A solitary light shone over Daddy’s lap. In the darkness, his tanned skin was the shade of a penny, and his black hair, eternally cut and parted in the same respectable style, was nothing more than a shadow.
He read aloud, never adding a flare or bravose to the telling. There was no need to be dramatic. His voice carried in any room he was in, but at night, it was quiet and reverential.
“Words carry enough weight on their own,” he said that night.
It was Tolkien – no Herbert? Heinlein? Ludlum? Donaldson? I can’t remember which. Why can’t I remember which book it was?
I sit on the edge of the church pew. The sound of his voice, his piano, resonates in the auditorium from the speakers. The recording is scratchy, authentic.
The words of the song take on a whole new meaning. “Until then, my heart will go on singing. Until then, with joy I’ll carry on. Until the day my eyes behold that city. Until the day God calls me home.” I dig my nails into the underside of the rough carpet-y cushion and bite my lower lip.
With his lamp turned on and the TV turned off, Daddy ruffled the college rule pages. I sat on the floor, eyes squinted, trying to read the back of the page. He was hyper-focused, but the rest of his face was neutral. Does he like it? I hope he likes it!
He set the pages onto the lamp table and looked down at me.
“Melly, this is amazing! How did you come up with this story?” he asked.
The glisten in his eyes, the dimples in his cheeks made my heart leap.
“I don’t know. It just came to me,” I admitted.
“You could be the next Stephen King!”
I cried tears of joy that night. Was it that night? Maybe it was another. He read lots of my stories. He said it. I think.
I stretch my hand over to Momma’s. The chill of her skin is jarring, but I wrap my fingers around hers and squeeze. She trembles and cups her other hand on top of mine with a gentle pat.
“Tim was one of the best men I knew,” I hear a friend say.
On the other side of me, Wayne puts his arm around my shoulder. I lean my head into him and stifle a sob.
Daddy drove around town.
“I’m so proud of you,” he said. “You’re such a good worker. You’re going places, Melly Belly.”
Loop 286 took all of fifteen minutes to drive around, yet here we were in our third pass, singing to Hootie, Eddie Vedder, Alanis.
Maybe it was Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac? I can’t remember which.
No. He’s loaning his suit to a friend so he can go to an interview.
No. He’s playing the beginning of Come Sail Away on his keyboard.
No! He’s singing on the church’s Grand Piano.
NO! He’s sitting beside Mom at my graduation, beaming from ear-to-ear.
No no no no no. That’s not it. He’s driving me to work? Driving me home?
….Driving me to the airport.
I left! I left him! He’s gone, and I never got to say how much everything he did mattered!
I swallow, but I choke on the gathered moisture. I want to hold onto the good memories. All the good stories. But I can’t.
He’s gone. Forever.