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  • mariokiefer

The Father

He sat up in bed and swung his legs over the side. He sat this way for what seemed a decade before he pushed his body (a body that grew frailer with each passing day, a body that no longer had the vim and vigor he so desperately longed for) erect. There he stood waiting for the wooziness to pass before he donned his robe and slippers then shuffled his way from the bedroom toward his kitchen. He brewed the magic elixir he knew would rouse him and added just a touch of cream before he made his way to the den.

He glanced to his left at the closed door to his home office. Within its walls, he knew his magnum opus sat untouched and almost, but not quite finished. It had been so very long since he had done any work in that room, and he knew that within its walls a film of dust covered everything. For what seemed a year, but in his reality was but the blink of an eye, he considered entering that office and going back to work, but he was old; so very old; older than dirt, in point of fact; and he felt it in every fiber of his being.

And he was tired; so very tired. Was his weariness the result of his age or was it because, in the end, he had come to realize that all of his work in all of that time meant . . . nothing?

He passed the door and made a mental note to have someone come to clean, but he knew that he would send for nobody Just as he knew that the work he had once done in that office had sat incomplete so long that no amount of tinkering with it now might change how it presented. Why clean an office that does not get used?

It is, what it is, he thought, then, shrugging his shoulders, wondered, What difference does it make?

He sat in his favorite chair. The very same chair that he had sat in for ages and pushed the button on the seemingly-magic wand that flashed images across the screen he now faced.

He was not surprised to see the faces of his children fill that screen or to hear the voices of the angry mob behind them. Everything they had done before had led them to this point. Still, he could not shake the melancholy that pervaded as he watched them scream and shout for effect.

And, like many old men who watched images on a screen and the talking heads who opined on the meaning of those images, he, sometimes, yelled back.



“Have they learned nothing?”

At times, his anger almost roused him from his chair to do something to stop the madness — almost. What more could he do that he had not already done?

Each time he began to rise, his weariness pulled him back. So, he sat watching in frustration, occasionally commenting (to no one in particular) and shaking his head at the utter insanity of it all. Sometimes, he muttered to himself, wanting someone — anyone, really — to hear his words, but he was alone; and nobody listened.

They used to listen. Oh yes! Once upon a time, he had been quite the formidable presence and when he spoke, his voice was heard to the heavens and back. Once upon a time, when he spoke, people trembled and did as they were told, but no longer. Nobody had listened in such a very long time, and it was obvious that they no longer cared what he had to say. He surmised that as one ages, the young no longer want to hear the thoughts of the older and, presumably, wiser. Those thoughts were outdated and old-fashioned, after all.

Maybe, at least in my case, that’s true, he considered.

Although still early, he began to doze and his mind filled with memories of days long gone. In this semi-sleep state, he recalled the very early years when the world was still young and so was he. Visions of himself playing in the garden with his children filled his thoughts and his lips curled into a smile at the memory of the wonder in their faces. Everything was so new and each new thing brought joy to his children. Back then, they were so easy to please. It took only a simple trick to elicit smiles on their faces. But like all children, they grew older. They became inured to the world around them and bored with the things they saw. Like all children, they matured, and, like all children, started to believe that they no longer needed the guidance of their father. Like all children, they rebelled against parental teaching in an attempt to find their own way.

For a time, he thought that they would make their way back to him. That was how it was meant to work, was it not? They were supposed to grow, learn, mature, and come to the realization that their father was, indeed, as wise as they had believed when they were still small. He shook his head, wondering where he had gone wrong. His children never called upon him anymore. It was like he had never existed and their silence left him bereft.

He knew that he had been a good father despite what his children might say. He had sacrificed so much to make a good life for them — each and every one of them. He loved them equally and never favored one over the other. He had been their father and, also, their teacher. But like many children, they only retained the things they felt were important to them. The greater truth that he tried to bestow upon them seemingly was always lost.

Children are inherently narcissistic, he supposed, and they only see and feel that which has a direct impact on them.

Perhaps that was a fatal flaw in man’s creation; a flaw that he did not see when first he looked into his newborn’s eyes, but a flaw that he now understood. Thinking on these flaws, he wondered whether his children’s faults might be his own. Did he fail them? Is that why they no longer sought his counsel? Regardless, what faults they had and whether those faults could be placed at the feet of the father did not matter. Like any father, he loved them — faults and all.

He nurtured them. He made sure to give them everything that they needed and most of what they wanted. And, he educated them. He taught them how to find on their own that which he did not provide. This was the measure of a good parent, after all. A good parent did not give capriciously, but rather, he gave judiciously, and each gift was coupled with a lesson to make the child stronger so that he may grow into a fully-functional being capable of caring for himself.

Of course, he disciplined them! He firmly believed that to spare the rod was to spoil the child and had said so on many occasions. When his children strayed, he was not shy about ushering them back toward the path he had so carefully laid before them. Perhaps, at times, that discipline had been a bit harsh, but hard times called for hard measures. And, yes, the old adage was true: it hurt him far more than it hurt them, even if they did not believe it.

But, oh, they were willful and obstinate children. After his discipline, they might walk the straight-and-narrow for a short time, but inevitably they strayed. They always strayed. Naturally, he disciplined them again, and again, and the cycle repeated itself until he, himself, grew weary of the discipline.

At one point, not that very long ago, in fact, his children had become very unruly and he realized that his discipline no longer worked, so he tried a different tack. He gave them his most precious gift — pure love without judgment. That seemed to work for a brief moment in time, but, eventually, they turned away even from that gift. They always turned away.

Shaking his head, he smiled wistfully as he considered that each and every father must go through this. There comes a point in time when neither discipline nor endowment will influence a child’s behavior. It is at that time that a father must step back and allow his child to make their own mistakes — to fall or rise on their own. The father must trust that he instilled the necessary virtues into his child and that his child will, in reliance upon those lessons, make the right choices; to allow the child to choose — come what may.

That is what he had done. He stepped back. He allowed his children to live their lives free of his interference stepping-in only when absolutely necessary to keep them from completely destroying themselves, then stepping back again (and again) to let them do it on their own. He knew that he had given them every tool they needed in order to make their world into either their own heaven or hell. And he watched.

His eyes snapped open as he escaped his reverie and he continued to watch the images that flashed across the magic box. In the images on the screen, he, again, spied the faces of his children in the crowd. Watching those images, he saw so much horror; so much carnage; so much mayhem; so much bloodshed; so much . . . nonsense.

And for what? Did they even know what they were fighting about anymore or did they just fight now for the sake of fighting?

He wondered whether the time had come again for him to step in? Was it time to remind his children who their father was? Since, love without judgment had not worked, was it once again time to bring down the hammer of discipline?

A righteous anger surged within and with that anger he felt his energy return. He turned and looked toward his office door. He could go in there right now and with but a few well-placed words to the right people (and perhaps a few strokes of his pen) change the path his children now followed. Or was it already too late?

At this thought, he felt his anger ebb. Did he have the influence anymore? What could he say or do now that he had not said or done so many times before? What could finally change their minds and their attitudes? Not for the first time, he considered that, perhaps, he should toss it all aside.

He looked back at the closed door to his office. Should he throw his life’s work into the rubbish and start anew? Did he have the energy to begin again? It seemed that no amount of tinkering with this current project would fix it. It was too far gone.

I have given them everything that I can to make them better, he thought, but still, they deny me.

He reached down and retrieved the remote, nodding and thinking that it was time to end these images. His finger hovered over the button that would erase them forever, but he paused.

He did not have it in him to do this just yet.

One last chance. One more day, he thought. I will give them one more day.

God rose from His chair and shuffled back to His bedroom. He crawled into His bed, closed His eyes and returned to His slumber, wondering what He might find when He rose again.


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