Atlas: Fathers and Sons I
by Grey Bard
Dedication: This one's for you Gramps. Like Officer McGinnis, you left us all too soon.
The door opens and he walks in. Slowly. "Terry, Terry!" yells Matt, running in from the living room. "Come see what I just made! It looks just like that cool thing Batman drives!" Terry puts down the groceries and bends down to hug him.
"In a minute, twip." he says, smiling tiredly. It seems like he's always a bit tired now. He works so hard for us, trying to help out. I feel bad, but I know we wouldn't be doing this well without him. "I'm sorry I'm a little late, Mom." he says, straightening up. "I try, but nothing ever seems to work on schedule. Is there anything I forgot to get? They ran out of the cereal Matt likes."
I shake my head mutely. I did forget to ask him to get some more orange juice, but we can do without for a day or two. I can tell he just wants to sit down, maybe even sleep, but he dutifully walks over to the pile of blocks that's supposed to be some kind of super-vehicle and encourages his little brother to ramble on about it's special features and crime fighting capabilities.
The last year or so has been hard on all of us but he hasn't given way. I don't think he can anymore. It's eating him alive to know that he'll never fill his father's shoes but that his own must take their place, suited or not. Things have to be done, and he does them, better than he knows.
For a while now I've known that Matt doesn't actually remember their father, but I didn't want to tell my older son. It tore him up so much inside when he found out. What hurts him most is the fact that Matt can't even really miss their dad. Despite Terry's valiant attempts to summon up the past for him with our old albums, my husband is just a fleeting impression of male voice and strong arms to my younger son. Whether he knows it or not, Terry's already become the only father Matt will ever know.
I watch as he watches Matt expound on the wonders of the boy's personal hero in the pointy-eared mask and I smile sadly at the truth only I can see. My son, my hard-working son with the nearly endless patience and matching schedule is the real hero.