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Father's Presence


Angela Hope

It was a little after the hour of 3:00 am on the first Friday of September that Herb Renfrew recalled arriving back late from Sydney the night before. He also remembered vividly the tight pain he had felt in his chest as he drove that long windy road home. Suddenly in the grip of it all he realised he was watching his own body being placed in a large plastic bag and heard the whir of the cold metal zip as it was being yanked closed. All light was snatched away in a blind second and only the rattle of the plastic bag as it knocked against the branches of the frangipani tree, could be heard in the quietness of the house as he was transported out to the waiting morgue van.

The sound of the timber awning banging over the front window whenever the wind changed directions accentuated the otherwise soundless night. He recalled that all his life he had prayed to die suddenly and not to become an invalid needing his wife and family to care for him. He didnít think it would be so soon, as he was only 53 years of age. He had worked hard all his life on that dirty, stinking floating dock but had lived his life to the fullest with his wife and their three wonderful children.

Spring came early that year and the overnight temperature was rather mild. Cassy walked out onto the wide-open verandah and bade farewell as she watched her father being escorted from his home for the very last time. Herb was truly sad to see his youngest daughter standing there alone looking bewildered. He just wanted to go to her and place his arms around her to console her and let her know everything would be alright. However, his time had come to move to a higher dimension and the ability to delay his departure was not within his reach. Engrossed in her private memories, Cassy slid down and sat on the edge of the verandah with her legs swinging to a slow rhythm. Some time later, she was not sure how long, she felt a strange eerie sensation. 

There was a tap on her shoulder, "Cassy hurry, you will be late for your wedding, you canít keep Phillip waiting." She opened her eyes and rubbed them with the back of her hand.

"Where am I?"

Her father replied, "You are day dreaming again Cassy, Phillip will be running out of patience if you donít get yourself to the Church on time."

"Dad, you are really here," she said rubbing her eyes.

  "Where else would I be on my daughterís wedding day."

  "Oh, I thought we were dÖ. Oh, never mind I must have been dreaming."

"Dad, you will be there at the church wonít you?"

"Of course, silly. Now go and get yourself dressed. You will have Phillip after me, for not getting you to the church on time."

"You're not even dressed yourself Dad."

"I donít need much time to get ready, not like you women." He said, as he stood in the doorway unzipping his suit bag, which held his freshly cleaned suit.

A couple of hours later, Cassy heard a knock at her bedroom door.

"Is that you Dad?"

"Are you dressed yet Cassy?"

"Yes Dad, come in."

Her father gasped, the sight of Cassy as he entered the bedroom made him feel so proud of his youngest daughter, "You look truly stunning Cassy, I hope Phillip knows how lucky he is."

"You look rather smashing yourself, Dad, all dressed up in your suit and tie, your work mates wouldnít recognise you."

"Has your mother been in to see you yet?"

"No Dad, I think she is trying to avoid me. Donít worry I donít expect her to fuss around me."

"She could try a little harder, just for today". Although Cassyís mother was his wife, Herb could not condone her actions and the way they were affecting Cassyís special day.

"Dad, I am not going to let her spoil my day."

"Thatís my girl." He smiled brilliantly at her and, not wanting to let her know the real reason behind her motherís absence, he walked quietly out of her bedroom.

It was time to leave for the church, the day that Cassy had been awaiting for so long. She brimmed with pride at having the privilege of her father to give her away on her very own wedding day to Phillip, her knight in shining armor. Cassy believed that their courtship had been made in Heaven. Her mind stepped back a little to their earlier courtship. Phillip left for Sydney each Sunday night for work for the following week, Cassy felt lost without his company and would be conscious of the soft words of their conversations over the weekend that faded with the sunset in the Sunday evening sky. Each Sunday afternoon they would both be slightly subdued as they contemplated the inevitable good-byes and the loneliness until the following Friday evening when Phillip would return.

It was her wedding day, Cassy was not going to let anything, especially any one ruin it. It was a warm sunny day, the birds were chirping and one could hear the slight rustle of leaves in the breeze. Suddenly a sensation came over her and goose bumps appeared all over the skin surface of her body as her thoughts returned to her father. A thought forced its way to the surface, Ďwhat would she do if she didnít have her father to walk her down the aisle in front of her family and friends?' She just could not contemplate it, she quickly pushed that thought out of her mind.

Cassy heard her father say the cars were ready. She picked up her bouquet of flowers and walked anxiously towards the front door. On stepping out onto the verandah the cameras flashed madly and her father took her arm gently and guided her down the steps to the waiting tinted windows of the wedding cars that stood on the cobbled circular driveway.

It was only a five block drive to the church and on approaching Cassy could see a number of interested on-lookers waiting to see the bride. As the cars pulled up, she alighted and was firmly supported by her father who displayed his pride and happiness in his daughter mixed with a little nervousness. The chords of the wedding march filled the air and Cassy knew it was time. She was happy that her father fully approved of her choice of partner and that he was so proud at being able to stand up and give her away.

Cassy and her father were only half way down the aisle when the fragrance of the white soft scented frangipanis in her bouquet wafted through the still air. 

She became suddenly aware of heavy traffic nearby and her arms felt slightly warm from the rising sun as it broke the nightís darkness. Suddenly Cassy heard her name being called.

"Cassy where are you? I need you," her mother called.

On opening her eyes she realised she must have gone to sleep on the verandah.

"What am I doing out here so early?"

Instantly Cassy recalled the dream from which she was abruptly wakened. As she stirred herself all the memories of the hours before came flooding back. The shock, the loneliness, the despair and shattered dreams once again became overwhelming. The realisation that her father had truly died resurfaced and having him to walk her down the aisle on that most important day of her life was only a dream that would never be realised. All Cassy had now since her fatherís untimely death only a few short hours before were her memories of him that she held tightly in her heart.

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