Father's speech finally began to falter. Then he became comatose. Mother, again not understanding, mistook this for slumber and welcomed it.
"It's easy on us all when he sleeps so soundly."
Father would sometimes open his eyes and suddenly call someone's name. The one he called for was always the one who'd been last by his side. Father was slipping in and out of consciousness. His moments of clarity, like a white thread stitching through darkness, were intermittent yet connected. It was understandable that Mother should take his comatose state for normal sleep.
As the days passed, his faculty for speech abandoned him. He would start to say something but not complete his thought, often leaving his listeners in the dark. In doing so, he would start off in a strong voice, hardly that of a man on his deathbed. For our part, we had to raise our voices and bring our mouths close to his ear.
"Would you like us to cool your head?"
The nurse helped me to change out his water pillow and place the ice bag, loaded with fresh ice, over his head. I supported the bag lightly at the periphery of Father's hairline, giving the sharp ice shards a chance to lose their edges. In that moment, my brother came in from the hallway and quietly handed me a letter. As I received it in my open left hand, I felt there was something not right.
It was much heavier than any normal letter. It was not in a standard envelope, nor would it have fit in one. It was wrapped in writing paper, carefully glued at the seam. As my brother had handed it to me, I'd noticed it was registered mail. I flipped it over and saw Sensei's name in discreet writing on the back. Occupied as I was, I slipped it into my breast pocket. It would have to wait until later.