I ask. Ever since I got the time limit my visitor count has pretty much skyrocketed. Which I get. If I found out I'd only have a little while to say whatever I needed to say to someone I think I'd make a hospital run too. Conveniently for me, I don't have to do much in the way of hunting out the people I want to talk to. When you're the one that's dying they pretty much come to you.
"Not sure," he says. "I think Mark flies in sometime tonight. So he'll probably be here tomorrow."
"Mark's coming tonight." I bite my lip a little and set my burger down. "I asked him to come as soon as he got in. I just...want to see him." I'm a little embarrassed at asking him to come the second his plane lands, but it's been six months or so since I've seen him.
Mark's in the military so he only gets to come home once or twice a year. This year he's wasting his Christmas trip on me. But I'm glad he is. Mark's one of those people that I need to say goodbye to. Even if it means I have to be selfish about it.
That's something I've learned with this whole expiration date thing: sometimes you have to be a little selfish, because if you aren't, you might miss out on saying some of the really important things that need to be said.
"I think Jilly's coming by today too," I add.
Dad laughs, one of my favorite, real, throaty laughs. "That girl's here more than I am."
I smile a little and shrug. "She's my best friend." Jillian Lucas and I met my first year of college and she's pretty much been my go-to girlfriend ever since. If you can miss people up there (or down, if I didn't play my cards right), she's definitely one that I'll miss.
And right on cue, there's a knock on my door. I smile at Dad who shakes his head but stands up to open it. "Well if it isn't Jilly Bean!" he greets her. Dad has called Jillian 'Jilly Bean' since the moment he met her; Jill's pretty fond of it.
She grins at my dad and hugs him hard. She's one of those people that would hug the president if she met him. "Hey, Mr. H." She turns to face me and tosses her coat on top of Dad's by the door, moving over to sit next to me on the bed. "Afternoon, love."
I can't help my smile at one of her countless terms of endearment. "Hey." I nod at the grocery sack in her hand and raise my eyebrows. "What'd ya bring me?"
Jillian pulls out a bag of Hershey's kisses and tosses them in my lap. "Chocolate." She grins at me and then pulls a DVD case from the bag too. "And Ryan Gosling." I laugh, turning The Notebook over in my hands. "Since you're confined to boredom," she shrugs. "I figured we could be bored together."
I smile at her because, even though I've seen this movie countless times and I'm not really in the mood for chocolate, Jillian knows me well enough to know when I need her. And to come bearing gifts. "Thanks." She nods. "What's Tanner doing today?"
She smiles, probably at the thought of her perfect-for-her boyfriend. "He's working. Until he picks me up here, anyway." She turns to look over at my dad. "Wanna' watch a chick flick, Mr. H?"
Dad chuckles and takes the movie from her. "You bet." He stands up and puts the movie in the DVD player next to my suspended hospital TV. If this were normal circumstances Dad would not be anywhere near Jilly and I and a romance movie, but these aren't normal circumstances and he'll do pretty much anything I want lately. If I were more spoiled than I am I might take some advantage of that. But I'd rather just spend time with him than make him do things for me. It's not as if I enjoy feeling like an invalid.
Dad sits himself down in the chair by the bed and Jilly comes to sit beside me so I'm sort of in between them. She pulls my bed tray over our laps and dumps about half the bag of kisses on it, then hands the rest of the bag to Dad.
I only half watch the movie. The other half of me gets lost in memories of the first time I watched this movie, with Spencer.