He pulled the cat from his father’s shelf. It was a greyish colour, probably some sort of tan once. The glass eyes had a few scratches on them, one eye looking clouded. There was the barest sound of something inside of the stuffed animal that had once sounded like a purr, but whatever mechanism inside that made the noise when it moved had muffled into the barest sound, more like a very quiet grumble.
The boy clutched the toy to his chest and ran off to find where his father was doing laundry.
“That was mine when I was a kid,” his father said, folding the boy’s shorts. “Took it everywhere with me. She was the cat I never really had.”
The boy absently pet it while his father spoke, the muffled sound continuing with each motion.
“Want her? I’m sure she’d be thrilled to go around the block again.”
The boy beamed.
“Careful with her. Sassy’s not as spry as she used to be.”
The father watched with fondness as his son and Sassy ran off to play.
It was the first gift my son had given me that I felt came from a genuine place. One that suggested he had thought about my feelings at all.
I knew he would have liked to be anywhere but in the room when I opened it. I would have preferred that as well. If it weren’t for the rest of his family, the rest of mine, we would have done ourselves a favour. But he had missed his opportunity to drop it off without even my realization and if I left this room holding it, people would know.
We had tried to make this less of a spectacle than everyone else appeared to feel it was.
I drifted my fingers across the book’s surface. Yes, he had to have spent as long deciding on this as I had spent deciding on his gift.
He rubbed the back of his head, not looking anywhere near me. That was fine, I’d struggled to look in his direction in the first place. This made it easier. “Ah, it was nothing.”
Another gap bridged.
I take a breath, one of my last.
“Please, don’t go.”
I open an eye to see him. It is odd to see his concern now, despite how close we have become over the years. A far cry from how we were in his youth. “It’s fine. Don’t worry so much.”
His laugh is watery. “Are you kidding? After all of this? That’s what you say?”
“Yes, it is. I’m old now, what would you expect? Let me go as I wish.”
He shakes his head. His dismissal of my words actually feel like a balm to my dispersal.
“As you wish… heh. If I did that years ago, we wouldn’t be here now.”
“I wasn’t old then.”
“Sure you were. Just not as old.”
Somehow I have enough energy to chuckle. “True enough. Thank you.”
“Don’t be like that.”
I know what he means, but can’t help myself. “Grateful?” He sounds so much further away now. I do not have enough energy to keep my eye open, but I struggle to keep it so for just a little longer. A little longer. “As you wish.” I am so tired.
For some reason, hearing that still sounds foreign. Foreign, yet all I wanted. More than everything else. I smile. “Son.”
Now he is crying. I don’t have to look to see it. “Please…”
It is all so far away, but I can accept that. “Be good. I love you.”
It took me a lifetime, but I made it. Knowing my son has gotten there much sooner than I… I am content.
I am gone.