Sunshine pouring through unshuttered lounge room windows forced the last vestiges of a fitful sleep from my mind.
Throwing back the blankets, I swung cramped legs off the sofa and stretched. Not only had I not slept in my bed for nigh on a year, I no longer used the master bedroom. Strewn haphazardly about the lounge room floor were all the clothes and amenities that I needed on a daily basis.
I checked my alarm clock--it was only a few minutes past eight.
Aware that I had finally awoken, the cat meandered into the room and gave me a verbal dressing down.
“Come on Furball, I just woke up,” I complained.
“Miaow,” was her response. Feed me.
Then, with unwelcome clarity, I remembered what day it was.
Dreading this day’s arrival for eleven months failed to impede its relentless march towards me.
Given the option, I would have relived yesterday over and over again rather than try to make it through this third Sunday in June.
A friend’s words echoed in my head, “Keep as busy as you can, do not sit around brooding. It will only make matters worse.”
“Keep myself busy doing what exactly?” I mocked while throwing on a clean t-shirt, track-pants and socks.
Walking past the phone, I ripped the plug from the wall. “Don’t want to hear from you either,” I said, envisioning my parents. I knew they would try to ring me when I failed to call them, but they would understand.
Continuing towards the kitchen, I saw the photo--the one I kept telling myself to put into storage. It took quite an effort to tear my eyes from the young boy’s face. The image of his mother beside him seemed to say, “We’re in a better place, Jason.”
“Yes, you are, but I’m not! I’m left with this mess.”
I caught sight of his bedroom door as I turned towards the kitchen, and like a car with no fuel, came to a stop. I tried to turn away, but my mind had already run ahead to peer inside the room. I saw a bed that had not been slept in for eleven months, a motley collection of toy planes, and two much-prized athletics trophies. Drawings from four years of schooling adorned the walls.
“Get a grip, Jason, you knew this day was coming,” I said, forcing my thoughts elsewhere. Nevertheless, mental walls were beginning to crumble as the truth dawned. My eyes darted around almost feverishly, seeking an avenue of escape.
The doorbell rang.
That was impossible. No one visited me, at least, not any more.
The doorbell rang again, and for a third time.
Grimacing, I made for the foyer and opened the door. Expecting to see some inconsiderate salesman, I was surprised to see my neighbour Annette and her ten-year-old son, Brody. My son had been his classmate.
“Hello Jason, I hope we are not disturbing you, but my boy has something for you,” Annette said kindly.
Although Brody looked a little uneasy, he searched my face as he handed me a card.
On its cover was a drawing of a man and a boy playing football. After his father had passed away four years ago in Afghanistan, my son and I had taken him to play football in the park almost every week. That had ceased eleven months ago, along with the rest of my life.
I opened the card, and then bit my lip when I saw what he had written.
Dear Mr Smith
When I lost my Dad, my life was empty.
But you took me out to play football every week.
You gave to me the same attention that you gave to your son.
In my time of pain, you became like a father to me.
In your time of pain, let me be like a son to you.
Happy Father’s Day.
For the first time in eleven months, I smiled. “Brody, you know, this is exactly what I needed today. Now, don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right back.”
I darted into the house, grabbed something from a cupboard, threw on my shoes, and then raced back to the door. Brody saw what I was holding and his face lit up.
“Want to kick a ball, son?” I asked.
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