I was the one holding his hand when he took his last breath. Not my mother who left because she forgot to sign the important papers. Not my sisters, one who hadn’t come home from the next town over for the last ten years, the other on the porch smoking a discount cigarette. Nor my brother, ashamed to make an appearance lest someone ask too many questions about his perfectly painted life with what turned out to be an unfaithful wife.
I plugged in the slow cookers and put the food on the tables. Pa had liked horseradish on his ham sammiches. Put the coffee on to drip. Pa had liked his coffee black. Straightened the photos around the urn. Pa had liked to wear his striped-shirt when it came time to get his picture took.
I said my piece in front of those who gathered there. I sang a song in a shaky voice. Shook all the hands, gave all the hugs, patted all the backs, saying, “Yes, we really should do lunch some time,” knowing I didn’t mean it and neither did they.
I put the leftovers in empty cottage cheese containers. Stuffed the paper tablecloths in the garbage cans. Folded the tables and chairs. Put them away.
I stared at the brown urn, broke off one of the roses and tucked it behind my ear, opened the old autograph book set amongst the memorabilia. Mama gave it to me for Christmas when I was seven. Saw his chicken scratch scrawl, one of three times he’d written something especially for me during his lifetime. He never signed them with to or from. Or love. “You’re sure a swell kid, Dad.”
I thought about the other two times he’d written something to me, those two notes in the box under the bed at home. One was when he asked me to prepare the conference room for an important meeting. “The pitcher of water with the oranges floating in it was a nice touch.” They were lemons.
The third time was when he borrowed my only homestead credit after my divorce. “I, George Bellings, owe Cynthia Bellings $3500.”
He never did pay it back.
COPPER ROSE perforates the edges of the page while writing unusual stories from the heart of Wisconsin. Her work has appeared in various anthologies and online journals. She also understands there really is something about pie. Connect with her at https://julieceger.wordpress.com/copper-rose-author/ and on Facebook: Author Copper Rose