Father’s Day 2021

Etiquette in enclosed spaces is still an iffy thing in the middle of 2021, and a hitch of hesitation showed in the movement of the young man who instinctively lurched toward the doors of my elevator as they started to close.  It was only a hitch, though, and the urgency in his eyes caused me to stick my hand between the moving stainless steel panels, sending them back open to allow him to step into the car with me.

In his early 20s with a ball cap covering his short curly hair, he carried an overfilled bag in his left hand and a phone in his right.  He had been walking hard, and a mixture of anxiety and exertion showed on his face.

I reached down and pushed the button beside the number six, then turned to face the new passenger.

“What floor are you headed to?”

“Fourth, please.”  His countenance darkened slightly as he spoke, although it’s possible it was just a figment of my imagination or a product of my own memory.  I pushed the appropriate metal button.

As the doors slid closed all the way this time, a brief moment of silence hung between us, and with the slightest of jolts, we began to move upward.

Save the hum of the ventilation fan, the ding of passing the second and then the third floor was the only sound in the car until I found the words to say. 

Our car slowed to a stop and the doors opened as I spoke. “My dad just left the fourth floor the other day. I hope y’all are out of there soon.”

Hope. I hope.

He turned his face toward me as he left the car. Inhaling deeply, he hesitated for the second time in the last 30 seconds before saying, simply, “Thanks, man.”

He turned and walked away as the doors slid shut.

Within a few seconds they opened again to let me leave the small compartment. As they had many times over the past three weeks, my eyes looked toward the brushed steel letters on the wall just ahead of me: Heart and Vascular Patient Care.

I whispered a short prayer as I dropped my eyes to the directory on the wall beside me.  As if I needed to be reminded, I read the label beside the number four.

Heart and Vascular Intensive Care

Hope.  I hope.

Turning away, I stepped in the direction of the patient I had come to see, happy to be able to make the trip.

13 thoughts on “Father’s Day 2021”

  1. Oh, Tim, I’m sorry to hear that some health issues with your Dad are what has been keeping you from us, your writing community. I had wondered… You tell this story in such a way that you left us guessing until the end. You told it in a beautiful, compassionate way. Sending good thoughts your way.

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  2. Not only is this vignette executed flawlessly, but the emotional response sneaks up in the reader. Your Slices are always so good, but this one really touches the heart. All the best to you and the patient.

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  3. What kindness and compassion you extended to your elevator companion. Knowing a bit about his destination for the day is not the kind of knowledge you want to have, but your empathy meant a lot to him, I am sure. Thinking of you and your dad and hoping that soon you get to see him in better circumstances. <3!

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  4. First of all, Tim, THANK YOU for sharing this with us. I can only imagine what you and your family have gone through over the last few weeks. Just know that I’m thinking of you all and sending healing wishes your way. And…this writing. It’s such a powerful piece. You bring us on to the elevator as we often climb on and in – without much of an idea of what to expect. Will this be about COVID? About a return to elevator conversation? And then, you bring us with you, letting us know of your father’s situation through this moment of compassion you offer to your fellow rider. It’s beautiful.

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  5. This is one of those pieces that I can’t figure out how to respond to, because I respond on so many levels. It’s beautifully structured to maximize the impact. There are so many places where you made masterly craft moves to increase the tension, to paint the scene…like a setting polished to present the content and the emotional weight of this journey you’ve been on, and that the young man is beginning. The metal box of the elevator, the connection between the two of you, the refrain of “hope”…and so much more work together flawlessly. I’ve been on a medical journey with my father this spring as well and it shakes foundations. How interesting that your next slice (the one that sent me here) is about concrete anchors. My best wishes for a speedy recovery to your father!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Molly, I’m sorry to hear that we have a shared experience, and it’s my hope that yours is going well and a recovery is underway. Thank you for your comments, but that piece wrote itself in so many ways. I was struggling to find a way to write about what was going on, and then that piece just came out under my fingers on the keyboard. It was the only thing I wrote during that month. I’m looking forward to happier topics like rowing and warm bread!

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  6. Read this earlier: Beautiful passage, great structure. I’m not sure what else to say. You captured what its like to be hoping so desperately against forces so powerful. Tim through your writing I feel like I’ve gotten to know you a little and I hope you are doing good and taking care of yourself.

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