He walked through the front door, weary from a long day at work. He shook his head at the mess that lay inside the foyer. Toys littered the hallway and coats that had fallen off of the hook days ago still lay there, crumpled among several pairs of shoes.
Ignoring the mess, he continued to the kitchen. Dishes were piled in the sink. Some hadn’t been washed in days, he noted, seeing the remains of the meal still encrusted on them. His wife of seventeen years stood at the stove. He leaned against the archway and watched as she prepared dinner for their two boys. She said nothing as he stood there and did not turn and smile at him like she often had in the past, flirting with him in her “Kiss the Cook” apron. She just kept stirring the spaghetti sauce that was simmering. An opened jar stood on the counter.
He could remember days when she swore she would never use prepared sauce. She would use fresh herbs and tomatoes and let the homemade sauce’s aromas fill the house. God, he missed that. She had changed so much recently that he barely recognized the woman she had become. He suddenly realized that she wore the same clothes that she had worn the day before. His forehead wrinkled as he frowned.
Retreating back into the hallway, he made his way upstairs to the boys’ room. They were eight and six now, though it seemed just yesterday that he had held them as newborns, rocking them in his arms. Caleb, the oldest, sat in front of the computer playing a video game he had never seen before. Something filled with blood and gore, a military game that his wife had always abhorred. There were certain levels of violence in these games that she never used to allow. On the carpet, Zach ran cars around each other, playing some sort of mock version of demolition derby. Both boys played silently. There were no loud bangs and screeches from the cars colliding with each other. There were no cheers or exclaims over the video game Caleb played so intently.
His boys had changed, too. Gone were the carefree smiles, the bursts of laughter. His heart felt heavy in his chest as he watched them, wondering at the men they would become. He turned away, unable to look on as his two little boys played.
The silence in the house was overwhelming and screamed across his soul. He needed air, so he walked out of the house and began his nightly walk. It was always the same path he took. There were nights that he wanted to turn in the opposite direction, but he found that he could not. There were nights that he wanted to rush back into the house, grab his family and hold them tight.
He passed iron wrought gates and found himself drawn forward. He struggled to stop, but his feet would not obey. They led him to the same spot that he found himself every night. Dusk had fallen, but there was enough light to see what was in front of him. He sank to his knees and traced his fingers over the chiseled words.
His head sank into his hands and he could not hold back the hard sobs wracking his body. Not for the first time, he prayed that when he opened his eyes his world would change. But some things, once changed, cannot be restored. Rimmed in red, his eyes stared blearily at the simple grey stone in front of him and read the words again, struck again by the cold irony of the simple phrase.
“Beloved Husband And Father
To Live In The Hearts Of Those We Love Is Never To Die”