Monday, August 20, 2012

Bridges

If I hadn’t opened the door that day, both in a physical and a metaphysical sense, I’m still at a loss to say what difference it would have made in my life. I can only say he did his best to try and make things right and I guess there’s something to be said for that.

He looked old…”weight-of-the-world-on-you” old. To be fair, he WAS old but there wasn’t any reason for him to look that used up. 

When he spoke, his voice had a rasping buzz that set my teeth on edge. “Well, son, you gonna let me in or spend all day gawpin'?”

He asked the question in a rhetorical fashion and yet it took me a long time to compose an answer. Should I let him into my home? He’d thought nothing of walking out of OUR home when I was six and never coming back. Through the smeared-glass window of Time, I looked back on that day with the same feelings of loss and betrayal I’d felt then.

In the end, I could only step aside and gesture him in, a non-committal grunt being the closest to words I could come. It seems strange to me, in retrospect, I hadn’t noticed the small oxygen tank. It clanked, softly, as he wheeled it in behind him. Reaching to his side, he drew the mask from his belt and inhaled as deeply as he could. I remember thinking it certainly wasn’t a very deep breath.

I saw him seated on the couch and brought him the water he asked for. His hands shook and more wound up on him than in him but it seemed to help. He fumbled, distractedly, in his pockets before removing a crumpled pack of Camels. He was searching, I imagine, for his lighter when I took his arm. A frown and a shake of my head seemed sufficient. He grinned, sheepishly, and stowed them back in his pocket.

A part of me remembered that grin and it recalled good times. Still another part could have gone the rest of my days never having seen it again.

“Sorry about that, buddy. You’d think since the damned things are gonna put me six feet under I’d quit. Doesn’t seem much point to now, eh?”

So, that was why he’d come. He wanted to die with a clear conscience. In the end, I sat and let him talk. I suppose there was too much water under the bridge…too many bridges burned or some mixed metaphor or another for there to be any reconciliation but I let him talk.

He left that day much as he had so many years before. He was gone from my life but not from my heart or my mind. Some days I still think of him but not so many as I think he’d hoped, in the end, I would. Still, if it made his final moments in this life a little easier, I suppose I did owe him that much.

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