All Stories, General Fiction

It’s All I Can Do by Thomas Elson

Look closely. Near the walnut bookcase a friend built for my son. Can you see me? I visit here every day.  

A couple of weeks ago, I told my son it was time. There were no miracles cures for me – ninety-two years old – not really high on the list of miracle-cure candidates.

From where I rest, I can see decades past when I walked through our old second floor apartment above the Firestone store and entered his bedroom. My blessed event asleep in the same wooden crib I had as a baby. I touched my newborn son, reached to smooth his sheet, and, with the hand of a mother, adjusted his left ear, then kissed his soft forehead. It’s all I can do not to cry. I searched for a reason to remain in that darkened room. I felt his cloth diaper and listened to his breathing. Were I to linger in that glow, I’d enfold him into me and refuse to release my little boy.

Six years later, I’ll lean against the wall in a grade school hallway as he walks alone toward the teacher’s desk, and, as we rehearsed, hear him say, “Good morning, Sister,” then smile and walk to his assigned seat. It is all I can do not to rush to him.

Eleven years after that, I will park in front of the administrative building of his high school to talk with the principal. My son has had another incident. What my family later called “his troubles”. As I walked through the hallway, I saw the top of my son’s head from inside the closet-sized phone booth, followed by a shadow. He thought I didn’t know. My son was hiding behind the door of the phone booth.

One year later, I will stand in a college dormitory hallway, tears blocking a clear vision of my boy. I’ll reach for his hand. He’ll kiss me, then walk without me into his dorm room.

Seventeen years later,I will receive a phone call from my son who will tell me the police have raided his office and he must flee the state.

Three years after that, I will stand on the landing of a second-floor entrance and watch as my son transfers dirty laundry from one bin to another. He won’t notice me. I’ll walk into the hallway of the diagnostic and rehabilitation center to meet the state-appointed counselor to discuss his case. I won’t see my boy again until he is escorted to me. I’ll rush to him. I’m here now. But, unable to reach his face, it’s all I can do to struggle to touch his hand through the glass.


Twenty-one years later on the floor of a hallway, I have not taken a breath in over twenty minutes. My son will rush toward me moments before an emergency medical tech will call out, “No pulse. What time is it?”

“Call it.”

My son will lean against the wall, exhale, then slide onto the floor where his wife will comfort him. After they place me back in bed – the same bed where he was conceived – he will smooth the sheet, and with the hand of a dutiful son, adjust my left ear, kiss my forehead, then cry.

Six days later at the funeral home, he will watch as I am brought to him. My son will carry me to the car, position me in the passenger seat and adjust my seatbelt. When we arrive home, he will place me on the walnut bookcase where I will return daily to be with him.

It’s all I can do.

Thomas Elson

Image – Google images

6 thoughts on “It’s All I Can Do by Thomas Elson”

  1. Hi Thomas,
    I echo what Leila has already stated.
    Some of these can be very sugary or sad for the sake of it but you got the balance spot on!
    All the very best my friend.


  2. Thomas, your story conveys such a sense of helplessness! The plot does not feel contrite. On the contrary, it helps convey that sense of helplessness. Figuratively speaking, the father was dead to his son throughout his life because the son would not take him into consideration.


  3. Makes me glad I never had kids. I agree with Dominique… a bit of a worst case scenario. Looking on the grim but slightly bright side, at the end the son did feel emotion, did feel the sadness, maybe realized what he had lost.


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