The Hungry Ones

I was abroad when the news reached me that my father had died. My reaction was mixed, part of me grieved but part of me was unmoved by the thought of his passing. I have no doubt that admission will seem heartless to some, but it is honest… and appropriate. I feel no need to exaggerate the share of sadness, like so many others do upon hearing of a death. To me, such lies are far more damnable and make one as loathsome as a body may be.

The contempt I felt was more than justified. I will spare you the details, for nothing can come from dwelling upon the inequities of the past and the charges I could lay are ones for which he has no means to defend himself. I will simply state what I have observed and know others to realize, that parents often have favorites and their treatment of their children can vary by remarkable degrees. Further, on having drawn this to his attention many years ago, he simply waved away this truth and dismissed me as suffering from jealousy.

Is it any surprise that I, in turn, dismissed him? He was willfully ignorant of many things and took delight in the cruel effect of his callousness. I will not make a saint of the man merely because he has died. Indeed, all I can truly thank him for is demonstrating the sort of person I have strove never to be.

Let it be repeated that his passing did bring me grief, but not for the loss of who he was. Instead, I grieved for having failed to inspire him to rise above that thing. I mourned the loss of all opportunities for reconciliation. The few tears I shed fell because I would never be able to seek his forgiveness, nor could I ever grant him the same from me.

So, weeks after the funeral, I found myself returning to a place I had not seen for many years, a place I vowed I’d never lay eyes on again, a place I once called home. The vision of this forgotten but familiar abode stirred my heart to recollect what bitterness had long forbade me to recall. I found it to be so bittersweet that I resolved to keep my visits with family short and to be gone once I had paid my respects.

I wore my dress uniform and took a solitary journey to the cemetery. I brought a wreath to place on his grave. As I placed it there, I saw I had not been the only one to leave such a token. There was a single flower laid across the stone. Something about it dimly troubled me, but I had more to worry for and put this out of mind.

The soil was still heaped, though the grass was growing nicely atop the mound. But, here and there, were the marks of some small creature which had attempted to dig into the grave. This filled me with anger, the thought of the place being so neglected that such vermin may come. I thought to myself that I must have words with the caretaker and ensure that this be resolved. But this, too, could wait and I took a seat beside the tombstone.

For a time, I hardly knew what to think. So often when I thought of him, I knew nothing but rage. Now that he was gone, such thoughts seemed only a waste, so I tried to focus on what few pleasant memories I could summon.

It must have been hours I sat and pondered my life. It was to escape his house that I took up military service as soon as possible, it offering me the promise of distant places. But if I thought to escape human cruelty, I had surely failed. For I had since seen blood and death and realized that there is abuse enough to be found worldwide. I must suppose that was why I lingered there, in the hope that some peace would come. But all I found was exhaustion and weariness.

At some point in the afternoon I nodded off.

 

Joe Stanley

story by Joe Stanley

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