Charlie stared at the computer screen. He attempted to focus on the problem at hand but it seemed his ability to reason and concentrate had shut down. He knew he had to do it as his financial stability depended on action now, but no matter how he forced himself to stare at that screen inspiration eluded him. Beside him were the printouts of all bills accumulated on line over the past two months. Had it been that long since his companion of fifty years had succumbed after months of agonizing battle with dreaded cancer? His total focus during those months had been on Ada. No effort was too much to attend to her comfort, no expense too much to care for her needs. He’d realized when the doctor delivered that terrible news he’d miss her dreadfully. Looking back on his life with her he’d not been a good husband and father. So, his frantic activity from diagnosis to death was an attempt to compensate. Wasted years!
Charlie was on a pension but had managed to scrape up savings over his lifetime labouring in the building trade. He was on a wage most of that time but had managed afterhours contracts to build his nest egg. Those savings had been protected for the time he knew he and Ada would need to draw down and supplement their pension as they got older and needed more money when medical expenses increased. He’d watched in alarm as those funds had been drawn down during the time of Ada’s struggle with cancer.
He was ashamed to admit as he saw those funds rapidly deplete feeling like cutting back on additional expenses necessary to provide hospice care for Ada. What would happen to him when he eventually succumbed? Who would arise to help him out at that time? He and Ada did have three children. His oldest son Rick was working abroad and successful and had not been in touch with him since Ada’s death. He thought with regret of the stern way he’d brought up his children and how each in turn had flown the coop to marry and move far away from them. He learned after Ada’s death the children had maintained contact with their mother and each other, but there was a resentment toward him that prevented communication. He mouthed their names in the hope they’d feel his need of comfort now. Rick, Diane and Denise had attended the funeral and shed tears then left with just formal goodbyes.
Goodbye! It sounded so final. Oh, he could sell the house, it was worth a lot of money now. He’d move into a retirement resort and his mates Frank and Bill would help him with the move. When that was done he’d be able to repay all his debts and have enough to supplement pension until he followed Ada to the grave. These men had worked together closely until their retirement and had kept in touch. It was wonderful to have friends, but now he needed comfort from his own flesh and blood, but grimly agreed in his mind he didn’t deserve their love the way he’d treated them as they grew up.
He shook his head and entered the last of the bills in his personal accounts on line. The payables auto calculated to $4,360. That included overdue bills for his power and telephone. He’d second reminders on most of them with the usual OVERDUE in red stamped on them. They’d have to wait. He’d restrict his supermarket expenses and pay the overdue over time. He thought of making an appointment with the bank for a temporary loan and reached for the phone to punch in the telephone number he’d just looked up on line. The line was dead. That’s right, they’d informed him they were cutting the line until he paid. He’d need to deal with that urgently.
The emotion from his loss of Ada and the predicament he was in burst forth like a flood. Charlie sobbed and felt his way down the corridor to the bedroom. He needed to rest and clear his head. He wished he were dead. At least he’d arranged a plot beside Ada and his funeral was already paid in advance so what was the point of living. At least the kids won’t have to worry about that when I go he thought. The stress was intense and within a few moments of reaching his bed he was asleep. When he awoke he realized he’d slept through the afternoon, night and it was mid-morning next day.
Charlie headed for the bathroom, shaved and showered. He felt better after a sleep and clean up and dressed quickly. He’d have a quick breakfast and head to the bank to see if he could convince them to give him a temporary loan. He wondered what kind of security they’d demand, his house? How could he sell it if there was a bank pledge on it? He soon found the answer. The bank was not interested in his problem or the work it would take to prepare legal documents attaching that loan to his property. He needed a friend to consult with and thought of visiting Frank or Bill. They’d probably be out fishing so maybe it would be better to wait until evening when they were likely to be home.
He sat re-reading last month’s magazines. They’d stopped deliveries of current issues due to non-payment of monthly accounts. Reading tired him so he headed for the bedroom again and lay down. He was just reaching the twilight zone before sleep when there was a loud noise at the front door. It took him a while to realize it was not a dream, someone was there at the door.
Getting up slowly he checked himself in the mirror to see whether he was presentable then shuffled down the hallway to the front door while knocking continued. He unlatched the inner door and opened it to peer through the screen door. He gasped in surprise!
“Denise?” His hands shook as he opened the screen door to let her in. Then the agony of his loss of Ada and sight of a child he never expected to see again broke him. He wept loud and uncontrollably.
Denise turned and beckoned over her shoulder then entered to pick up her father sitting on the floor. The resentment of her childhood evaporated at the sight of this tragic man. He was only a shell of the powerful figure she remembered from childhood now. She picked him up and placed her arm around him leading him to his favourite lounge chair. As she did that Rick and Diane entered looking around apprehensively. They took in the scene, and their father’s plight awakened feelings of family re-connection. Resentment fled, empathy entered.
“So, he really did love Mom! I’ve always wondered about that.” Rick murmured to Deane as they entered.
They approached Denise who was rocking her father in his favourite chair. Then emotion overtook them too. Both Rick and Diane moved quickly to the chair and gave their father a hug. Rick cleared his throat.
“We’ve come to see what your needs are Dad. You mentioned at Mom’s funeral you were thinking of selling the home and moving into a retirement resort. I’ve taken time out to see how I can help. Diane and Denise have a couple of days off before they fly back to their family. We’ll have a family conference tomorrow when you’re rested and ready to deal with that move plan.”
Diane and Denise prepared food and they all ate together. Then shunted their father back to bed and began assessing what needed to be done immediately to clean house and wash clothes. They took off in Rick’s rental car to fill the pantry and refrigerator with food again. Rick went to the office and began systematically assessing what needed to be done. In the process, he discovered those overdue bills. One by one he used his cell phone and credit cards to settle debts and arrange for reconnection and resumption of deliveries. Each of them moved into their old rooms that evening after an enjoyable time catching up as siblings.
Next day Charlie sat with his children at the breakfast table. Rick had prepared an agenda for discussion in that he and his sisters would have to return to their families soon. There was much to discuss, much to be done in a short time.
Charlie with deep emotion apologized to his children for their stern and seemingly unloving upbringing by their father. Rick raised his hand to interrupt.
“As of yesterday, the girls and I have moved on. Let’s enjoy each other’s company Dad, and I think you need to move on too. Let’s just be family from now on without any reference to what happened between us in the past. Is that OK?”
Charlie nodded as the girls reached over to pat his hand.
Rick continued, “Having come back from abroad I’ve realized how much I’ve missed my country and its unique culture. So, I phoned my wife Jill last night and she’s excited at the prospect of us moving home again. It will take months to work out as I have contractual obligations abroad. But I’m prepared to make you an offer for this house Dad. It does require refurbishment and I thought you may want to reserve a place in that retirement resort of your choice with the money I give you with lots left over for you to enjoy your time there. In the meantime, I was wondering if you like the idea if you’d be prepared to supervise the refurbishment according to Jill’s preferences?
Charlie was overwhelmed and just nodded his head in agreement. The girls gave their brother a hug. They were excited at the prospect of he and Jill returning. A close bond was forming that hadn’t been present before.
Charlie was sad to see Diane and Denise leave two days later and his son Rick a week after that. There was a new spring in his step. He still missed Ada terribly, but the miracle of reengagement with his children gave him a reason to live.
© Copyright Ian Grice 2017 All rights reserved
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