[Stage dark, but raspy breathing is audible. After a few seconds, a knocking noise is heard. Simultaneously, the spotlight shines on the hospital bed in the middle of the stage where FATHER lies. He is clothed in a hospital gown and there is an oxygen mask on his face. His body is swaddled in blankets, facing stage left. Everything he wears is grey. On the right side of his bed is a side table. A few pill bottles are on top of the table. Propped up against the table, in Father’s reach, is a cane. A visiting chair is nearby.]
Father, coughing, but strong: Come in!
[DAUGHTER walks in, carrying a cake. She smiles sheepishly at father. Father realizes it is her, and scoffs. She moves from stage left to father bed; father’s eyes watch her movements. She puts her cake down on the table and pulls out the chair to sit on. She does.]
Father, sarcastically: Nice of you to come in after a few decades.
Daughter: [Places her hand on Father’s arm]: Oh Father, you know it hasn’t been that long.
[Father visibly pulls away from Daughter’s hand. She jumps her hand back, like is she was burnt by a stove. Distress evident on her face.]
Father, voice steadily rising: Yeah, so what’s the occasion anyway? Finally decided you start caring about your father again? [Daughter flinches at the accusation]
Daughter, trying to appease father, but voice wavering: Dad, you know that’s not the case. [Father grunts] Here, I even bought you a cake! [Picks up cake and holds it in front of father’s face. When she speaks again, close to tears, she sounds just like a beggar] It’s red velvet! Your favorite?
Father: And this is supposed to make up for all those years I provided for you? Hardly.
Daughter, losing her patience: Dad, that is not a relationship that a father and a daughter is supposed to have, and you know that! [she drops the cake onto her lap] Can’t I just show a little love to my father?
Father, bitterly: There is a difference between love and obligation, and this whole visit seems more like an obligation. [He chuckles] Oh, I see. This is just your last visit to your father, huh? One last call for will money before I die? Well guess what! You’re not getting a cent of it!
Daughter, sighing: I know. It doesn’t matter, anyway. I stopped caring about money years ago. Can’t you just believe me? [She pauses for a moment for Father to reply, but he does not. Daughter takes in a deep, ragged, breath.] I just want to see you one more time… before…
Father: [He’s sits up in bed] What? Before what?
[Daughter stands up, walks over to the side of the bed, and picks up two bottles of pills. She rattles them. Over the rattling, she speaks]
Daughter, seething: You know what! Look at these! These are your pills! One every four hours and the other one twice a day. Is this what your life has become? Just a schedule of medication? That’s not living! There’s more to the world than a hospital bed! [She drops her voice] Where’s the star college basketball player?
Father, quietly: Shut up.
Daughter: Where’s the best car mechanic in the whole world?
Father, a little louder: Shut up
Daughter: And where, exactly, is my loving father? The one who took me on bike rides and to the park? Where is he? Where’s the guy who went to my college graduation and baked me pecan pie even though he was allergic to it? Where’s my dad?
Father, yelling: Just shut up! [He grabs his cane and throws it at Daughter. She steps by it, but drops the pill bottles. Daughter backs away from the bed.] Do you think I like being like this? An empty shell of the man I used to be? [Daughter doesn’t reply] Well I don’t, and it kills me. I’m dead already.
Daughter: Please, dad. This isn’t you! Can’t you just remember how it once was?
Father: I don’t need to remember anything. What’s done is done and I can’t go back. My life is almost over and it doesn’t matter what I was like in the past because this is me now.
Daughter: No, it’s not. It was your choice to change. You don’t have to be like this! You’re more than just a bitter old man. You’re my dad! A caring, compassionate man who doesn’t deserve to die alone.
Father: Alright, let’s just stop this sob fest and get to the point.
Daughter: The point is, I don’t want you to die as a stranger. [She takes a step closer to Father] Hey, remember that time you took me to the park?
Father, sarcastically: I’m sure I did that many times.
Daughter, sitting down again: Yes, but you see, this time was different.
[At this moment, the spotlight on Father and Daughter fades, a dim light shines on them instead. They are not the focus anymore. Think of them from this point as narrators. Enter YOUNG DAUGHTER and YOUNG FATHER from stage left. That side of the stage lights up. Young daughter is short, wearing a red dress. Young father wears all grey except for a red hat. Young daughter pushes a bike along with her. It is also red. Daughter and Father cannot see them]
Daughter, chuckling: You were teaching me how to ride a bike, and needless to say, it didn’t go well. Do you remember? [While she is speaking, on the other side of the stage, Young father is helping Young daughter get onto the bike. She rides around in circles]
Father: Yes. I do remember that, now that you mention it. I also remember that you were so excited that you rode your bike straight into a tree! [At this point, Young daughter topples over and lands in a heap. Young father runs over to her, comforting her.]
Daughter: Yes, I did. It was a good thing my dad was watching me, and helped me back up. I banged up my elbow pretty bad, but fortunately he had a band aid on him. It’s almost like he knew I was going to fall off. [Young father pulls a band aid out of his pocket and puts it on young daughter’s elbow. She smiles and shows it off to the audience.]
Father: You mean I did that. [Young father and daughter look at each other]
Daughter: Yes, it was you. You see, it’s okay to remember. [Young father and daughter nod at each other, then look back at the audience. Spotlight on them fades and spotlight on Father and Daughter brightens]
Father: [yearning for more information. He hasn’t talked to his daughter for years and wants interactions] What else?
Daughter: Well, you were with me when I failed, but you were with me when I succeeded, too. Do you remember my high school graduation?
Father: Vaguely. I can’t remember the specifics, like if they pronounced your name right or who was sitting next to you, but I can remember…
Daughter: Remember what?
Father, reaching up to touch Daughter with his palm: I remember this face. Your smiling face. And feeling… happy.
Daughter, cupping Father’s hands in her own: And that’s what really matters. The feelings, not the memories. Because memories are in the past. But what you’re feeling, you’re feeling now. But if you want me to, I’ll fill you in on the specifics.
Father: Yes, please
[The spotlight once again fades from Father and Daughter and focuses on the entering Young father and Young daughter again from stage left. This time, Young father wears a suit matched with a red tie. Young daughter wears a red graduation gown. In Young father’s hand is a red balloon.]
Daughter: We never had a lot of cash, so instead of throwing me a graduation party, you bought me a red balloon.
Father: Because red’s your favorite color.
Daughter: And your’s too.
[Young father hands the balloon to Young daughter. She takes it, then hugs Young father. They stay in this position while Daughter and Father continue to talk. Spotlight brightens on Father and Daughter]
Father, talking like he can see his younger self: God, we were so happy. So close. What happened to us?
Daughter: Well, I grew up. Went to college, moved out of town… not like I didn’t try to keep in touch with you, because I did! It was just a lot to juggle. But, I kept visiting up until…
Father: 10 years ago. A decade. That’s when they stopped.
Daughter: Do you remember why?
Father: I remember… receiving a phone call. About you. [Daughter stands up and moves to the bottom of Father’s bed, facing audience.]
Father: And — and they said — you had been in an accident. And I said, my daughter? In an accident? Why, she was the best driver I knew! I didn’t believe it.
Daughter: And what did you feel?
Father, pleadingly: Pain, regret, sadness. But only because she didn’t visit anymore. I know she didn’t actually die, I would have known if she did, and she didn’t. You didn’t!
Daughter: I know that you think that’s the truth, dad. But what we know and perceive as the truth isn’t always what’s true.
Father: No. I — no! Please, it’s not! It’s not…
Daughter: Memories wear and change with time. And we suppress the things we don’t want to know. But this is something I can’t let you leave without knowing. Dad… [She unzip her jacket, revealing a red shirt underneath] On May 17, 2006, I became just a memory. I’m the same as bike rides and graduations and birthday parties that never existed because I died before I could have them. Please. Remember what happened, because that’s a part of me now, too. Remember me. Remember all of me.
Father, reaching towards daughter, hand shaking: But you’re here now, right?
Daughter: If you think I’m here, I am. Just for a visit, to make up for those 10 years where our lives did not overlap.
Father: And oh, how I lived those years, wasting away, waiting to die alone. But now — you’re back! Illusion or no — and how long it has been since I last saw you! [He cries, a cry filled with emotions, good and bad. Daughter leans towards father, her jacket on the ground. They hug.]
Daughter: I’m here now — perhaps not in the same form you knew me — but here just as well. Even though things can’t be the same, they can be okay again.
Father: [Now speaking louder] I didn’t want to believe… I didn’t want you to just be a memory.
Daughter, letting go of Father and standing next to his bed: But you see, that’s okay. We live on in the ones we left behind. The memories and feelings stay with you. Dad, as long as you remembered me, I visited everyday.
Father: Please don’t go. Please let this stay real.
Daughter: This time, what you see actually is the truth and… [Young daughter walks over and hands Daughter the red balloon. She gives it to Father. Young daughter and father exit.] If you want, you can come visit my new home this time. But only if you’re ready.
Father: I used to be afraid of trying anything different because every start began with letting go of you. But this time is different, right? [Daughter nods] Then yes. [He hands back the balloon and hops out of the bed like an old man. Daughter helps him stand up. He begins to peel layers of gray clothing off of his body, revealing a red suit. His posture straightens, and he looks like a young man again. A spotlight shines on a red door, stage right. Father and Daughter look to it, then at each other. Hand in hand, they walk to the door. Father opens it, they step inside, then close it.]