The Ring

by: C.J. Galaway

March 5, 2013
            I walk around the house to find my father waiting on the back porch for me, grinning like a Cheshire cat.

“You look like you’ve had a rough day,” he says as I walk onto the porch.

            “Nah, it was just long.  I hate going to work right after class.”  I give him a hug and kiss.  “Happy Valentine’s Day, did you get my card where I left it for you?”
            “Yes I did Daughter, thank you.  I see you managed to find my favorite candy.”  He pats the empty spot on the swing.  “Sit and talk to me for a minute.”
             “Can it wait for about twenty minutes?  I’m stinky from the restaurant.  I smell like grease.  Let me go shower first.” 
            “You smell just fine to me,” my father assures me.  I laughed and sat down.
            “You would say that no matter what I smelled like.”  I take a closer look at him.  “What’s going on?  You look like the cat that just swallowed the proverbial canary.”
           “Happy Valentine’s Day,” he reaches behind his back, pulled out a small box, and gives it to me.
           “You didn’t have to get me anything!” I cry, throwing my arms around his neck.  “Thank you!”
            “Go ahead and open it,” he urges me.  Opening the box I find a small, gray velvet pouch.  I untie the cord and spill the contents into my hand.  It’s a team ring for the Pittsburgh Penguins, my favorite hockey team.  I just look up at my father with tears in my eyes, unable to speak.
          “Why don’t you try it on and see if it fits?” he suggests, smiling at me.  I do and it fits perfectly.
           “It’s beautiful,” I hug my father again.  “It’s the best gift you’ve ever given me.  I’ll wear it always.”
            “That’s a long time, you know,” he replies, laughing.  “Let’s go out, just you and me.”
            “Okay, I’ll meet you right here in a half hour.”  I kiss him one more time.  “I love you Dad.”
            “I love you too, Daughter,” he replies as I go into the house to change.
                                                         **********
            I wake with a start, sitting straight up in bed.  At least this dream was a good one.  I settle back in bed and Jessica snuggles closer to me.
            “Did you have another bad dream?”
            “Jess, did I wake you?  I’m sorry.”  Reaching out I brush a stray lock of hair out of her face.  “I dreamt about my father, but this time it was a good dream.”  I twist the ring on my finger.  “It was when he gave me this ring.”
            “You’ve been dreaming about him a lot, Liz.” 
            “Yeah, I just wish he would talk to me,” I sigh.  Looking over at the clock, I notice it’s almost two am.  “I’d better try to get some sleep.  You’ve got work and I have an eight am class.”
            “You’re the one that volunteered to teach an early section,” Jessica reminds me.  
            “It was a bout of temporary insanity,” I reply as I kiss her.
            “Goodnight,” she replies as we drift off to sleep.
                                                           **********
            “Why did I ever agree to teach this class, Anne?”  I ask the secretary as I walk into the English office at the university.
            “Because you’re crazy,” she replies with a laugh.  “I put a phone message in your mailbox.

            “You mean someone’s trying to reach me this early?” 

            “Not everyone hates mornings like you do.”  I grab my mail and go to my office.  Sitting at my desk I read the memo and quickly dial the number that’s on it.
           “Hello, my name is Elizabeth Ryan.  Mitchell Ryan is my father…yes, I’ll hold.”  After several long minutes someone comes back on the line.  “Yes, hello…I’m fine thanks…how’s my father?  He’s been admitted to the hospital.  Does he know you’re calling me?”  I close my eyes and rub them with one hand as I listen to the lady talk.  “I’m sorry; I didn’t hear that last part…it’s just that we haven’t spoken in a very long time.  Are you sure he asked you to call me?  I’m his only child; my mother left us when I was very young.  I have no idea how to get in touch with her at all…I see.  Yes, I’ll go to the hospital right away, thank you for calling me.”  I hang up the phone and grab my jacket and leave.  I stop at Anne’s desk on my way out.
          “Please cancel the rest of my classes for today.  I’ve got to go to the hospital, my father’s been taken there.”
            “Sure, I hope everything’s all right.”  She calls after me as I leave.  I can’t believe he wants to talk to me after all this time.  While driving to the hospital, I call Jessica’s cell phone and leave her a message to meet me at the hospital after work.  I’m still confused as to why he wants to see me now.  I can’t help but wonder if I’m letting myself open to be hurt by him yet again.
                                                           **********
            “Hi, my name is Elizabeth Ryan.  I was told to ask for a Dr. Crawford when I came in.”  I ask the lady at the information desk.
            “If you’ll have a seat, I’ll page her for you.”  I nod and sit on a nearby couch.  I really hate hospitals.  My mind wanders back to the last time I’d spoken with my father.  Someone had decided to tell him that his only child was gay and he wanted me to deny it.
            “Dr. Ryan?” A voice beside me asks and I look up.  “My name is Dr. Crawford; you spoke with my receptionist this morning about Mr. Ryan.”
            “It’s just Professor Ryan for now,” I stand and hold out my hand.  “Call me Elizabeth, please.  How is my father?”
           “Not well, I’m afraid.  If you’ll come with me I’ll take you to my office and we can talk more there.”
           “Okay,” I reply as we step onto the elevator.  “How long has he been in here?”
           “For three days now, but last night was the first time he’s mentioned having any family.”
            “We quit talking right after I earned my master’s degree,” Stepping off the elevator I follow her to her office.  It’s small, but very inviting.
            “Can I get you something to drink?” Dr Crawford asks as we sit down.
            “No, but thank you for asking.”
            “If I’m not being nosy, may I ask why you haven’t been in communication with you father.”
            “We had an argument over something that he didn’t approve of and refused to have anything to do with me until I had seen the error of my ways.”  I reply with a small smile.  “What it basically boils down to is he didn’t approve of my choice of a spouse.”
            “The people of his generation were set in their ways about things like that,” she replies.  At that moment her pager goes off and she looks at the display, frowning.  “I’ve got to take care of this.  If you’ll go to the waiting room on the fourth floor I will meet you there.”  I just nod and follow her out of the office.
                                                      **********

          I settle into a chair in the waiting room and try to remember the last time I had tried to reach out to my father.  It was right after he was placed into a nursing home and I tried to visit, but he had told the staff that he didn’t have any family at all.

           “Liz, have you heard anything?”  Looking up I see Jessica coming towards me.  I stand and hold onto her tightly.
           “No one has said anything.  I was talking to his doctor when she got called away on an emergency.  She said I could wait for her here,” I drop into a chair and Jessica sits beside me.
            “Do you think he’s ready to make peace with you?”
            “I don’t know, but it’s something I’ve been hoping for.”  I close my eyes and lean my head back.  “I just wish someone would tell me something, I hate waiting.”
            “I’m going to stay here with you.  He’s my father-in-law even if he doesn’t see it that way.”
            “You could be here a while,” I caution her.
            About twenty minutes later Dr. Crawford walks in with a worried frown on her face.
            “I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get back here,” she sits down beside me.  “Your father’s had a massive heart attack.  We did everything we could for him, but it wasn’t enough.  I’m very sorry.”  Jessica just opens her arms and I fall into them, sobbing uncontrollably.
                                                          **********
            I’m sitting at my desk going over some papers when there’s a knock on my doorframe.
            “Come in.” I automatically answer without looking up.
            “I was hoping we could talk for a minute.”  I glance up and almost fall out of my chair because my father is standing there. 
           “What’s on your mind?” I ask, trying to sound casual, like he drops in on me at work all the time.  Getting up I shut my door and show him to a chair and sit in one beside him.
            “I thought it was time we talked about your choice of companions.”
            “Dad, I really don’t want to get into this with you again-.”
            “Please listen to what I have to say,” he interrupts me.  “I’ve had a lot of time to think about this and maybe I was a bit rough on you,” he looks down at his hands.  “The thing is, I blamed myself for you being like this.”
         “But it isn’t your fault, being a lesbian is just a part of who I am,” reaching out I take his hand in mine.

         “A friend of mine has been helping me to understand things a little better.  Her name is Helen and she has a son who’s gay,” he squeezes my hand.  “You’re my daughter and I love you.  If this is what makes you happy, then that’s all that matters to me.”

          “I love you too Dad,” throwing my arms around his neck I hug him.  “I’ve missed you so much.” 
           “So have I Elizabeth,” he gets up and so do I.  “I need to get going before I miss my ride.”  He points to my desk.  “It looks like you’ve got a lot of work to do.”
           “I was just grading some papers so I wouldn’t have to take them home with me.”  I hug him and kiss his cheek.  “I’ll come by tomorrow and we’ll go out.”
          “Goodbye my daughter, I love you.”  He kisses me and leaves.
                                                           **********
          Fresh tears fall as I sit up in bed.  I bury my head in my hands and sob.  There’s a hand on my shoulder and Jessica pulls me into her arms and holds me, whispering words of comfort in my ear.
      “He came to me to tell me he loves me,” I wipe my eyes.  “Why didn’t I try harder to get through to him?”
      “You had no way of knowing things would happen the way they did, Liz.”  I get out of bed and go into the bathroom to splash cold water on my face.
     “I know, but I miss him so much,” I walk back into our bedroom.  “I wish you could’ve met him.  I’m sure he would have loved you almost as much as I do once he got to know you.”
      “How about I make a pot of tea and you can tell me all about him.”  She replies as we go downstairs.  “I want to hear about that Penguins ring.
      “My father was a die-hard Penguins fan and so am I.”
      “So your family was into lost causes?” she teases me, walking into the kitchen.  I feel someone lightly kiss my cheek.
      “Goodbye Dad, I love you,” I whisper as I walk into the kitchen.

           

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