After my father’s morning activities are done, the three of us return to his room. The staff has already made up his bed and tidied the things around the sink. My mother calls my dad’s Philadelphia neurologist to request his paperwork and previous MRIs. I ring the office and get the FedEx code so everything can be overnighted. My father sits in his wheelchair working on a Sudoku puzzle, homework from the speech therapist.
“I need to go back to the house,” my mom announces as she drops her phone in her purse.
“Okay,” I say as I glance over at my dad’s puzzle and bite my tongue, refrain from noting that 9 goes in a specific box.
At two, I wheel my father back to the PT/OT gym. I sit off to the side, cheer him on as he slowly inches his way forward. And I call him out when he cheats in OT, slyly sliding two rings onto the pole when he’s supposed to do one at a time. We don’t head back to his room until half past three.
“Want a snack?” I ask as I peer into the wardrobe, look at the top shelf my mother has designated for food.
I pass off a box of candy and pluck a package of Peeps from the back. While my father reads a magazine I nibble on the head of a sugary yellow chick while gazing out the four-paned window and studying the farmland dotted with tall trees and cows.
“Maybe it’s a Jujyfruit,” I randomly mutter. “A gross licorice one, no less.”
“Huh?” my dad says, resting the magazine back down on his lap.
“The tumor - maybe it’s a Jujyfruit.”
“Or a Peep! But would it be a chick or a bunny?”
Just as we start discussing the various Peep shapes, my mother shows up toting dinner from Pei Wei. “Good to see you two filling up on refined sugar.”
I hold up a Peep, offer a yellow chick. My mom walks right by it, refusing to acknowledge the confection. She places her purse on a counter, puts the dinner bag next to it. And just as she’s about to wash her hands, a nurse comes in.
“The doctor’s on the phone for you,” she says, only her head and torso visible from the way she leans through the doorway.
My mom goes out to the hall. My father and I get back to naming all of the various candies that could be lodged in his brain.
“It’s blood,” my mother says when she returns a minute or so later. “The radiologist was wrong. And according to the neurosurgeon, based on your brain trauma, it’s a puddle of blood that hasn’t yet been absorbed into your body.”
“Damn, I was sorta hoping it was a Peep,” my dad says.