Comfort washed down on him as the last letter rolled off of the ballpoint pen and fixed upon the paper. It was the first note he had ever written to his father--rather, the first he’d completed. He reclined slightly and studied the script, feeling more and more at ease as each word dried and took root within the fibers of the page.
He could not fathom the worth of the document in his hands. All that his mother had ever asked of him was right in front of his eyes. It was so much more than a letter. It was freedom, release, and acceptance, all neatly contained within the stationery’s mildly coarse face. Beyond that, it was forgiveness.
In his handwriting, he could see that similarities to that of his mother’s. Her handwritten notes in his lunch pail wore the same curtly crossed “t” and lazily curled “p”. Those notes remain fresh in his mind, though five decades old. Mother had always spoken for father in them, stating that “WE are proud of you.” She had done it out of love, though, they both knew that it was a lie. Father was never proud of anything that his son had ever done.
With this memory, he began scanning each syllable, foraging for imperfections. He hadn’t the need to actually read the words. They had been written in his mind for ages. Yet, he found a mistake. He had misspelled “conscience” and as his fingernails inspected the ridges of the cap on the liquid paper, he entertained the idea of beginning again.
“No,” he thought, remembering how each muscle tightened as the pen met the paper, how the tears had come, and how the torment that had been delved by the addressee had emerged once again. Creating this lone letter had been an isolated event and that was how it was to remain. Nothing had ever been good enough for Father before; he would not expect anything more now.
For a moment, he wanted to wad up the letter and throw it into the already overflowing trash can in the corner. But the eggshell colored paper reminded him of his mother’s tear stained skin. “Forgive your father,” she had pleaded. “He’s just a broken and empty old man now.”
He shook the bottle and removed the brush and he traced each letter of the word with the ivory liquid, in essence re-writing it. He began with the “c” and worked his way forward, mumbling “I before e…” He shuddered at the similarity of the actions--removing the word by writing it again and writing the letter to remove his feelings. He had found the undoing in the doing, the omega within the alpha, the malcontent means to the end.
He blew on the paper until it dried and corrected his mistake, painstakingly trying to make the correction an even mix of hidden and visible, as if to say, “I forgive you, but I couldn’t change then and I won‘t change now. ” He folded the letter and wound it softly around the stems of a humble spray of lilac and lily, snapping it in place with a rubber band.
Tomorrow he would drive to his childhood home, pick up his father, and take him to the cemetery. Tomorrow they would visit Mother and he would plunge the stems into the fresh mound of dirt that was, just today, piled upon her casket. Tomorrow his mother’s dying wish would be fulfilled. But tonight, tonight he would sleep the most peaceful sleep he’d ever known.
Superman - thanks, Pooh!
Criminals From the Neck Up