Dad stared out at the snow and talked. He seemed more to be talking to himself. “Grace was everything.” There was a little bit of a pause and then he continued. He never looked at me and the story rolled out like it played itself constantly through his head every day. “I wanted to be rich. I was on my way to being a successful pastor and writer. I didn’t want to get married. Then I saw your mother. I was at a business meeting with a television agent. There was a live band playing in the restaurant where we were meeting. She was singing. She was in a band. She was from a wealthy family, but she was wild and crazy. Heaven knows what she saw in me, but I could not refuse her. Somehow, all my plans went out the window. She wanted nothing more than a big family. You, David, Fern, you made her the happiest woman in the world.”
When he mentioned me, that was the first time that he looked at me.
I smiled. Where was this coming from and why had I never heard this story before? I could not imagine my Father in this way. I was intrigued, “Go on.”
Dad continued, “We had the perfect life. I never knew how good I had it.” A tear rolled down his cheek. Usually, my Father was very stoic, I could not recall a time I had ever seen him cry. He was a tall man, standing 6’4″. He was rather slender. He kept his hair short and the only way I ever saw emotion in my Father before this was that he would put both his hands on his head and rub the top of it with one hand.
He was rubbing his head now and he continued, “We went on vacation. We were driving to Texas. We were going to stay with my sister, Benny. We had been traveling since early morning and it was late afternoon. We stopped at a restaurant to grab some lunch. We never ate out during those days. It was something special. You were five years old. Fern was a baby. David was nine years old. We were in the parking lot. Your mom was singing. She was always singing. You were buckled in the middle and your sister was on one side and your brother was on the other.”
Dad stopped and looked at me. He did not look at me like my father would but he looked at me as a man that wanted help.
I had never heard this story. I saw the desperation in his eyes. I did not know what to say. “Dad, you can stop. I didn’t mean to upset you.” I wanted him to stop. What good did it do for him to relive this pain?
He continued, “Fern’s bottle fell out of the car and went rolling across the parking lot. David jumped out of the car to grab it.” He paused for just a couple of seconds. I felt relieved because I thought he was going to end the story there.
But then he continued, “Your mother saw David running across the parking lot, she yelled, ‘David, Come back here.’ And she took off after him. She ran without looking. A car had seen David and stopped. But when David stopped on the other side, it continued. The driver had not looked and seen your mother there. Then.” His lip was quivering. He was so desperate, “Suddenly, she was laying on the pavement. David dropped the bottle. It broke and splattered milk all over her body. He started yelling, ‘Mommy! I’m sorry! I was trying to help! Mommy! Mommy!'” My dad continued to stare into my eyes. I had never experienced this intimacy with my father before. Then he continued, “Where was I?” At this point he was sobbing and it was more than I could bear to see him like this.
“Where was I?” He continued again. “For the life of me, I can’t remember what I was doing. One minute we were all getting in the car and the next minute she was laying on the ground. There was blood everywhere. There was so much blood. I ran and I grabbed her. She was already gone. I cried to her, “Sing to me. Keep singing!” Then he pleaded with me, “How was I supposed to be happy after that? I was not fit to be a father.”
“Dad, it’s ok.” I tried my best to console him.
“No. No, it’s not ok. I am so sorry. I failed you. I let your mother down. I see that now. I don’t know why I couldn’t see it before. I was so drowned in my own sorrow. But I still had you. I had her children to take care of and I did not do it. I was not the father that she would have wanted me to be. I’m sorry Claire. I’m so sorry.”
He tilted his head to the side and he tried his best to hold back more tears. Then he reached our his finger and affectionately touched my nose. “You have her nose. When you were a child. I looked at you and saw her nose. I am sorry I never told you.”
This is a selection from my novel. Please click on the link below for more information and to purchase Spiritual Flesh and Blood