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Sad

The now gentle to the eyes orb had begun its descent in the oblivion. It's intensity of a white flame flickering.... slowly fading, becoming a somber red.... bleeding across the parchment of sky unevenly, where the sun was dying in the arms of those who refused to cover it's shame with clouds, as if wanting everyone to witness the decline of a glorious past, now moments away.

"......Dad, do you understand?" a voice pierced the obsessive inertness of Herschel's mind.

".....yes....look...look at the sun....." he said, trying to hold on to his vision, to keep it alive with the fragrance of his lingering thoughts.

"Are you even listening?" the voice said indignantly.

"Of course I am!" he said, thoroughly irritated. He let the curtain fall, and the study was dark again, ignorant of the day's demise. He turned to sit on his chintz armchair, but it wasn't right there. He frowned and refocused his eyes with his spectacles slipping nearly to the edge of his nose, and looked around. He fumbled in his steps, and seemed to grow upset by the moment.

"Wh...Where is, the, my chair-?" he stared at the only other occupant in the room.

"What chair dad?" the young woman replied wearily. Her face was etched with concerns far too aged to be drawn on her otherwise youthful face. Her eyes begged sleep and she seemed to be on the verge of tears of exhaustion.

"My...I only have one chair, damn it!" he shouted angrily in haste. "The...the red one, with...with the golden hands..."

"You don't have any such-"

"...and the, the red cushion...."

"Dad?"

"...your...your mom bought it for me...IT SHOULD BE RIGHT HERE!" he suddenly shrieked in fear.

"DAD YOU DON'T HAVE ANY SUCH CHAIR!" she screamed back. They both stared at each other.

"Dad.....you, you gave it away...remember?" she began tentatively, looking if he will bite.

"Yes....." he said slowly. "Yeah....I uh, I did, didn't I?" he asked, looking like a child who needs a consolation about the well being of a long lost toy.

"Yes, you did." she said, resting her head on her hands. Herschel looked around, making sure the chair wasn't there, and rested against the desk instead. The girl looked up. There he stood, at ninety three, with wisps of white still evidently scattered on a frowning bald head, trying to comprehend what he was supposed to do. Age is hard to witness, even with all its beauty. Especially when you have seen the wonders it was once capable of. It was like watching a mesmerizing deadwood, standing alone, beyond the fall of its mates of the ground, now a mere reminder of the countless falls it had seen with its lush green life, lost. When you look at it, all you want to see are the thick branches awaiting your swing, now just dry and brittle. Watching her father taking his beloved mahogany desk for support, she felt a sudden pinch of sadness in her chest. All those books behind him that he had so carefully cherished, were now mere strangers to him. That grand piano in the hall with dust seeping through the very keys that had composed her childhood, longing for the shaking, long fingers of his that never visited them, and never will.

"Dad?" she began again.

"Hmm?" he said, distracted.

"Will you at least consider what I said?"

"Yes. Yes I will."

"The...thing about the care home?"

"The care home."

"Right. Have a look at it once, with me. If you don't like it, we can at least start looking for a new one."

"What about your mum?"

Silence. She kept looking at him for long. She hated this part of their overall depressing wrangle. She hated the way she had to guide him back to his reality every now and then, which offered him nothing, but broken fragments of reminders from his life he once lived. He continued his mumbling.

"She'll not know, and she'll panic, you know. I, I can't. I have to stay. She might return any day now." He said and looked at the door expectantly. He walked around the desk in short, tentative steps.

"And I was right! I was right, Beth, your mum did have her hair bleached blonde. Wait...I told you, last time, and I found the letter, where she tells about her misadventure...." he fumbled with the books on his desk, found one, opened it to a bookmark, and took a carefully preserved roll of paper from it. He caressed it, and with a shaking finger pointed at the line of interest.

"...yes....yes, here, see? 'I have my hair blonde now, as gay as Monroe's', she says!" he beamed at her. She looked at the paper, with a pang of guilt and sadness, fresh, even if the incidents it boasted of were half a life away. She tried to smile at him.

"Yeah, guess you were right." she said stiffly.

"I was, wasn't I?" he said, staring positively at his evidence of rare triumph. Remembering what his wife had looked like was an achievement for him. He opened a drawer, took out a square tin box from within, and placed it sequentially with the dates of previous letters, all treasured with utmost precision and care. He placed it on the table, and stared at it for a moment. Then he started arranging the pens on the table in order of their size in the pen stand, though they were already kept in rows in a synchronized manner, just to keep his hands busy, it seemed. Beth kept staring at him.

"So, will you go to the retirement facility, then?" she said finally.

"Eh? I just told you, I can't." he said determinately.

"You have to." she insisted.

"No, you want me to" he corrected.

She stood up from the piles of books she was sitting on in exasperation.

"Dad, I- I, can't do this anymore."

"Do what?"

"This! This constant worrying and fussing, I, I have a life of my own to lead!"

"Then do that."

She took a deep breath to compose herself.

"Dad, you need help."

"I am fine the way I am."

"Please, we have talked about this countless times. I, I can't afford a daily trip downtown, with school and the kids and, and I can't afford a nurse anymore, so please...just listen to me, alright?"

He continued his meaningless but effectively endless job of arranging things in order of their sizes, with his mouth half open. Beth waited for a while seeking an appropriate response, or at least a visible acknowledgement of her remark, then all of a sudden, she broke down. Moments hit the hardest when they catch us raw. She felt it all crashing on her head. Her suppressed feelings screamed in resistance. We keep some of our emotions so deep in the dark abyss of ourselves, that they never learn the language of expression. We spoil them with our possessiveness to a degree where they make sense just to us, and then when we do want to share them, they embarrass us with their naïve ability to appear meaningless in someone else's unaware eye. She felt her love for her father constantly straining in these troubled times, she felt the loss of the sterling memories from their collective past, and tinted with a shade of something they couldn't help. This was not how she wanted her pillar of childhood to bend, and leave it in her mind to remember him like this forever. She felt hatred for herself, for wanting to leave, and to do nothing with this embodiment of her father, reduced to a pain and trouble. She felt her own world creeping with the responsibilities she was willing but unable to accept, caught here. The bills that needed to be paid, the meals that needed to be cooked with patience and effort she wished to spare, the kids she wanted to tuck herself with a hymned lullaby, and not ceremoniously by the girl from the neighborhood. Instead all of these lost opportunities went amiss to the train ride, in her head, on her feet, to meet the man who took a while to accept her as his daughter. It had been a while since she had been just that, a daughter.

Herschel looked up, and said in a soothing tone. "Beth-Beth, come now kiddo. It's all that studies I tell you, wait it out I say. Once you graduate, you c-"

"DAD I AM 34! I have a job! I had a marriage! I have kids of my own!! MOM IS GONE!! ALRIGHT? Please, just......" she trailed off into sobs.

Herschel stood stunned. There were moments when he almost knew what was going on. Being awake and aware were his rare naps. He saw the little girl crying, and felt weaker than usual.

"I, I know....I, just, forget at times. I am tired, terribly tired.... I, at times, I, I don't...."

He walked feebly to the window, and looked through the drapes. The sun was barely visible anymore; the dawn had nearly taken over. All that was left was the forthcoming night to look forward to. But maybe, not just yet.

"You know what hurts the most?" he said in an almost inaudible voice. "Not knowing....how much of all you think you know about yourself is true. Not being sure of anything you felt. I, I can't remember Beth. I don't know how I felt when you took your first steps. Or if I ever read to you in bed. I don't know what you would feel like at three years old on my lap. I, I don't remember, your mom. Or why she went away, when she went away. At times I wake up wishing I had forgotten to breathe. Each day takes away from me a bit of who I was. I, I-" he turned abruptly and walked to his bookshelf. "-don't know if we ever went out to the beach and looked at the surfs all day or if I read it and wove it in our lives," he threw a book away in angst as he talked, "I don't know, how much of what fades is true, and how much is a lie. I wish I knew, but, but I don't...." he turned to the tin box on the table and took it in his hands before continuing. "All I have is this house, and what little it offers to keep my past alive. I don't want to be a clean slate when I die, in a bed in some nursing home, unaware of anyone who will be standing beside my coffin, and anything they will say when I die. I want some of my truth to leave with me. I don't want to forget what it was like to be alive." he finished in a cracking voice, hugging the box tightly. He slowly walked out of the study, and Beth didn't stop him. She couldn't bear watching him cry. She couldn't say if she was sad because her father couldn't remember, or because he could tell he didn't. She walked to the window and saw her father in the garden, holding the box, looking at the sunset. His box, his truth.....We all need something to live by. We all need something to call our truth. There he sat unaware of what he held to his chest, every little lie, Beth fabricated over the years, to make him believe in something he wanted to.....he was loved once, by the woman who walked out the door when she was in a crib and never looked back. It was his cane of remaining peace. He had been loved, he had been wanted, and his life was shared with someone and things that mattered. He had mattered.......

Beth wept with her forehead against the cold glass, and was thankful her father couldn't remember. Darkness was crawling from the edges of the endless sky, threatening to take over. She wished for something that brought a sensation of haunting relief to her.

"Let the day end right here for him.... let the sun die right now....." she prayed, " ....and let this sunset be my father's last truth......."


June 23, 2021 12:22

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2 comments

Mary Sheehan
19:30 Jun 26, 2021

Wow Aryansh, this is a moving story. Beth's anguish is loud and clear, and I don't envy the stressful role she has taken on as her elderly father's carer, while managing her own family. One suggestion (if you don't mind me making it), I think it would be even better with more showing, rather than telling. For example, when Beth's father "shouted angrily", I can already guess he is angry, because he is shouting. Alternatively, you could describe his actions that let Beth know he is angry. Overall, a vivid, moving piece. :)

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Aryansh Dubey
16:39 Jun 27, 2021

Dear Mary, thank you so much for taking out the time and making the effort to help me improve, I appreciate it a lot, and all the compliments mean a lot, coming from you, and likewise, every criticism of yours is always welcome! Yeah, duly noted. I actually wanted to highlight every mannerism in the light of Alzheimer's, you know, irritation, angst, panic, anger in confusion and delirium and so on, but was lost in narration, so, thanks, I'll keep it in mind. Please keep out an eye to help me in future too! Once again, thank you, and take care!

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