Short Stories: My Father’s Eyes, Part 2

“That vase in the bedroom. Wasn’ ours,” he said, his words slurred and slow. He shuffled in his seat, the I.V. bag swayed with his movements and although he kept his eyes on the photos, I could see he wasn’t really looking. “’Had it in ‘er office, ‘fore we were married. When they told ‘er to go, she jus took it with her.”

“Mom retired when she had me,” I insisted. “It was just a vase, Frank. I don’t think – ”

“That’s yer problem! Right there,” he shouted suddenly, drowning out even the hyper sweet voice of the TV host. He wasn’t even looking at me, but every word pierced my chest like a knife. “Yeh don’ think ‘bout nothing! You jus’ do and think it’ll all turn out fine jus cause yeh think yeh know wha’ yer doin’. Jus’ like yer mom. Yeh don’ think about the consequences!”

“What consequences?” I argued, stunned and angry all at once. “What are you saying?”

“’Ad a call from some people a’ the DDC las’ nigh’,” He sneered, looking at me with cold, dark, accusing eyes. “Wanted ta know if I wanted a copy of their report.”

I felt the blood run from my face as I realized that he knew.

I ducked my head, “It’s not what you think, Frank.”

“Ain’t it though?” Frank spat, trying to raise himself up with a white knuckled grip on his I.V., “Yeh even had ‘em test yer Mom too. Tryin’ ta be rid of us both, I guess.”

“They needed a biological parent to do a proper comparison,” I explained unable to stop from trying to defend myself. It never did any good, not against Frank, but I had to try something. “What does it even matter at this point? I just want to know!”

“What more do yeh need ta know?” He snapped. The I.V. swayed dangerously overhead. “Yeh lived ‘ere, I fed yeh, I raised yeh!”

I wanted to scream, No, you didn’t, you stupid bastard! You never did anything for me! Instead I pleaded, hoping against hope he would understand. “I’m going to have a kid now, Frank! This isn’t just about me or you! I need to know! For him! For your grandson!”

“Yeh wanted ta do this fer you, so ye don’ have ta feel so guilty. So yeh can just leave me ‘ere and forget ‘bout meh. Ya can’ fix things with people once they’re dead!”

I shot to my feet and stood, towering over him in his seat; eyes flashing, teeth clenched. Frank stopped, staring in return.

For a long moment, we remained a still, silent tableau; tension thrumming between us like a live wire. For a long moment, the vivid desire to pin his weak, wrinkled face to the couch and strike as hard as I could, kept me rooted in place. For a long moment, my father said nothing.

I looked away and bit the inside of my cheek, focusing on the crack of moonlight piercing through the drapes of the front window, trying to stay calm. My wife was always telling me I needed to be more understanding of my father. And it was always me that had to be more understanding of the sick, bitter old man. Dealing with him required the patience of a saint!

Mom had been patient, endlessly patient, even before Frank got sick. I remembered suddenly, her telling me over the phone, how she was always rushing about to make sure the house was in order and my father well cared for. Had this been what it was like for her? Was this what I’d left her to face alone? The guilt of every missed phone call, and half-assed excuse to avoid a visit suddenly crashed against my chest.

“Are you really my father, Frank?” I stared at him, meeting the sunken gaze of his black eyes with the blue of my own. “Do you even know?”

My father said nothing.

I could hear Mom, from some long forgotten memory, feel her press a kiss on my head and step back to look at my face. You have your father’s eyes, she’d said.

She was lying.

Without another word I dashed back towards my bedroom and slammed the door.

Frank said nothing.

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