Short Stories: My Father’s Eyes, Part 2

Hi everyone!

Thanks again for checking out another one of my short stories. This week is part two of the story I posted in March and hopefully at least a little bit worth the wait!

Once again, any and all comments and critiques are welcome (but please be gentle). Enjoy!

My Father’s Eyes, Part 2

After dinner and seeing Mrs. Jensen off, I headed for my room and called my wife.

“I’ve been here six hours, Zoey; six hours! And he’s already driving me insane,” I groused. “I’ve never had to deal with him on my own.”

You miss her,” my wife said softly, comfortingly. I desperately wished she could have come with me, but with Zoey nearly full term with our first child, it wouldn’t have been safe to travel so far. I wouldn’t risk their safety just for my sake. “Your father misses her too, David.

“He has a funny way of showing it,” I lay back on my bed. “He hasn’t even tried to do anything, Zoey. He just sits in the living room and barks orders at me. He wouldn’t even help pay for the urn. You know how Frank is.”

David, you shouldn’t call him that. I know you’ve had your differences, but he’s still your dad.

“Sure,” I hadn’t called Frank ‘dad’ since high school and I wasn’t going to start again now. Frank had never said anything about it either. I doubted it really bothered him at all. He had his doubts too. “I’ll know soon enough anyway.”

Zoey sighed into the receiver, “Are you sure Frank’s ok with this? I mean, with your Mom and everything, it just seems a bit…soon.

“Its fine Zoey, I promise,” I soothed, quickly. I hated lying to her, but she would never have supported me if I’d told her Frank didn’t know about the test. It was better this way. I didn’t want her to get worked up. She wished me luck and we said our goodbyes.

I sat on the bed for a long time, just staring at my ceiling. I’d expected even my bedroom would have fallen to pieces without Mom there to keep it clean, but it was just as I remembered. My bed was still in the same place, still covered in the heavy, warm quilt, the walls still plastered with images of Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, and a dozen other faces that had faded from my mind. When I’d checked, the scandalously bare image of a Playboy bunny was still hidden in the closet behind my middle school jacket.

My entire childhood, framed in perfect order, just as it had been the day I left for college; just as it had been four months ago, before Mom had vanished from my life. That seemed wrong somehow; that nothing had changed in here when so much had changed out there. It didn’t seem real.

Zoey seemed fine at least; she was as tough as they came, but I still felt my stomach knot with guilt. I should be there, with my wife getting ready for the baby, not caring for a sick, bitter old man who didn’t even care if I was here.

I could hear the TV blasting another god-awful news channel from the living room. I groaned; I was never going to get any sleep with that.

I forced myself up, determined to shut the damn thing off so I could rest. Frank had probably fallen asleep already anyway.

The glare from the TV blinded me when I rounded the corner into the living room, and I almost missed Frank’s dark silhouette sitting up against the couch. I started back, I hadn’t thought he’d still be awake so late, but then I realised what he was holding; Mom’s photo book, laid out carefully across his lap.

Mom had filled it with pictures of special events and occasions. Inside I knew there were pictures of my wedding, my graduation, every birthday I’d had since they’d brought me home from the hospital, and my parents’ wedding. Even with the limited light, I could just make out Mom in a simple white dress standing next to the tall, dark, imposing man who had once been Frank. Right now he just looked like a tiny, shrivelled old sack of bones.

I thought about just going back to bed. I wanted to just go back to bed. But the voice of my wife echoed in my ears; make an effort.

Mom would have wanted me to make the effort as well. I stepped forward and walked around the couch to face him.

My father held an envelope in his hands, trying to close it as he trembled with the strain. The cancer was degenerative, made him weak and slow and nothing like the man I’d once cowered before in fear. He needed help with the simplest tasks now. He couldn’t stomach hard foods, and couldn’t go through most nights without pissing himself.

Mom had died suddenly, of heart failure, in her sleep, peacefully and quick, while my father was left to continue the slow crawl to the grave. It was a bitter kind of irony; we’d all thought my father would be the one to die first. So had he.

Frank shoved the letter into the pocket of his bathrobe when he noticed me.

“What is that?” I asked.

He shook his head, “Nothin’.” I didn’t press the issue. “What’r ya doing up?”

“Couldn’t sleep. The TV’s pretty loud.”

“Sorry.” The mumbled apology wasn’t very heartfelt, but it was something.

I sat down across from him and folded my hands. The anchors on TV filled the living room with discussions about the innovative health benefits of non-stick cooking pans.

“When does the new nurse arrive?” I asked, trying to fill the awkward space.

“Few days,” Frank replied. Without Mom, Frank needed someone to help administer his medication and make sure he didn’t waste away; Mrs. Jensen was helpful, but he needed specialized care she just couldn’t give.

I looked down at my hands, “Look, Frank,” I began, unsure of how to go about this. “I’m sorry… if I made you feel like I was insulting you. I wasn’t. I’ll pay for the urn, like I said. Don’t worry about that, ok?” It wasn’t anything I couldn’t afford. And I wanted to do this; I needed him to see that.

“Don’ waste yer money,” Frank scoffed, “yer gonna have a baby soon. She don’ need yeh wastin’ yer paychecks on her ‘stead of yer family. That was important to yer mom. All she ever wanted was a big family.”

He wiped the spittle from his chin and his eyes dropped down to the photo album again. His fingers rested upon a picture of my mom and me, celebrating my fifth birthday. Frank wasn’t in many of the photos; I always assumed he’d been the one taking the pictures. “I couldn’t give ‘er what she wanted. We tried so ‘ard fer so long ‘fore we got you. She blamed me fer that. Can’ say she was wrong.”

I clenched my hands together, not knowing how to respond. “Frank, I –“

“She stole it ya know.”

I snapped my head up, “What?”

Pages: 1 2 3

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