I can’t remember why he hit me. Twenty some odd years later, all I can remember is his hand swinging down to strike me across the face.
Odd, too, how the hand never seems to make contact. It just holds there, frozen in time and space, the anticipation of the blow never going away.
I was only seven at the time. Anger and rage doesn’t seem to have an age limitation. I can’t honestly say why this one incident stays in my mind over any of the others; maybe because I remember Dad hitting mom, too. And, her crying.
I remember being picked up by the head of my hair and being thrown across the room. I remember trying not to cry, but found it impossible despite him calling it cowardly.
He looks so thin now. Pale. Cancer does that, I understand. Eating away, leaving a weakened cocoon. I wonder if it does the same with memories.
I hadn’t seen my father since Mom left him soon afterwards. She eventually remarried. His name was Dale and he adopted me. There were no more kids, but we were a family; and I’d never known such love and never prouder to call a man Dad.
In time the old bruises healed but the memories never seemed to fade – sooty smog lingering in a morning mist. The raised hand, the anticipated blows void any exit.
I wouldn’t be here now if his court appointed caregiver hadn’t called: “Your dad’s dying,” she’d said. “He wants to see you.”
I talked to my wife, Claire, about it. She insisted I fly out to be with him. She knew about the abuse - the raised hand that never falls. She’d said something about closure and forgiveness. She’d never met him and though I know she truly loves me, I can’t help but wonder if she’d ever understand the hurt and sense of abandonment – it never goes away. To most, I’m certain he appears as some imaginary ghoul in a childhood fantasy story, but to me he is all too real.
I look at his hand closest to me. It is supine above a thin white sheet. Veins with oxygen starved blood, map their feverish journey with blue tumescent trails. Veins stuck with intravenous needles, nourish a dying body. A plastic mask smeared with Vaseline cover his face, breathing for him.
Despite what I’m feeling, tears sting my eyes. I fight them. I look at the frail, dying body lying in the bed and lean forward. “Why?” I ask.
No answer comes. Nothing but the quiet of the room and clinical click and swoosh of the perfunctory hospital instruments sustaining his life. Before entering the room the nurse said he was in a comma, unlikely to awaken. A neon orange DNR card is attached to his heart monitor.
For the hundredth time I question why I’m even here. What did I expect him to ever say that could do no more than justify my memory of him?
Yet, I whisper again: why?
A door opens behind me. I hear the click of a woman’s heels. They sound familiar but I don’t turn around. She walks up to me and places a hand on my shoulder. I glance it from the corner of my eye. “Mom?” I look up to see her face.
She kisses my cheek. “I came to be with you.” She reads the disquiet in my face. “Claire called and told me. Your father’s here, too. He’s parking the car.”
Tears sting my eyes again. I don’t fight them this time. I get up. “Thank-you.” I squeeze her hand, returning her kiss. I look back to the bed containing the shell of my biological father. “What he did to us is not fair.”
“No, it wasn’t." She smiled enigmatically. "But had he not, we’d not have the life we have now.” I look at her quizzically. “We’ve experienced God’s justice over our own sense of fairness. Let the past go, Jim.”
Click, swoosh. Beep. Beep...
It happens so quickly – so efficiently. Moments later, my dad’s life support is turned off. The only sign of life, the jostled flutter of the DNR notice dangling from its tie.
Understanding at last, I search my mother’s eyes. The “why” I’d sought so tirelessly, ironically and sacredly answered in those three letters.
My dad comes into the room. “Let’s go home,” I exclaim.
DNR: Do Not Resuscitate.
This is a work of fiction.
Premise based on Isaiah 61 v 1-8: Beauty for ashes…
And, Jeremiah 9 v 24: …for I am the Lord of Justice.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
Accept Jesus as Your Lord and Savior Right Now - CLICK HERE
JOIN US at FaithWriters for Free. Grow as a Writer and Spread the Gospel.