54 - A Short Story - All for the View

August 13, 2020

I'm from a farm in Wyoming. I'd never seen the ocean and wanted to have a look, my first real look, at the ocean. So, I ventured out on my own, leaving my family behind for the first time in my life. I was 19 years old when I left the farm. My Dad wasn't happy about it; in fact, he was downright pissed about it. I was his only son, and he had two daughters. My sisters were the girly-girls types, not tomboys, so they and Mom did very little actual "farm work" on the farm, only what was needed to be done by the women. Which was work, but not in my Dad's eyes. He wanted them to be out wrangling the horses and cows, working the fields, mending fences, etc. But that work was left to Dad, one farm hand, and me.

"If you leave this farm don't plan on coming back!" he would yell at me.

"Dad, I just want to see some of the world. Why can't I just go out and see something other than horses, cows, wheat, and corn?" I would beg him to try to understand.

"I need you here to work the farm, son. When I go on to that great farm in the sky this place will be yours, but you have to be here, live here, learn everything there is to know about how to keep it running," he explained, and I understood all that, I just wanted to see some of the world.

"I understand, Dad, but I've made up my mind. I'm going to go out and see what there is to see. That's all there is to it," I finally did it, I told him that I was leaving and he couldn't stop me.

"If you leave, don't plan on coming back, DO YOU HEAR ME?" he was red in the face and stomped away.

Mom came over to me and gave me a hug, "I'll talk to him, don't worry about, I'm sure he'll understand and come around soon enough."

So where did I decide to go? To the Big Apple? To Vegas? Nope, I went west to see the Pacific Ocean. And am I glad I did! Yes, it's big. Yes, it's blue, mostly. Yes, it has big waves that make swimming difficult. But it was THE OCEAN!

The whole Pacific was right there in front of me, washing around my feet. My god this water is COLD! Nobody told me it was so friggin' cold, that you needed a wetsuit if you actually wanted to spend any time swimming or surfing in it. After a couple minutes, my feet were numb so I walked back to my spot on the beach, gathered some dry driftwood, and started a fire. The warmth felt nice, until the beach police showed up and told me to put out the fire. Apparently, they weren't permitted. Nobody told me that either. Oh, and nobody told me you can't camp on the beach. Crap! That was one of my goals - camping on the beach. So, I headed back into town to find a hotel.

That was all about 9 years ago when I first came to this area. Since then I found a job, an apartment, and a new life away from the farm.

I've tried to talk to my Dad, but he never talks to me, not since I left home. I wonder if he'll ever talk to me again. My Mom and sisters update me on what's happening at home. Do I miss the farm? Well, somewhat, but mostly I miss my family. The city is exciting, there's always something happening here. So many people to meet and do things with. And so many women! It's like there's no end to the women to go out on dates with. I never had anything like that back home.

The job is good; I work in a distribution center for home center products, building products, that kind of stuff. It pays enough for me to live in a small but decent apartment on the edge of the city and go out on occasional dates. What more could a guy in his twenties want?

Unfortunately, my Dad had cut me off from all financial help. That hurt, a lot. He even said I was no longer welcome home and no longer would I inherit the farm. We had another big blow-up about all that when he did finally talk to me. And that was what he wanted to talk to me about. Not about how I'm living, or what my job was, no questions about relationships with women, nothing, only to tell me he was finished with me, no more, the end. Period. Good-bye.

That put Mom and my sisters in tears. I could hear them crying in the background during the "conversation".

After that, the calls home were few and far between. Basically, on certain holidays and birthdays I was able to actually talk to one of my sisters or my mother.

I worked at the same company for about 3 years and received a promotion to shipping manager, and after another 3 years, I was on my way to the Logistics department, when I got a phone call from my Mom.

During all these years I was still living in the same little, and cheap, apartment, so I was saving money, and quite a lot. I kept my dating habits to a minimum and not at all extravagant. I drove a cheap car or rode a bicycle. I was determined to make good of myself and prove I could do well on my own. But, I also missed the farm and my family.

As time passed living in the city was beginning to wear on me, the noise of the traffic never stopped, the smell of the exhaust never went away, the unhappy faces of unsatisfied people always within sight. I was beginning to think about return home. But, could I? Would Dad permit me to even come onto the farm?

Then I got a phone call from Mom, "Sweetheart, you need to come home, right away, your father's sick," she told me.

One of my sisters also called me and told me, "I hope you can come home but I want you to know, even as sick as Dad is, he is still holding much anger at you, and hasn't changed his mind about you taking over the farm when he is gone."

During my years in the city and working full time at the distribution center, I had also been taking evening classes in animal husbandry, farming techniques, and ranch management. My plan was to return home and show Dad that I had the knowledge to run the farm, and probably run it better than he had. Maybe then, he would change his mind about me leaving the family behind.

Then the call came, "Sweetie, it's time for you to come home. Your father is in the hospital and the doctors don't know how much time he has left." My mom was crying as she was telling me about his condition. One of my sisters came on the phone and told me more about it and she too started crying. That was it, I had to pack up my things, and head back home.

I prayed for my dad and hoped he would live long enough to talk to me, not that I was concerned about not inheriting the farm, but because I wanted to tell him I was sorry for walking out on him the way I did. I wanted to right the wrong and make sure he knew I loved him and always have. I quickly threw everything I could into my car, sold what was left to my friend, and hurried away.

The weather was awful on the trip home - snow in the mountains, rain everywhere else. The drive was almost a full day longer due to delays caused by the atrocious weather, but I did get home and found my mother and sisters at home, with a couple aunts and uncles.

"Am I too late?" I asked as soon as I walked into the house.

"No, we're here just for a break from the hospital. Your uncle Mark is there with your dad right now," said Aunt Jane, my mother's sister.

My sister said, "You should go there right away. I'll go with you, come on, let's go".

All the others followed us a minute or two after we left so I could have a couple minutes with Dad without a crowd around us.

My mind was spinning with thoughts of dread that he might pass at any second. We got in her car and hurried to the hospital.

Finally, in his room, I found my dad connected to too many hoses and wires and I don't know what all that stuff was, but he appeared to be at least somewhat aware of the people in the room.

"Dad," I sat next to his bed and took his hand in mine, and just about whispered, "Dad, I love you so much. I want to apologize for being such an ass all those years ago. I was stupid, and idiot, and ass of a kid who thought he knew better. I'm so sorry, Dad."

He squeezed my hand, looked at me, and smiled.

"I have missed you and Mom and the girls, but you know, mostly you. I've missed you telling me what to do, when to do it, how to do it, why I had to do it, which was always the same reason, 'Because I told you too, that's why'. I've missed you so much Dad. Can you forgive me for running out on you?" I was in tears now, so were my sister and uncle.

"Yes, my son, I forgive you, I love you," the words were just loud enough for all to hear, and by now my Mom and all the others were in the room, and they all heard his last words, "I forgive you, I love you". Everyone cried, held his hands, Mom kissed him on his lips one last time.

Those words will remain at the forefront of my mind the rest of my life - "I forgive you, I love you".