November 18, 2017
A man sleeps beside an ATM
This is his story:
I used to play in the front yard of my red bricked house.
My sister and I used to pick apples from the apple tree that our grandmother planted decades before.
My Mom worked two jobs and my dad was an alcoholic.
He died in a car accident the day I filled his glass with water.
But as it always went,
He’d get in a fight with my mom then storm out the door.
I didn’t know it’d be the last time he’d leave because, well, I thought he’d come back, he always came back.
And that was it.
Life around the house changed and things got a lot darker. Not only did lights sometimes not work because my Mom couldn’t keep up with the power bills, but without realizing it at he time, the light went out within myself. I was full of darkness.
Resentment and sorrow lived in me as if happiness and laughter got kicked out.
I moved out at 17, got a job, and put 95% of my cheques in the bank. I was saving as if my life depended on it. As if happiness laid between the digits of my bank account balance.
I finally felt a sense of worth after a life time of feeling worthless.
I turned 40 and had my first kid.
Lucky for him, I never touched an ounce of alcohol. I was there for him, always.
He was my joy, my laughter, my life.
Everything felt perfect. I felt full.
Until September came.
And my plate got a little more empty.
My wife left me.
She took the house and my kid.
I was homeless.
After years of not speaking to either,
I got a call,
That I wish I hadn’t.
My son was sick,
And only had a week to live.
I hung up the phone,
Put on my boots,
And walked to the closest ATM.
I took out everything in my chequeings and savings, to the very last penny.
For some reason as soon as the money ejected, I had a sense of regret.
“After all these years…
After all these years of working and saving and working and saving, I didn’t spend time my with my kid. I spent it slaving away, always wanting more, wanting more numbers in my account as that’s what I always related to my self worth. And yet, with all this money in my hand now, I feel worthless. I feel like a worthless father as I realize I was blinded by money, rather than being a Father. And now, I only have a week, a week to make up for what would have been a lifetime of memories made.”
I flew to the city my son and ex wife lived in and gave the cash to him in an envelope that read “if I could turn back time I would, and I would have spent my time with you. I’m sorry but this is all I have, all I can give.”
The son returned the envelope and said “Dad, I don’t want your money, I want your time. I’ve only got a week left.”
Hearing these words both shattered and put my heart together. He loved me all this time, even though I gave him none of it. How could I have been so blind by paper that I couldn’t see what my sons heart truly wanted. I was so selfish.
Over that week, I got to know my son more than I have ever got to know someone in a whole life time. We went fishing, played golf, watched the sun rise, camped in the forest, told stories by the fire, danced to music, watched the stars…it was like we were living in a movie. Everything was perfect and so surreal.
My son became my best friend, my student, my teacher, my everything.
We spent hours watching flames of the fires, sometimes not even saying a word. We were so connected.
All of a sudden, just after midnight, we saw a shooting star.
We both made a wish.
And then I pulled out the envelope from my pocket, gave it to my son and said “go for it”.
He smiled with a grin and said “I love you Dad” and threw the envelope in the fire.
We watched it burned as old emotions, regret and sorrow lifted off of us and sizzled away. All that was left was a sense of inner peace. Something I had never felt before.
The next day, we woke up early to catch the sunrise, that’s one thing I learned that my son loved to do. Watching the world around him wake up as a new day started.
“Life is so beautiful.” He said.
“It sure is son, it sure is.”
“I love you Dad.”
“I love you too, forever and always. I’m sorry for everything.”
“You are my everything and I forgive you.”
In that moment, I saw the sun sparkle in my sons eyes. We hugged, and as we did ever so tightly, he took his last breath.
Now, years later, every night, I sleep beside an ATM, dreaming I could live that week over and over again.