Monday, November 9, 2009

The Letter

**I was working at a bank and had made friends with an elderly gentleman. He was harsh and rigid but I could always make him smile. He stopped coming in so I called to check on him to no avail. One day his son came in and happened to get me as his representative. I found out about his fathers passing and cried at my desk. His son looked startled and had said that his father never was a caring man and wondered what I had done to bond with him. I stated nothing, I listened and smiled and he grew softer with each visit. We had to have documents to file and close the case so I gathered them all up. With a smile and a tear in his eye the son asked me if I could please make a copy of a letter he found by his fathers bed, he also said that I should read it. It was an apology letter to the for the love that he neglected to share with his family. He never got the chance to voice it but they now had a peace and a closure. I wrote this story as a tribute to the friend I lost. None of these characters are real. Just a gentleman I think about and a letter I pray would have been received by his family just a bit earlier.**

I sit facing the wall at a desk. No window view, I have no cares about the outside world. Experience and mistakes have taken away my hope. I hold a simple glass of Brandy, two cubes to clatter when I swirl it in my weakened hands. To my left, a square glass ashtray piled too high with death and obsession, red ashes mingling seamlessly. Would it be too much effort to empty this mess? Or is it a reminder of the lack of care I have for myself. This aged typewriter has been my only friend. I write to remind myself that my brain is still active and possibly worthwhile to someone who finds these journals. The ink is failing and if it weren't for the deeply impressed letters you would not be able to read these words at all.

The house is dark now. It has a musty smell. It has no life because I let it go. I thought being a good husband and father was simply providing. My house was kept up and there was plenty to eat. The boys never played in here and I always had my back to them. I heard them giggling and having fun that I assumed would keep them loving me, even though I did not partake. I never raised hand or voice. I never reached for hugs or tickles. I don't know now what I was scared of. I pray my leading failed to take shape in their parenting and roles as husbands.

My wife was the most beautiful creature in the world, but I never told her. I never danced with her or brought her even the simplest of flowers for her auburn hair. I remember how her eyes would dance in the light. She tried so hard to bring me in but I just sat at my desk working.

As I swig another glass of Brandy I wonder who would know if I should perish. My sons have rightfully declined to offer companionship and I have never extended the invitation, as a father should have done. It pains me to say I need them now as my health is failing.

One day I heard a rustling at the door. A large mess of a dog was snooping around the porch. I quickly dismissed him yelling for him to flee my domicile. He came back each day and day after day I kicked at him and yelled profanities at the disturbance.

It was a crisp fall day when his thick rusty coat matted and littered with dry leaves and branches caught my eye. I thought of how uncomfortable that might be. I felt my heart open strangely but pleasantly. He looked at me with knowing eyes and I took hours talking cruelly to him while I brushed and washed him. He might as well stay on the porch, stupid dog; I wouldn't want to make a habit of grooming the mutt. I swept the porch and lay down a ratty quilt for him. He wagged openly and came to sit by my leg.

At the store I passed the pet aisle. I bought him food and a thick black leather collar, shaking my head at the register at my own ignorance. What would I do with a dog of all things? Still he captivated me.
It was a very cold night when I decided to let him in. He was the biggest yet most unassuming beast I have ever encountered. He sleeps by my bed and wags when I get up to relieve myself. I have started talking gentler to him now.

As I type he lounges and naps without a care next to my chair. He only awakes when I hit the letter "M" which is sticky and makes a strange grinding noise. His startled expression always brings a smile to my face. No matter how I try, I can't hit "M" without waking this stupid dog.

I have fallen in love with the nuisance I named Red. He sneezes and does a funny dance when I smoke so I have even tried to stop. It feels good taking care of him and having him look after me. What have I missed all these years? I have been defined as bitter and unloving, but I have found that I do have love to offer, and I crave it now. Red has shown me this.

I sit tirelessly night after night, day after day at this typewriter trying to find the right words for my children. How do you apologize for the years of neglect? I wrote of Red and how he had changed me. I wrote of my health and who would tend to Red. I shared my heartfelt apologies and tried to explain that I did what I thought a father was supposed to do. I told them I know now I was wrong and will forever in my heart love them even if they can't find the peace with me I pray for. Red and me mailed the letters and I tried to forget about them.

Months later there was another rustling at the door. I peeked out, not another charity animal case I said teasing Red. Opening the door there were a small group of people. My sons and their families were standing there arms open. Red jumped and twisted around the kids. It was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. The sight of Red with sticks and leaves in his thick fur had to take second place now. He had saved me. He had brought me back my family.

**For the next year my father lived happily with Red and we visited him often. He was so soft with the kids and had become a wonderful person to know. We are proud that he was our father and that Red brought him back to us. They both perished within days of each other.

I have found the piles and drawers of journals my father had written. His legacy will go on in words barely readable but strong and potent with knowledge. I fixed the letter "M" on the typewriter and now think of him and Red as I compile my father's tales.**

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