Charles couldn’t wait to get home after a rough day at work.
As the rain fell hard, his wipers struggled to clear the window and the radio just seemed to drone on.
He and his wife, Rebecca, had been trying to have a child. Once they had made the decision to have children, Charles started to put in extra hours at work, hoping for a promotion that had just opened up, that he was the main consideration for.
‘The work will be well worth it,’ he thought, counting down the minutes until he got home.
He heard a loud crash as a semi-truck t-boned his car and then there was silence.
His head throbbed as he slowly opened his eyes.
Confusion set in as he realized he was parked in his driveway but couldn’t remember how he had gotten there.
Remembering the crashing sound, he jumped fully awake, looked around to see what damage his car had sustained, and seeing none, carefully got out of his car.
He walked around his car to assess the damage. He was relieved and concerned at the same time, when he saw there was none.
“You okay, Charles?” his wife asked standing just inside the front door of their home.
Snapping back to reality, Charles turned to her, still wearing a confused look on his face.
“Yes,” he answered. “I’m fine.”
He grabbed his briefcase from the backseat and walked into the house.
Rebecca was waiting for him at the dining room table. She watched as he took off his coat, and hung it by the front door.
When he walked into the dining room, she said, “You may want to take a seat.”
Initially, he became nervous, but when he saw her warm smile, he relaxed.
Once he was seated, she reached out and took his hand in hers.
“What is it, dear?” he asked. “Is everything okay?”
Her smile grew.
“Everything is great,” she started and in her other hand slid an object across the table toward him. “We’re pregnant!”
As Rebecca shook with excitement, Charles stared at the pregnancy test with wonder and then started shaking with excitement too.
The thought of having a child was exciting enough, and he thought he would be prepared when it became a reality, but now that she had said the words, he was filled with more emotion than he had expected.
‘This time next year, we’re going to have a little boy or girl,’ he thought, no longer able to control himself.
He jumped out of his seat and enveloped Rebecca, and they both laughed and cried together.
Over the next nine months, they worked to get everything ready for the baby.
Charles had earned that promotion at work, and the extra money he began making went into buying everything from diapers, to furniture for the baby’s room.
They had found out they were having a little girl, so they painted the room pink and bought everything to match.
When the time came, Charles nervously drove her to the hospital.
“Breathe, Rebecca, breathe,” he repeated over and over to her on the way to the hospital.
Twelve hours later, their daughter was born. They named her Amy, after Rebecca’s late grandmother.
The first few months were crazy for them. Charles was putting in extra hours to keep up on the cost of raising their first child, and Rebecca went from having a career of her own, to being a house wife, in what seemed like a blink of an eye.
But as time went by, they got the hang of things and were able to enjoy each moment of Amy’s first year.
“Come on, Amy,” Charles said, encouraging her to take her first step.
She stood staring at him on wobbly legs, holding onto the coffee table. He could see the determination in her eyes to take the plunge, and with the encouragement from him she stuck her leg out, let go of the coffee table, and then took another step towards where he squatted waiting for her. She made it almost five steps before she lost balance an fell forward.
Charles swooped her up and said, “Great job, Amy! I knew you could do it.”
She giggled at the praise.
“Did you really like it?” Amy asked, after she pinned her drawing on the board for the whole class to see.
“Of course, I did,” Charles replied.
One of the benefits of being a Director of his department was that he could slip out whenever his daughter had big class project where the parents were invited.
He couldn’t believe she was already in second grade. It felt like she had taken her first step right into school.
She jumped in his arms and squeezed him tightly.
He took a picture of her painting and texted it to Rebecca, who was stuck at work. Once Amy was going to school, she was able to go back to work part time, and then full time.
They had both decided that one child was enough for them.
At dinner, they both sat on either side of Amy as she drew more pictures of anything and everything.
“What’s this picture?” Rebecca asked.
“That’s me, that’s daddy, and that’s you,” Amy explained, pointing at each stick figure in the drawing.
She finished the drawing with a rainbow over all three of them.
Satisfied with her work, she gave it to her mom and said, “Here you go.”
Nothing melted Rebeca’s heart like getting little gifts that Amy made.
Charles took a moment to watch Rebecca read a bedtime story to Amy, and then went to the kitchen to pour a couple of glasses of wine.
He set the glasses down on each of the bed stands in their bedroom, and then returned to Amy’s room to tuck her in.
Once Amy was asleep, they retired to their room, where they sipped on their wine, watched a little TV, and when they were done, they climbed under the covers and made love.
“Dad!” Amy yelled, crashing through his bedroom door. “I can’t find my keys and I’m going to be late!”
Charles woke up with a start and tried to remember where he was.
Hearing her call out to him a second time, he jumped out of bed, threw on his robe, and walked downstairs to help her find them.
“Retrace your steps,” he suggested. “Where was the last place you remember having them?”
“I don’t know,” she snapped back, frustrated. “If I could remember that, I’d already know where my keys were at!”
“Okay, okay,” he responded, trying to calm her down. “You go look in your room and I’ll search the living room.”
She huffed but went upstairs to look anyway.
“Found them!” He called out after just a few minutes.
“Where did you find them?” she asked.
“Between the couch cushion,” he replied.
She took the keys, gave him a quick hug, and said, “Thanks, dad. I love you!”
Then she was gone.
He took in a deep breath and smiled.
He couldn’t believe how fast she was growing up. She was sixteen, working at her first job, and seemed to be thriving at life. What parent could ask for more?
“What?” Rebecca asked him.
He turned to face her.
“I said I can’t believe she’s already graduating from college,” he replied. “Where does the time go?”
She smiled at him and asked, “Do you see her yet?”
They both were watching as the graduating class marched into the auditorium and took their seats.
“There she is!” Rebecca yelled, frantically waving at Amy, hoping she would see her.
Amy saw her mom and dad waving at her and gave them an embarrassed wave back.
Neither of them minded how stuffy the auditorium was, they just patiently waited for their daughter’s name to be called.
When it was, they both clapped vigorously, annoyed that the rest of the families didn’t join in.
Their claps merged with the next family who took over when their child’s name was called.
After the ceremony, they took turns taking pictures with her, until she finally called it quits.
Charles and Rebecca hoped that Amy would leave with them to continue celebrating over dinner, but Amy told them that her and her boyfriend, Heath, had plans already with some of their friends.
Disappointed, Charles and Rebecca watched as their only girl took off with her friends, not even giving them a glance as they left.
“Well, I guess we’re just going to be seeing her at the holidays, until the wedding, I guess,” Rebecca said, tears forming in her eyes.
“I know, but we both knew this day would come,” Charles replied, trying to comfort her.
Tears of pride streamed down, as Rebecca watched Amy and Heath exchange wedding vows.
Though Charles felt it too, he didn’t fully embrace all the different emotions he was feeling until they began the Father-Daughter dance.
He pulled her close, remembering when he would carry her around the house, as if her feet were too fragile to touch the ground, and feeling the difference now that she was all grown up.
“You know, I used to carry your mom around just like this when she was little,” Charles explained to his grandson, Colton.
Colton smiled back at his grandpa as he was carried to his bedroom to be tucked in. He loved the way his grandpa tucked him in. He always told the stories better than his mom.
“What would you like to hear tonight?” Charles asked him.
“Harry Potter! Harry Potter!” Colton replied.
Charles laughed as he walked to the bookshelf and grabbed the book they were on.
He sat down and began reading from where they had left off the last time. Colton squealed and situated himself under the covers.
It wasn’t long before the soothing sound of Charles’ voice caused Colton to drift to sleep.
‘Good thing, too,’ Charles thought. They had reached the part where one of their favorite characters died.
Watching his grandson fall asleep and remembering the emotional impact of the character dying the first time he had read the book, a tear escaped and ran down his cheek.
He wiped the tear off his cheek as Amy put her arm around his neck, and her head on his shoulder.
“I love you daddy,” Amy consoled.
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and he began to let the tears fall freely.
He had married his soulmate 50 years ago and now he sat there in the first row of chairs, watching her being lowered into the ground.
Everyone was solemn as they gave him their condolences one by one at the wake. He watched as groups broke off to reminisce about the times they had with her.
Even though he had more good memories than he could count, he felt heartbroken that there would be no new ones formed with her from now on.
Seeing her dad alone, Amy walked over to him.
“Hey, daddy,” she started. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
He took her hand in his.
“No, sweetheart, thank you,” he replied.
She stayed by his side the rest of the evening, making sure he took a few bites of food and wasn’t overwhelmed with sympathy from their friends.
After everyone had left, she sent him to bed and went into the kitchen to clean up the best she could.
When she was finished, she went up to his room to check on him, and found him peacefully asleep.
She imagined he watched her sleep the same way she was watching him now and began to mourn the day when he would leave this world too.
She sat on the side of the bed and softly caressed his head, running his hair through her fingers.
He slowly opened his.
“I’m sorry, daddy,” she whispered. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
His eyes still blurry, he squinted to look around the hospital room.
“It’s okay, sweetheart,” he replied. “I’m glad you’re here. “Where is Heath and Colton.”
With a smile, she said, “They’re downstairs getting some coffee. They’ll be up soon. How are you feeling?”
“Tired,” he answered with a warm smile.
“I know, daddy,” she said, her eyes filled with love and sadness.
Amy, Colton, and Heath all stood around the bed as he slowly drifted off to sleep, never to awake again.
The ambulance arrived at the site of the car crash, but it was too late.
They checked Charles for a pulse as he laid slumped behind the wheel of his mangled car. Feeling no pulse, they confirmed him deceased and began the process of removing his body.
Before Your Eyes