I passed by your place this afternoon while on business. I honestly didn’t recognize where I was at the time. You know how driving can be when you’re just going along and looking at the clouds graying the sky and focused on nothing at all. But then the road went through a small bend and came into a stretch of farmland and something tingled in the back of my mind. Some memory triggered.
I almost caused an accident, funny enough. I looked up and saw the dirt lane leading to your place and kinda slammed on the brakes for no reason at all. The guy behind me had to swerve a bit and he honked and flipped me off. Rightfully so. I pulled onto the shoulder with a little bit of shame and put my hazards on. Then I sat and looked.
At first I wondered if you were even there anymore. The roof for the barn has completely caved and the trees lining the lane are dead. I guess they could be dormant for the season, but they looked dead to me. Maybe I’m projecting. Maybe I was listening to the words you used to say. Either way, I almost left there and then, but then I saw you. The truck was parked way down at the end, off to the side, and the hood was up and I saw a tiny little person, so far away, moving back and forth between the truck and the shop. That tiny little person was wearing a dingy tank-top, and I knew only you’d be stubborn enough to still wear that through the cold afternoons of winter.
I thought to come down and say hello, but I obviously didn’t. I was afraid, which is what you always wanted, or so you said. I was afraid of what you’d say. Our last few meetings were pretty ugly, and you swore the next would be the same. I guess even when it comes to son and father, the rules of war are still the same. Some allegiances go unforgiven. Some decisions are forever made.
But as I sat there and watched you from afar, as the gray sky thrust the dead limbs of trees we planted decades ago, back when mom was still alive and you used to smile, I realized what it was I was really afraid of. It wasn’t the hate or nastiness that you promised would come if you saw my face. It was the words you promised you’d say.
And so I drove on, because even then, already, those words were too difficult to process. And to think that after all this time, even now, I believed you’d still say them. You’d look at me and say exactly what you promised.
You’d look at me, your son, and say nothing.