Father kisses his only child and wife while praying to God that he may be graced with their smile once more. With one last look, he turns to leave. Boarding the train, none know of his early departure, yet Child and Mother run along the tracks. Waving and shouting with fits of love. Hoping that their words are not drowned by the steam engine’s churning wheels.
As soon as the train is nothing but a speck, the crowd parts and Mother and Child are seen smiling up at the vast blue empty sky. Please bring him home. Their arms are his shelter, his safety. Now that he has left, he must face it all for the next few years.
Time flies and Mother tends to her child. Child listens to stories of how Father is a brave man fighting for those who can’t and for those who dream. Giving others the opportunity to grow and live.
Child daydreams of the fun he has with Father. Swinging on the swings, he pushes an empty swing imaging Father is there. Laughing and prancing like nothing is wrong. Holding a fistful of air, he walks up the stairs to greet Mother.
But Mother is crying.
She holds a folded flag and a letter lies upon the floor. Tears fill the empty abyss. Mother and Child hold each other close. All the while, Child holds that fistful of air.
As the years pass, Child talks and dreams of Father.
At school, he sings the Pledge of Allegiance in hopes Father can hear him. Child’s voice can be heard amongst the others, and although many tell him to silence his words, he sings louder.
All shall hear his words but none shall see his tears.
During bed time, he reads aloud. Imagining that Father is there teaching him to read. Child struggles and fights the other kids. Most say he is troubled but mother knows. Mother sees father on the swings, by the bed, and next to her. Invisible Father is to many but to them he is present and strong.
Now in high school, no one questions Child’s strange behavior. They all believe they are permanently damaged. The loss of a loved one got to them. Keep away or else fall to their crazy.
But little do they know, love has no rules, no rights. Love is what they make it. Love is what keeps them strong.
Mother and Child grow older but never do they stop helping one another up and down hills and through various valleys. Both work hard and both still believe. The faith remains in their hearts. Father is still present, still strong.
The table is set with father at the head. Child holds his fistful of air and begins to pray. He is thankful for the meal and thankful for the love, the strength. Together they eat. Neither is alone and on Child’s big day, Child crosses his high school’s stage with diploma in hand.
He looks out at the crowd and waves to Mother, who cries happy tears, and Father’s empty seat. He sees them both standing and clapping, and, among the crowd, he hears Father shouting words of encouragement. Child soon leaves for college. After all, he got into the best.
Working harder than ever before, Child goes to class. He sees Father every morning next to his Mother. Hugging the picture, Child starts every day with a smile. No tear is shed any more, only smiles. Child knows what he must do and before long Mother saves Father and herself a seat to see Child cross the stage one last time.
Upon receiving his certificate, Child walks with Father. Hand in hand, they walk to register. Within the next few days, Child wears his uniform and salutes along side Father. In no time, Mother hugs both Father and Child. She watches as they board the train and prepare to leave. Together they depart, only this time Child returns as an honorable general with all of his badges and honors. Beaming with happiness, Child looks at the picture one last time before placing it in a box and sending it adrift. He needs no image, clothing, or scent to know that Father is always near.
© 2014 Jessica Santos