It was my mom’s 60th birthday and I was traveling to my hometown not really for the occasion but for an important work meeting. It was a good coincidence, I thought to myself and I could now easily camouflage my intention and make mom believe that I was visiting her on her special day. It is not that I didn’t want to, it is just that I was too occupied with my work and aspirations.
As I sat with her I realized how frail she had become over time and my cousins were unrecognizable, most of them had transformed from hip adolescents to responsible parents. Everyone greeted me with the same familiar warmth and love.
I noticed my neighbor Mr. Bennett, in whose house I spent most of my childhood days learning carpentry and baseball and listening to stories which sent a chill up my spine or made me laugh till my stomach would hurt.
He was the only male influence in my life when I was a child. I had not seen my dad as he left home when my mom was expecting me. Mr. Bennett looked at me from the corner of the room and gave me a toothless grin. Memories of our togetherness and joy flashed on the screen of my mind. He lived alone all his life. He had never married and I was probably his only companion and best friend. As I was growing up, my visits started to lessen and after graduation when I walked out of home I never really cared to check on him. I had a guilt somewhere when I met him in the party. I walked up to him. He held my hand and was genuinely happy to see me. He said, “You have grown up to be a handsome and successful boy and that makes me very happy.” I showed him pictures of my current life , my lavish apartment, my fancy office , my brand new car. He stopped me and said, “These are things son, tell me about the relations you have added.” I had never really given it too much of importance and had survived a couple of breakups owing to the packed work schedule. I excused myself after sometime and left the rendezvous to attend the business meeting.
A few days later I received a call from my mom that Mr. Bennett had passed on and few unmindful tears escaped from my eyes. She informed me that he has left a golden box for me. I immediately remembered the golden box which was always kept in his study and he referred to it as his secret treasure. I tried hard to see what was inside it, but he always managed to successfully hide it from me.
When the box arrived at my place, I opened it excitedly, there inside the box was a beautiful, ancient pocket watch hanging from a golden chain along with a note which tugged at my heart and I allowed myself to cry. It wrote, “Thank you, son, for giving me your time and the priceless gift of fatherhood.” I read it and realised how grateful I was to him for being a father figure in my life. I only wish I could have expressed it when he was there with me not knowing that it was the last time I was seeing him. I wish I could have hugged him and thanked him for the many things he did for me and with me. The time he taught me how to ride the bike and then we would race together to the pastry shop where he would buy me my favourite blueberry muffins. He would kill the spiders that scared me and would still let me behave as the little super hero in front of all. He never embarrassed me and taught me how to shave when I entered my teens, he never hesitated educating me about things that were awkward to talk about, he made it so candid and easy for me. I remembered all his stories ended in a lesson for me and so it did now.
I spoke to the air that embraced me, “Thanks, Dad.” A gush of emotions drenched me and I allowed it to flow.
I now understand the importance of adding relations more than things to have a rich, opulent & meaningful life.
Happy Father’s Day !
* This story/ was originally published in 123greetingsCom by me as alias for Editor Bob;
Story as told to me by a friend, names changed.