I never expected to be in this position so soon, saying goodbye to my son.
For our lucky #13 and last MFF entry, Rebecca Barray brings us this wonderfully poignant piece told from a father's perspective. Too many good dads go through what this dad has experienced, but I think the bittersweet end will keep you on the edge of your seat, as it did mine. Read on and be generous with comments!
A Child Needs His Father
I never expected to be in this position so soon, saying goodbye to my son. Only three short years had passed since Riley entered this world, making me a father. Cheryl and I had a lot of happy times. But as the months flew by, I saw the growing resentment in her. Finally, we decided to go our separate ways and she was even giving me full custody of Riley; she didn’t want a toddler holding her back anyway. Then, her mother told her how much child support they could share. And the worst part: she wanted to take him back home to live with her mother, twelve hours away. The judge awarded her full custody right away, saying simply, “A child needs his mother.” As though a father’s presence is superfluous. Her drug and alcohol use of late didn’t matter: A child needs his mother.
So now, here I sit, spending my last day with Riley at his favorite spot: the playground at the park. She calls from her cell phone, mumbling to me that she’s ten minutes away. My last minutes with him soar by. I memorize the tinkling of his laughter as he swings high into the air. His face lights up as he runs, jumping into my arms. I smell his baby shampoo, hugging his little body close. I catch him for probably the hundredth time as he flies down the slide.
Ten minutes turns into twenty, then thirty. I’m thrilled for the extra time. I spin Riley on the merry-go-round, slowly so he doesn’t get sick or fall off, but he loves it. We play hide and seek in the labyrinth of tunnels. I show him how to place his feet on the climbing wall, yet again, so he makes it to the top.
My phone rings again; it’s been almost an hour since I heard from Cheryl but the caller ID informs me that it’s not her. “Hello?” I sit down on the bench and watch Riley play in the sand.
“Mr. Simon?” a female voice asks.
“This is Officer Michaels with the West Virginia State Police. There’s been an accident.” Faces flash through my mind: Mom, Dad, and then, Cheryl. “Your wife, Cheryl Simon, crossed the median just east of mile marker 32 into the westbound lanes of I64 and collided, head-on, with a tractor trailer.” I don’t tell her that Cheryl is now my ex-wife. “She was taken to Charleston Area Medical Center for extensive injuries, but, I’m sorry to say, she passed away en route. Her injuries were just too severe.”
My eyes close and I remember Cheryl’s smile when she walked down the aisle at our wedding. I can see the tears slide down her cheek when she held Riley for the first time. I hear the excitement in her voice when she called me at work to tell me that Riley had said his first word, “Dada.” Then, I see her bloodshot eyes when I would get home from work. I hear the slur in her voice when she called earlier.
“Sir? I’m very sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you,” I say, suddenly back in the present. I finish up on the phone just as Riley runs over, grabbing my hand.
“Daddy? Will you catch me again? Please?” His little voice pleads with me, as though I might say no.
“Of course, Kiddo. Let’s go.” I’m so sorry it had to be this way, but I can’t help feeling grateful. I guess a child needs his father after all.
Rebecca Barray is a stay home mother of three (four if you count her extremely child-like husband). She loves fiction and spends her precious little spare time reading, writing, learning about writing, and thinking about writing. She also likes to take pictures.
Becca’s Blog is where she shares her goals, tips, and dreams. She’s also been known to share mommy moments, as well as bits of her latest fiction love: romance, poetry, or fantasy. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.