I Love You, Too

By: the YU Writers’ Guild  |  March 27, 2024

By The YU Writers’ Guild

Each month, the YU Writers’ Guild accepts submissions for a short story following a specific theme. This month’s theme was “Dial-up Dialogue” featuring stories with a conversation between two or more characters. Members of the club voted on a short story to be featured in the YU Observer. For the month of March, “I Love You, Too” written by Shneur Agronin was selected.  

The sun slowly set behind the rolling hills, its glow dipping below the sprawling vineyards and towering oaks in the distance. I had seen this sight thousands of times by now. Every evening, something new or different caught my eye. It could be the shift of the sun in the sky as the seasons dragged on, the moon waxing and waning over the course of the month, or the birds flying in formation overhead. 

This time, though, I couldn’t focus on much of anything. 

“Thanks for convincing them to let me out of there,” my dad spoke up, his raspy voice and labored breathing momentarily bringing me out of my daze. 

“I figured this was where you’d rather…you know,” I answered. 

“Well, you were right about that.”

“Can’t believe I had to fight tooth and nail to get you discharged.” 

It took about a week or so to get my dad out of the hospital. His oncologist insisted that there was much more to do and felt confident that, with a few more rounds of chemo and an experimental clinical trial, my dad could see improvement. I remember the look my dad gave me when he heard that. He could hardly speak, his trachea still scarred from the breathing tube which had occupied it for the past two weeks, but one look was all he needed. I’m done. It’s over. Get me out of here

“All they wanted was to keep me there and collect insurance till I died.” 

“Yeah, I think you’re right. All about the money these days,” I shook my head. He squeaked out a slightly more robust laugh. 

“You remember when we used to come out here while your mother and Robin washed the dishes?” 

“Sure do. We’d bring along some cokes and sit in the grass till the stars came out,” I reminisced. 

“That was always nice.” 

“Yeah, it was.”

Back then, my dad would point out Orion’s belt, the drinking gourd of the Big Dipper, and Ursa Major’s tail. Astronomy always fascinated him. Of the few times I ever saw him smile, most were when he and I sat out under the stars.

I peeled my eyes off the radiant horizon and looked down at my dad. His meager frame sunk into the cushion of his wheelchair, his thick burgundy sweater concealing the skeleton that remained of the once-upon-a-time college linebacker. 

With evident discomfort, he craned his neck to look up at me, too. Our eyes met. I saw so much in those deep blues. They were one of the last things reminding me that this hospice patient on death’s door was indeed the man who raised me. His luxuriant beard had long fallen out and his stocky build had melted away over the past several years. 

“I want you to know,” he began in a strained voice, each word just barely crawling out of his mouth.

“…that just because I didn’t say it so much,” he continued. I fought hard to hold back the tears that my dad never seemed to shed.

“…it doesn’t mean I don’t love you.” 

He was right. I seldom heard him express much of anything affectionate to me or my sister growing up. That was probably one of the reasons she wasn’t here with him now like I was. They haven’t spoken in years. I doubt she’d even show up to the funeral. 

I stared back at him with quivering lips. In his eyes I saw the pain of five miserable years spent in and out of ICUs, on and off ventilators, and grieving my mother. I saw the disappointment of someone who wished he could’ve been so much more than a highschool football coach. I saw the fear of a man so traumatized by his own father’s fist that he hardly knew how to express the love he felt for his own son and daughter. I saw the love he wished he could share with us all those years ago and the yearning to be the father for us that he never had.

“I love you, dad,” I croaked. I last said those words well over a decade ago.

His thin lips curled into a rare smile. I knew he needed me to say it first. I felt his cold, bony hand weakly grasp my own. 

“I love you, too.”

He never looked me in the eye the few times he shoved those words out of his mouth in the past. Now, in what he knew were his final moments, it seemed he overcame everything which always held him back. Although well aware I’d probably never hear him say it again, I smiled. He smiled back. 

We looked back at the horizon, the sun now long set. The stars my dad felt so enchanted by began to glimmer overhead. After a few minutes, I heard gentle snoring. I wheeled my dad back inside and carried him to bed. 

The night after the funeral, I find myself tucking my son into bed. He usually insisted that he’d grown out of it by now, but this time he relented. He could tell I needed it. 

I planted a kiss on his forehead and gently ran my fingers through his curly hair. 

“I love you, dad,” he whispered, his eyes’ brilliant blue shining in the moonlight just as his grandfather’s did. 

From now on, he’d hear those words from me every single day, no matter what. 

“I love you, too.”