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Alone

The old man sat alone and felt even more alone.

What is there to show for it? he thought. Fighting to live and bring up a family for so many years. Getting up when they were all asleep and trudging home after dark. Fighting the untold battles at work -- and sometimes fighting just to stay in work.

And all they do is smile and want and go their own sweet way today with no thought for tomorrow. Ah, now, he thought bitterly. That was for father to provide. And provide he had and without question or thought of working less or taking time off. He even worked extra and did work on the side, whilst others complained of stress and worked on and off as it suited.

Sometimes when he was busy in the corner, working, working, he would glance enviously over at others in play and recreation. But if he stopped all he felt was anxiety and guilt. You are the provider. No rest for the wicked. And so he kept trudging, drudging.

But he could not and would not complain. He was the cornerstone, the foundation, the atlas on which it all rested. He could not crack. It was not allowed. And so he woke up early and crept out to work every day.

And there was much to be grateful for. His lovely wife, though she had not worked full-time for many years, cooked, sewed, cleaned and kept house. What paid work she did stressed her out, poor thing, as did her family. He dared not confide his worries in her because that would just lead to more tears and no change.

His daughter had worked very hard through school and university and he was proud of her academic achievements, yet she seemed unable to hold down a job. When demoralized, she left and toured Europe. Talent in search of worthwhile employment, the world steadfastly refused to provide.

And the boy, the feckless tragedy. Such blind arrogance. Such selfish teenage angst. Wanting everything for nothing. Trading education for today's play. Life's rubbish. I know that. I hate you nagging old bore who tells me to work and sees through the lies. Why can't just wanting make it so?

God, thought the man. I was never like that. Poor child, he knows he is going down the tubes but can't stop himself. What a waste of talent. He'll pay in aching regret. Maybe he'll find he a way. Maybe.

Will I have to support them all forever? Will I find no rest but in death? Hah! he thought, grimacing. Can't even afford that.

And so the old man soldiered on, finding happiness in moments and hiding the hurt. But deep inside he was alone.

 

***

~by David Straker~

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