A Father's Last Words

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Commercial Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A man explains to his two daughters why he had not been a part of their lives.

“My name is Charles Lee Dunn, your father. I know that you have not talked to me for quite some time, but I have now realized that what I did to you and your mother was a mistake. It was a mistake that I could not even begin to repay to you, but I am going to do my best in explaining to you why I made that decision and hopefully you two will begin to understand my logic behind it.

“I do not know exactly how to explain it to you so that it makes total sense, so I will just start from the very beginning: I was born to Mary and Joe Dunn in 1934 on a small family farm in a very small town named Dows, Iowa. It was always a hard time living there, as we were practically off the grid. I remember many a night when it was so cold that our whole family, (which consisted of eleven brothers and sisters) would have to snuggle together in front of our little fireplace.

“It was not very long into my life that I began to help my father with his work on the farm. I was maybe four years old at that time, and stronger than the average boy my age. My father and I would herd the cattle, build fences, shear sheep. Anything that you could imagine taking place on a farm, I would partake in it.

“There is one day in particular that I experienced out on the farm that, I believe, could be the reason for why I began to have delusions and a multitude of mental illnesses.

“It was a normal summer day. My six brothers and I were outside stacking hay in the barn, when we heard a loud and powerful scream coming from the cattle hill, as we had called it. We all ran over there as fast as we could. I, however, was left behind because of my short, stubby legs.

“When I did finally make it over to the cattle hill my jaw dropped. It was the most disgusting site that I had ever seen in my life. My father was wedged in between a large oak tree and our massive John Deer tractor. His body was limp, and his head was rested on the tractor’s rear tire. I did what any six year old boy would do at the site of his father being crushed. I dropped to the ground and became an octopus, squealing and yelling like a mad chimpanzee.

“I do not remember the events that happened next all so clearly, but I do know that my eldest brother, Nick, must have moved the tractor and rushed my father into our little house. I could not bear to watch what would happen next so I just stayed up on the cattle hill, weeping with my face on the ground.

“My father did end up dieing and when we held the funeral, about a week after his death, every single person in that beautiful little town called Dows showed up to send their condolences.

“After my fathers death, our family was not stable. So I left to go and live with my uncle in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My uncle Dan was a scary, scary man. He must have been over six and a half feet tall with a grey beard that flowed down to the middle of his chest.

“Whenever the two of us walked down the side-walk and came upon a maiden of any sorts she would look to her feet and make sure that she had at least a five five foot difference in-between her and my uncle.

“Dan never was married. He always told me that he never found love because by the time he was back from the first war he was already twenty-six years old and without money. He lived by himself as a hermit for quite a few years after the war to just get away from everything and just think about life.

“When your great uncle Dan came back into society he had a new outlook on life and knew exactly what he was going to do up until the day that he died. He wrote hundreds of books, or allegories if you prefer, explaining the ultimate way to live your life. Unfortunately for some reason he would never let me read them myself until I was twenty years old and he disappeared from my life forever. Only then did I begin to delve into my uncle’s writings, and to be honest, it changed the way I looked at the world.

“After reading his novels, and the immense collection of short stories that he wrote I became an all around better person. I gave back to the world what I could, and expected nothing in return, for if you expect payment for your actions you will always be let down.

“The year 1955 was probably the best year of my life. This was the year that I entered the University of Minnesota as a philosophy major and a minor in Psychology. It was also the year that I met your mother, Elaine.

“Lord knows how much I miss those days. Elaine was going to school for medicine, and I remember how proud her family was of her for it. It took some guts back then for a women to go to school for what she did. And boy, let me tell you, that woman had guts!

“I remember how determined your mother was to get that degree; nothing would stop her from that goal. We studied together each and every night for hours upon hours until we both knew our material like the back of our own hands. As a result, we were each rewarded with a 4.0 GPA, and on graduation day I asked your mother for her hand in marriage. She happily said yes, but our happiness was short lived.

“As soon as I finished with my classes at the University Uncle Sam came searching for my name, and he found it. I was drafted into the army in ‘62. I did not take my drafting into the military with a heavy heart however, and decided to make the best of it. Only a few short weeks after I finished basic training I went and applied to become a Green Beret special forces candidate.

“At first, Elaine did not take kindly to this decision, but with a little bit of talking and coaxing from myself and several other of my buddies from basic she came to accept my choice, and soon-after I headed to Kentucky for another twenty-two weeks of training. From there I headed off to Vietnam; the year was 1967.

“I was stationed at a U.S. Marine garrison just south of Khe Sanh. My unit was the only special forces unit in the whole camp, and as a result we were responsible for carrying out about ninety percent of the missions. With the twelve missions that we engaged in our small unit did not lose a soul, that is until the Viet Cong gathered themselves a massive force to overtake the encampment.

“On January 21st, 1968 our camp was heavily bombarded and invaded by Viet Cong forces. We lost hundreds of fellow marines, and most of my unit was obliterated by a single artillery shell that had found its way directly to our barracks.

“I truly wish that I had been inside of those barracks, because after that day I felt completely alone and I just wanted to escape that hellish nightmare.

“The bombardment lasted seventy-seven grueling days, and with every passing one I had the thought in my head of going out into the forest behind the fort and putting the barrel of the pistol to my head, ending everything. For some reason, however, I could not bring myself to do it. I kept thinking of your mother back home and I do believe that was the leading factor to saving my life.

“I fought just as hard as any soldier did out there, and I hope you do not think anything different. Any man who kept the barrel pointing away from himself over there had the heart of a lion and deserved to be treated with respect. When we returned home however that was not the case.

“Us veterans were met with hostility and protests from millions of people, and it sickened me, but I could do nothing but sit there and take it.

“After the war I became a Psychiatrist for the VA hospital in Minneapolis. I cannot say that it was a good job, but our family was well off and I was thankful for that.

“Only two years after I returned Elaine became pregnant with twin girls, Ellie Rae and Adrianna Lee. It was an amazing experience for me, being a father and all, but I just wish that I could have experienced more of it.

“A year after you two were born I began to have fits of delusions, and it drove Elaine to the point of heavy drinking, and smoking. She tried to get me to start taking medications, but I refused. I wanted to cure the sickness without having to pop tons of pills everyday, but Elaine was having none of it.

“My delusions were too much for my beloved wife and she insisted on getting a divorce. She kicked me out on the street with nothing to my name besides a few dollars and the clothes on my back. I struggled to make a living, and finally I reached the breaking point. I packed up everything I owned, which was not much, and hitched a ride with a trucker up to Canada.

“I decided to live like a hermit, just as Uncle Dan had did so many years before. It has taken me nearly fifty years to realize how big of a mistake that was. I am now in Grand Marais writing all of this down as I lay in my extremely uncomfortable hospital bed.

“I know that it is a lot to ask of you girls, but I am pleading you to grant me your forgiveness and I hope that now you know why I did what I did. I am dearly sorry.

“With love, your invisible father.”

Ellie Ray finished speaking the last line of the letter to her sister and she couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down her cheek. She felt guilty, but also had a sense of relief inside of her knowing that their father left them with reason. The man was still a mystery to the two sisters, but it felt good to have some clarification as to who he was. They would surely go on with their lives with a sense of fulfillment in their hearts.

Submitted: December 11, 2014

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