Funerals are hard, particularly if all you remember about the deceased is the abuse, the hate-filled words.
Max isn’t happy to have to come home when his abusive father dies. But he’s surprised when Alastair, the night nurse who cared for his father, looked deep into his eyes and handed him a note. Could Alastair change Max’s despair to love, old and new?
Note: This short story was originally published in the charity collection, Love Is Proud.
Max couldn’t read anymore. His eyes were full of tears and his hand was shaking.
Alastair took the note back from him. He took his plate, too, and set both of them on the picnic table beside the swing. Then he took Max’s hands. “Max, honey, I don’t know you, but I do. I’ve loved you since he -- your father -- started talking about you and what a fool he’d been. Well, that’s not how he started it, it was all hatred at first, ‘fag’ this and ‘faggot’ that, you know? Just like my father used to be. And as soon as I heard that, it didn’t matter that I’d never met you in person; it didn’t matter that I didn’t ‘know’ you; I knew you. I knew you were my -- family -- more so than our fathers had ever been. Chosen family, family united by ostracism, by our ‘otherness’, by who the hell knows what weird or unusual chemistry we are born with. I know you like I know myself. And I’ve loved you since that time.
“See, I was his full-time night nurse for the last three nights of his life, and you were his only regret. Call me stupid or whatever, I couldn’t do it for my own father, but I could do it for yours, and thus, hopefully, for you, and maybe in the long run, for myself as well. I could try to bring him peace and let him die without hatred and misunderstanding in his heart.”
Max was openly crying by now, staring back into those blue eyes that, other than color, were exactly like his own, into that other soul that was also exactly like his own. The pain was the same pain, the wish was the same wish, the love was coming from the same hidden, buried place. Max started to shiver. He could picture the silent hospital room, so peaceful so ...
“It was total bedlam. I started shouting at him, an old dying man in my care. The other nurses knew what was going on -- hell, everyone on that floor knew what was going on -- and one of them came and shut the door. After that I caught my breath and lowered my voice. ‘You will not die like this, you hateful old man. You will not leave that legacy for your son -- for your family -- for the future. You. Will. Not. You won’t even go to Heaven with this on your soul.’”
“’Did your church teach you this? Did you learn to hate at your mother’s knee? Did you pick it up at school or from television, or did you just decide for yourself that you could only be whole and good-enough, if others were not.”