“Don’t hang up Brad – Dad wants to see you before he dies.” Don wiped tears from his sun-weathered face with a forearm. “He begged me to call. I don’t know if you can get here in time, but you need to try”
“So, you want me to …”
“Brad, you owe him that. The only thing keeping Dad alive is the hope of seeing you. We can lay our differences aside for …”
“Don’t tell me what we can and can’t do, Don. Just lay off. I’ll catch a red-eye flight and be there in the morning.”
Don bit back a retort. “Okay, I’ll tell him.” A twenty year chasm of silence between them hadn’t changed a thing.
“Uh …where is he Don?”
“Mercy Hospital, downtown. I will be in the ICU waiting room on the third floor. You need to know some things before …”
The dial tone pulsed irritatingly in Don’s ear.
The next morning Don was dozing fitfully, scrunched down in the corner of a blue-vinyl sofa, when someone kicked his boot off its perch on a knee. Brad towered over him dressed in a rumpled well tailored dark suit. An open shirt collar revealed a gold necklace. His hair, graying at the temples, added to the impression of a tall, successful businessman. He had the eyes, more green than brown that graced the Bradbury men of several generations.
“Still wearing dung-kickers, I see.”
Don rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. “He’s in there, second room on the right.” Don pointed to some double doors with a buzzer on the right-hand wall.
“The last several years have taken a toll. He’s lost a leg to diabetes and part of his stomach to cancer. You may know that. Congestive heart failure has him now. He probably won’t make it to day’s end but, he keeps hanging on. He wants to tell us something and then, I think, he will be gone. The good news is, Dad became a Christian several years ago and was baptized.”
Brad swallowed, his eyes misting up. “I didn’t know. Whenever we talked he said he was doing ‘fairly well, thanks for asking.’”
“That’s Dad. Let’s go see him.”
When they eased into the room the frail old rancher was hooked up to contraptions of every description: dripping, whooshing, blinking, recording data for the nurses monitoring the control center. An antiseptic smell permeated the air. His eyes were closed; his breathing labored. His rheumy eyes popped open and he blinked unseeing for a moment, then recognition dawned and a weak smile tugged his pale lips apart.
“Boys,” he whispered, holding out a hand to each side of the bed. “Take a hand. I’ve got something to get off my chest.”
Don moved to his right hand and Brad to his left. Don felt the coldness of the frail fingers and knew Brad was experiencing the same.
“Boys, you haven’t talked to each other in years. Brad, you thought Don put the kibosh on that girl Cindy and killed your love affair. I did that.” He gripped their hands, coughing and swallowing phlegm. “You didn’t know it Brad, but she was married. Her sorry father was using her to get at my holdings. I sent her packing.”
“Don, when Brad unloaded, you let your tongue run away. You two ripped the blanket good. I should have set things straight long ago.” He doubled up, coughing. When he stopped, gasping for breath, Brad wiped the spittle from his lips; he continued in a whisper.
“Don, you’re a top-notch rancher. You get the Bar-B land and cattle. And some of the oil wells. Brad, you’re a smart lawyer. The investments are yours. And the other wells. It’s spelled out in my will.” He began coughing, intermittently squeezing his grip, eyes clenched shut, his lips turning blue, chest heaving, devoid of energy.
“Dad,” Brad said, “It was you …?” He looked at his brother. “I’m sorry Don, I thought …”
“Dad’s right. We’re both hard headed cusses. I’m as much to blame.”
“Boys, sit outside and talk.” He gulped air noisily. “The sun’s going down. That angel in the corner has stood long enough.”
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Genesis 25:9 inspired this story. That verse implies either a temporary truce or reconciliation when Ishmael and Isaac buried Abraham, their father, in the cave of Machpelah.
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