DieselBy: L. Wilder
As a kid, I never knew much about my father—in fact, not a damn thing. I figured that my mother would’ve, at least, given me some small pieces of information about him if she thought he was even the slightest bit worth it. Instead, I convinced myself that he was just some deadbeat dad who’d left her in the lurch. A real man would’ve taken care of his kid regardless of what kind of relationship he had with his mother, so I decided he was better off kept in the shadows. He remained there the entire time I was growing up as I tried to pretend that neither his identity nor his actual existence bothered me. When I was three, Mom married Carl, and the pretending became a little easier. Carl was a good guy: kind-hearted and easygoing. He was older and already had kids from a previous marriage, so he had no problem adding one more. Together, they worked their asses off to make sure that I had everything I could possibly need, and I don’t mean by putting a roof over my head and clothes on my back, they loved me and made damn well sure I knew it.
Overall, I had it pretty good growing up. I was happy, but thoughts of my father were always in the back of my mind. Every time I looked in the mirror, I wondered if I had his eyes, his build, or if I looked anything like him at all. It was the nature of the beast to be curious about the man who had something to do with bringing me into this world. I often wondered if he would’ve been proud of how I’d turned out. By the time I had turned twenty-four, I figured I’d never find out, but that all changed when my mom got sick. She’d given her fight with cancer everything she had, but in the end, it got to be too much for her.
Things were looking bleak, and we all knew we could lose her at any time. After a long night at the shop, I came home and found Carl sitting on the front step with a beer in his hand. He wasn’t one to drink, so I knew it had been a bad night. “She’s been asking for you.”
I patted him on the back and started towards her room. When I walked in, it was completely silent as the nurse hovered over her; suddenly, I worried that I’d gotten there too late. “Is she …”
“No, sweetheart. She’s still holding on,” she warmly replied as she made her way over to me. “She’s been waiting for you to get home.”
Dread washed over me as I looked towards her bed. Seeing my mother’s frail, ashen body made my heart ache in a way that made it hard to breathe. I walked over to the edge of the bed and took her hand in mine; she was just skin and bones. I leaned towards her and whispered, “Hey, Momma. It’s me, Scotty.”
Her eyes slowly flickered opened as she turned to look at me. Her voice was weak and strained as she mumbled, “I need you to go … over to my jewelry box … Bring it to me.”
“Just … bring it to me, Scotty.”
“Okay, Momma.” I walked over to her dresser, retrieved the small wooden box, and brought it back to her. “Here. I’ve got it.”
“Open … the bottom drawer”—she watched me intently then took a deep breath—“and look under the fabric.”
I did as she asked and found an old photograph hidden beneath the bottom layer of red velvet fabric. Carefully, I picked it up and studied the picture of a man who was standing next to a motorcycle. He looked to be about my age with shaggy, blond hair, and he was wearing a leather vest and jeans. The photograph was faded and yellow and looked like it was at least twenty years old. As I sat there staring at it, it quickly dawned on me that it was a picture of my father. I flipped it over and noticed a name and address written on the back and then looked over to Mom. “Is this really him?”
“Yes, sweetheart. That’s your father.” She sighed. “You should know … he doesn’t know about you, Scotty.”
She placed her hand on mine as she continued, “I was young and naïve. He never loved me the way I loved him, Scotty. When he met Melinda ... he fell head over heels for her … and forgot all about me. I was embarrassed … I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that I was pregnant.”
“So, he never had any idea about me?”
“No, sweetheart. I left town … as soon as I started showing.” A tear trickled down her cheek. Listening to her say that he had no idea I was his son felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me.
“Why are you telling me this now?”
“I was wrong to keep you from him … It wasn’t fair to either of you. I was selfish, and I regret that now.” She gave my arm a squeeze. “You should go to him ... and tell him who you are … Tell him you’re my son.”
“It’s too late, now. Too much time has gone by.”
“It’s never too late to meet your father, Scotty.” Her voice trailed off as she turned and looked up at the ceiling. “I’m sorry I never told you sooner.”
“You did now. That’s all that matters,” I assured her and then leaned over to place a kiss on her forehead. “Now, get some rest. It’s been a long day.”