It was a typical Sunday afternoon. Henry sat in the hallway just outside of his room and watched as people came and went. Some stayed only a few minutes, some for a couple of hours but the point was, they took time out of their day to pay a visit to someone they loved.
But Henry sat alone. As the big black and white clock ticked away the hours, he waited. Maybe today would be the day. He kept a sharp eye on the main entrance, with a glimmer of hope that his Rick or Sharon would walk through the door. But Henry knew deep down that wasn't likely. And at six o'clock, he would wheel himself back into his room, close the door and click on the television to watch the news. He would turn up the volume, trying to block out the ache in his heart.
As Henry sat in the hallway, he replayed scenes in his mind from years ago, like black and white movies from the past.
"Dad! Wanna play catch?" Rick was asking, eagerness in his eyes.
"Later, son. I have to finish this first." But later it was time for bed, or time to eat dinner. How many times had Rick asked him to play catch? Too many to count. But Henry couldn't remember even once playing catch with his son. And pretty soon, Rick had stopped asking altogether.
Henry brushed a tear from his eye as another scene sprouted, invading his memory.
"Hi daddy. Will you come to my tea party?" Sharon asked, her big blue eyes looking up at her father expectantly. Most daddies would have been unable to say no. But Henry was not most other daddies.
"Not now, Sharon. I have to work."
"Why do you always have to work?" His daughter asked quietly.
"Because we have bills to pay, that's why. Go ask your mother to come to your party."
Another tear trickled down Henry's cheek as other visions of moments past danced, uninvited, through his mind.
Rick did come to visit once. Henry had been surprised to see him and asked his son to sit down and talk to him for a while. But Rick had only come to see if his dad could spare him a couple hundred bucks. Of course, Henry had given it to him, hoping this would prompt Rick to come back to visit him again. But that was months ago. He hadn't heard from him since.
Sharon had never come, not even when he had first come to this place. After their mother died, Henry started developing health problems. When he made arrangements to move into an assisted-living home,he tried to convince himself that it was because of his ailing health. But deep down Henry knew it was simply because he didn't want to be alone. Yet, even with all these people milling about - nurses and residents and visitors - Henry was more alone than ever.
Henry's thoughts were interrupted as Millie, the woman who lived in the room next to his, said goodbye to her family. After they were gone, Millie asked as she did every Sunday, "Where are your kids Henry? Did they come today?"
Henry shook his head. "No, they're pretty busy. Got better things to do than visit their old man." He tried acting like he didn't care but his voice was gravely and thick.
And Millie said, as she did every time, "I'm sure they'll come by next week."
Henry nodded and turned away. He glanced up to check the time. Six o'clock.
Slowly, he turned himself around, wheeled himself into his room and closed the door. If only he could turn back that clock about thirty years. The scenes he had reenacted earlier would play out differently. He would have stopped everything he was doing to play catch with his son. He would have swooped up his daughter in his arms and have said he would love to come to her tea party.
Back then, he only thought of himself and everything he had to do. Time wasn't something he was willing to give. But he was willing now! Too bad now was a little too late. Henry hadn't really been there for his kids when they were young but he sure had set an example. And they had followed his example to a T.
Henry brushed another tear away and turned up the volume on the T.V.
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