D addy is my favorite person in the whole world. Mom, who works all day at the drug store, always teases us. “You two!” she says, “You must be joined at the hip.” It’s true. Two years ago, during that summer when I turned eleven, my dad got sick and he couldn’t work at the train yard anymore. So I took care of my little brother and sat with Daddy every day until he got better.
My family lives in a little house just outside Montgomery, Alabama. I love them all very much, but Daddy is my life. I think he looks sort of like Morgan Freeman, maybe a little bit heavier with gray hair, a short scruffy beard, and a big smile that crinkles his face.
“Sweetheart,” Daddy pats his belly whenever I tell him that, “I don’t think anybody’s gonna get us confused and put me in a movie.” He says the exact same thing every time. I always put my hand over my mouth and giggle because I know that he likes when I do that.
It’s two weeks before Christmas. Even though supper is over, my dad is still sitting at the kitchen table. He looks tired. Lately, Daddy always seems tired. He smiles and watches me while I dry each dish Mom washes in the sink.
I scrape the last plate into the garbage can next to his chair. As I hand it to Mom for washing Daddy says to me, “Sweetheart? When you see the rainbow light, you’ll know it’s time for me to move on.”
Me and Mom glance at each other but neither of us say anything. I just keep drying the same faded plate and concentrate on fighting back the sting in my eyes. But Mom isn’t so brave. A round, crystal-clear tear rolls down her right cheek, splashes into the soapy dishwater with a soft plop. I stare at the place where her tear dropped and I notice that all of the bubbles have rainbow colors.
Then Daddy starts talking about Christmas is coming. But I never forget his words about the rainbow light.
It’s raining on that day when Mom, my little brother, and me come home from shopping for Christmas dinner. All of us see it as we get out of the old station wagon. Rainbow light, shining through the darkened living room windows.
I try to pretend that it’s some kind of reflection from the sunset. Or maybe the Christmas lights are on inside the house. Still, I know the way I know stuff. Standing there in the driveway holding a brown paper grocery bag, my heart drops all the way to my tummy. Me and Mom swap a quick look and I know that she’s remembering what Daddy said. My little brother, who doesn’t know too much, points at the rainbow light. He smiles and laughs. But, when he sees me and Mom, he starts to cry.
All three of us start crying as we stare into those windows. I’m the only one who doesn’t freeze. I drop my bag. Fat round tomatoes and two cans of cranberry sauce roll down the wet cement driveway. As I run toward the house my foot hits Daddy’s Christmas present, the black movie-star sunglasses Mom got me from the drug store. But I don’t care.
From the front porch I look back at Mom. She’s squatting next to my little brother by the car, holding him safe. Mom shoots me a tiny nod. Then she blinks, and the sunset makes her watery eyes flash yellow-orange.
I yank open the screen door and run up the short flight of stairs to the living room. The door bangs shut behind me. My old dad sits there quietly, hands in his lap, slumping forward on the creaky pine bench near the wall. Clouds of rainbow light, not too bright but bright enough, fill the room. Violet, pink and blue-green swirl in the air around us. I glance at the Christmas tree. The lights are off.
Then Daddy looks up and sees his little girl standing in front of him. His eyes sparkle.
“Daddy?” The word gets stuck in my throat.
He gazes at me for the longest moment, that crinkly smile loving up every inch of me. I wipe my sniffles with my arm and kneel next to Daddy, my best friend in the whole world. Holding his great big hand in my two smaller ones, I turn my eyes up, to that loving face. I don’t ever want to forget Daddy’s face.
“Sweetheart,” he says in the spaces between breaths, “Some people, I don’t really mind when they’re gone. But I always mind when you are.”
“Daddy!” I finally choke out the word. Remembering how I helped him get better that summer when he was sick, I squeeze his hand as hard as I can.
My dad catches his breath. He looks up and all around, smiles at the rainbow light filling the living room, then he looks at me. He’s real calm. “You be sure to take good care of Mom and your brother for me, Sweetheart. I love them just as much as I love you. I always will.”
The rainbow light starts getting brighter. “Daddy?” I cry, “Please don’t go! Please stay with us?”
“I will, Sweetheart. Promise.”
Then something tells me to let go of his hand. And the rainbow light gets thicker and brighter, and I can’t see my Daddy anymore.
Andrew Michael is a writer, poet, and professional designer. He is the recipient of the Write Well Award for best-of-the-web literary fiction. Andrew’s writing is inspired by the loving relationship of the human being and the heavenly soul. A short poem, Girl of Blue, is published here at Faith Hope and Fiction. Andrew’s self-published website and blog can be viewed at FreelyReceive.net. His current work in progress is a nonfiction novel entitled Abigalé.
Image Credit: © Skynesher