My mother decided to commit to my father’s job and deal with everything that came with it.
My father’s job was a rare one, a job he should be proud of.
Now, years later, Mother was still darning Father’s socks and picking up Daniel’s baseball gear. My youngest brother Jacob was always sweeping without Mother’s asking, while I helped Daniel and Father stack wood for this coming winter. By now, Father was a tired man. He should’ve been content.
But all he had left was his countenance. The way that all of the weight in the world burdens itself on one man’s shoulders made him older. It was making his boots scuff the floor. Baggage he tried to let off his back long ago didn’t fall. Instead, it stayed with him, latched to his ribs, making him carry it further.
His boots made his feet feel like lead. Soon there would be a rut in the carpets, then a canyon, then a cliff, where he would fall. More wrinkles lined his face every waking moment, not from smiles and laughter, but simply from the fall of man. From the incontent oldness that was grasping him. Each day was harder, each step three times as heavy as the former.
Mapping his skin were veins and arteries galore. Veins and arteries gone sad from transporting the life-sustaining liquid through his body, the only thing that had kept him warm during the war and told him he was alive when it sprouted red after a cut. His blood.
Muscles trailed his skeleton. Every time he moved, they moaned of the endless toil without justification they’d endured over the last thirty years. Atop his head, all the time, was an old hat. His own father had bestowed it upon him when he was twelve.
But what I remember most about my father were his hands. They were calloused and hard, yet soft and warm. Each palm was large enough to hold a baby’s bottom. I knew, because that was how he carried my siblings when they were little. In the palm of his hand.
They were capable hands, the kind that were made with hard work and determination. And if I was not a girl, I would wish for those hands, too. Father had the hands of protection, and everyone in the county knew it. Nobody messed with me or my Ma, and anyone who did lacked all sense. They were slapped silly, either by Father or one of my little brothers. Father knew Ma and I could fend for ourselves, but he always backed us up. Never was there a time, that I remember, when Father was not around to protect us.
But as loyal as Father was, he was still the most burdened man I ever knew. His death was caused by Rufus, our biggest ox on the farm. I’d forgotten to latch the gate. Because of my carelessness, Rufus charged right into my papa and knocked him through the fence. I had run to the shed quicker than Ma could say “manners,” grabbed the rifle, and shot the beast before it could do anymore damage. But I wasn’t quick enough.
But all I have left now is my countenance. The way that all of the weight in the world burdens itself on one man’s shoulders makes me age faster. It makes my feet lay heavy on the floor. Baggage I call my father’s death didn’t fall from my aching back. Instead, it stayed with me, latched to my ribs, making me carry it further.