“He Was A Good Man”- By Michael Saunders

“He was a good man”. I stared blankly at my computer screen, those five words sitting atop a blank word document, titled simply “Dad’s Eulogy”. It had taken me hours just to get out of bed today, the weight of everything that happened weighing me down like a 500 pound ball and chain locked tightly around my ankle; my sheets acting as prison guards, only allowing me brief access to leave my cell before calling me back. That’s how these past days- has it been a week already?- have gone. I lie in my bed, curled up as tightly as I could, for most of the day, only leaving to use the bathroom, or sitting in my chair briefly; staring at my computer screen for an hour before giving up and laying back under my sheets. My mom would knock on the door every so often, asking if I was hungry. She tried pushing me to come down and eat with her and Jerry, but I just… couldn’t. She had moved on already- the ring Jerry gave her now sitting elegantly on her finger- but I hadn’t. How could I? He was my dad, and now he’s gone. Forever. Eventually she just started leaving my meals in front of my door, collecting the empty plates later on in the day; I never had any appetite, but forced myself to eat anyway.
My fingers hovered lightly over my keyboard, my mind blank; trying desperately to figure out what I wanted to say. There was so much… too much that I don’t think I could really get any of it into words. What are you supposed to say when someone dies? When your dad dies? There isn’t a class for this; A “How To” guide. It’s just me, and my thoughts, and this… giant medicine ball just sitting on my chest- filled with all this pain, anger, and frustration. Why did you have to leave me? My fingers lowered down, resting carefully on my keyboard as a familiar knock echoed from my door. A soft whisper from my mom creeped through- “Your lunch is right outside the door, sweetie.” I almost said something, but my chest became tight and I couldn’t manage to let out a sound. I hate this. Slowly getting up, I opened my door just a crack, bending down to grab my lunch- a simple ham and cheese sandwich with some apple slices arranged neatly on a plastic white plate- before closing my door and sitting back down. Feeling the soft cushion resting beneath me, I stared blankly once more at the barren word document before me, the sentence “He was a good man” staring right back at me, as if to gloat about how pathetic I am. The sun shined lightly through the curtains from my lone window next to my desk, and as the light reflected off my screen, I caught a glimpse of… me. Disheveled and tangled hair, a greasy face, puffy red cheeks, and lips that used to always be smiling, showing off my shining white teeth, now confined to a solitary grimace. My eyes stared back at me- once full of joy and excitement- now all but void of life and happiness, tears already beginning to form, ready to fall at any moment. I felt them beginning to creep down my face, my mouth beginning to taste the saltiness of my sadness, and I brought my legs up into my chair, holding them as closely and tightly to my chest as I could. The tears didn’t stop, flowing down my cheeks as I softly began to cry. I missed him so much. I didn’t want my mom worrying about me- she had enough on her plate, since she offered to arrange everything- it was the least she could do to help ease the suffering of my father’s mother and father; I didn’t want her to have to have to deal with me, too.
Finally catching my breath, attempting to compose myself as I began wiping the tears from my face, I lowered my hands back to my keyboard; racking my brain as I attempted to figure out what to say next. “I loved my father so much. He was a caring husband, a loving father, and a man with a heart so large… though he wasn’t always the best at showing it. I remember when I was in high school, I told him one year that I didn’t have a Valentine, so when the day came, I got home from school to a note attached to a small bouquet of flowers, simply saying ‘You’ll always be my Valentine, my little buttercup. -Love, Dad’. I remember immediately grabbing the flowers and putting them in a vase in my room, I couldn’t stop smiling. When my dad got home, I gave him a huge hug to say thanks, and he simply responded ‘It wasn’t anything special. Hope you had a good day at school.’ ” I lifted my hands up from my keyboard again. My dad was never great when it came to face to face romantic gestures- I think that’s one of the reasons my mom ended up divorcing him. She always asked him to share his feelings more, to let her in, but he just… couldn’t. It’s not that he didn’t love her, love me, he just wasn’t great at opening up. Despite that, he tried, in his own ways, to show he cared; Obviously it wasn’t enough when it came to my mom, but I never stopped appreciating the little things he would do.
Tears began to form in my eyes as memories flooded my head once more. There was the time when I was little I told him that I had always wanted to fly an airplane, so for my birthday he handed me a box that simply said “Your flight awaits”. I opened it to find a pilots hat, which he made using one of his beanies and some construction paper, and a small wheel he made out of some painted aluminum foil. When my mom led me outside, he was standing out in the yard, wings made of some spray painted cardboard strapped to his back, saying simply “Ready to fly, captain?” We walked along the neighborhood, me riding on his back, for hours, my mother not able to hold back her laughter; I’m sure my dad looked ridiculous, but the three of us never stopped smiling that day. We were so happy. Then there was that time when I was in middle school- I was in my first school play and was so excited for my parents to come see it- but my dad was held late at work due to a sudden meeting, and couldn’t come. I remember my mom being on the phone with him, scolding him on missing his own daughter’s show, as he apologized profusely from the other end. After some begging on his end, my mother ended up bringing a video recorder, and ended up taping the whole show. The next day, after my mom took the two of us out for ice-cream to celebrate the closing of my show, we got back to a “red carpet”- which was just some red construction paper- with a note on the door that said “Now showing, our fabulous daughter starring as ‘Lady in Waiting’.” When we stepped inside, my father rushed up to me, lifting me off my feet, and asked for my autograph. We spend the next two hours watching my performance on the tv in our living room, popcorn resting on my dad’s lap, a huge smile never leaving his face. When I came out for bows, he stood up applauding, accidentally knocking the leftover popcorn onto the ground. As the tape finished, he lifted me back up and told me just how proud of me he was. His own little star.
I held my knees tighter to my chest. I remember, growing up, hearing my parents fighting every once and a while from the kitchen late into the night. They tried to keep it quiet, not wanting to wake or scare me, but I heard it. I remember a couple times I heard my mom crying as my dad apologized to her for not spending more time with her or me. “You know we just took on more cases, honey. Once we get through these…” The argument would end and I’d find him asleep on the couch the next day as I headed off to school. The strain on my parents relationship reached its climax when I was in high school. My dad had gotten promoted at his job, which meant longer hours, and less time to spend with his family. There were nights he would even just stay in the office, just to get everything done. He was very diligent and a hard worker, but my mom just couldn’t take it. They tried going to couples therapy, but by the time I graduated high school my mother had had enough, and they finally signed the papers. They sat me down, and before I knew it my dad had moved out of our house, signing the lease on a small studio closer to his work. I was able to see him every other weekend, but it wasn’t the same. Whenever I went to visit him, he always put on a happy face, but I could tell he was hurting. He tried to look as put together as possible, but his eyes were always tinted red when he answered the door. My mom on the other hand focused on her work- pushing aside whatever emotions she had to continue to further her career. Honestly I think she just felt broken from years of yearning for my dad to be better, that she just couldn’t do it anymore. A year later she started dating a man she knew back in college named Jerry, and before I knew it he had moved in; I felt like a stranger in my own home. I started college, living in a dorm on campus, and worked a part time job to pay for an apartment close to the university, living there during the summer. I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to see my mom kissing another man.
I finally released my knees, feeling them drop back to the ground with a thud. These past weeks had been a complete blur. I remember getting a call from my mom- “Your dad is in the hospital”- and immediately dropping everything; driving directly from school to the hospital, my mind with a whirlpool of questions just spinning around and around in my head. Speeding along the highway in my green 2003 volkswagen jetta- this shitty old car my dad bought for me right before I left for college- I got to the hospital just past midnight; quickly pulling into the nearest parking spot and running inside, barely remembering to lock the car. I found my mom… and Jerry, in the waiting room, as I rushed up to ask my mom what happened.
“Your father… had an accident. He’s in critical condition, and they’re not sure if he’s going to pull through.”

-End

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