Sometimes...

Blake.JPG

“Dad?” Blake called out from the bedroom. He thought he heard the car pulling out of the driveway. No answer.

“Dad?”

His call was met with silence so he stuck his head into the back of the closet once again. He figured his dad and his sister were likely off to the store for groceries and more boxes. He sighed as he looked around, bumping his head into his mother’s clothing. After nearly a year, Mike had decided it was time to clear out the closet. It wasn’t a hasty decision, but even at that, after a year it remained painful to think about going through his wife’s things. Blake shook his head, wondering how it fell to him to do the job instead.

“I hate this.” One might have expected he was upset because his sister went with their dad, leaving the boy to sort out women’s clothing and such. But in all honesty, he relished the time alone even as painful as it had become in only moments after beginning the task. He gazed at a long dress jammed up against the side of the closet and he sighed. At nearly thirteen he felt awkward and ashamed and mostly alone.

“So…” He would have said the word ‘pretty,’ had he not begun to choke up. He sat down and rested against the back of the closet and cried. Too many emotions to overcome, he lay down on the closet floor and wept until he awoke to the loud sound of the garage door being opened. A minute later his sister Leah stood at the edge of the closet doorway.

“Blake?” She called loudly. He leaned forward and peeked out from between a yellow shirt-dress and a pink chenille bathrobe. His face showed crease marks from lying on a jacket that had fallen off the hanger, and his eyes were red from crying. Leah stooped down and faced him with a half-frown. He went to explain but she held her hand up; both in caution and to help lift him to his feet.

“I know. Just the thought of getting rid of stuff? I was bawling like a baby last night.”

“Yeah…I heard you.” He paused for a moment.

“Is it so wrong, Leah? I mean… Oh fuck…” He started to cry all over again, and it was almost as much about him as about the loss of their Mom. She pulled him close.

“I think we need to have a talk with Daddy.” She was all of seventeen and already the next mother hen in the family, in an absolutely sad way. She kissed his forehead. A voice called from the hall.

“You two want lunch now or maybe do a bit more work?”

“Jeez, Daddy, can you give it a break?” Leah shouted. A moment later Mike stood in the bedroom doorway; his face was red and hot, but he wasn’t mad at all; at least about them.

“I’m sorry, kids. It’s just ….” He began to tear up. Folks often make the mistake of using the guidelines of the stages of grief as if they were a rock solid template instead of a fluid reminder. He put his hand to his face; feeling shame and sadness and even a bit of anger over the loss.

“I’m sorry, too, Daddy,” Leah stepped away from Blake to hug her father. The boy felt almost abandoned; and embarrassed as well. As he went to step out of the closet, his shoulder seemed to catch on something draped off the closet shelf. A large carton fell to the floor in front of him. He stepped around it and walked to his father and sister, expecting a hug. Mike patted him on the back instead. Not a big deal for most boys, but a huge disappointment if you’re a girl. But then, you have to tell everyone whom you wish to know if you want to be treated as such, yes? Or maybe someone else might explain?

“Daddy… Blake needs to see Dr. Phillipousus.” Mike closed his eyes for a moment, remembering the most recent family therapy session.

“I’m having a hard time, too. You want me to come along?” Mike put his hand on Blake’s shoulder. Leah would have continued, but Blake found his voice, as they say.

“Yeah, Dad, but…” He paused and looked down at his shoes and sighed before noticing that his shoes weren’t his, so to speak. The pink trim of the Reeboks seemed almost soothing in a strange sort of way since they had been his Mom's. And they helped as a means of telling his father without the words that remained stuck in the back of his throat. He pointed to his feet and Mike looked down. Shaking his head once, he smiled; belying the gruff exterior that normally made its place known. He stooped down and tied the boy’s laces; magenta tipped with shiny white.

“You…you’re not angry?” Blake stammered. He put his head down and sighed deeply as the tears began to fall; several of them landing on his father’s wrist as his hands had lingered after completing the task at hand. Mike looked up at Blake; catching the boy’s gaze before he turned away. He smiled and stood up.

“You know what your Mom used to say?” Leah smiled and nodded almost enthusiastically.

“’Moms always know.’ Right?”

“Well….” Her father pulled her close to him and put his hand on Blake’s shoulder once again; this time with much less camaraderie and a new-found tenderness for his younger child. Blake turned to see that tears had begun to form in his...in her father’s eyes as he nodded and spoke.

“Sometimes Dads know, too.”



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This story is 971 words long.