It was that day of the year when the sky is so bright I wished I’d brought sun glasses, and above my head in the tree branches there is sap-fueled color that hadn’t been there the day before, and the grass along the sidewalk and into the yards is suddenly green–grass that for months had been the color of a defeated brown. And I am struck by the idea that there has been life hidden all winter, unseen beneath inside every surface, waiting for a rise in temperature or a certain angle of the sun that would signal it is safe to emerge into the open.
Halfway between where I’ve parked and the hospital, two ducks stand on the sidewalk in my path. They turn to look at me but they don’t move, possibly feeling for the first time since Fall the heat passing from the sidewalk and into their feet, or possibly they wish to stand in the open where their feathers can warm and the breeze work its way around them. I am not sure they would move even if I tried to walk them aside, and instead I step into the street, around the puddles that are everywhere, and walk the rest of the way to the intersection on the pavement.
At the intersection, I stop and look up at the new wing of the hospital where bright red brick crowds against panes of glass, and I know that every room in the new wing has a large window and blinds that some patients will at that moment be wanting pulled down because of the glare and others will be mentioning to whomever comes into the room that it looks like Spring has finally arrived.
I don’t cross the street right away because the traffic is heavy from one shift arriving and the other starting to leave; instead, I stand on the curb and smile at others who are accumulating next to me–smiles that I wouldn’t have been given or returned the day before, when it seemed like winter had become permanent. I recognize an man in an orderly uniform who works on my father’s floor, a brusque man who never says, “Excuse me,” when he pushes a cart past or when he needs me to leave the room for a few minutes–I have noticed, though, that whenever the orderly comes to check the machines that are attached to my father, he reaches out and touches my father’s arm and looks silently for a moment into his face.
I smile at the orderly there at the corner of the intersection, but he looks away, as if he doesn’t recognize me, or perhaps he knows that this day, March 9, when Spring finally appears, is the day my father will die.