Mama, what happened to Father?
He couldn’t stay with us, little one. He had to go.
Tell me a story, Mama. Tell me about when he left.
I have to tell you a new one. I never remember all the details.
How could she not remember when her husband left her alone with a little child? How could she not tell me what she remembered?
I want to know the real story, Mama.
I’ll tell you later. Let’s go to the park!
Always deflecting or coming up with something new. When I was tiny, the stories were fantastic, dragons and knights, my father always the hero, but there was always another kingdom to save, more people who needed him. Those became harder as I grew older. I needed him, too. The stories changed, then, to disappearance from kidnapping or on a plane that was shot down, a huge variety of ways that my father ended up unable to come home. She was fair about one thing; she told me she was making things up and imagining the stories. She never pretended to be telling the truth.
Mama, you are dying. I need to know what happened to Father.
Isn’t that why you became a journalist? To satisfy all of your curiosity? And you married such a beautiful girl who happens to have all the security clearances you could wish for. What have you found out?
He disappeared, Mama. He just walked out the door and never came back. No contact, no sightings, no body. No one knows. You know something, though. I know you do.
She turned her head away.
It’s better that you don’t know, little one.
She would say nothing else on the subject.
After she died, I went through all of her things, carefully looking for any clues as to what she meant. I found a letter. It was written in handwriting somewhat like mine, but I did not recognize it.
You know why I had to go. I hope this keeps both of you safe from the worst of what is coming. Please don’t ever tell him. I don’t want this darkness in his life.
I still don’t know. I still can’t find him. I am old now, and my grown children sometimes ask about their grandfather. I tell them stories just as my mother told me. I don’t know what else to do. They got their wish, but I carry a different darkness. I don’t know half of my past, and I never will.
I gave kgwaite this prompt: I like long walks, especially when they’re taken by people who annoy me. – Fred Allen