“Dr. Sosa? You have a call.”
I looked up, my heart sinking. Few people ever actually called me at work, so I hurried to my office, swallowing thickly before taking a seat and saying, “Dr. Sosa speaking.”
“Good morning, Doctor,” the voice on the other end said. “I’m sorry to disturb you at work, but I thought you’d want to know that he’s very close. If you want to come and say one more goodbye, you should come now.”
My dad had been sick for some time...ever since my mom died, really. The nursing home he’d been living in the past four years was the best in the state, and my frequent visits helped assure me that he was given the best treatment.
I knew that it could have been any moment, and it was hard for me continuing to work when all I wanted was to be at his side, but it was also hard to just sit there and watch him go for weeks.
“Thank you,” I said, hanging up and taking a deep breath. I told my nurse to cancel my appointments for the rest of the day...no...the week, and grabbed my coat.
When I entered his room, he was just laying there, sleeping peacefully. I sat and took his hand, murmuring that I was there, in case he could hear me, but he’d ceased to seem to know me some time ago.
Before my mom died, Anthony Sosa hadn’t had a sick day in his life. Just a quiet, cheerful farmer who was up with the rooster and asleep with the sun. But when Mom had her heart attack six years prior, Dad’s health went downhill, and fast, and before I knew it he was barely a shell of the man I’d known and loved my whole life, and it broke my heart.
No matter how much I’d learned becoming a doctor, nothing could have cured his heartache...and nothing could have slowed an aging body.
A pair of dark brown eyes opened, and fixed on me with more clarity than I’d seen in ages.
“Hi mi nina, ”
“Hi, Papi ,” I said, tears springing immediately to my eyes as I fought down hope. I knew what this was, had seen it before in patients just before passing on, and I was determined to be grateful for it.
“I think I’m ready to go see Mami, now.”
“I know,” I whispered, stroking his weathered hand. “She’s been waiting for you.”
“I wish I wasn’t leaving you alone.”
“Don’t you worry about me, now. I’ll be just fine. You taught me how to take care of myself, didn’t you?”
He smiled, and though it was tired, it was beautiful. “Will you try to find them?”
I bit my lip and looked away. Leave it to him to bring that up now. “What good would that do? They may as well be on a different planet, and I’ve a life here .”
“But what is life without family? I’ve loved you a long time, mi nina . They loved you just as long, but they had to do it while missing you.”
I felt a twinge in my heart, imagining having left my Papi and Mami to miss me, how it would have broken their hearts. Even though I didn’t know them, felt nothing for them than I would for any other ancestor, it did hurt me thinking of what they must have gone through thirty-four years ago.
Then again, there was still a very skeptical part of my brain that denied any of it was true at all. It was something out of a book or movie. Things like that didn’t actually happen ...but then yet again, how did one explain someone as out of the ordinary as Uncle Raymond?
“I know you wouldn’t go because you wouldn’t leave us,” Papi continued. “But now there’s nothing holding you here.”
“Now hush,” I said, patting his hand. “Let’s not talk of me leaving, okay?”
“Tell them...tell them that I was grateful,” he said. “Tell them I was sorry, but so, so grateful. I love you, my beautiful girl. I love you with all my heart.”
“I love you, too, Papi ,” I whispered, leaning down to kiss his forehead. “I’ll tell them.”
My father died at three that afternoon. When I left the nursing home, it was still light out. A bright, sunny spring day. Not at all the sort of day you’d expect when a parent dies.
I went home to a quiet apartment, sat in a quiet living room, in front of a quiet TV.
After a while of just sitting...and it must have been a while, because it had gotten dark, I switched on a lamp and walked over to my overflowing bookcase.
Next to the photo album and my baby book, there was a large scrapbook that I’d always called the History Book.
But it wasn’t a regular history book. It was my history...or so my parents had told me growing up.
I opened it to a photograph in the front, of a happy older couple and their smiling toddler. Anthony and Maria Sosa were brought a three week old girl by their old, trusted friend, Alphonse Raymond. He’d explained that the child was special...in the way that Anthony was, and that he’d had no choice but to take her from her natural mother in order to preserve the mother’s life. He’d asked them if they’d be willing to raise the baby. Being unable to have children of their own, Anthony and Maria had jumped at the chance, and taken the baby in at once, raising her as their own.
No one would ever had said that I got my looks from my parents. Though beautiful, Maria’s cinnamon-colored skin, straight, dark hair, and enormous brown eyes couldn’t have looked less like my fair, freckled skin, blue eyes, and a mass of curling, burgundy hair.
I’d always wanted to look more like her growing up, but no, apparently I was the spit and image of a woman I’d never met.
I flipped through the pages of the book, looking at the handful of old photographs, weird newspaper articles, a photocopy of an antique property deed. All that really existed of my heritage.
That, and a grave. A grave I had to see for myself when I was in college, traveling with my friends. I held the picture that I’d taken of it, and had hidden in the Book, so that my parents didn’t see it, knowing it would just upset them.
Small, unadorned. Just a name, a date of death, and a tiny cross.
“Faith Fraser,” I muttered. “Born and died, in seventeen-fucking-forty-four.”
I snapped the scrapbook shut and sat with my back against the bookcase, cradling it to my chest. Papi thought I should try to find them, the birth parents who had no clue I was even alive.
But in order to do that, I’d have to go back in time 240 years.