It was a bright Sunday morning, a few days after the fourth of July. The rain had stopped. A hot, dry wind blew from a now cloudless Texas sky. The warm, wet, fragrant earth was sweet with renewed life. Water stood in muddy pools. Everything, including the brown grass, glistened with the raindrops now deposited upon them. Small birds flitted overhead. It was the day my father Charles died. Three days later, he would be buried in the rolling hills of the Hill Country.

The last time I saw my father was a few weeks earlier when my sister, brother, and I visited him at his lake house. He was moved from the hospital when it was determined that his cancer was terminal. He was in hospice care. The furniture was removed from the den. The sofa is now replaced with an oversized hospital bed and an IV drip,” all the medical equipment to assist the dying.

We traveled the wooded country of rolling hills toward the lake. The road rose and fell; we all reflected on our father.

“I was his little girl,” my sister said, her voice uneven. “How did we get so far apart?”

My brother bemoaned how he was never good enough and never felt loved. I sat quietly, lost in thought.

We pulled into the long driveway. The sound of gravel popping under rubber tires echoed across the lake. “Why are we even here?” My brother asked. “None of us has seen him in years; I mean, I’ve seen him more in the last few years than either of you, and I don’t even know who he is and don’t care.”

None of us had an answer. We’d all become estranged from him; we might have felt more compassion for a stranger. We were detached yet driven by some sense of moral duty to visit him this one last time before he died.

When we arrived, Joyce, his wife of twenty years but not our mother, greeted us indifferently. Our father lay in a hospital bed in the den. The IV in his arm delivered morphine on command from a button held in his hand. His face was pale. His thin, transparent hair had been ravaged by chemotherapy. His cheeks were hollow; his dying red eyes were yellow and weeping. With his transfixed gaze, each blink might have been his last. His breath was labored and shallow. In turn, we each approached his bedside. I waited for the last possible moment.

He spoke softly to my sister and brother, but I could not hear his words. When I approached his bedside, he said nothing. He turned his head, pressed the button, and faded off to sleep. After so many years, we still had nothing to say”only silence and his ragged breath between us.

“I wish he would just die,” Joyce said abruptly. I doubt she meant it as it sounded. Even so, he was there in the same room, unconscious at the time, but there.

A few days later, Cheryl called. “Griffin? Dad died last night,” she said. I wanted to feel sad, but I felt nothing. It was about as meaningful as Blane telling me I forgot to put out the trash.

“Well, we were all expecting that,” I said. “I wish it mattered. When is the funeral?”

“The day after tomorrow,” she said.

“Call me with your flight information, and I’ll pick you up at the airport.” I hung up the phone and looked at Blane. “Dad died,” I said.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” I wanted to feel more but didn’t.

We arrived two days later, as soon as possible. I didn’t want to endure idle conversations with people I did not know anymore. These were people that weren’t like family; they were family.

“I shouldn’t have come, Grif’,” Blane said.

“I need you there for moral support. We won’t stay long, I promise. I need to make an appearance” that’s what you’re supposed to do, I mean, he was my father, and I don’t want to go alone. I need you there, Blane.”

The chapel was not particularly inviting. A small gray, carpeted stage at the front with a wooden podium and an open metal casket surrounded by a few flowers. From the distance where I stood, I could make out my father’s profile with his oversized glasses propped upon his nose. I wondered what he needed with glasses. After all, they believed that he would ‘be asleep in the Lord.’ Was he accustomed to sleeping with glasses? Or perhaps he would require them to recognize his Lord at some later time?

I always wondered about the afterlife, whether anything exists after death. I wondered if my father was just dead and decaying or if there was something more. I believed in the dead part, but I never could accept the whole resurrection and redemption part” it all seemed pious and predictable. When you’re dead, you’re dead—end of story.

People wandered about the room, which could easily seat two hundred; less than thirty were in attendance. The melody of voices melded with the whispers in my head. The room smelled of cheap perfume and hairspray. The women covered their heads and wore old black dresses, which they no doubt reserved for funerals. The men wore dark suits; you might mistake them for a banker or a used car salesman. Painfully familiar hymns played from some unseen source, presumably of my fathers’ liking. The room was unusually cold, and the dry, acrid air felt heavy with each breath. Was this part of the process of preserving the body for burial? Why was it so goddamn cold in here?

I couldn’t imagine anything worse than being buried unless it was being buried alive. Cremate me, put my ashes in a stylish vase, and decorate a room around me. Or scatter my ashes over a clear blue sea, but for god’s sake, don’t bury me in the cold, lifeless ground.

No one seemed particularly interested in the corpse they’d come to view and bid farewell. If my father were alive, he would have demanded their attention. His tall, thin body lay silently in wait.

Blane and I stood at the back of the room and wondered where to go. No one spoke to us.

“I shouldn’t have come,” Blane said. “No one is even speaking to us. Your family is weird.”

“Stop it! No one wants either of us here; it’s not you. We’ll stay a little while and leave.”

Blane was right; we were being shunned. These were the people I grew up with and had known my whole life” cousins, aunts, and uncles. They were strangers to me now with an acute sense of judgement. With my father dying in this room, no one offered condolences or acknowledged we were even there. We seemed invisible.

My mother, who brought me into this world, was not invited or chose not to attend; I did not know. I wondered how it would be for her, this ending in her life, and the death of the father of her three children”now a distant stranger. I wished she were here.

My father and stepmother, Joyce, were together longer than my parents. They had a tumultuous relationship. Joyce had threatened to leave him several times. She was the only person who could break him, make him succumb, and shut him up.

I was relieved when my brother Dale and sister Cheryl arrived. They had driven separately since they planned to attend the graveside service, which Blane and I had not wanted to do. Attending the service was the most I could muster. My sister, who lived in Florida, stayed with us at our house. My brother, who lived in a small town in north Texas, had met her there. I was sure they would at least break the deafening silence surrounding us when they arrived.

“We’re not going to stay long,” I told my sister and brother. “Where are we supposed to go?”

“I think there’s a family room somewhere. We’re supposed to go there,” my sister said, pointing toward the left.

A small bereaved immediate family was adjacent to the main room.  The room had a large glass window to offer a view and privacy. There was a sofa and several chairs. The room was crowded with relatives offering their condolences. I saw Joyce sitting in a small wingback chair through the crowd. She sobbed”forever the tragic widow. Ultimately, it was all about her, and she loved the attention. Blane and I stood in the hallway and tried to blend in.

No one in my family was close to Joyce. She was an outsider, the adulteress, blamed by the church for my parents’ divorce” and tearing our family apart. It was strange to see them all coddle her; after the service, they would freely condemn my fathers’ whore.

Joyce mumbled something I could barely hear.

“Some water, please,” my uncle said softly, “someone, please bring a cup of water.”

The room bustled with activity to accommodate her every whim. Tissues, water, and blankets”the list went on and on. She didn’t lift a finger, and she enjoyed every minute.

The crowd parted to receive the cup of water. My stepmother saw Blane and I. She looked directly at us.

“They don’t belong here,” she said. “I want them to leave. They’re an abomination.”

I had expected an outburst from her. We had never been close, but nothing like this. I was silent. My eyes filled with tears. I waited for someone to intervene. No one did. My brother stood silently. I turned to my sister, wiped the tears from my cheeks, and asked, “What do you think I should do?”

My sister and I had always been close. She was willful, determined, and never backed down for anyone. She held my hand and looked into my eyes.

“I think you should leave, Griffin,” she paused and continued, “this is her day; I think you should leave. You said you didn’t want to be here anyway.”

I was stunned and silent. It was true that I didn’t want to be there, but not on these terms, humiliated, cast out, dejected, and ignored.

“We should go,” Blane said as he grabbed my hand and pulled me away. We worked our way through the crowd toward the door. We walked out into the hot Texas Sun. I fought back the tears. I was denied the opportunity to see his face one last time. Instead, a mere profile was indelibly etched into my mind, nothing more. I could only imagine the hollow, lifeless eyes, the sunken cheeks, and the thin smile.

“Take me home, Grif’, then you must return and be with your family. It’s me they don’t want here.”

“It’s not you; it’s both of us. I won’t come back alone and give them satisfaction. We’re both leaving. Fuck them! Fuck them all!”

In the car, I ripped off my tie, threw it on the floor, and unbuttoned my shirt to loosen the collar. It was hot and humid from the earlier rain.

“You drive,” I said. “I’m too upset.”

Blane took the keys as I offered them. He started the car” hot, humid air blasted into our faces. We immediately rolled down the windows to evacuate the intense accumulated heat.

“I think you should go back,” Blane said repeatedly. I refused.

When we arrived home, I was angry and exhausted. I sat for a while and turned the events over in my mind. I wondered what I should have said. Why hadn’t I stood up for myself and us and not left?  What right did she have to dictate who could or could not stay? The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. I quietly sulked and imagined the supportive conversation when my brother and sister returned from the service.

“I don’t know why you put up with this shit from your family,” Blane said. “If my father and stepmother had demanded I leave, it would have been with the body. It would take the law to stop me. That’s how it happens in my family; the law gets involved.”

“I don’t understand my sister,” I said. “Of all people, why would she agree with that bitch and ask me to leave? I mean, she’s the one that married a drug dealer that spent seven years in prison. How many abortions had she had? What gives her the right to judge me? It’s that fucked up goddamn cult. She was fine until she got back into the cult. What the fuck is wrong with her?”

Blane tried consoling me, “I know, Grif’, I know.”

Blane answered the door when the doorbell rang. My sister and brother came into the room and casually discussed the service. I waited for one of them to address what had happened. Not one word was spoken. In true family fashion,” confrontation is endured; never discussed. It was as if nothing had happened. Something had happened. My whole family humiliated me; no one offered one word of support.

No one had said, “Now hold on, Joyce, you don’t mean that. Griffin is Charles’ son; he has as much right being here as anyone else.”

My sister and sat quietly in the dining room the next morning to have coffee. We avoided the inevitable conversation.

“I think we need to talk about what happened yesterday,” she said.

“Okay,” I replied.

“I want you to be happy, Griffin, and be in the Kingdom with the rest of the family. Joyce was right; your lifestyle is wrong in the eyes of God.”

“That’s a load of crap, and you know it,” I said. “How dare you, of all people, judge me? How many drug dealer boyfriends have you had? And what about your husband, the convicted felon? How many abortions have you had? Abomination, my ass, you Christians cherry-pick your condemnations, and you pick the ones that don’t affect you. Why don’t you sell your daughters into slavery? That’s in the Bible too! It’s all bullshit, and you know it! Do you think my lifestyle’s a choice? Who would choose to be treated like this? And by my own family?”

“We want you to be with us in the Kingdom of God” with the family, with us.”

“You don’t believe that, do you?”

We went around and around for hours with the same stupid circular argument that ended in hushed silence. I had my opinion, and she had hers. We left it at that.

“My flight’s tomorrow morning; I need to pack,” she said.

I sat quietly and said nothing. I stared out the window into the night.


While I drove to the airport, my sister and I didn’t speak. I couldn’t bear looking at her. I sensed this when she looked at me, but I refused to acknowledge her.

When we arrived, I didn’t park as she had suggested a baggage check-in at the curb. She had flown many times; she knew airport routines well.

She looked at me; we parted and whispered, “I’m sorry.” She turned and walked away.

Ten years would pass before we spoke again. Even then, our conversation was tainted by memories of a broken sibling bond.


Ten years later year later, I visited my father’s grave. The cemetery was nearby, but I did not know the location of his grave. It took a while to find it in an isolated area. There were no family graves near him. The grave was unkept; a single plastic flower, next to the mud-splattered tombstone, faded in the Texas sun.  An empty plot for Joyce was next to him. I secretly wished she were there. It seemed unreal that this was where our paths had led after all the sorrow.

I knelt on the warm earth and brushed the dried mud from his tombstone. I struggled to fight back the tears. “Hi, Dad, it’s me, Griffin; it doesn’t look like you’ve had much company.” I pulled the weeds; and smoothed the rough soil. “Anyway, I’m sorry I never got to say goodbye. Maybe you’ve heard that your bitch wife had me thrown out. Anyway, I wish it had been different between us, that we could have been friends. I’m sorry I couldn’t be the son you wanted. You certainly weren’t the father I wanted. I know you didn’t understand me. I certainly didn’t understand you. I hated you for a long time for what you did to mother, us, and me. I wanted to be a part of your life, but you didn’t want that. All I ever wanted was to hear, I love you, well done, or I’m proud of you. But you couldn’t do that. It took me a long time to forget.”

I stood, brushed the dry soil from my jeans, and began walking away. From a distance, I looked back. “I hope you’ve found peace. ‘Goodbye, Dad.”

It was dusk. The sunset was rich and colorful. The black canopy of night marched ever westward. As each minute passed, the colors became more intense. My dad would have liked that. The wind blew and whistled through the trees. I listened carefully for the words, “Goodbye, son; I love you.”

© 2023, Ron Faucheux. ©2023. All rights reserved, Writers Critique, LLC Unless otherwise noted, all posts remain copyright of their respective authors.

Leave a Reply

Post your Prose and Poetry NOW! Songwriting, Screenwriting & Stage Plays [coming soon] Post
A note to our visitors

This website has updated its privacy policy in compliance with changes to European Union data protection law, for all members globally. We’ve also updated our Privacy Policy to give you more information about your rights and responsibilities with respect to your privacy and personal information. Please read this to review the updates about which cookies we use and what information we collect on our site. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our updated privacy policy.