In His Eyes

 Heather Andrews

 

Author's note: I am an avowed Classic fan, but when the first line of this story came to me in a dream and kept echoing in my mind after I woke, I knew I had to write it.  Fair warning: this is a deathfic, though I also see it as having a happy ending.

 

I can still see it in his eyes sometimes, that life that was not to be.

 
I remember when I was younger, maybe four or five, and finally able to understand that my father was different from other people.  Oh, not in how he looks, obviously--I had figured that out a lot earlier.  No, what I'm talking about is the way my father has always been sort of...not here all the way.  Not that he's crazy, or that there's anything wrong with his mind.  He's the most sane, wise, caring person I know.  But it's almost as if he knows of another place, as if he's aware of another world, one that no one else can see.  He carries that knowledge with him, and it pains him.  I know now that that pain, that deep sadness, is his longing to enter that other world, though he cannot.  And sometimes I feel guilty.

 
I shouldn't feel guilty, I guess.  And I do try to push it away, especially since my father often, when he's not involved in something else that takes up his attention, can sense my emotions.  I don't want to make him feel bad about it, so I try not to feel it.  But sometimes I just do, anyway.

 
I suppose I don't really have a reason to feel guilty.  Guilt implies fault, and fault implies intent, and it's not like I intended to be born, or to exist.  I just am.

 
I said earlier that my father cannot enter that other world.  Well, that's not exactly true.  He's never said anything to me about it--it's not exactly something you can sit and have a chat about over a cup of tea--but I know he actually could, if he wanted to.  But he hasn't.  And the reason I sometimes feel guilty is that I know that I am the reason he hasn't gone. 

 
I think sometimes that I am an enigma to my father, or an oxymoron, or just a plain old contradiction.  I am his son, and he loves me.  I know that, and yet, sometimes, I can see that sadness in his eyes, and I know that I am an anchor to him, keeping him in this world.  I am not being conceited, I think, to say that I am the center of my father's world.  Mary even once said, in a moment of quiet confidence when I was quite young and didn't really understand her meaning, that I was his reason for living.  I think she was right, for I can see the love shining in his eyes when he looks at me.  But sometimes, like today, I can see something else in his eyes, too.  I was just able to catch the edges of it as he turned away from me after wishing me happy birthday.

 
It's always been like this.  It's always the worst on my birthday--his pain and my guilt.  At least, since I've been old enough to really understand.  I think I'm glad that I can't remember my early birthdays, especially the first one; that first birthday was also the first anniversary of my mother's death.  I know that I'm not the first person whose mother died on the day he was born.  Women die in childbirth still, even today.  I know the story of Uncle Devin's mother.  But my mother, Catherine, didn't die in childbirth.  She was killed by a horrible man who first kidnapped her, then held her prisoner for months.  Then I was born, and he killed her.

 
I heard all this from my grandfather before he died.  Father has told me little about it.  I know it still is the source of most of his pain.  And my father is different, as I said before.  They were different, my father and mother.  I obviously never knew my mother, but I know, a little, what it must have been like for them.  As I mentioned earlier, my father can sense my emotions.  Well, I can sense his, too, much of the time, even though he blocks a lot of the connection to me.  And now, as an adult, as I have begun to understand what can exist between a man and a woman who love truly, I can sometimes almost catch a glimpse of what the connection between my parents must have been like; like catching a movement out of the corner of your eye, but when you turn your head, there's nothing there.

 
That other world calls my father more strongly now.  I have seen him staring off into the distance more often, focusing on nothing that exists in this world.  I do not think that it will be long before he leaves this world.  And though I will miss him, as for so long he has been the center of my life and the heart of the tunnels, I will not begrudge him the trip.  He is an extraordinary person, my father.  There has never been, and never will be, another like him.  I truly believe that he has remained in this world for so long by will alone.  But he has accomplished what he set out to do: he has raised me as best he could, shown me all the love a father can, kept me safe in a dangerous world.  Soon, I think, the anchor that is me will no longer be able to hold him here.

 
In fact, I can sense him now, loosening the grip he has on this world, on me...

 
I must get to him! 

 
I know he is in his chamber, that same one where he has lived all his life, where once he cradled the infant me in his arms, where even now hangs the portrait that is all I have ever known of my parents together.  It is only a few meters from my own chamber, down a short tunnel, and I run to see him, to speak to him once more before he goes.

 
I rush through the entrance to his chamber and see him sitting in the big chair that has always been his favorite.  He is cupping something in his hands as he stares at the portrait on the wall.  As I draw closer, I see that it is my mother's rose.  He has taken it out of its leather pouch, something that I have only seen him do a handful of times throughout my life.

 
He looks up as I take another step toward him, and it occurs to me that he is smiling without sadness in his eyes as he looks at the portrait; it is the first time I can remember that love and sadness have not gone hand in hand as he imagines that life he did not get the chance to live.

 
I can feel the peace and joy radiating from him.  He is no longer torn, stretched between two worlds; he has let go of all that anchors him and allowed himself to fly.  Abruptly I am reminded of the first lines of a poem I read long ago:  Oh!  I have slipped the surly bonds of earth/ And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings...

 
I smile as I realize how appropriate it is that I should think of a poem in relation to my father.  He reaches out one hand toward me; I grab it and he squeezes mine, hard.  I notice his eyes seem to be almost glowing.   He turns his head back to the portrait, as do I, and I could swear that I see some sort of illuminated haze forming in the air before it. 

 
My father has always been a very strong presence to me, both physically and mentally, but now I begin to feel that strength become more tenuous: first mentally, as the bond between us thins; then physically, as the pressure he was exerting on my hand lessens.  Before the bond disappears, I feel another presence join it, only for a moment, but accompanied by such a huge, swelling crescendo of love that I cannot doubt who is there to welcome my father as his hand relaxes in mine.

 
"Catherine!"

 


 

A/N: lines taken from "High Flight" by Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee, No. 412 squadron, RCAF