MY LOPSIDED AFRO, HOSPITAL GOWNS, AND THE MAN WHO LOVED ME.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was a frigid day in Queens and I laid in my bed about to close my eyes for the night. My phone rang. It was my mother.
“Hey baby girl…”
“Hey mom, what’s up?”
“Your dad is in the hospital. You probably should get here if you can…”
She continues and her tone changes. My dad didn’t have much time left.
My father, Michael Shan Berry, was born on July 23rd, 1955. He would’ve been 65 today. He was a lion for sure. Smiling only for babies and corny jokes, he was a stoic man of few words. He’d been sick most of my teenage years and received a new liver in the summer of 1996. We didn’t get close until then. I was mostly embarrassed of him. Scrubs and dress shoes were not supposed to be the wardrobe of a father picking up his 13 year old daughter from middle school. I didn’t often introduce him to my friends. I was ashamed of how simply he thought. How simply he loved me.
Right after his liver transplant, my mom suggested I spend the night at the hospital with him. By then, the hospital was already his new home. The starched white gown, his lackluster fashion statement. I slept in the empty and impeccably white bed next to him. And we laughed and watched tv like two little kids on Saturday morning. I decided then that I liked my father. He was cooler than I ever thought he was. And I decided to never be embarrassed of him again.
My dad was chronically ill. He had brief moments and years where he maintained healthy habits. At one point, he even lost 80 pounds and was working out regularly. Despite all of that, he ended up back in the hospital in January of 2010. His liver and kidneys were failing. At this point, I was living in New York City and had to catch a flight to see my family. Usually, it was for holidays or special occasions. When my mom called me that night, I had only a few days to figure out my trip.
“He might die.”
My mom asked my father to use his savings to get me home this time and I just lost it. I couldn’t stop crying. Face soaked with years of guilt. These were his final days. So, we rushed to see him at the hospital and he seemed in good spirits. We joked about his cardboard tasting food and UK basketball…