An elderly man struggles with old memories. Writer's Cramp winner.
|Michael stepped into the lobby and waved to his father, who sat slumped in a large easy chair by the fireplace. A light blanket hung loosely around his shoulders.
“How're you doing, dad?” Michael leaned over and gave the old man a hug.
“I'm still alive.” He scowled as he said it, but Michael knew his father well enough to look for a slight glint of humor in his eyes.
“Are they still treating you well?” Michael asked that same question at every visit, and he always received a slightly sarcastic answer.
“Depends on how you define 'well.' That good-looking nurse you saw last time used to call me 'Albert'. You know, a nice personal touch. But now she just calls me 'sir' or 'Mr. Reynolds'.”
“Why do you think that is? Did you say something to offend her?”
“Me?” Albert huffed and shook a wrinkled finger at Michael. “Have you ever known me to say anything offensive toward anyone?”
“Well, there was that time with Aunt Sa-.”
“Don't even remind me of that old biddy. She deserved everything I said to her.”
Michael nodded in agreement. “I suppose so. I guess she was the exception.”
“I miss your mother.”
The abrupt statement jolted Michael. His mother had been dead for fifty years, and his father had gone on to marry twice more. The second marriage had lasted twenty-two years before Albert's wife left him for a much-younger man. And his third marriage had ended just a few months prior, when his wife had passed away in the same rest home where Albert now spent his days and nights.
Michael stared across the room at the chair where he'd last seen his mother alive. “I miss her too,” he told his father. “But she's been gone for a long time. And you've had a pretty full life since then.”
“Maybe so. But you know what?” Albert stared into space for a moment. “I can't even remember what she looked like. I just wish I could remember what she looked like.”
“I thought you had an old photo of her in your room.”
“It was on the table by the window.”
Albert looked puzzled. “That's not your mother. That's …. that's ….. you know? I'm not really sure who that is.”
Michael reached for his father's hand. “Come on,” he said. “Let's go take a look at it.”
“I'm not really sure who that is,” Albert repeated as he rose and shuffled along beside his son.
They walked slowly down the hall to Albert's room, where, on the table by the window, stood an old photo of Michael's mother. Michael gently placed his arm around Albert's shoulders. “That's mom, dad. It probably was taken about a year after you two married.”
Albert stared at the photo for several seconds before approaching it, ever so slowly, as though unsure of what he was seeing. He carefully picked the picture up and stared intently at the face. After nearly a minute, he pressed the photo against his chest and began to cry.
Written for a Writer's Cramp challenge to use the phrase in bold above.