From the day I was born until now, I have always been a frail child. In and out of hospitals, various needle marks all over my arms and shoulders. I even had a few slender, paling scars down my chest from surgeries. The one thing that always made me happy after waking up from another surgery, was my dad, who sat right next to me in the ottoman reclining chair. Whenever I felt down, or the medication the doctors gave me made me feel sick, he would walk across the street and get Italian Ice from the nearby street vendor.
When I was thirteen, I was told that within the next five years, I would need a new heart or else my old one would fail on me; and ultimately I would die. As scary as it sounded to my family and friends, I really didn't see why it was so scary. I'd come close to death plenty before, seen the white light floating above me. And as many times as I told them it was alright, they wouldn't listen to me. Mom, dad, my brothers and sisters, they all kept wishing that some other child would die so I could have their heart.
Whenever I got out of surgery, daddy would be sitting right there, and he'd talk me through the discomfort and pain I felt. One day, after a particularly difficult surgery, I remember asking my dad:
"Daddy, what are you going to give me for my eighteenth birthday?" I was too young to understand what was going on at the time. But he replied with this:
"I have something for your birthday, but I can't tell you yet; it's a secret."
I had wondered for hours, and hours what he could possibly give me. There was nothing I wanted, nothing that I had written Santa and asked for that I hadn't already gotten. I'd never asked for a heart though, because another child would have to die for me to live, and I didn't want that to happen…
When my eighteenth birthday rolled around, I was told that I only had one more surgery to go, and after that I would be a healthy, American girl once more. As I was being carted into surgery, dad was walking besides me and talking softly. What I didn't understand was why there were tears in his eyes, or why when he had to stop because he couldn't enter the OR, he'd started to cry softly as he waved to me, before he was led off by a nurse.
A awoke several hours to the sound of beeping monitors, and surprisingly I felt stronger and healthier than I ever had in my life. I looked around the room, seeing my mother sitting right next to me in the very same ottoman recliner chair that dad always sat in. Tears were streaking her cheeks, yet she had a sad, almost regretful smile on her lips.
"M-mom…" I choked out, voice raspy after being under medication. "Where's dad?"
In answer to this, she pulled out a piece of paper with a silent cry, handing it to me before standing up and excusing herself from the room; a sobbing mess. My bony fingers worked on getting the sealed shut letter open, I could see dad's signature on the rim of a letter. I finally got it open, reading over the note.
Do you remember the day when you asked what I was going to get you for your eighteenth birthday? I couldn't answer you then, because I knew you'd be upset with me. For your birthday, I gave you my heart. I know it's not a car, or an expensive piece of jewelry like some teenagers want, but it's all I could think of that would make you happy in the long run. I'm sorry I can't be there now to give you the speech I practiced on adulthood, but I hope that you're not mad at me. I love you, and happy birthday honey.