The Things That Matter

“Life was simpler back then,” said Daddy.  “The ‘fifties – they were the good years.  The best years…”

His head rested against the several thin pillows the nurse had left.  He spoke softly, his voice rising just barely above the muted sounds coming from the room’s TV.  Looking at his face, a small lump began to form in my throat. It had been that way off and on ever since we’d gotten word the chemotherapy wasn’t working.

“Tell me more, Daddy,” I said, stroking his hand.

My father’s hands. 

I’d always loved those hands. They’d once been strong, forever busy with some task or another. Gentle, too, whether he was caressing one of his babies’ heads or comforting one of our several dogs.

Now those hands were still.  One, light as a feather, rested securely in mine.  Safe.

I’m here, Daddy, I’m here…

He gave me a tired smile. “Well, Janie, back then, we didn’t need much to entertain ourselves. It ain’t like that today.” To illustrate his point, he nodded in the direction of the TV, its screen flashing images of some reality show.

Daddy had never been much of a one for TV.  I guess that’s because his own reality was sweet enough – a sweetness that included me, mama and my three little brothers. He used to say he didn’t have time to sit and stare at some box. He had a farm to run and a family to clothe and feed.

Daddy was the rock of our little family. He spent his prime farming a small patch of land nestled in the hills of Charlottesville, Virginia. Like his Pa before him, he spent most of his waking hours on an old John Deere. In the evening, after putting the machinery away, he’d sit down to a late dinner, too exhausted to do more than eat and then go to bed.

Even so, he always had a moment to kiss us kids, ask how our day was, and remind us to help Mama with the chores.

Sunday was the best day of the week for our family because that was the day Daddy would put aside his farm work. It was the Sabbath, and he and Mama always made sure we were cleaned up and dressed in our best clothes.

Sundays meant mornings spent in the small yellow church not far from Tom Jefferson’s house. We’d listen to Reverend Gibson and get our dose of weekly religion. I suspect Daddy would have rather slept in on those Sunday mornings, considering he was up at the crack of dawn every other day of the week, but Mama was determined. We would go to church on Sundays – and we would go as a family.

There wasn’t much Daddy wouldn’t do for Mama, and the same was true for her. They were a loving pair, and they never seemed to run out of things to say to each other. It stayed that way for nearly half a century, until Mama passed away one wintry morning ten years ago.

I was living in New York when the call came that Daddy’s cancer was back.  Clinton, my youngest brother, said things were bad and if I could come, now was the time.  The urge to go home, to see Daddy, to view my beloved Blue Ridge mountains and everything they stood for, nearly drove me to my knees.

You see, I have a lot of good memories.  Memories of Sunday afternoons spent playing Scrabble on the front porch with my brothers.  Daddy and Mama would be holding hands, slowly swaying back and forth on an old porch swing.  That was life for us… enjoying each other’s company, our home, and talking about the things that made up our days.  And the mountains, those beautiful mountains, they were the peaceful backdrop we lived our lives against.

Guess Daddy was right: we never needed much in the way of entertainment. We had each other.

“You know what your Mama and I used to do for fun when we were dating?” Daddy’s voice cut short my musings, recalling me to the hospital room where the two of us now kept company. It sure was a long way from the old front porch.

“We’d borrow my Pa’s old yellow station wagon and drive out to the small airfield on the outskirts of town.

“That little airfield ain’t there no more; it wasn’t very big, a couple of landing strips was all. We’d park by the side of the road just as dusk was falling, and watch the last of the planes coming in.”

image

I grinned. “Gee, that sounds exciting.”

“Damned right it was,” he said, a slight smile on his face at my teasing. “Weren’t nobody around but me and your Mama – and those planes. We’d sit there sharing kisses and stories. Lil always was one for telling stories. She’d spin some good ones, too, stuff about people and far-off places.”

He closed his eyes. “You know, if I try real hard, I can still see those planes coming in for a landing… I can hear Lil’s voice, remember those kisses as nighttime approached.

“Such good years…”

Daddy opened his eyes and looked at me. “Guess you got your love for telling stories from Lil.”

“I guess I did, Daddy.”

It’s true. From Mama I got my love of story telling, and I’m glad Mama lived long enough to see my name on the front cover of a book.

But Daddy?

From Daddy I got my heart, and my understanding that reality isn’t something we see on a television screen. Reality, the best kind, is being with the people you love, working for them, working with them. It’s the everyday stuff that makes up our lives.

It’s who we love, whose hand we take the time and trouble to hold.  It’s what really matters in this world.

I watched Daddy close his eyes again. “I’m awful tired, Janie. If it’s all the same to you, I think I’m gonna close my eyes for a while.”

I lifted his hand and kissed its palm. “You go ahead and rest. I’ll be here when you wake up.”

And, Daddy… thank you.

__________________
Word Count: 1,032
Author’s Note: This story was written in response to Keith Channing’s photo challenge, found at KeithKreates
(here).

About Kate Loveton

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time... ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?
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32 Responses to The Things That Matter

  1. Pingback: Kreative Kue – 3 | Keith Kreates

  2. clarechanning says:

    Oh my goodness Kate! Keith told me that I should read this but I’m afraid I’ve only just managed to get around to it.
    Such a beautiful story, I am actually sat here with tears in my eyes – Keith said you are a good writer and he isn’t wrong x

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Clare, I am so pleased to ‘meet’ you! Thank you for the kind words – I am so glad you enjoyed the story. ❤ I have great respect for your husband's writing and his photography skills. It was certainly his wonderful photograph that birthed this story. x

  3. Pingback: Boom, zoom, writing room – and a rather delicious pudding | Our parking space on the Information Super-highway

  4. Very sweet. I love those days, though I know them only through books. I think it was better for kids than what the postmodern age offers, in many ways. Lovely story, Kate.

  5. Oh wow, this was beautiful Kate! ❤

    Such a touching story and one that made me tear up a little. You have a wonderful way of reaching deep into the emotions of your readers and really making them feel what your characters are feeling.

    Superb work as always, my dear! ❤

  6. markbialczak says:

    Where you took the yellow wagon at the outskirts of the little runway is precious, Kate. Oh, so heart-tugging. If only we all could have a final chapter that could flip back to a start like this.

    And, well, hey, how about our BIRDS! Those first two games were amazing. The bats are alive. Keep it up on Motor City, I hope. Strasburg let me down, but this Mets fan is now rooting for an Orioles-Nationals Beltway Series. How cool would that be. (The Syracuse Chiefs are the Nats Triple-A affiliate, but I’d still root for the Birds.)

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Mark – thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂 And, yeah, how about those BIRDS! ‘Amazing’ is the word for the first two games – Orioles Magic on full display! The Tigers are a great team, too; you can’t count them out. A Beltway World Series is my heart’s fondest wish. Thanks for cheering on the O’s, ‘hon.’ 🙂 (Anyone with any familiarity with Baltimore knows ‘hon’ is the key word in everyone’s vocabulary there! 😀 )

  7. What a warm and heart-felt story. I almost thought you were talking about your own father…maybe you were?

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Noelle! Actually, the only part that was autobiographical was that my father once told me he and my mother used to go to a small airport and watch the planes landing and taking off. I grew up in the city, and my dad never farmed.

      But one thing is true: I loved my father. In fact, I love him even more now because he is no longer with me and I miss the times I took for granted, the missed opportunities. I think he would have gotten a kick out of seeing my blog. 🙂

  8. Deb says:

    Kate, this is beautiful!

  9. Lovely, meaningful, thoughtful story. Nice to meet you! (through our friend from ‘Let’s Cut the Crap.’ 🙂

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thank you! I took a quick look at your blog and can’t wait to explore it more indepth. :). You have some wonderful content. AND it is a pleasure to meet you as well.

  10. W. K. Tucker says:

    This is a loaded one, Kate; it almost made me cry, and I am not a cryer. I see both my Mama and Daddy in this story–the love they had for each other, and for all their seven children. They didn’t live to see my first short story published, but I went to the cemetery where they rest side by side and told them.
    This story is so good it has the ring of truth to it. Beautiful . . .

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Kathy, I love that you went to the cemetery and shared the news of your first story being published with your parents. Thank you for letting me know how much you enjoyed the story – and that it had the ring of truth to it. That means a lot to me.

  11. willow1945 says:

    Sweet and touching, Kate; all about what really matters in life. I liked this very much.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the story, Willow. These things really the things that matter in life: loving and being loved, and not only in the romantic sense of the word. 🙂

  12. Linda says:

    This sounds so much like how my sister(W.K. Tucker) and I grew up; only we were in the hills outside Van Buren, Arkansas. Our Daddy has been gone almost 10 years now and I still miss his strong yet gentle hands every day. This felt like a story straight from your heart Kate. Beautiful.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Linda, so nice to hear from you! I’m very glad that the story connected with you. Some of the story is based on things my mother and father shared with me, but the rest just seemed to come to me. It’s funny that when you sit down and start to write a story, people (characters) ‘show up’ that you never realized were patiently awaiting their turn for center stage. That is what I like about writing: it is such an adventure! 😀

  13. kisses and airplanes. Nice final memory. Great job, Kate!

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Cindy. My mother and father, when they were dating, used to go to a small airport and watch the planes land and take off. It was a different time! 😀 While this story isn’t autobiographical, I did take that old memory as a starting point for this story.

      Thanks for the terrific encouragement!

  14. Loved this, really enjoyed the feel of realness to it 🙂

  15. Tender and with a definite ring of authenticity. In this kind of work there’s always a danger of the maudlin creeping in but in the hands of an able writer such as you, Kate, that just doesn’t happen.
    I love every line and moment here.

    Best Wishes
    john

    • Kate Loveton says:

      John, thank you for your remark about the danger of cheap sentiment in a story in which someone is slowly dying. I was very concerned that I didn’t make the story too over-the-top in terms of the emotions Janie was experiencing.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the story. 🙂

  16. That just sounds so real, Kate. What a charming story – sucked me in from the very beginning and didn’t let go. It left me wanting more: did he wake up again, orwas that his grand finale? Superb.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thanks, Keith. Once I saw your photo, I knew where I was going with the story, and I heard the voice of Janie and her father quite clearly. Thanks for the wonderful prompt.

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