Being a Man

My father was dying. I flew to New York and took a cab to Manhattan. I rang the doorbell to his apartment when it was getting dark outside.

“Oh, good, you’re here,” my sister answered it. We went into the kitchen, her husband and two sons were there. “Your wife did not come with you?” she asked.

“No, she,” I said, hesitating, “She could not make it.” It was only natural my wife was not coming. I would not even talk to her about it. “How is he?” I changed the topic.

“The doctor says he has 24 hours max.”

I went into the bedroom. My father was hooked up to all sorts of machines. The moment he saw me, he removed the oxygen mask. The Marine Corps tattoo on his wrinkled hand made my skin crawl.

“Son,” he said quietly, he could barely speak, “I am happy to see you. I need to tell you this, and I feel strongly about it. I may have been harsh on you. Too harsh. All your life.”

“Dad, I-”

“Let me finish, please. I have always said you are a man and you are all there is. If you fall, there’s nobody to catch you. You can rely only on yourself. I no longer think this is true. You need to trust others and depend on them. People you love. Don’t shut them out.”

When he died that night, I could only think about what he said. Then I thought about my wife.

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