The last couple of weeks that Dad was in the hospital were painful. After finally exhausting all options to get him to breathe when he caught pneumonia after his surgery, they gave him a tracheotomy—the procedure where they place a giant tube into the front of your throat to help you breathe. I was really happy to see it done—he seemed much more alert and I could tell that he was breathing a lot better with it in. The bad side, though, is that for those last couple of weeks, he lost all ability to talk.
I came in and visited Dad daily. Sometimes I'd have a lot to say; sometimes I wouldn't have much at all. And even on those days when I was exhausted from class, too tired to hold a one-way conversation, opting instead to simply say hello and get straight to homework, I never felt bad about being too quiet. Honestly, if there's one thing that my mother and I remember so fondly about him is that he was incredibly easy to be around specifically because he never made you feel obligated to speak.
A lot of the time I didn't have an opportunity to speak to him even if I wanted to, however, as he was in intensive care. A large chunk of his time was dedicated to resting if he wasn't being asked to do exercises by therapists. So on those days when I'd walk in and see him sleeping, the first thing I'd do is go straight to finishing up my homework for my classes. And on those days when I was finished or didn't feel like doing homework? Those were the days when I played New Leaf.
When I played New Leaf at the hospital, I always mused to myself that I was using the game for its intended purpose. In the game, I was socializing and frolicking outside—it was a carefree life simulator. Even better was the fact that it was a game that was focused almost entirely on helping people. When my reality was filled with the notion that I could no longer help the person next to me after years of looking out for him, that was really the sensation I needed.
Of course, I indulged in that sensation when I could. I kept playing and messing around with my villagers when there were breaks in the action at the hospital, and during that month my village went under a lot of growth. But my Animal Crossing playtime came to a halt when my father passed away in the last week of March. For the longest time I couldn't bring myself to pick up the game again—it was simply filled with too many memories. In the last couple of months, however, I've very slowly begun to get back into the swing of things. I've begun to parade my mayorship around the town once more.
This Sunday, Animal Crossing had an event—the second Father's Day that we've had since the game's release last year on June 9th. Both Mother and Father's day are pretty low-key in New Leaf; all it comprises of is getting a letter from a parent with a flower. It's really nothing to look forward to, but... Perhaps it was that .gif that floated around the internet ages ago about the kids receiving letters from their mom. Perhaps it was me looking for some refreshers on my final memories with Dad. But for whatever reason I hopped on anyways, fully expecting to get a letter from my virtual father.
Instead, I got one from my mother, telling me what my father would say if he wasn't so bad at writing letters. Dad couldn't write the message this year. Mom had to. I became misty-eyed almost instantly. And inside the letter, just like last year, was the red carnation for Father's Day.
This year when he was in the hospital, I planted some roses for him since I was worried he would get back too late in the year to plant them when he normally would want to. And the day before Father's Day this year I spent cleaning up my Dad's old garden, without even considering it an act of memorializing him. But with that gift, everything began to click.
I didn't think much of the gifted carnations last year, but the coincidence of the gift and the fact that my real father has a love for flowers didn't really strike me until Sunday. I thought about cleaning up Dad's rose garden and after a while, the thought occurred to me that perhaps I should create a little memorial in my village, Ocelum, for him as well.
It isn't much. All it is so far is a fence to give it a clear boundary with the carnations I got for Father's Day surrounding the one carnation I got for Mother's Day. In truth, I suppose it doesn't need to be much, since so much of my village has memories of those last weeks at the hospital, but... it's nice to have one central point to memorialize him.
Dad's ashes haven't been buried yet, and even when we do bury them in early July, his grave will be far enough away that I really won't have any ability to visit him or pay my respects. But at least now there are two things that will be my memorials for him so close at home—the garden with the roses I got for him, and my garden with the Father's Day carnations I got in celebration of the day of remembering him.