October 2, 2009

"You're Not My Son Anymore" by Geoffrey Philp

Pausing by the hospital door, I took a deep breath. The last time I’d seen my dad, Harold Sr., I was lying on my back looking up at his fists and twisted face.

"You think you can fight me? You think you are a real man? You'll never be a real man. You and your little friends!"

I pushed the stethoscope deep into the side pocket of my jacket so that I wouldn't be confused with the other doctors who worked at the hospital. Gently opening the door, I braced myself for a sight that I'd seen so many times at the hospice where I’d worked, yet to which I’d never grown accustomed.

"Who's that?"

"It's me, Dad."

"What are you doing here? Didn't I tell you I never wanted to see you again?"

It was as bad as I’d imagined. AIDS had ravaged my father’s body. A stroke had paralyzed his left side and he was now almost blind.

"I wanted to see you, Dad."

"You mean to see what's left of me? Look and leave. I've spent your inheritance. You’re not even in my will."

Dad tried to pull the sheet over his chest, but he couldn't. The tell-tale signs of Kaposi's sarcoma covered his body.

"I don't need your money, Dad."

"Then, what are you doing here? I told you before. You are not my son anymore.

"I don't want to fight anymore.I've come to make peace."

"Peace? What peace? Go and look for that somewhere else. You forgot about the last time? My God, if I could get up out this bed, I'd knock you down again."

He tried to raise his tired arm over his head, but failed.

I swallowed hard and slumped into the visitor's chair. A web of IV drips surrounded his bed.

"Dad, it doesn't have to be this way."
"What way do you want it? Or is that how your confused battyman friends--the ones who spread their disease to real men like me--used to ask you?"

I bit my lip. I wanted to say, "Dad, my friends didn't give you this disease. If you'd just worn a condom when you were having sex with your girlfriend, you wouldn't be dying now. If you'd worn a condom, my mother--the only person who kept you alive by giving you your meds regularly--wouldn't have died three months ago after you infected her.”

But I didn't. Instead, I gazed at the beam of light that lanced across the headboard and gilded the charts that declared his death sentence.


He kept on cursing and I listened and waited until his tirade ended. A nurse poked her head through the door. I told her that everything was all right. From the look on my face, she knew I could be trusted with his care. She left without a word.

Dad was so exhausted from his rants, he collapsed into a deep slumber.

Rising from my chair, I brushed the wisps of hair over his head, so that if anyone saw him, he would still resemble Harry Lewiston, Sr. And not what he had become--a scarecrow in defeat.

I pushed the chair close to the bed and walked toward the door. Although I had said as much as I could, I still felt as if I had left a shadow in the room.

And, somehow, as I closed the door, I couldn't shake the feeling that the next time I’d see my father, I’d be closing the lid of his casket.


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denparser said...

wew.. that's not a good idea.. why is it going to be like that?

FSJL said...

That is a powerful little story. Well told.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Give thanks, Fragano!

Rockaway Girl said...

Even in "death" some people still refuse to take responsibility for their actions,instead finding it far easier to blame others. I had a feeling all the ranting and raving he was doing to hurt his son was his own self-loathing and the guilt he felt following his wife's death at his own hands, so to speak. Well done!

The Prisoner's Wife said...

wow, Geoffrey.

this story was compact, but full of emotion & action. i loved it! very realistic.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Dear Rockaway Girl and Prisoner's Wife,

Thanks for your comments. It's one of my new experiments with writing stories under 1,000 words.

I glad this worked and especially as you put it, Rockaway Girl, the "self loathing and guilt" of the father. Yes!