At six years of age I convinced myself that these were monsters of unknown shape, size or origin hiding in the dark places of my room at night. I felt their presence , heard their rasping breath and the rustling sounds they made as they moved about.
I would close my eyes tightly and pray. Pray and keep my entire body under the blankets. In this position, unable to see the darkened room I still knew they would creep closer to my bed hoping for a mistake on my part. I decided a nightlight would keep them at bay but upon asking for one my father ridiculed me as a little baby and worse, a coward.
As I grew older, an only child, my father was distant and cold. My mother tried to make up for his indifference toward me but she also would be scolded as cuddling the boy.
At thirty years of age I was living several states away, married and with two sons and a fantastic wife. We lived the life I had wanted as a child. Of course I made frequent calls to my mother and on occasion would take my family to meet with her without my fathers involvement. He had made it clear he wanted no further contact with me nor did he want to know his grandsons. Mother always cried as we prepared to leave and gave all of us long, sobbing hugs and kisses.
At thirty six I received a terse call from Father informing me that Mother had passed. I informed him we would be on the next flight for the funeral. He half laughed and informed me the funeral had been the previous week. Outraged I cursed him and hung up. I silently wished him a horrible death and sat on the couch and began to cry.
When I turned sixty I had been without my wife for over two years. I had been at her side holding her hand at the end. She had smiled at me, and although too weak to speak I knew she was telling me she loved me. I kissed her cheek and it was over. I stayed in the room holding her hand until a nurse was able to, in a kind way, convince me to leave the room. I couldn't help but think of the unfairness of the long and painful death my wife had bravely faced and my father was , not only still living, but in perfect health. I knew it was wrong to think like that and so I put all thoughts of the old man from my mind.
Thank God my sons had both remained close by and being able to see them, the grandkids and my daughter -in-laws helped get me through the worst part of the grief.
Surprisingly the fear of monsters in the dark crept back into my mind and I began to keep the door to my bedroom open and the hall light on. Of course I said nothing about this to my family but the irrational fear seemed to get stronger by the day.
It was almost five years to the day of my wifes death that I received a call from my aunt informing me of my fathers death. She gave me the details of the wake and funeral , I thanked her for the call, and smiling , went downstairs for a drink. I intended to call the boys the next day but had no intention of attending the old man's burial.
I sat up much later than usual and for the first time in years felt a kind of peace settle over me. Instead of torturing myself with memories of a horrid father I instead thought of Mom, my wife and the fact that all in all I had been blessed with a fairly good life.
In bed I felt the weird fear of things lurking in the dark slowly go away. I laughed out loud. I knew now that the fears had all been brought about through the feelings and fear I had for my father. For the first time in years I turned off the hall light and started to drift off. It was then that a bony, claw like hand grabbed my wrist and pulled me halfway off the bed. I could barely see a thing in the darkened room but recognized the voice that called to me. The voice of my father. I felt his stare. Imagined his old, tired face.
" Miss me son?"
I muffled my scream against my free hand.