Contest RecapMidlife Collage sponsors a weekly contest of midlife short stories. U.S. citizens and legal residents age 40 and older may enter. The Editor selects five stories for publication on our website each week. Readers leave comments and Facebook thumbs-up likes urging the panel of Judges to choose a contest winner. Readers also send the Judges their opinions of the best story on our Closing Arguments page. The contest period is Monday through Sunday noon PT. The first-place story enters the Winner’s Circle and receives a cash prize of $50. Winners of a $50 cash prize are eliglble for a $100 contest, which we run quarterly. See the Submissions Page for the Contest Rules for details. ANYONE, worldwide, age 18 or older can comment on the stories in a contest.
Every morning my father splashed Old Spice on his cleanly-shaven face, as I watched from the hallway. I loved the scent of his aftershave and marveled at the way he could artfully, with a straightedge, smooth off the stubble that had been there only seconds before.
Then there was the methodical way he slipped one end of his navy blue tie into the other, turning these formless parts into a tight fit. And when he dragged his brief case through the front door, I knew it wasn’t good-bye. He’d always run back in for something he had forgotten.
As a little girl, I idolized my father, though in my youthful, self-centered way, I never really cut him slack. When we moved one summer, he ended up flat on his back after pushing a bureau down the stairs. But I had met a little girl in the new neighborhood who wanted to play. I stood over him, pleading, “Daddy, can I play? Please? Please?”
My brother admonished me, but I didn’t understand. I cried at the injustice of it all. My dad, barely able to breathe, whispered, “Go ahead. Play, baby.” It wasn’t until the ambulance came that I realized the great pain he was in.
In 2002 after struggling with Alzheimer’s, my father died. Usually when you cry, your body gives warning. You feel a lump in your throat and perhaps a few, helpful, stray tears foreshadow a downpour, but these tears tumbled down my face with such force and clarity that I thought they would never stop.
I walked into a coffee shop where people were sitting by a fire, laughing, carrying on as though it was just a normal day. Their joviality made me furious. Didn’t they know the man who had run away from home to join the carnival as a teenager and who ached to write the great, American novel was gone?
It took a while before I had the courage to look through his belongings. My mother had kept his crate in the basement, but the thought of rummaging through his past yielded more anxiety, than comfort. But one day I changed my mind.
I found photos of a handsome, tanned soldier, eating mystery meat out of an army tin. Other photos showed him beaming surrounded by smiling women near a sandy beach; playing an accordion on a crowded ship; puffing a cigar as he played the piano. A postcard he had written to his folks included one of his signature, corny jokes. These glimpses of his youth made me smile.
As I pulled these memories out of the crate, I wondered why I had been afraid to go through his things. There would be many questions that would go unanswered. Yet, this treasure trove had given me a great sense of relief. My father had lived a life of adventure, a full life, and he had survivors who would graciously honor his legacy—I was one.