A quiet Monday morning drive to school. The radio played softly in her ’88 blue Ford Aerostar. Jill looked down at her son, George, sitting beside her in the front passenger seat. His big blue eyes brought a smile to her face. She could tell he was in deep thought. He had that same wild look in his eyes that his dad used to get when he thought hard about something.
A few more moments of silence passed.
“Did he really look like me?” George said.
“Who?” Jill asked.
“Dad. Aunt Mellissa said that I look just like dad when he was my age.”
Jill’s mood shifted, like a virus to her gut.
“Yes. You do look a lot like he did,” she said casually.
“How? How do we look a lot alike; is it our eyes, our chin, or our nose?” George said with big bright eyes looking up at her.
“A little bit of everything,” she said, taking the easy way out. She didn’t want to see him, or even think about him.
George had been asking a lot of questions about his dad lately. Maybe he had reached that age where he was beginning to notice the other kids at school talking about their dads. George’s dad died, just before he turned four.
A couple of minutes passed by, and again George, now seven years old, broke the silence.
“What was Dad doing the day he went to heaven? Did he play with me? Did he tickle me? Because I remember when he tickled me,” he said, wiggling around in his seat, and peering up to his mother with anticipation.
Jill turned pale at his question. In a flash, she heard the sound of a dinner plate shattering against the wall, smelled the whiskey on his breath, and felt his hand around her throat. All she had done was tell him that he needed help. It was breakfast time on a Saturday, and he was already drunk. “I wouldn’t drink if I didn’t have bitch like you for a wife, you don’t understand me!” Frank said as he released his hand from her neck. Then a sadness came into his eyes. He left the house and went to the barn, where he spent most his time when he was on a binge. He was no longer the loving man she had married. Being a salesman in a bad economy quickly turned him into a horrible drunk.
After a few hours had gone by, she went to check on him, and found him there in the barn, hanging from the rafters by the neck.
“Mom?” George said. “Mom?” he said, a little louder.
She heard him the second time, and smiled, trying with all she had to fight back the tears.
“What, sweetie?” she said, forgetting all about his question.
“What was Dad doing the day he went to heaven, before the car wreck?”
She sighed and tried to collect herself. “Well, he woke me up with a cup of coffee, and a kiss on the lips.”
“Gross!” George said, bashfully.
She smiled and continued.
“I could smell breakfast cooking. It smelled wonderful. I was too sleepy to get out of bed, so he took my hand, pulled me up, and he led me to the kitchen. The table was covered with all of our favorites, blueberry pancakes, bacon, pineapple and eggs. Then I saw the roses on the table. One dozen pink roses. He knew pink was my favorite,” she said as she looked down at her son’s prideful smile. “There was a card sitting on the table, propped up on the vase. He wrote a note in it, saying how much he loved me and you, and that he couldn’t live without us.”
“Me?” George shrieked.
“Yes, you,” she said assuredly.
“Do you still have the card?”
This caught her off guard.
“Yes. I’m sure I can find It,” she said with a sting in her heart.
George smiled from ear to ear.
“Can I see it when I get home?”
“Sure you can. I’ll look for it after work.”
“What did dad do with me that day?’’ George asked.
Jill paused a few seconds, again to collect her thoughts.
“He woke you up for breakfast. But you wouldn’t get out of bed. So he tickled you until you got up!”
George giggled. “I think I remember that.”
“Then he took you to the ball field, and played toss with you. It was a beautiful spring day, and after you left the ball field, he took you out for ice cream,” she said as they pulled up to his school. George smiled from ear to ear.
“When I grow up, I’m gonna be just like Dad!” he said, smiling as he opened the car door in front of his school.
Jill blew him a kiss as he turned around to wave good bye, and sighed deeply as she pulled off.
She stopped by CVS on the way to work to pick up a greeting card. The rest of her drive she spent thinking about what Frank might have been like as a child, and began thinking about genetics.
Benjamin Tyler Thacker is a mechanical maintenance guy at a stinky corn plant in Decatur, Illinois. In his spare time he writes short stories, lyrics, etc. to escape this sad reality.