Modern Love: How My Father Escaped Jail for Christmas

“Your dad is awake,” the person said. “We need you at the hospital as soon as possible.”

After hanging up, I felt numb. I had cried after learning about my father’s coma, and I had cried when I made the decision to let him go. Actually, what I did went well beyond crying; it was more like an exorcism of repressed emotions, my body shuddering. But the news of his recovery — practically a resurrection — rendered me emotionless. There was no sense of joy, no feeling of shock or relief, just a keen understanding of my own powerlessness.

My mother, wife and I rushed to the hospital, where the doctor met us in the hall just outside of my father’s room.

“We were transitioning him into palliative care when he opened his eyes,” he said. “We can’t explain it. It’s miraculous. You can go in and see him.”

The doctor was smiling at the good news, but I was frozen, expressionless, anesthetized by the incomprehensibility of this new state of affairs. I was finding it harder to walk into that room with him awake than I had when he had effectively been declared dead.

I had sat at his bedside, holding his limp hands in mine, and said goodbye. I had been rushed forward along the timeline of reconciliation, as often happens at deathbed vigils, but now, suddenly, he was fully alive, and the drama of the past 24 hours felt like some crude bait and switch. I sensed it was going to be more difficult to let him back into my life than it had been to let him go.

When we walked into the room, he looked at us and said, “Wow. Wow. Wow.”

His eyes stopped on my mother and he regarded her with awe, as if she were an angel or a Hollywood actress. Then his gaze fell on my wife, and he gargled out the word “beautiful” before smiling boyishly. Finally, he looked at me. My stomach was in knots. I felt young and afraid. Then he said, “I’m your dad.”