Jane heard the sound of a car door slamming outside. But she no longer found humor in the silence that had descended on the room.
“It’s been four years. You know how I remember?” She looked up, quickly scanned the eyes in the room. “He loved football. Even when he was lying there in the hospital bed, with all these tubes sticking in him, attached to all these devices that made noises he couldn’t stand — when he’d wasted down to less than 100 pounds — he wanted to know about the Bears. Who they playing this week? What does that idiot coach decide about the starting quarterback? And I hate football, but I knew enough about it to answer his questions. And at that time, they had this rookie quarterback, some guy they’d drafted that spring, and the plan was they weren’t going to play him the first year, make him sit on the bench, watch and learn how the professional game was played.”
She shifted in her seat. “But that fall, when my father went in to the hospital for the last time — the Bears, they had been having good seasons for like forever, but that fall they were losing a lot of games, and fans were really upset and disappointed. Some people said it was the coach’s fault, but other people were like, no no, we need a new quarterback, let the rookie play. And when they lost to the Packers by three touchdowns, the coach was like, you could tell the coach was like, either I change quarterbacks or get fired, so he says the rookie’s going to start next week.”
She was now staring down at the carpeted dining room floor. “Dad thought it was a bad move, didn’t think the rookie was ready. I saw him — ” she couldn’t help pausing — “that Saturday night. He was barely strong enough to speak, I had to lean over the bed. I could feel the warmth of his breath in my ear drum. He said, you watch that game tomorrow, see how bad that kid plays. He knew he didn’t have the strength to stay awake long enough to watch. ” She nodded her head in Hilda’s direction. “Mom was staying with him the next day, so for the first time since I’d lived at home, I watched the Bears play on TV.”
She looked up. “And they won. The rookie threw two touchdowns, ran for another. I knew he’d be excited, so I went to the hospital that evening. But when I approached his room, I sensed something was different. It wasn’t until I entered — saw my mother leaning over him, tears in her eyes — then I realized, there was no sound. Because he didn’t need those devices any longer.”