The sun was setting low over the houses across from ours. The street lights would soon be on, illuminating the thousands of tiny, flittering bugs that seemed to spawn from those lamps. The air was thick, like it always was. Hot and thick.
The evening meal was regular, maybe it was soup with ice berg lettuce and little pieces of chopped tomato served on paper plates. He was there that night. His presence always welcomed, yet always heavy like the air around us. The rattan and metal chair balked at his shifting weight. As his feet shuffled under the chair, positioning his legs just so, the pain would be better. He would eat voraciously. Every last bite of that iceberg lettuce gone. He'd wipe at the corners of his mouth with napkin first. Then came the handkerchief for his nose. Then he would speak.
He bent at the waist, leaning over table. Thick, rough fingers curved in rest a top the worn glass as if on piano keys. His burnished skin shone in the dim light of candelabra bulbs. As usual, his thick silver hair was not a strand out of place. And in his dark, smiling eyes I saw something new.
I was still a girl really, but old, and old enough to know what the knowing looks like.
He recounts the story of the prodigal son from the Bible. With lips pressing, then parting, his head tilts and his brow creases deeper. His thick, brown fingers tap the glass with growing pressure as he is connecting the long ago story with something now, recent and deeply hidden. He struggles with the things he cannot put to words. And never had I seen into his heart like this.
"He's chasing after us, like the father and that son.... the prodigal.... we run from Him and... He runs after us." he chokes it out with the first tears I can ever remember him shedding.
By some standards, he was already an old man, but I still a child. I remember thinking my greatest prayer answered.
"Yes Daddy. He does."