The Package

The Package

A Story by Meg

The Package

I stand by Ellie, staring at the package on our kitchen table. She speaks first.

            “Well,” she looks at me expectantly. “What happens now?”

I pace back and forth in a futile attempt to assuage the nervous dread that has encompassed me.

She steps forward.

            “We must open it.”

            “No,” I pull her back. “It’s too soon.”

She sighs and sits in a rocking chair in the corner, beginning to knit as I pace. The wooden needles click together in an irritatingly consistent beat.

            “Ellie!” I say in a voice much too loud. “That sound will drive me to the asylum!”

            She stops and looks up at me, and I know I am in for a scolding. We have been married far too long to worry about harming one another’s feelings.

            “It is not the noise that has your teeth on edge, Alan. You must open it.”

            I look at the package and know she is right but cannot bring myself to touch it. It is nothing special, just a simple brown paper wrapped package, but the grief it causes me grows greater with every passing second. The slow and sinking silence is becoming insufferable.

            “I haven’t seen the man in fifteen years, but out of the blue, he sends me this? I don’t buy it. We cannot trust him. I should just throw it away.”

            Ellie raises an eyebrow but says nothing. I start to toss it out but find myself held back by some part of me that still loves the old man. I was unaware that such a part existed.  I see Ellie smile out of the corner of her mouth, and I return to my frustrated pacing. Back and forth and back and forth I turn to the rhythm of the clicking needles.

            “Al, we are going to be here all night. Would you like me to open it?”

            “No, if and only if we open it, it needs to be me. Every time you think he’ll change, he just falls right back into his old ways. It’s not even worth getting your hopes up. He shouldn’t be a part of your life if he didn’t even find it worth his time to meet you.”

Once again, Ellie’s eyebrow inches up her face.

            “Do you not know that his shadow has haunted me from the day we met? How could what has affected you so not have the same effect on me?”

            I run my fingers through my hair in anguish, knowing that once again, as usual, she was right.

            “He let me down, El. At the most important time in my life. How can I forget what he did, or further still, didn’t do? What obligation do I have to open this? Why should I even care?”

            Ellie stands and puts a comforting hand on my shoulder.

            “That doesn’t make him any less your father.”

            I sigh and sit at the table, staring at the package. Our lives had been going along fine until this thing dropped in from nowhere and disrupted a perfectly normal meal. I find myself hating it, but, as Ellie would say, you can’t hate an object, only what it means to you.

            “If you do not open it now, you never will and you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”

            She’s right. It’s now or never. I suck in a deep breath and untie the brown strings. They fall to the table. Ellie has to guide my hand to unfold the packaging. Inside lies a letter, newspaper clippings, and a single photograph.

            “What does it say?” She asks.

            My eyes scan the page, and I absorb the words… an apology and plea for help. I tell myself it’s a trick that he was too proud to humble himself and ask for anything. I see the address: a shelter for the homeless downtown.

            “Alan,” Ellie says, tugging on my sleeves and showing me the newspaper clippings. I see pictures from my old hometown’s small town paper. My high school graduation. She points to another one of when my baseball team won state. We keep flipping through the log of my achievements until we reach one and Ellie’s eyes tear up. It is the article we had written about our wedding day, and carefully underlined is Ellie’s name. Beside it in neat but faded pencil are the words “I finally have a daughter.”

            I reach across the scattered clippings and pick up the timeworn faded photograph still left in the packaging. It is a picture of my father and me sitting together on the porch of our old home, him looking down on me smiling and myself as a child looking back up at him with awe in my eyes.

            Without a word, Ellie and I stand up, grab our coats, and head off into the night to find the homeless shelter where my father lies on his deathbed. Had we not opened the package, I never would have been there for his last breath. I would never have heard his last words, the ones I had longed to hear with the craving of a son desperate for his father’s affection. Three simple words that so many take for granted. Three words and a package. It seems too small a price to ask for such a demanding thing as forgiveness, but it was enough to reconcile a bitter son and wayward father. One act of humility and one gesture of love. I have not yet found any gift or material possession that can surpass it, and nor shall I. What more can a man ask for than this? 

© 2017 Meg

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Added on September 26, 2017
Last Updated on September 26, 2017




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