Thursday, January 5, 2012

Edmond O'Brien

            He showed up on Karen’s doorstep the morning of her mother’s funeral. Dad looked like he had made an effort to clean himself up. He was wearing his favorite suit—the one that always made him look so slick. Now it was out of date and much too big. Dad had gotten smaller since he walked out of their lives six years ago.
            “Hey Princess,” he said when she opened the door.
            She had practiced this moment in her head a thousand times. Each time she answered with cool disinterest or a well-timed scathing remark. But when the time came, she couldn’t deliver. The man in front of her wasn’t the sly con man with a line for every occasion. He was just a sad old man.
            “I came to see your mother one last time,” he said. “But I heard I’m too late.”
            “Why?” Karen whispered not know if her question was “Why did you want to see Mom?” or “Why did you wait so long?” or “Why did you leave?”
            “Can I come in? Look Sweetie. You don’t owe me a damn thing, but please? After all I put you and your mother through I’m too late to even tell her I’m sorry,” he began to cry. Big messy tears rolled down his shrunken cheeks.
            “I’m on my way to the funeral home,” she said trying to be cold. “You can come with me if you pull yourself together and stay sober.”
            “Thanks Darlin’. I haven’t had a drink in six months. I was on my way back to make amends with you and your mother, That’s part of the AA thing, you know? Making amends for all the people you’ve hurt.”
            “That ought to take a while.”
            “I know. I won’t get to everyone. I’m dyin’ Sweetheart.”
            Karen didn’t believe him. She thought it was another one of his cons. But it turned out to be one of the few truths he ever told.

“How shall we inscribe the stone?” The funeral director asked Karen a few months later. She sat with a pencil and paper trying to decide.

Edmond O’Brien 1905-1970

Absent Husband, Deadbeat Dad, Con Man, Drunk

She crossed it out. It was a little too honest and a little too mean.

Edmond O’Brien 1905-1970

isn’t buried with his wife.
Maybe he’ll get it right
in the afterlife.
            Karen giggled. “I’ll never be a poet,” she said as she scribbled over it.
Edmond O’Brien 1905-1970
He wasn’t much, but he was the only father I had.
            She stopped giggling and cried for the first time since the day he walked out. She cried for their time together at the beginning of her life. She cried for their time at the end of his life. Mostly she cried for all the time in the middle they never had.

            This week’s Write on Edge prompt was to “Write a fiction or creative non-fiction piece in which an epitaph features prominently.”If you're interested in reading my first piece about Karen you can read about it here.