It was 8:45am just a few hours after the devastating news. Howard had fallen asleep on the sofa from total exhaustion of finding out that his only daughter was dead. He couldn’t believe it was true. For the first few seconds upon waking he thought it had been a dream. Now he remembers it wasn’t a dream and that Elizabeth had been killed by a wild animal of some kind. He was devastated and started to tear up again, but he knew he had to pull it together and be the man that his wife and son needed. It was too late for him to be a father to Elizabeth; the father she so deserved. He knew he could do better; be better.
Howard looked up and saw Jen at the top of the stair. She looked so frail and broken. As he was thinking of what to say, Jonathan came from his downstairs bedroom like a wild wind. He stopped when he saw his father. “Dad, I just heard something about a wild animal attack down by the lake!” He seemed to be entertained by the thought of something so exciting happening in this “armpit of Sandy Oaks” as he called it. Howard told him to come into the living room and sit for a minute. Jon looked up and saw his mother take a few steps down the staircase, and then she turned and ran back up. The bedroom door slammed behind her.
Jonathan looked puzzled. He recalled the time his mother broke down and his father put her in the mental facility to help her “get over” her mother’s death. He couldn’t understand why his mother had to get over anything. Didn’t she have the right to feel the way she did? Jon did as his father asked and came into the living room.
“Whatever it is, I didn’t do it,” Jon declared. He seemed worried that he was in trouble but couldn’t think of what it could be. He thought that maybe his father had forgotten that today was a half-day of classes, and he didn’t have a class until 1:35am. “Jon, something has happened. I need to tell you…” Howard’s voice cracked and he bowed his head for a moment. He composed himself quickly and said, “Jon, the animal attack down by the lake… Your sister… Elizabeth was killed by a wild animal. She’s the one who was attacked, Jon.” Howard’s voice cracked as he struggled to get the words out but he finally did. Jon looked at his father with total disbelief. For a few seconds, he thought his father was playing a cruel joke on him but realized that that wasn’t his father’s style. He saw the tears well up in his father’s eyes and he knew it was true. Jon sat down and let it sink in for a bit and then he broke down. This was different than when Gramma died, he thought. Gramma was old and sick. She lived her life. Beth isn’t supposed to die this young. She had her whole life. It’s not fair, it’s not fair… Finally, the tears came and father and son sobbed together. A strong embrace followed. This was the first time in many years that the two of them had connected in any way. They stood with their arms wrapped around each other for several minutes.
“Let’s go up and check on your mother, Jon. She needs us now.” Howard told Jon and Jon nodded in agreement. They wiped their tears, hugged once more, and went upstairs.