"Wake up, baby." Dad's voice breaks through my dream. I open my eyes and look at the clock. Four thirty in the morning. "I'm going to go talk to the doctors. Take the bed." I crawl out of my pile of pillows and blankets and into the big bed. Dad tucks me in like when I was a little girl. He kisses my forehead, and leaves. I roll over and go back to sleep.
He comes back a few hours later. Without saying a word, he hands me a blank sealed envelope. I look at him curiously, but he just gestures for me to open it. So I do. Inside are two tickets to Wicked, the sold-out show I'd been dying to see. All I can do is smile and thank him a thousand times over. Then I see the $125 pricetag on each ticket. I tell him he shouldn't have spent so much. "I spend $1,100 a month on medicine just to stay alive. I might as well get my money's worth and live a little."
That evening, I'm dressed in my finest outfit. The one I bought for Sandy and Kelli's wedding. I saved up for a long time to buy it, and this seems like the perfect time to show it off. I walk into the room, and Dad smiles. "You look beautiful," He tells me, "But something's missing." He reaches around my neck and places a necklace on me. Silver, with chocolate and white diamonds. He made it himself, and just for me. "Perfect." He smiles and offers me his arm.
We get to the theatre early. They haven't begun seating yet, and there's not much to do. In a nearby building, there is a party going on. The VIP party. Dad gives me his signature look that can only mean trouble. We stroll through the doors arm in arm. We somehow manage to dodge security, and make it into the party. Dad points to a man standing at the top of the stairs. "That's the Governer." There are waiters walking around with trays of caviar and champagne. We sample both, and make faces at each other. People point at us and ask each other who we are, but they're all too polite to question us personally. When we've tired of the high life, we walk out the doors as if we had someplace better to be. Then we can't stop laughing.
We go into the theatre and wait around in the lobby. I buy myself a tour shirt and a program. Dad buys our drinks. We sit on the soft leather bench and watch the people. He tells me stories about when I was little. Then he tells me stories about when he was little. We laugh and reminice. I can't stop smiling. Dad looks tired.
We go in and take our seats. They're amazing. I can see everything that's happening on stage. The show starts, and it's everything I hoped it would be. The voices are spectacular and the acting is superb. Some parts make me laugh so hard I cry. And there are times I cry simply. Dad laughs with me, and holds me when I need it. And I do need it, because that's the show my song is in. The one that inspired my tattoo. But the memories recede, and I'm alright. And the night is perfect.
The show ends, and I head to the ladies' room. Dad waits in the lobby. When I come out, he hands me a souveneir stuffed monkey. "I miss getting you stuffed animals," He says with a nostalgic smile. "I hope you don't mind." I hold it close to me and smile.
On the drive home, I finally get up the nerve to ask him what's been on my mind. I ask him what the doctors said. "I don't have long," He gives me a sad smile. "Til December, maybe." I look out the window and try to process what he's just said. "Don't be sad," He says firmly. "Not tonight." I nod my head and try to put on a brave face. "I want you to remember tonight. When I'm gone, I want you to look back on this. I don't want you to remember me paralysed in some hospital bed. I don't want you to remember me in pain, or frail. I want you to remember this. And I'll remember it when I'm too tired to go on. I'm going to think of the way you looked so grown up in that dress. I'm going to remember the way you smiled and your eyes lit up. I'm going to remember it all, and maybe dying won't be so bad." There's a knot in my throat, and I can't speak. So I just nod again.
"Remember this too, honey. I'm proud of you." Those are the only words I ever wanted to hear from him. My entire life has been about making my parents proud of me. And Dad always had such high expectations. I know he loves me and accepts me, but it's not the same thing. But there it is, the answer to the question I've always been too afraid to ask. The cure for my greatest fear in life. This time, I don't even try to fight back the tears. And Dad just holds holds me.