Word Count 500
By Terry Rainey
I had some time to think about you on the ride home from my final treatment today. I
recall now things I wish I'd never said. How hard would it have been to say some kinder words
instead, I wonder, as the sun sinks like a stone. The house is dark as it can be, and all is silent, as
empty as I am, the dread I live with almost more than living will allow.
I take out a piece of paper, its blank whiteness like an empty canvas. I rest my pen,
contemplate what I’m about to put down. I hope that you are never compelled to write such a
note as this.
I remember when I took your tiny finger and put it in my wedding band. Your first step.
Your first bicycle ride, into the side of a car. I remember you shaving your eyebrows. Your first
rollercoaster, you so terrified that I wanted to wrap you up in my protective arms. Our nightly
Wheel of Fortune competition and your Vanna White wedding plans. The mismatched shoes
you wore in seventh grade.
I’d like to call it all back, and write a different ending, but this is the way of life, our
precarious balance between hell and hallowed ground. Perhaps the less I say about it the better.
Maybe I just made it up as I went along. It seemed like I lost my sense of place. Home is where
I wanted to be but maybe I was already there. Perhaps this is the place. I drift in and out of
It is all I can do to keep from weeping, to feel that life was just manageable
happenstance, that I wasn’t simply superfluous, that nothing was wrong, and that I have plenty of
time to make good. That soon I won’t be merely a face in a picture, a memory of what was and,
maybe, what could have been.
Sometimes I reassure myself that it's all still here, but mostly I just sink deep into my
mind. It seems at times that we shared the same space for only a moment or two. Maybe family
love gives air but not substance, only noticeable in its ruthless absence rather than in its blessed
Even with as little time as you have spent with me through the years, you have seen that I
have had a fine life. There were sacrifices, to be sure, even the love of one’s own children. I
wonder how you felt observing the man that I became while you were becoming the man that
It’s singular that an old man must tell a young man this, that we can only hope for mercy
as we end, when what we need is courage. I could use some mercy now. I don't know if I
deserve it but I need it, so that at the moment when death opens my door, I will put away my
wandering thoughts and step out.