“Come on, Tootie. Come on.”
These are the words I found myself silently repeating as I stood at her bedside, watching her nostrils flare and chest heave as oxygen crept along tubes and forced its way in and out of her bruised body.
I wanted to touch her. To talk to her.
The curtains weren’t drawn. A nurse stood over us.
I just wanted privacy with my cousin.
I wanted to hold her hands and squeeze them ever so gently. I wanted her to know that I stood beside her, silently willing her to wake.
She was so close.
Just a few days ago, all the third-generation females sat in Gran’s room, discussing things only first cousins could. There’s only three of us.
Now more than ever, the tone of her voice and the expression in her eyes sounds and flashes vividly.
She’s laughing and energetic.
That’s our Tootie.
The wires and tubes seem so intrusive.
She lies there, almost as if she’s in a troubled sleep.
I wish everyone would just leave me with her – that they’d draw the curtains and encase us, so I could break down like I knew I was going to, and only she’d know.
I don’t want to be strong for everyone else.
I want her to know that I’m there and I’m devastated she won’t open her eyes to see it.
Mervyn is talking, the nurse is responding and Mother is questioning. Words are passing me but I catch none of them. They’re not saying what needs to be said.
They’re being vague and avoiding questions.
Tootie’s hand is so close. I want nothing more than to reach out and hold it.
But I can’t.
Nobody in our family is good at showing emotion. We’ve been conditioned to be hard and strong with each other.
I’m not though.
I grab the rails, needing to hold something if not her, and while Mother feels her arm, I slide my hand along the rail and lift Tootie’s pinky and ring finger onto mine.
It’s barely noticeable.
The warmth of her fingers spreads across mine and the need for her to wake up becomes insatiable.
COME ON, TOOTIE.
Her husband is running on adrenaline.
The swelling will subside. The sedation will wear off. She’ll wake. Her brain will show some activity again. Leah will once more have her mother conscious and strong.
Before long, we have to leave.
I swallow all the things unsaid and squeeze her two unharmed fingers, lingering, hoping she’ll know what I mean anyway, then leave the ICU.
We’re half way home before all the things I wasn’t listening to start to swim in my head, and I say to myself what nobody else wants to.
I realise that Tootie is on life-support, that her brain has no function, and that we, those that love her, are waiting for a miracle.
We’re waiting for her to wake up and fight for life like we all know she would.
In the car and well after I’d gotten home, almost until I fell asleep, I cried for her daughter, her brothers, her father, her husband, and everyone else.
Then for those who coped by not believing – whose minds had blocked reality.
Then I cried for me.
With every fibre of my being, I want her to wake up. For our lives to return to normalcy with Tootie in it.
It’s too soon. She’s too young.
This is too cruel.
“Come on, Tootie. Come on.”