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Tears of the Son
By: Wayne Brown
“Hoverin’ by my suitcase, tryin’ to find a warm place, to spend the night, A heavy rain’s a-fallin’, seems I hear your voice callin’, in the night, A Rainy Night In Georgia, A Rainy Night In Georgia, I believe it’s rainin’ all over the world…” played softly and appropriately as he drove the road wet from the passing rain storm that danced lighting and rattled its thunder off the near horizon. This was not a casual drive, no, far from it. It was a drive with a purpose. Off in the distance some hours and miles away, his dad lay ailing upon the sterile sheets of a hospital bed. Family members were gathered about the hospital room. The Angel of Death waited patiently just outside the door for the particular moment at which this soul would be claimed to eternity. He waited unseen and unheard but ever present.
The drive back home was a chore and a release all at the same time. He would be the last to arrive. The hours in the car gave him time to think and reflect back on the times of his life, the years spent with his dad. It all seemed so vague now and such a short time. Surely there had been days and days of living together, of doing things together as the years had gone by. But now, it all just seem to boil down to a few memories that flashed into his mind like pictures in a slide show. Instantaneous moments of life flashed on the screen of his mind. The miles rolled off, the rain fell in a slow drizzle, and the slide show played over and over as the radio issued its musical genre of choice in the background.
Over the years, there had been times when he had attempted to create this event in his mind, wondering how he would handle it; how he would react. It never played this way. When he had thought of it, he was convinced that any scenario that played out would render him unable to function due to the high level of emotion; the crying; the great sense of loss that would all but paralyze his movement. There was none of that now. His body, his emotion, seemed frozen in time, literally on hold while he carried out the act of transporting himself to that spot where his father was dying. This suspension in time never entered the thought process when he had tried to imagine his reaction to this loss.
The call was not an unexpected one. His sister had kept him in the loop with frequent calls about dad’s condition. But there had always been hope and faith. He had always held on to the hope that his father would pull through each rough spot and had faith that he could do so. Until now, his expectations had been fulfilled. Each time, just as things had reached a low point, his sister would call with the news that dad had improved; things were getting better. He had come to depend on his dad’s ability to do this and time after time, dad had not let him down. This time, it was different. All the other times, his sister had told him not to come; to stay put. She would tell him when to come. She would know. This time she had told him to come. This time was different.
Life with dad had never seemed particularly spectacular, at least not until now. There were so much time especially in those younger years when everyone was immortal. He never thought about dying, hell, he was bullet-proof and planned to live forever which was a new concept that only he had thought of as a young teenager. He applied the same thoughts to dad, mom, and his sister. They were all going to live forever. That was not a lie in those young years. He had actually believed it and thought it so. Dying was something they did in the movies.
In the adult years, there were those quiet moments sometimes when he was just sitting alone with his thoughts and nothing else around when the concept of death would enter his mind. At first he fought it. Then he let it in. He dwelled on it and reasoned about it still not yet applying it to those he loved but knowing that it was a truth of life. As the years had passed and maturity came with the age, his own mortality began to seep into the thought process. Each time he heard of someone that he knew of dying, he dwelled on his own death. It was then that he began to think in terms of the deaths of his father, mother, and older sister. He, as the youngest, could possibly have to endure the deaths of all of them, and then he must face his own death alone. It was a sobering thought and one that visited often enough.
Dad was a veteran. He had served in the army in World War II. He had been wounded in combat. He had left some of himself and his blood on that battlefield in France. He never really spoke of it seemingly wanting to put it in the past; not desiring to relive any of those moments in his life with anyone else. Perhaps that was the time in his life when he came to think on his own mortality. Only dad would know that. Dad had been a good provider and always worked to make sure his family had a good life. That did not seem so special at the time but now, at this moment, it seemed monumental. He had been a good dad even when no one seem to appreciate the fact, he had been a good dad.
So where were the tears? Where is the love? Where is the proof of emotion, of hurt, of the pain of loss? Where is it? He glanced into the rearview mirror at his face. There were no tears, maybe some guilt, but no tears. Did this mean that he did not really love his dad? In terms of outward emotion, it sure seemed that way at the moment. He was but a zombie at the moment totally focused on the task of driving to his destination. No level of thought or emotion could seem to bring forth what he expected from himself. He was not capable of shedding a tear for his father. He was incapable of crying for the man who had raised him up, given him direction, helped him to achieve an education, and guided him even into his adult life. He was incapable of shedding a tear.
The lights of the city came into view as he neared the destination. Emotions were mixed. On the one hand, he was glad that he was going to be here. On the other, he dreaded going into that hospital room to face the moment of truth. He was not sure that he had the strength to do so. The hospital came into view and he turned into the parking garage and founded a place for the car. As he turned off the engine and sat momentarily in the silence and darkness of the garage thinking of his dad, tears welled-up in his eyes and rolled down his cheeks. Then a flood of tears came and he sobbed out loud in his grief. He cried for his father, his suffering, his death, and for the hole that it would leave in his life and the life of his family. He cried without shame and with the relief to feel the love for his father roll down on his cheeks. He knew now that he could go to his father’s side and help him see this through as his father would expect him to do.
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