Father and Son: A Brief Fiction

by jimowensjr

“I don’t know what else to do,” Grayson said.


He looked at the face of the man to whom he had always turned in times like this, waiting for reassurance. The deep furrows of life, plowed by both joy and sorrow, stretched across the man’s forehead, fading into wisps of thinning gray hair.  Grayson’s father had always been a man of few words, always pausing before he spoke, as if he were listening for some metaphysical prompting.


Though most of his father’s eyesight had been stolen by time, the man’s vision was still piercing.  And though his work had robbed him of most of his hearing, the man often claimed it was the best thing that had ever happened to him.  “Turn these damn hearing aids off and the noise and distractions of life fade into a kind of white noise that will let a man think.”


Grayson waited as long as he could and finally prompted his father.  “What do you think I should do, Dad?”


Jack Johnson had always been a man of action.  A man who set goals and made lists and achieved things that had seemed effortless to his son and just about everyone else.  His insights were keen, his solutions pragmatic.  So when he finally spoke, Grayson felt like he was getting very bad news from his doctor.


“There’s nothing to more to be done.”


Grayson was desperate. Aching.  Even angry.  He wanted answers.  He needed answers.  There had to be some way to fix this, bend things to his own will, some path out of this wilderness.  Now he was even more bewildered, thought maybe if he just explained the situation better his father would understand and then offer some morsel of wisdom that would set his world right again.  But before he could speak his father continued.


“Sometimes, you’ve just done all you can do.  And you have to let go.  You have to stop striving to fix everything.  You gotta realize you can actually make things worse if you don’t.  Doesn’t mean you won’t be hurt, or angry, or confused about it still.  It just means you accept things as they are.  Even accept the fact that you’re hurt or angry or confused sometimes.  That’s where the peace is.”


Grayson’s shoulders sagged and he blew out a long deep breath, thick with exhaustion.


“People have a lot of buts in their lives when they should have more ands.”


“What the hell does that mean, Dad?”


“It means that its possible to feel two things at the same time.  You can let something go and be hurt.  You can be disappointed, even be betrayed, and still let it go. You can’t always hurry peace.  You have to keep acknowledging the pain, make friends with it,  to really let it go.”


Grayson thought he was beginning to understand.  A little.


“When your Momma got sick, I was angry.  Scared.  Wondered how I would live without her.  She knew she was going to die and so did I.  There was nothing to be done.  We could have chosen anger and argued, but she took care of herself or, but it’s not fair.  Truth is, we did some of that.  Somehow we figured out all that we needed to say was she was sick and we were hurt; and scared and that somehow we were going to live while she was dying.  We let go of struggling to keep her alive.  There were times when we were good at it and there were times when we weren’t.  Struggling against the reality of things just made things more difficult.”


Grayson always felt comforted by his father’s words.  They had always been a calm harbor in the rough seas of life.  He felt better for having told the man about his struggle, but was still longing for a solution.


“I’m gonna have to think about this, Dad.  I think I see what you mean.  But I’m still confused.”


His father smiled.


“You mean you think you see what I mean and you’re still confused.  They’re both true, son.  Nothing wrong with that, just the way things are sometimes.”