Dad reaches out

My father too was heart-broken. This was the first time in my life I had seen him cry and I wanted to cry too, with him, and with mother, for Hughie, and for myself but the tears would not come.  I walked away to be alone.

When I returned to the house my father was waiting in the yard. He had put on his good coat and cap and I knew that he was going out some place. 

 Where? To a neighbours? To the grave? In the latter place he could give full expression to his grief.

He took a twenty dollar bill from his coat pocket and offered it to me.

‘Here, Mickey!’ he said. ‘Take this. It’ll help with your expenses.’

Knowing that he could ill-afford it and that he had all the expenses of the funeral to bear, I said,

‘No! No! Pop. I don’t need it. You keep it. You have lots of expenses.’

Wordlessly he replaced the bill in his pocket and turned and walked quickly towards the lane, his head bowed.

My mother was coming from the barn with an empty bucket in her hand. She was wearing high rubber boots and my father’s faded denim jacket and a grey woollen bonnet on her head.

‘Your father’s crying!’ she said. ‘You should have taken that money!’

Deeply moved, I hurried after him and took his arm.

‘I will take that money, Pop!’ I said. ‘It will help pay for the train fare back to Toronto.’

He handed me the twenty dollar bill in silence and continued on his lonely way. The moment had passed and I had missed it. Only later did I realize that he was reaching out to me: that he was trying to make emotional contact: that he was making a desperate effort to tell me he loved me in the only way he knew how.

And I cursed myself for my insensitivity. But my mother knew and it dawned on me slowly that there was between them a mode of communication and a depth of understanding that did not depend on words: a world into which I could not enter.

Two days later I left for Toronto.

……… end …………………

 … back to start of Michael Quinn’s reminiscences ? …

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