“I’m not your father,” he said.
– a writing prompt for today.
Emma laid in her hospital bed awaiting the inevitable death. The cancer has ravaged her insides, leaving her body as an empty shell. Her loved ones gathered around her in prayer. Prayer for her peaceful voyage to the afterlife, as well as for strength for them in dealing with the soon approaching loss of wife, mother, daughter and sister.
“C’mon guys, let us go get a snack while Em rests a bit” – said Tom to his in-laws, ushering them and his kids outside.
“I’ll be right there. I just need a minute” – Frank replied.
After all, it was his baby girl on Death’s doorstep. The majority of the time, he tried to be tough for the sake of the rest of the family, but when alone, he could not stop his tears from streaming down his cheek.
“Emmie, I have to tell you something…” – he started quietly.
She opened her heavy eyelids and looked at him with the most angelic of eyes. Even in pain, Emma was nothing but gentle and kind; unlike others who get jaded and bitter in the face of terminal illness.
“… I am not sure how to say this… but I think you should know…”
Frank felt a lump in his throat. He did not know how his daughter was going to react to the secret which his wife and him have kept from Emma her whole life. First, Mary and him did not think it was appropriate to tell her when she was just a little girl so as not to confuse and alienate her. They figured they would wait until she was grown. Years have passed, Emma turned 18 and left for college, where she met Tom and then traveled the world with him, visiting home and her parents only for the Holidays. Then everyone was all wrapped up in the wedding planning, and shortly after the big day, Emma became pregnant with her now four year old twins. The diagnosis came shortly after the birth of Jack and Jim, and it has been an uphill battle ever since. Frank knew that these were just excuses. He should have told her a long time ago. Now the time was right. He had to come clean, even if he was oh so afraid of her reaction. It was now or never. And never was not an option.
“I am not your father” – he blurted out as fast as he could, his eyes full of pain.
“Oh, Daddy…” – Emma said almost soundlessly, reaching for the glass of water on her bedside table to moisten her lips and vocal cords. She squeezed his hand and smiled gently, thinking back to a day when she met her biological father.
A few years ago, out of curiosity, she tested her DNA to find out more about her heritage, and discovered that some pieces of the puzzle did not fit. She knew Frank was not her biological father, but she never let on, because to her – it did not matter. The man sitting right in front of her at the hospital was the epitome of a father figure.
“But you ARE my Father” – she continued now that her vocal cords were generously coated with water.
“I may not be your flesh and blood, but there was never any doubt in my mind who you are to me” – Emma reassured Frank.
He did not know what to say. He wanted to ask her how she knew, but thought it was not important at that time.
“Daddy, who taught me how to ride a bike?” – she asked coyly.
“I did” – Frank answered, picturing Emma as a little girl, in her princess dress, riding a tricycle. Her pigtails wiggling from side to side as she learned to steer.
“And who made sure I had all my homework done for the next day?” – she continued.
“I did” – he answered, remembering how he would check her notebooks, urging her to write more neatly.
“Who tucked me into bed and told me stories when Mom was away on business?”
“I did.” He would tell her stories of beautiful princesses who stole men’s hearts. Just like she did his when he first saw her at 6 months old.
“And who made sure that I knew the multiplication table in the dead of night?”
“I did..” – he now realized what she was doing.
“As far as I remember, it was also you who taught me how to be the strong woman I am today” – she said wincing from the pain in her bones, adjusting her pillow.
“You walked me down the aisle. You helped take care of my kids when I was going through treatments. You have been by my side all my life, whenever I needed you.”
Tears started to well up in both of their eyes.
“You are my Father, and I could not have asked for a better man for the job. I am so proud to be called your daughter.”
“Oh, baby girl, you are the light of my life and you will never stop shining” – Frank said through tears, hugging his beloved daughter as she took her last breath.
EDIT: Please check out another version of this story in a post I wrote here.