I trudge back to my car, kicking pebbles across the wet parking lot. The narrow eves above keep me out of the rain, which comes down in sheets mere inches away. The pungent smell of hot, wet asphalt enters my nostrils, replacing the stench of the hospital I just left: That mixture of sickness and antiseptic that lingers in the brain for days.

An overhead light catches the colorful array of balloons waiting in my car—a reminder of a day that went tragically awry. The party is a bust.

In retrospect, I should have known it was too good to be true. The story of my life, and sadly, the old man’s as well.

An hour ago, the doctor called with the good news. I dropped what I was doing, canceled my afternoon appointments, and rushed to the hospital. I wanted so badly to be by his side.

I made a brief stop at the party supply store—a gesture he would have surely appreciated. It was going to be the celebration of the century. I called everyone: Family, friends, relatives. Anyone who knew the old man and his dire circumstances were elated by the turn of events. All promised to attend the party this evening.

How quickly things change.

I grabbed a single balloon from the bundle and hurried into the hospital. Storm clouds gathered overhead, but I wouldn’t let that dampen my spirits. Reaching the old man’s room, I stopped at the door. A half a dozen doctors and nurses crowded around him, doing whatever they could to make him comfortable.

“Wh—what happened?”

A doctor meets me at the door, a look of disbelief on his face. “I’ve never witnessed such a dramatic and sudden change in a patient’s outlook.” He places a hand on my shoulder and glances toward my father. “Just within the last twenty minutes. We’re all completely baffled.”

“Is he going to—” I choked on my words.

“Live? Absolutely. We expect a full recovery.”

The balloon slipped from my grip and floated into the ceiling. Time stood still as doctors and nurses tried to talk to me, but nothing registered.

I hardly remember walking down the hospital corridors or entering the main lobby. The pouring rain snaps me back to my senses. Of course, there’s a storm. It’s the perfect metaphor for continuing to live with that hateful old man.