Summary: Andrew wonders if his father felt this way when he was born. One-shot.
A/N: I got the idea for this story from listening to “Still Fighting It” by Ben Folds. I’m kind of obsessed with that song, and as I was listening to it the other day I started thinking about Andy and his dad. Thus, this story was born. I hope you enjoy it.
Good Morning, Son
I remember the first time I held him that morning in the hospital, under the bright fluorescent lights, with the heart monitor beeping steadily in the background. The nurse, an older woman with graying hair and purple scrubs, lifted him from the changing table and walked over to where I was standing, hands stuffed awkwardly into the pockets of my jeans.
“Do you want to hold him?” she asked.
I hesitated, but not because the answer was no. The nurse, who was as old as my mother and had probably seen thousands of new fathers over the years, offered a tender smile.
“It’s okay,” she assured me, shifting him in her arms so that she could pass him to me. “Just keep a hand behind his head. You won’t drop him.”
He was lighter than I expected. He weighed just shy of seven pounds, but it felt more like seven ounces. His hair was still wet from the bath, and his skin was flushed a deep, raw pink. I could see his nostrils moving in and out as he breathed, could see his lips purse together as if in anger. He was so tiny, swimming in white blankets.
The nurse reached forward to tuck a piece of blanket under my arm, and suddenly his eyes opened and he looked right at me. Big blue eyes, like mine only paler. His thin, pink lips parted just barely, and he looked so real that I could hardly stand it.
“Say hello to your daddy,” the nurse told him.
His eyes widened in response, and I wondered if my father felt this way the first time he held me. If his words were stuck to the back of his throat, if his legs were vibrating so hard that it felt like they were going to give out on him. If he was scared that he was holding me too tightly or that he was going to drop me or that he wasn’t ready for this, not by a long shot. If he loved me so much that it was almost painful, that ache in the pit of his stomach.
“Hi,” I told him, and I swear he smiled.
My father died on a warm morning in May, just three days before his sixtieth birthday. A heart attack from those bacon and egg sandwiches he loved so much. My mother found him on the couch in the living room, remote still clutched in his hand, while onscreen, the Cubs celebrated a victory over the Tigers.
On the day of the funeral, it rains. Not too much, but just enough to turn dirt into mud that clings to the bottoms of our shoes as we step out of our cars and file through the cemetery. Even though she hates being treated like an old woman, my mother lets me hold an umbrella for her as we walk, slips her hand into the crook of my elbow.
My father’s brother is there, and so are his cousins. Six stern-faced, broad-shouldered men in black suits and dark ties, rain dripping from their faces as they walk. They lower the casket onto the ground and step back, folding their hands stoically against their stomachs.
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…”
The rain slows to a weak drizzle, and the sun comes out, but only for a few minutes. The air is heavy and damp, and when I breathe I feel my throat close up. The priest finishes his prayer, and everyone starts walking back towards the row of cars lined up along the curb. My mother squeezes my elbow and kisses me on the cheek, releasing me from her grip.
“We don’t need the umbrella anymore,” she tells me, smiling. Without saying anything else, she turns and walks back to the car, alone, head held high.
I watch her go, and I wonder if my father felt this way when his father died. If it rained even though the sun was out, if his feet felt heavy, and not just because of the mud. If he held his mother’s hand, for his benefit as much as hers. If he felt a little bit sad and a little bit lost, but mostly angry, for so many reasons.
I turn to look, and he’s already there, clutching at my leg. His light brown hair is plastered to his head, and the bottoms of his pant legs are covered in mud. I reach down to pick him up, and he buries his face in the crook of my neck, releasing a warm sigh. He smells like grass and maple syrup and rain.
“Hi,” he tells me, and I smile.