The Father

I thought I would have another try at writing fiction. A short, short story that is more of a pen picture of a few moments. It’s not autobiographical, or even biographical, but I don’t think it’s possible to avoid writing a part of yourself when you do stuff like this.

The three of them came running up to him. The oldest turning and grabbing the hand of the youngest, the girl in between them. All giggling and competing to tell him who knew what. The name ‘Daddy’ shrieked with pleasure and expectation. No holding back; no caution; no disappointment. Loving and life-giving. He had only to stand there and they would collide with him in a joyous bundle. Could this be? Oh God, oh please God.

In an instant the inner wastelands no longer trapped and squeezed the life out of him. Three running children dissolved the crust of decades. The wilderness years disappeared in a magician’s flash, losing all their corrosive bile in the process. Three children. Loving children. His children, long abandoned. The great betrayal. Five wasted decades. Opportunities lost and connections left untended. Love left unspoken. His children as they once were . . . not the distant strangers they grew to be . . . bringing him what he hadn’t known he needed most . . . forgiveness.
He smiled uncertainly and opened his arms to receive them. There were no words. None possible, none needed.

Two men and one woman, the elder man in his sixties and the other two not far behind him in age and proximity, stood beside a hospital bed and looked at its occupant, his papery body barely holding up the sheets. His breaths needing to fight their way out and his eyes closed. Could he hear? Did he know they were there?
Look he’s smiling, see?
Each noticed the room had become a little lighter and brighter. Turning to each other they felt . . . they weren’t sure what. Not knowing what to say to each other they turned away, back to the head on the pillow, which having settled into stillness, seemed no longer so wrinkled and, eyes closed, still smiling a gentle smile.
They had wanted him to know they hadn’t come out of a sense of duty. They had wanted him to know they loved him in their own ways, despite all the shit. Some hurts lay deep buried, there was no hiding that. But he was their Dad . . . a flawed Dad, but their Dad.

Too late for all that now.

After a short while, as the men didn’t know what to do, the woman went to find a staff member.


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