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Where Was the Love?
by Begin Again
| Category: || General Fiction |
Posted:|| October 26, 2010 Views: 423|
"If your mother could see you now, girl -"
"What?" Carrie screamed. "She wouldn't be like you, that's for sure."
"You ain't been worth a dime since you were born." Age hadn't decreased the old man's foreboding stature. His acidic words scalded her heart as he loomed above her.
"It's all about money with you, isn't it?" She firmly planted her feet, standing her ground, though shrouded in pain.
"Without my money, this whole family would be worth nothing." He stepped closer, his body language threatening.
A chill snaked over her body. She struggled to regain her composure.
Don't let him do this to you again. He's just an old man, set in his ways.
Defiant, she took a small step toward him. "Did I ask for your help, Dad?"
"Pffft ... this whole family is always whining about hard times as if they know anything about it. When I was your age -"
"Yeah, I know, I know. You're the only one who ever had it tough." She shook her head, almost able to repeat his stories verbatim. "Shoveled coal, hunted rabbits, nearly starved -"
"You better watch your mouth 'cause I ain't dead yet. I'll make sure you never get a penny of my money."
"Keep it! Maybe they'll bury you with it," she snapped, swatting away the threatening tears. She hadn't meant to say that, but his vile words forced her to strike back.
"Better than you wasting it. Just like your grandmother ... thought she had money to burn. Hated that woman, always giving everything away."
"She had a good heart, more than I can say-"
"Heart don't put food on the table or a roof over your head. Hard work does." His spit speckled her face.
Wiping her cheeks with the palm of her hand, she turned to leave, but he couldn't resist one last shot. "Run, get out of my sight. I got work to do. Maybe I'll do you a favor and die while I'm at it."
The door slammed behind her as she escaped to her car and home.
Why do I let him get to me? He's never going to change.
Emotionally drained, Carrie slumped against the back of the overstuffed chair. Closing her eyes, trying to shut out the world, she drifted into a restless sleep.
Small clusters of people mingled around the large room. The elderly spoke in soft tones, raised to respect the dead. Young people listened to their i-pods, texted their friends, and joked with each other. Their laughter drifted around the room. A few remembered the man and eagerly shared their thoughts.
"Bet I can't count how many times he told the one about walking into the bank and getting a $60,000 loan without ever signing anything."
"Wonder if that money bought him a spot in Heaven?"
"I highly doubt they made room for him there."
"Shhh ... She might hear you. He was her dad, after all."
"Humph ... he never did her any favors." Several in the group nodded in agreement.
"I remember her sixteenth birthday. She prayed she'd get a car, even an old clunker or at least a down payment. After repeating for the millionth time how he drove a horse and buggy to school, he gave her a set of keys." The speaker continued after stifling a chuckle, "Keys to a small safe and five dollars. Generous to the core he was."
"Don't forget the note he wrote. 'Earn it. I did.' Wasn't satisfied with just the obvious slam. Had to remind her of how he was a self-made man."
"I can top that one. She graduated with honors. Didn't mention one word about how proud he was or her good work. Instead, he gave her a doll. I think it was a nurse. Anyhow, it had a note, too. Said something like 'Go make something of yourself or at least try.'"
"Personally, she's probably better off without him. He always flaunted his money over her. I don't think he ever told her he appreciated all she tried to do for him after her mom died."
"You got to be kidding. There was a right way, a wrong way, and his way. Poor Carrie never seemed to be able to please the old man."
"Doubt it, but she was his own flesh-and-blood. You expect your parents to cut you a little slack, don't you?"
"Not him. Nothing was ever good enough."
The truth in their words stung. Carrie moved away, out of listening distance.
She stared at the man lying in front of her. Her eyes scanned his weathered face, coming to rest on his rough hands. Those big hands had worked hard ... shoveled coal, picked corn, carried blocks of ice, built their home ... but they'd never hugged her or given her an encouraging pat.
Why couldn't you love me, Daddy? I know I wasn't the boy you wanted, but I tried. God knows I tried.
Numb to her surroundings, she wasn't aware of the minister standing nearby until his baritone voice interrupted her thoughts.
"He wasn't an easy man to live with, but he meant well, Carrie." He placed a reassuring arm around her shoulder, attempting to comfort her.
Unable to find any words, she nodded, returning her gaze to her father's face.
"I was with him at the end. He asked me to give you this." He extended his hand, offering its contents to her. Nervously, she accepted it. He patted her shoulder once more, and stepped away.
Her trembling fingers opened the flap of the envelope. Wild thoughts whirled around inside her head. What would be her father's last words.
Couldn't leave me in peace, huh, Dad? Had to have that final say, didn't you?
Swallowing the bile in her throat, her eyes scanned the first few scrawled words on the page. Taking a deep breath, she allowed herself to continue to read.
We both know I'm a cantankerous old man set in my ways. Been through a lot of hard times in my life. Worked day and night to put a roof over our heads, food on the table, and money in the bank. Didn't mind though cause I only wanted the best for you and your Mom.
Yeah, I know, Dad. You reminded me enough times.
Somewhere along the line, I guess I forgot what was really important.
"You think?" She glanced around to see if anyone heard her, quickly scolded herself for being flippant.
I'm beginning to sound just like Matthew. Mother like son.
Her eyes returned to the shaky scribbling, her father's last thoughts.
Hope you can forgive -
Carrie re-read the words, almost choking in disbelief.
Hope you can forgive me. Don't deserve it, but I'm counting on your generous heart-
Blinded by salty tears, she pursed her quivering lips.
"Oh Daddy -"
Taking a deep breath, she continued to read.
When your mom passed on, I didn't want to live anymore. In a way, I thought my life ended that day, but I was wrong. I turned a blind eye to the wonderful woman you've become. I'm damn lucky to have you for my daughter.
I've been a fool. I'm sorry.
The back of her hand brushed away the tears as she struggled to absorb what she was reading. The words blurred. She wanted ... no ... needed to finish reading.
The next three words exploded in her heart.
I love you.
Sob after sob racked her body as she clung to the tiny piece of paper. His words echoed in her mind, words she thought she'd never hear her father say. Kneeling in front of the casket, she carefully laid her hand over his, gently squeezing it.
"I love you, too, Dad."
"Mom, Mom, wake up. Someone's on the phone for you." Matthew continued to shake his mother's arm.
"What?" Confused, Carrie sat up in the chair. Her hand touched the dampness on her cheeks.
"Earth to Mom, did you hear me?"
"Sorry. I guess I was dreaming." Shaking the remnants of the dream from her head, she turned her attention to her son. "Who is it?"
"Somebody from the hospital." He shrugged his shoulders. "The lady just asked for you."
The icy fingers of fear played rat-a-tat-tat up and down her spine. "The hospital?"
Please, God, not now.
Carrie raised the telephone receiver to her mouth.
"Hello." and a few seconds later, followed with, "Yes, this is she."
Tension filled every corner of the room as she listened to the voice on the other end of the line.
"I'll be right there." The phone went dead. The color drained from her face.
"Mom, what is it?"
"Your grandfather's had a heart attack. He's in the critical care unit." She glanced around the room, looking for her purse.
"Serves the old man right-"
Her normally quiet voice spiked several notches. "Matthew, don't talk that way about your grandfather."
"What? He's mean. Why should we care?" Stunned by her reprimand, he added, "Look how he treats you."
A heavy sigh slipped over her lips. "Yeah, you're right, but deep down inside I have to believe he loves us in his own way."
"You think?" Disbelief dripped from his words.
Pulling him close to her chest, she murmured, "Yeah, I think!"
Grabbing the car keys, she kissed his cheek. "Come on. Let's go."
Closing the door behind him, they hurried to the car. Seeing concern written all over his mom's face, Matthew questioned her. "You think Grandpa's going to be okay, Mom?"
"I hope so." Forcing a smile, she added, "He's too cantankerous to die."
"Yeah, he's got at least a hundred more stories to tell."
They laughed as Carrie backed the car out of the driveway.
Hang in there, Dad. Don't quit on me now.
Once again, my short story for a contest gained a life of it's own and surpassed the limitations allowed. Based on many factual emotions and occurences, my words wouldn't be contained. It became a labor of love instead.
Thank you Loyd for your fabulous photo.
and 2 member cents.
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