Note: This story won an Honorable Mention in a recent contest sponsored by Women on Writing.
He was tall and lanky and athletic, especially athletic. But he flunked chemistry junior year, when the world should have been his for the taking; after that, he was ineligible to compete in high school basketball. So he dropped out and married; but, like chemistry, he wasn’t much good at that either.
In the following years, he turned his basketball footwork to dancing and, in between wives, won big money in dance contests. How he had rhythm! But he spent every penny the contests awarded him and always hoped his current partner would pay the rent. She usually did.
All this occurred in the first twenty years of the boy’s life.
Now a man, he varied the pattern only once, in a half-fought legal battle against Wife Number Three to gain custody of his two daughters. The mother was an addict, unstable, unreliable. That he won surprised him.
That his daughters cared surprised him even more. But they adored him without reserve, even though they saw his faults. What they loved most was that he had fought for them.
Over the years, he did his best by them, although it was meager by most standards; so he truly understood when, in the end, they left home for good.
After that, he spent his final years sitting in front of the TV, watching basketball and wondering where the time had gone. When he died, his daughters came and conducted a service, but they were beyond true mourning.
The only personal remnant of his life was the high school letter sweater that his children found hidden deep in the bottom of his dresser when they went through his belongings. It didn’t mean a thing to them, because he had never shared stories of his youth. So they gave it to the Goodwill and figured his life had been unimportant.
And yet, because of him, they were who they were.