Two men sat on a bench in quiet contemplation.
The blond reached over and gently squeezed the shoulder of the dark haired man. The dark haired man reached up and grabbed the hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze back. They then turned back to staring at the rows of head stones and crosses.
After a long, silent time, the dark haired man spoke.
“I never got to say good bye, ya know.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“I wish I could have been there when they took him off the machine, to at least say good bye.”
“You sure know a lot.”
“Yeah… I know.”
Both men laughed gently as they returned to their vigil.
“Thanks for coming with me, Roy.”
“No problem Johnny.” Roy turned and looked at all the headstones. “My father was buried in a military cemetery a lot like this one.”
“I remember the stories my dad would tell us from his time in the Navy.” Johnny sighed, “I sometimes wish I had joined the Navy instead of becoming a fire fighter, but then I remember the stories dad would tell and know I had made the right decision.”
“My dad fought in World War Two in Europe. He came back from doing two years there and Mom said he had changed. I didn’t get a chance to know him before the war ‘cus I wasn’t born yet, but the stories made me feel like I was there.”
“I know what you mean. Dad used to tell me stories of what happened in the Pacific.” Johnny sighed and stood.
Roy stood as well. “Are you going to be all right?”
“Yeah,” Johnny sighed, “With time.” He looked over at his best friend, “Did you get to say good bye to your dad?”
Roy turned stopped walking. “Yeah, I did.”
“You were lucky.”
“Ya know, Johnny, I didn’t feel that way at the time.” Roy started walking towards his friend’s car.
“How can you say that?” Johnny asked.
“I was thirteen, Johnny, too young to really understand what had happened. I went to the hospital with mom after he had his heart attack and talked to him before he died.”
“Really? I thought he had died right away.”
“No, he was awake and talking for three days after the first attack.” Roy chewed on his lip before continuing. “It was the second attack that killed him.”
“I’m sorry Roy.” Johnny placed his hand on Roy’s arm. “I really am.”
“Thanks Johnny,” Roy opened the passenger door of the car, “I’m just sorry you didn’t get the chance to talk to your dad before he died.”
“I am too… I went to the hospital and all, but I couldn’t bring myself to talk to him. I guess…” Johnny trailed off.
“You guess what?” Roy asked.
“I guess the past is still too fresh in my mind for me to forgive and forget.” Johnny go in behind the wheel and started the engine.
“I’m here if you ever want to talk Johnny.” Roy stated.
“I know, and thanks for coming with me today.” Johnny slowly pulled away from the curb after giving the area a final look over. “Today was his birthday.”
Roy just sat and stared out the window. He didn’t know what to say.
Johnny stopped the car and got out. He walked back to the grave site and put his hand on the cold marble stone, “Happy birthday dad.”
This story is a tribute to my father who passed on suddenly in January
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