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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Work (07/27/06)

TITLE: Priorities
By Steve Uppendahl


My eyelids are growing heavy, but I’m doing my best to keep them open. They’ll soon be closed forever. I’d rather delay that as much as possible. It’s not an easy task. I’m surrounded by rhythm. The various machines that are monitoring me all make some kind of noise, and at timed intervals. Once you get used to the beeps, hisses, and blips, they become very soothing, almost like a lullaby. Of course, this is a nap that doesn’t ever end.

That very concept unnerves a lot of people and deservedly so. I know I’m going to die and soon. I’m not afraid of it, but I’m not anxious to join that club just yet either. I still have work to do.

I don’t realize I’ve been napping until I hear their voices. Dr. Simms and Tabitha, my baby. I’ve gotten quite good at pretending to be asleep during most of their conversations. They are quite informative, if not depressing.

“Doctor, how did the last round of tests look?”

“Not good. In fact, there’s been no change. Nothing is working. I’m sorry, but I’m afraid time is running out.”

Tabby hitches, and through slit eyes I can see her shoulders slumped, rising and falling, her head bowed. I’m saddened to see my daughter in such pain, but strangely comforted that she cares so much. Our relationship has never been what it should.

“Why did you have to treat him like that? He’s nice.”

“Oh, Tabby. You can’t seriously be falling for that boy-next-door crap. He’s after one thing and one thing only.”

“Yeah, well maybe I am too.”

My heart screeches to a halt, my vision blurs.

“What are you saying?”

Laughter, seeing me stunned must be quite the rush.

“Come on, Dad. Maybe if you were actually home more than once a month you wouldn’t be so clueless. Or if you cared more about your family than you do about work. Or maybe if you just said, ‘You look nice tonight, Tabby. Have a good time. I trust you.’ Maybe things would be different.”
Our eyes connect for one terrible second, one lifetime, and for the first time, I’m the one to lower my eyes.


She moved out shortly after that, off to college. Mentally she moved out that night, and we were never the same. Honestly, it wasn’t much different. With me traveling three weeks a month, being close was difficult. At least that’s what I told myself. And my wife.


“Lindsay, did you hear your daughter?”

“Sam, the whole street heard both of you. As usual.”

“What—How long has she been behaving like this?”

Lindsay narrows her eyes, strides across the room, and stares me down. Blue ice. She lifts my chin up and whispers, though it feels like a scream.

“Samuel, listen to me closely. We’ve had this discussion before and this is the last time. Tabby is never like this when you’re gone. She’s the angel she’s always been. Maybe you should start asking yourself what’s more important, your work or your daughter? Frankly, Dear, you don’t seem to know your own daughter very well, and you are running out of time to do so. Blink, if you read me, Samuel.”

Blink? I was lucky I could breathe.


Hazy, white light, I smell cotton candy. No, not yet, Lord. Trying to focus, I wait for it, there. There’s the beeping. My mind begins to clear just enough. Opening my eyes I scan the room, determined to punch the clock one last time.

“Tabby,” I can barely whisper, but she is there instantly, leaning over me, her blues large and scared.

“Yes, Daddy?”

I can’t help but smile.

“It’s been a long time since you’ve called me that. Even longer since I’ve deserved it.”


“Shhh. It doesn’t matter. Just listen. I was wrong, Tabby. For so many years I thought being a good provider was the same as being a good father. But, being good at the first doesn’t matter if you’re not good at the second. And I wasn’t. I realize that now.

“I want you to know something. You and your mother were always number one. I just put my energy in the wrong place. Even worse, I never changed. I didn’t prioritize and you suffered for it. I’ve always loved you. Always.”

Sobbing, Tabby answers, “I know that, Daddy.”

Through my final tears, “Perhaps. But knowing it and hearing it are two different things, aren’t they?”

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Member Comments
Member Date
terri tiffany08/08/06
I stopped here because of the title and was rewarded with terrific writing! Your character and snipits of his memory were vivid. I kept thinking how the dialogue was so true to real life. I think this is well written and hopefully you will place and if not then you will take it further and be sure it gets published somewhere.:)
Edy T Johnson 08/14/06
This is so well written. You succeeded in touching my heart (and eyes, with tears) in the dialog between father and daughter. I hope you get this published---perhaps it is just right for a tract format. Certainly, a lot of folks need help with priorities, and here is a gentle message aimed at the heart.