Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: TALKATIVE (09/08/16)
TITLE: Connected at Last
By Joy Bach
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My husband, John, and I had traveled across the United States to attend a NASCAR race in Alabama. When I purchased the tickets over the phone, I inquired how close Talladega was to Bessemer. Close enough.
So we added one day to our trip for me to make this visit.
My eyes hurriedly scanned the flat stones on the ground until they found what they were seeking. G. Virgil Vail – Born July 25, 1891 – Died December 6, 1942. The date of his death hours after my birth caused another glitch in my breathing.
How would my life have been different if he had lived?
He had never seen me. Not once had I touched anything that belonged to him. I had never heard his voice or called anyone daddy. We had never had a connection. So I knelt and touched the stone. With John’s arms around me, I grieved for what had never been.
What had he wanted for me? My mother had not been proud of me. Would he?
With a hug and a pat, John said, “Tell him who you are”. He left me to have a private conversation with my father.
“I’m so sorry you had to leave me. I don’t know if you knew what my life would be like without you. Mother never liked me. She never told me anything about you. I’ve seen one picture. You were skinny. I’m not.”
My knees began to hurt, so I sat down on the ground, one hand still on that cold stone.
“What kind of man were you? Did you enjoy humor? How did you even meet mother? I have so many questions. Did you even like children?”
I paused. The concept that I was talking to my father was hard to grasp.
“I didn’t have a happy childhood. I wasn’t allowed to play with the neighbor children. I wasn’t supposed to make friends at school. The reason? They were all going to hell. So I was taught to be very judgmental. Were you?”
I tried and failed to get a mental picture of him and my mother. Did they laugh? Were they good friends?
“I was very smart in school. Got all A’s except for that one class where they taught square dancing. Mother made me set that out. I liked learning. Since I wasn’t allowed to do much, I did a lot of reading. I walked to the library every week. After we moved to Cottonwood Street, there was a space between the two houses where I could have a very private place to read. And write. She never knew that’s what I did.”
“We lived in two upstairs rooms that were originally bedrooms. One room was our living room/bedroom combined and the other room we called our kitchen. It had a hutch and a table. We carried water from the bathroom to do the dishes. I had no way to get away from her. That’s why I stayed between the houses so much.”
Not sure what else to tell him, I changed the thread of thought.
“She made me get married before I finished high school. The church decided I should marry the preacher’s son. They told him he had to be a preacher. We just did what we were told. That marriage lasted 12 years. And then I was a single mom with three daughters. You had grandchildren. Would you have liked that?”
I was talking to my father. Why hadn’t mother kept this man alive for me?
“After eight years I met a wonderful man. We built such a great life together. You would like him. He’s teaching me all the things I missed out on. The only music I heard until I was 30 was church music. I’ve learned about Elvis and the Beatles. My kids have taught me about Sting and Pink Floyd. You would like them. John and I travel a lot. We own a business and have lots of friends. We are happy and love each other.”
I stood up, touching the stone one last time. My father and I had had our talk and connected at last.
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