Camille is not going to make it, no matter how hard she tries. Thunderstorms keep rolling through Houston, Southwest will not finish the final leg to Corpus Christi. She has called several times to explain, the last time in tears. She tells his mother, “I hope he is not waiting for me.”
“Let’s do this. I will put my Bluetooth on his ear and you can say goodbye. Just call back in five minutes or so.”
He sits in a chair next to the hospital bed in his parents’ room. His mother digs the Bluetooth out of a drawer, lights it up, tests it. She looks at him.
“Maybe you should talk to him after Camille. Remind him that you are here and that Stephen and Ruthanne are too and that it’s okay if he goes.”
He nods. She puts the Bluetooth on his father’s ear. A minute later, it lights up. He can hear words being said but not the specific words. Then his mother pulls off the Bluetooth and puts it on her ear.
“You said everything you want? Ok, good. Yeah, we will keep you posted.”
He goes around to the other side of the bed, puts an arm around his father, and leans to his ear.
“Dad, Camille’s plane isn’t going to make it, but she doesn’t want you to wait for her. All your kids are here—Stephen, Ruthanne, and me. You don’t need to hang on any longer. You can go.”
His father’s mouth hangs open and his breathing is gurgling and raspy. His father lifts his thin left arm, his left hand hanging limply. His father moves it up and down and for the next two years the man will believe that his father was annoyed and waving him off, that he didn’t have the strength to listen to anything anymore.
At 6:30 pm, he is sitting in the front room with Stephen and Ruthanne when his mother says from the bedroom, “I think you all had better come in.”
At 6:32 pm, March 10, 2008, his father takes one last deep, shuddering breath, then goes quiet. The sunlight through the shades is dim—it is the gloaming.