Thoughts on Daddy
By Greg Wilburn
Copyright 2017 Greg Wilburn
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Thoughts on Daddy
I loved my Daddy. And he loved me. I still remember how my head would perk up hastily at the wafting scent of tobacco, drink, and sweat, forcing me to rise from the aged wooden floor and stand towering over my unfinished arithmetic and grammar as the front door yawned open. Mama, with her softly bruised eyes, sent me sprawling into his arms as he lumbered through the rotting doorway. It was mainly to deflect—but mostly delay—the next slap to her face or shove into the kitchen counter, but I didn’t care. Daddy loved me. When my thin arms wrapped around his scratchy barrel-head, I felt his yellow teeth chuckle happily. The scratchiness of his beard never bothered me. The black wool felt heavenly as it tickled my skin, making me love him even more. After he wrapped his rough arms around me for a short while, the hugs would end as he set me back upon the ground. Once there, I stood tall and jut my chest out, just like him. Then he would ask me the same old things.
“How’s this big ol’ boy a mine?”
“I’m bein’ good, Daddy. I’m gettin’ big and strong, jus’ like ya!”
“Good! But is that head a yours gettin’ full and strong too?”
“Yessir! I’m gonna get good smart and be jus’ as ya are!”
He set down his bag of construction tools greased over with work and depression and led me to the ashen fireplace in the living room. He sat down heavily in the faded and torn armchair lying brown there and stared deep into the dead flames. Then I jumped onto his rounded knee and talked to him some more. He talked low and soft, searching me with his bright grey eyes. I loved those eyes, just like I loved Daddy. They were grey like slushy snow, which was my favorite kind. It was soft and wet and tasty, and it made the best places to slide across with my worn out shoes that let the toes peek out. As I looked at Daddy while thinking this way, his voice reached out and I sucked in every word that danced into my ears.
“I don’t want ya to be like me, Son.”
“Why? I wanna be jus’ like ya when I grow up.”
“Ya can’t be a dockworker and construction man like me, Son.”
“Because ya gotta be better than your ol’ man. Ya gotta make somethin’ a yourself like I never could.”
“But I don’t wanna!”
“But ya gotta, Son. That’s all I want for ya. To be somebody better an’ me.”
“Is that wha ya really want, Daddy?”
“Yes. With all my heart.”
“Okay, Daddy! Then I’m gonna be jus’ who ya want me to be!”
“Good, Son. Then I can die a happy man.”
“What’s die mean, Daddy?”
“Oh (sighs), nothing. Jus’ means goodbye.”
“Like when ya go to work and come back later?”
“Kind of. Jus’ a lil’ different.”
“Okay then! If ya can be happy when ya die, then I’ll be happy too!”
“That makes me happy already, Son.”
He said all this in such a lonely way that it made me love him six and a fourth times more. His wet eyes were glazed over with sadness, but I think it was a good kind. My Father died two days later as he walked down Alment Street to get to the docks. My mother said he died of a full heart, but I found out a few years later that it was because of the Cirrhosis in his liver. I miss him still as much as I did when I was still a boy, even now at the age of forty-three. I’ll never forget the last conversation we had on that final Tuesday morning. It was raining outside.
“But why can’t I go with ya to the docks, Daddy?”
“Ya too little, Son. Maybe in ten years or so ya could come on down and work with me.”
“Daddy, how long does it take to make ten years?”
“It takes exactly ten years, Son.”
“But can’t I do it more quickly?”
“Nope. Not at all. Ya have to live every piece of it, a else it’s not ten years.”
“Do I really have to live it? Can’t I jus’ see the important peoples and things and other things and move faster?”
“I wish ya could, Son. But for it to truly be ten years a living, ya have to be in all the big stuffs, and also in every moment between those big things.”
“Oh. That sounds hard, Daddy.”
“Yeah (sighs). It does.”
“Is it too hard?”
“No, Son. It’s just ten years hard.”
Thank you for taking the time to read this story. I hope you enjoyed it and will look forward to the others I write in the future.
To my father, for his silence so that my stories could speak for themselves.