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The Old Man

The Old Man

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Published by api-3738890
A very short story about a man dealing with his partner's father's illness.
A very short story about a man dealing with his partner's father's illness.

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Published by: api-3738890 on Oct 15, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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When you\u2019ve known someone for such a long time, as I do Alex, you begin to forget the
little things about him that you one found unavoidable. Like the little scare above his
upper lip. Thinking about it now, I remember how I loved to kiss that scar, to taste it with
my tongue. But after a while his face just becomes another face. Don\u2019t get me wrong, I
still love him. More than I could ever love someone. More than I\u2019ve ever loved myself.
But still, you see that face everyday and it just becomes, I don\u2019t know, almost a part of
you. Like, when I look at Alex I\u2019m looking at myself. You just take things for granted.

When I arrived at the hospital that night I remember the first thing I noticed was
that scar. How bright it looked compared to the rest of his pale face. I walked into the
waiting room and he looked up at me, those sad, doe eyes that were pleading for me to
take away the pain. I went to him as I always do when he needs me. And I held him and
let him cry to me. I tried to take away his pain. The nurse said his father couldn\u2019t have
any visitors at the moment; it was too late and he was sleeping anyway. So Alex and I sat
out in the waiting room alone but together, unsure of weather we should stay or go.

I never knew his father that well. He and I just didn\u2019t really get along. \u201cThe
Wife.\u201d That\u2019s what he called me, much to Alex\u2019s displeasure. \u201che\u2019s not my wife Pop.
He\u2019s my\u2026\u201d and the sentence would trail off and everyone would pretend that they hadn\u2019t
noticed. After the stroke, after we had opened up our house to him and he had seen me as
more than \u201cThe Wife\u201d he began to call me by my name. I became his personal servant:
\u201cRyan do this, Ryan get me that.\u201d I didn\u2019t mind. It made Alex smile. He\u2019d still call me
\u201cThe Wife,\u201d but now he smiled when he said it. Sometimes he\u2019d wink at me with his
good eye to show that he knew. I\u2019d smile back, not quite sure I got it, but I\u2019d smile
anyway because that\u2019s polite, and it\u2019s Alex\u2019s father.

But I\u2019m getting off the subject. I was talking about those little things you forget
to notice. Like the scar. Like the wink in the old man\u2019s eye. That night, after we go
home from the hospital, Alex and I got ready for bed. I pulled off my pants and
undershirt and laid down on our king size bed in my boxers. I watched Alex as he
washed his face in the mirror. He caught me watching him and got embarrassed. I
smiled, and saw my smile in the reflection.

He finished his bathroom chores and came to me, turning on the light beside the bed and turning off the light that hung from the ceiling. I took his bare chest in my arms and hugged him. He looked at me and smiled a sad smile. I will never forget what he said to me then. Looking at me with those lost eyes, \u201cIt\u2019ll never be the same.\u201d

\u201cWhat\u2019ll never be the same?\u201d I asked.
\u201cEverything,\u201d he replied and then was lost in a mass of exhausted cries. It\u2019s hard
to almost lose your father. I did what I could for him then. I did my best.

The weeks that followed were harder in ways we had never anticipated. We were
fine at giving him his meds and taking his blood pressure. We became pros at doing his
insulin shots for him and checking his blood sugar. All the stuff we thought would be so
difficult was easy as pie. The hard part was the silence: the three of us in the living room
watching \u201cThe Maury Show\u201d, not because we wanted to, but because it would fill the
void. Alex became self-conscious about \u201cus\u201d or \u201cthe relationship\u201d as it was now termed,
around his dad. And I felt like a stranger in my own house.

Those first few weeks, before he could really speak and when Alex had to go back to work and I was left alone with the old man, were the worst. I\u2019ve never been much of a talker, and now I had to hold up two sides of the conversation. I\u2019d talk about what I was

reading in the newspaper, and then I\u2019d look at him for some kind of sign that I had found
something that might interest him. He just stared at me. He never smiled.

Once his therapy got underway (both physical and psychological) he began to
open up. \u201cI don\u2019t give a damn about that Bitch Joan Binea. Tell me about the game last
night.\u201d But then one day he took me by surprise. He looked at me right in the eye for
one thing, that was something he never did, and then he said my name, \u201cRyan, tell me
about my son.\u201d Those were the words he said to me. \u2018Tell me about my son.\u2019 What do
you say to that? What did he want to know? I was silent, dumb struck. But he filled the
silence again, saying more in one moment then he\u2019d ever said to me before or after.

\u201cI know you and I don\u2019t get along all that great. But you gotta see things from
where I\u2019m coming from. I never expected my son to be a\u2026a\u2026well, one of those. I was
expecting a big wedding and grandkids and cards at Christmastime tell me about the little
brats\u2019 school plays and little league games. I never thought my son would be gay.\u201d

I have to say, I did smile is spite of myself when I heard him say it. It was
probably the only time in his life that he ever spoke that word, and when I told Alex later
that night he started to cry. But me and the old man talked that day about a lot of things.
I told him how Alex and I wanted have a wedding, or something similar, but we didn\u2019t
know how the family would take it. How we wanted to adopt a kid one day. Make him a
grandfather. We swapped stories about Alex and I showed him pictures we\u2019d taken from
our trip to Disney World. For the first time I felt like me and the old man were part of the
same family. I finally felt accepted into his life, and in turn into his son\u2019s. I looked at
him that night as I was getting his bed time insulin ready and I said to him, \u201cToday\u2019s been
fun Mr. Breen.\u201d

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