Chris stood in the darkness of his father's office. It was 2 a.m., and he swore he heard a noise from behind the desk. He checked for the cat that was a constant companion, but she was settled for the night on her pillow.
He had no desire for light, so he slowly walked behind the desk using the ambient light to make his way. The ache of his father's death was more prominent now as he touched the top of the leather chair. He slid his hand down and slumped into the seat that held someone whom he could never replace. If he closed his eyes he could see him when he was a child.
His father would sit there sometimes with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Other times he could see the big man playing solitaire and whistling to Henry Mancini. The paperwork would be pushed aside as his mind would concentrate on the problem and the solution that was at the tip of his fingers. He never understood how that worked, but he found it uncanny as to how often the answer for a particular problem would come with the ace of spades or jack of diamonds.
It was hard for him to believe that this once immovable force with the strong hands was no longer here. Despite himself, he had taken his father for granted. Time pushes forward despite how badly he would like for a moment to breathe, grieve or even show gratitude. The work would be all consuming and with his two older brothers or his sister, he knew there was always someone watching his folks. In his line of work, his time might be up before any of them.
That is why he sat in the chair that he could never fill with tears quietly streaming down his face in the dark. The grief over a loss that was incomprehensible had finally taken its toll. He remembered a song from Harry Chapin about spending time some other day and felt the pain of loss really make its toll on his soul. He had always assumed that the man was immortal, but saw his frailties all too well as his strength lessened. This was no way for a hero to die. It should have been in a blaze of glory for everyone to know and remember.
Instead the man that was his hero passed away in the early hours before dawn on a spring day when birds woke to sing of new life. He died with barely a whisper of his love for family or the wife that managed to keep the home fires burning when he was near death time and time again. He knew instinctively when he died. He woke from another nightmare that shook him to the core and was a side effect of the profession he had chosen. A profession his father had shared but had discouraged him from entering.
He heard the sound again. It shook him out of his reverie and caused him to focus on what stood before him. There in the dim light was a shadow. He started to laugh because the shadow was that of his father and he barely made out the smile that was somehow there in the darkness. The weight lifted from his shoulders as he got up with a renewed sense of strength.
There on the desk was an opened deck of cards. He lifted the top one and saw the Jack of Diamonds. He shook his head and smiled.
“Thanks Dad” he said as he walked away from the desk that would stay as a monument to a legacy that he may never fill. He brushed the cat with his hand and watched the light of dawn fill the windows.