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The Echo This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


The nurses no longer look surprised when you say you are here to see your father. They know you now. You are the one who comes every day, despite the futility. They smile and tell you where he is.

“He’s doing better today,” they say gently, in that motherly way they have around you. You nod, smile slightly, but wonder what difference this makes when he will never be well.

You find him in the dining room, by the bird cage. His eyes, once so alive, stare blankly at the birds. He has a wary look on his face as if he is sure the feathered creatures are someone he once knew but can’t remember if they are his friends.

There is so little he remembers now. You weave your way through others so much older than him; he looks up when you approach but says nothing. He does not recognize you. Where is the man of your childhood, the huge man with bear hugs and a booming laugh? He is lost somewhere in the shell of this shrunken man whose thick hair is now gray and whose frail body needs help to walk.

You lay your hand on his shoulder and he pats it, a comforting pat. Even though he does not know you, he seems to realize how much it hurts for you to see him like this. You help him up and back to his room. The silence follows. He does not speak much anymore and there is little for you to say.

He sits calmly as you comb his tangled hair, so abundant even at his age. He is almost 68, and you think about telling him this, but decide against it. He will not understand, will not remember. It is strange to have him sit so still. Usually he bounces around in the chair, making brushing his hair an ordeal. You wish now that he was like that, if only so you knew he was still alive somewhere inside. You read to him but he is not listening. His eyes are fastened on a sunbeam escaping around the edge of the curtain. You recall your own inattention when you were young, his firm voice and stern gray eyes always brought you guiltily back to the moment.

You remember the twinkle in his eye as he read you your favorite story, letting you point out the pictures and ask questions. He does not remember and now you read to him.

There are no questions. He is lost in a world of dreams; you cannot wake him. You close the book and he notices you again. He touches your knee. You fake a smile. Does he know how much you want to cry at the sight of this poor man, once so close and now so very far away?

He does not remember he was once a man with a vibrant personality. He has withered under the strain of forgetfulness. You squeeze his shoulder good-bye. He smiles vaguely.

The next day he is in his room. You watch him as he stands by the window, looking out at the grassy yard. He notices you and he is full of excitement. You remember yourself so much like this, coming and laying your treasures out to him so he may examine every acorn cap and shiny rock.

“There was an echo here earlier.”

His voice surprises you; it has been so long since he has spoken. The thrill at such a childish and simple thing has made his voice strong again. You close your eyes and for a moment you can picture him as he was when you were young. The squeak of his cane on the tile floor brings you back from your reverie. He is pacing up and down, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, breathing heavily as his eyes spark with enthusiasm. He gives a cry suddenly and then waits expectantly. It does not come back.

His brow furrows and he does it again, lower and softer. He leans hard on his cane, straining to hear. The life goes out of him as he realizes his echo is gone. You lead him to a chair; he shakes his head in disappointment.

“It was right here,” he mutters softly. You touch his shoulder, your eyes filling with tears. Does he remember you are right here, desperately trying to bring him back?

But he does not remember. You wonder when the day comes when he will leave completely, will he recognize you enough to say good-bye? Will he recall what it was like ­before memory faded? And when it is over, will you be the only echo of him left?

Perhaps he will have a split second at the end where he is your father again.

Where he remembers …

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 54 comments. Post your own now!

_mars said...
Apr. 16, 2009 at 7:26 am
You very much owned the prose here. I love the 2nd person and even more so, the present tense.

This is beautiful and real. Well done.
 
FlamingPassion said...
Apr. 10, 2009 at 1:39 pm
This was....incredible. So sad, I might have started crying if I wasn't at school!
 
Jana H. said...
Apr. 8, 2009 at 3:30 pm
This is really sad, bought tears to my eyes.
 
pepper14 said...
Apr. 8, 2009 at 3:10 pm
Oh goodness! This was a very good story! It reminds me of how sometimes we can get lost in our relationships and then suddenly remember why we have loved that person, then with reality, it fades and you forget. Very good writing. :)
 
Casey G. said...
Mar. 30, 2009 at 1:48 pm
I loved this one! It was extremely good. I would cry if I wasn't at school right now. I liked how you asked questions.
 
Melinda L. said...
Mar. 24, 2009 at 11:59 pm
This was beautiful, it made me cry. I liked how you put it into second person, it brought me more into the story.
 
SallySunshine said...
Mar. 13, 2009 at 5:51 pm
Good story.. liked the second person
 
Laura R. said...
Mar. 13, 2009 at 5:45 pm
This piece is very good. You did a good job at expressing your feelings. Nice writting.
 
AndrewTheLover said...
Feb. 24, 2009 at 3:35 am
Not alot of stories work in second person. You should be very proud of yourself. I've sent the link to my writing class to read a great example of second person done well
 
Shadow Reader said...
Feb. 13, 2009 at 5:43 pm
Try to add some more on
 
Emster29 said...
Feb. 1, 2009 at 3:23 am
Wow. My great grandmother has alzheimers (forgive me if I didnt spell that right) and I am experiencing similiar feelings myself. Its as if you took every thought that ran through my head while visiting her and somehow captured it in writing. It was amazing!
 
cedar341 said...
Jan. 31, 2009 at 7:27 pm
That was sooooo beautiful! You have an amazing talent! I was in tears!
 
Bird said...
Jan. 7, 2009 at 2:33 am
I love the second person. It addresses the reader so well. Good job.
 
Elsa said...
Jan. 2, 2009 at 3:27 pm
Wauw. You are a fantastic writer. I wish I could write like that. You are so brilliant. I loved it, it's so moving. Really great! You will reach many people with that story.
 
Xx Cherry Appl xX said...
Dec. 31, 2008 at 10:04 am
This story was so heart catching i wouldnt be suprised if you came famous of this one dae you should make a full novel of it or more series i loved it even tho it made me cry
 
Nick said...
Dec. 19, 2008 at 4:00 am
Great story! You should write more!!!
 
Katie said...
Dec. 12, 2008 at 8:34 pm
This made me cry. It's exactly the way I feel whenever I visit my grandfather in his nursing home. You're talented, and you reach the hearts of many.
 
sam3 said...
Dec. 1, 2008 at 10:49 pm
I <3 ur story, it made me cry!!
 
Beginner_At_Everything said...
Dec. 4, 2008 at 7:10 pm
This is a real sad story and I loved it
 
StarlingChild said...
Nov. 28, 2008 at 4:54 am
Your story is strong enough to capture the heart of the world. I'm amazed you managed to write a powerful story without the need of direct details, but emotional and deep details that only the kind-hearted could understand. Good job, I look forward to more entries by you.
 
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