They were in the study after returning from another visit to the doctor. Complications from bronchitis this time. Her father napped on the sofa while she read but awoke with a suffocating cough and tried to stand up. He reached out for her but she could not lift his weight, and he slid to the floor.
“No hospital,” he rasped. “No more. Please.”
She nodded, though she did not tell him that other family members had already called the ambulance and were waiting outside for the paramedics.
Her father looked at her and smiled. Just yesterday he told his daughter he was ready to go. “Look how old I am,” he had said. “I've done everything I wanted, your mother has been gone for so many years, and you're all grown up. There's nothing left but the waiting.”
He had loved the sea, and as a young man he left an accounting job to join the Merchant Marines. Kat and her mother would welcome him home with joyful kisses during his months-long leave, and send him off with tearful ones when he returned to the ships. His stories around the family table after the dishes were done told of Lucullan seafood dinners along the Mediterranean shore, rollicking taberna-hopping, bullfights in Spain, and wistful moments lying awake on the ship's deck, with smoke rising from his cigarettes to meet the stars in a Greek night. Frayed photographs showed him sitting with friends in a French cafe with cup in hand, intensity in his light eyes, and a black beret rakishly gracing his right profile.
“You're just like a character in an Ernest Hemingway story,” Kat told him once and made him laugh.
Whenever he returned from his voyages, his usual shout of, “Where is my Pussy Kat?” brought her running down the stairs shrieking and answering with, “Where are my presents?” The first time her mother admonished her for this, her father shushed his wife. “Just our little joke,” he said.
Now, his voice whispered, “I am so tired.”
They heard the sirens of the approaching ambulance. Her father closed his eyes.
“Angels spread your wings around and protect him,” Kat said, and went to tell the others.