Updated: Oct 16, 2021
The locals are use to Charlie. He is often seen in the park shouting out “Bloody mongrel, you never come and see me anymore” and “I worked 7 days a week to provide for you and this is how you repay me?”.
The anguish on Charlie’s face was emphasised by the weathered cracked features like a permanent scowl revealing his tortured soul. He was a big man, in his seventies, struggling to walk on his walking stick but determined to do his daily routine of walking to the park. It was the highlight of his day as well as the saddest.
He would watch the children play, reminding him of the times when he use to bring his son Tom here for picnics, ball games and fun on the play equipment. He loved to chase Tom playing tag and hearing him laugh and shout, zig zagging away to dodge being caught. Nowadays, Charlie sits on a park bench ranting and raving to himself protesting the loss of his family that he hasn’t seen in years.
Strangers that pass by give Charlie a wide berth as they fear his volatile outbursts and stare at him whilst hurrying their children past. Charlie would shout after them “where’s Jessie?” and sometimes resulting in him breaking down sobbing as though his heart was broken. He would get his big white handkerchief out of his pocket and blow his nose and wipe the tears from his cheeks. Breathing deep to regain composure he would stagger to his feet and wander back to his empty home.
The next morning, like ground hog day, the ritual of going to the park would recommence. Charlie would walk down the road chattering to himself like being comforted by a lifelong friend that never leaves him. His inner voice is no longer just the voice in his head but can be heard trying to keep Charlie calm as he goes over and over again why his son Tom and granddaughter Jessie don’t come to see him anymore. At first, he talks about the times they use to come and take Jessie to the park to play on the swings. He remembers her sweet smile and extended arms for Charlie to pick her up as she was tired and couldn’t walk any more. She had big blue eyes and golden blonde hair with a face of an angel, Charlie absolutely adored her. He would carry her all the way home with the promise of hot chocolate when they get there. As soon as they turned the corner and the house came into view she would wriggle and want to get down to run the rest of the way. BEEEEP! Charlie jolted to a halt realising he had started to wander across the road daydreaming about Jessie not noticing the car on his right. His heart was beating so fast and he was short of breath. He continued to cross the road to the park and sat on his bench to rest.
As he watched the children playing and chasing each other laughing, it would invoke the memories of Tom and a sadness would blanket him. The void in his heart, would make him feel empty, lonely and ignite anger of not seeing his family. He just wanted to yell at the world how unjust it has been that he doesn’t see his son or granddaughter anymore. He became more animated and loud shouting “You are so selfish; you don’t care about me” as people passed him by looking at him. Charlie was so consumed with his negative thoughts and ranting out loud, then suddenly he stopped and saw a little girl with blonde golden hair and big blue eyes running towards him with her arms outstretched as though she wanted to be picked up. Her big smile lit up her face and Charlie felt very emotional with a tear rolling down his cheek. Charlie stood to his feet with his arms outstretched shouting “Jessie, come to Granddad, lets go home”. The little girl had almost reached him when she was swooped up by a woman scowling at Charlie, shouting “you crazy old man, you should be ashamed of yourself” and stormed off with the little girl looking over her mum’s shoulder reaching for Charlie, crying. Charlie was devasted, his mind was playing tricks on him, and he felt so confused. He started to walk home bewildered unable to comprehend what had happened.
The following morning Charlie arrived at the park, sat down on the bench muttering to himself when a middle-aged woman sat next to him. She introduced herself as Mary, a social worker wanting to have a chat to Charlie about yesterday’s incident. Charlie told her he could have sworn it was Jessie, and how sorry he was to have upset anyone. Mary was very kind and sat and listened to Charlie telling her about his family and how he hadn’t seen them for years, he missed them so much. Mary listened intently and could see how heartbroken Charlie was as he would get choked up telling the story of his life and how he thought he would never see them again not understanding what he had done for them not to visit. Mary asked for his family details to get some insight into who she could contact to discuss his ongoing care. Mary gave Charlie a hug to comfort him and he broke down in tears, he hadn’t had anyone hug him in years and it was just what he needed. Mary said she had to go but would see him again soon.
A few days had passed and Charlie was sitting on the bench talking to himself, answering his own questions like as though his inner self was comforting his distress, trying to calm him down, telling him he will see them one day. In mid-sentence a shadow came over him, blocking out the sun and he looked up and saw a young lady with blonde hair, big blue eyes and a big smile. He had a memory flash of Jessie and thought his mind was playing tricks on him again and he sat there bewildered. The young woman said “Grandad, it’s me Jessie”. Charlie broke down in tears and she sat next to him wrapping her arms around him hugging him tight. They both were crying and holding onto each other so tight so they wouldn’t lose each other again. Charlie wiped his cheeks with his sleeve and said “Come on, lets go home for hot chocolate” and started to stand up. Jessie laughed and said “I’m too big to be carried now” and slipped her arm through Charlies and they smiled as they walked home.
Over hot chocolate Jessie told Charlie that when she was 8 years old her mum and dad separated and she was taken far away to start a new life with her mother and hadn’t seen her dad since either. She said she remembered the park and often thought of her Dad and Charlie wondering where they were now, vowing to herself she would find them again one day. Charlie said he didn’t understand why he hadn’t seen his son Tom for years and Jessie said “Don’t worry Grandad, we will find him together”.
Every week Jessie would come to see Charlie and they would walk to the park and sit on the bench listening to the birds, hearing the children squeal with laughter and watch them playing together then return home for hot chocolate. It was the highlight of Charlie’s week and he couldn’t wait for her to return to do it all over again.
One day, Jessie pulled up in the car with a man in the passenger seat and Charlie wondered if Jessie had a new boyfriend to introduce to him. As the man got out of the car, he could see he was much too old to be her boyfriend and suddenly realised it was Tom. Tom ran to Charlie giving him a big hug and both men were crying and hugging each other tight. Tom looked very drawn and haggard as though his life had taken its toll on him. It was evident that the separation from Jessie had made him ill and he said he felt like he had failed her in his attempts to get her back in his life. The grief had consumed him to the extent he couldn’t think of anything else but the loss of Jessie. Tom looked at Charlie with his voice all choked up said “I’m so sorry Dad, I know you lost her too”. Charlie grabbed Tom close to him saying “I lost you both, but I am so glad you both have come back to me”
They were all so happy to be reunited and vowed to never lose each other again. It became a Saturday ritual to go to the park together, all three with arms linked, with Jessie in the middle, like the three musketeers.
Author - Cheryl Duffy
Cheryl Duffy, Mediator, Divorce Coach & Author of The Divorce Tango