*I wrote this story for a flash fiction contest based on the work of artist Adam Kluger*
I gave him my back as I always did when I could no longer bear to look him in his face, even after years of looking up to him in admiration. He was my father, the only man I truly respected, and the only one whose expectations I could never seem to live up to. I was nearing forty, he was well into his sixties but age was insignificant in our relationship. I closed my eyes to think back to our days as children, on the beach building sandcastles and playing in the water in a setting of bright sunshine. This was my place of happiness. He was always in the backdrop, detached from us through work, on the phone or reading his newspaper. He seldom looked up to see what we were doing but we paid full attention when he did.
This was the first time I turned without anger or without a feeling of inadequacy. I had aspired to be like him, to be a commanding figure in the eyes of my children but never lived up to the larger than life image in my mind. Now, after all these years of seeing him on rare occasion, he was present and had offered me undivided attention. He had greeted me with a firm handshake as he always did. After an hour of dinner without a hint of distress where we had laughed together more than I could ever remember, I was left disappointed and hurt. More than anything, I was terrified. My father was only human.
“Don’t worry, son.” he had said looking me straight in the eyes. “The doctors say there is still a chance I may somehow survive.”