On The Beating of His Heart

When I was a kid, I used to think he had swallowed a clock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

With every beat, the sound signaled the opening and closing of his valves. I imagined it was probably what Captain Hook sounded like, if you stood close enough to him in a dream.

My father's heart.

As a child, he had suffered from rheumatic fever, leaving him with no choice but to check in for heart valve replacement surgery at the age of 23. While his broken heart was being fixed in one hospital, my mother was in another giving birth to my third sister.

The funny thing is, I remember life before Sonya was born. I was only four when she entered the world. But there is a distinct before and after in my young memory. A time when it was just me and Veronica. But I can't remember my father without the scar on his chest that ran from his collar bone to his belly button.

I've searched and searched my memory. Dissecting each one piece by piece. My grandmother's smile. Crying with arms outstretched because I couldn't move my feet in the shoes connected by the bar made to straighten out my turned in gait. The sweet smell of canela tea being made.


In all of them, I can see my father. And when I see him, I see the tip of the scar poking out of the top of his V-neck shirts. And what I can't see, I can hear.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

My husband says he used to think my father just had a really loud watch. It wasn't until later that he learned of my father's surgery and the resulting sound effects. It wasn't something you picked up on unless you knew it was there, really. But my sisters and I did. And that's how we saved ourselves from getting yelled at while giggling in bed together after we were meant to be asleep. No matter how hard he tried to sneak up on us; even if he managed to avoid the one squeaky floorboard right outside of our bedroom; even with the television blaring in the background...we heard him.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

And we stifled our giggles and feigned sleep, just long enough for him to ease back out and close the door behind him.

This post was written for The Red Dress Club as a memoir writing prompt. This week, writer's were asked to write about a memory involving the color red without saying the actual color.