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A Parting Gift
"Dad, isn't this too high?", I asked nervously looking at the height the swing was reaching.
"Angela, would you relax. Just enjoy the ride", Dad said pushing the swing with full power. When I got back for the next push he whispered, "Learn to let go".
I closed my eyes, and the let the cold air seize my body, and as I reached the highest point, I let go of the swing and was thrown in the air. I relaxed and simply closed my eyes. I landed hard, but I felt no pain, when I opened my eyes my father stood there with the camera, thrusting it on my face. I got up and saw that I had destroyed mom's precious garden. "She would be so mad", I said with a smile, he merely laughed and sat next to me. I took a sunflower in my hand and played with it, while dad took pictures of the nearby scenery. It was good to be back to our happy place, our old house in the woods; the house where I had spent my childhood. I looked around, the green lush field, the long stretch of daffodils that swayed in the summer breeze. The nearby forest, all dark and mysterious, filled with towering pine trees. Everything present was attached to one fine memory, our cottage, the attached playground, the nearby pond that dazzled as shafts of sunlight hit it, me sitting next to dad as he clicked pictures.
I turned to look at him, he had grayed over the years, yet his face shone with everlasting youth and passion. Strikes of light dazzled his urban unkempt hair, and his army uniform glowed with pride and honor. That is what he always delivered; Pride and Honor.
"Hey dad, why are we back here?", I asked, looking quizzically around at our old home.
"Because this is our special place." he answered, "It's where I saw you grow up, this is the place where the best memories were created. I married your mom here, you came into our lives here, we saw you grow from a toddler to an adult, this is our home darling", he said with sparkling eyes and warm smile. I dug my head in his chest and listened to his heart beat. Listening to the slow muffled drumming reminded me of his old age, but his undying youthful passion made him look younger always.
"Show me the pictures", I asked, he gave me the camera, and I skimmed through the pictures. He was a shockingly creative man for someone so sturdy and strict. I always believed that my creative side was from my mom, but today as I saw the pictures he had taken I remembered the amazing hands that taught me to draw the ugly flowers, the messed up scaling of human beings, the paintings that now hung in our city apartment. A particular picture left me spell bound. It was taken when I had reached the highest point and was about to jump from the swing. The picture had frozen on my face, the serenity; the joy it delivered was immeasurable. My hair was flipped back from the wind, my arms were spread forward, and the sun was shining right on my face and it looked as if I was submitting myself to that golden light that shone delivering hope and condolence.
"This is an amazing snap dad", I said showing him the pictures, he murmured a thanks. I was a little hesitant to say the next words, building a little courage I asked, "Dad could you..would you…what I mean to say is could you not go to your next station this time? I think you should retire, I don't want you to be recruited again, I have an awful feeling that you shouldn't go".
He stroked my hair and put my head on his lap, "You know my obligations. You know I have a duty for my country, and I have a duty towards you and your mother too, but if I can save the lives of those million people, why shouldn't I? Wouldn't it be a shame to back down?", he asked with his sincere smile.
"It would, but let this be your last journey dad, after this you can take office at the local head quarters", I said earnestly, I looked up at him with hopeful eyes.
"I promise", he said and laid down on the grass. I shifted myself next to him and cuddled up like a child. He held my hand like we use to, after a long day's play.
"For the time I am gone," he said, "Keep me in your thoughts and your heart, for there, I would exist always".
A tear rolled down my cheek, and I replied with a nod; an uneasy fear gripping me. I could hear his heart beat increase, the drumming becoming intense. Like the heart was taking a flight, but his face was calm and composed. I smiled at him and the sunlight filled the entire playground as a sudden gush of wind brought with it the sounds of a gunshot, of the army song, of the blowing trumpet and the beating drums.
A phone ring woke me up with a start. Mom was lying on the couch aged with concern, her eye brows concentrated with worries. My dad lay there, unconscious with his oxygen mask on. A picture frame of me in my younger days stood on the bed side table. It was an identical picture as in my dreams, only I was several years younger in that photograph. His heart beat could be heard echoing the hospital room, increasing with every moment, until it was an almost overpowering sound of a heavy beating. Silence; no sound delivered to my tears, only silence. The beating reached its ultimate point and with a long beep, the whole world was silent. I rest my cheek on his hand and let the trickle of tears seep through his departing soul.
"Colonel Rockwood", the doctor entered with the nurses rushing inside, they stopped, silent, seeing my face. I slowly put the white sheets over his face and kissed him as a parting gift.