"Get that light out of my eyes!"
That's the sort of greeting I usually get from my father. Never, “It’s great to see you!” or “Thanks for visiting!” It’s always a complaint. The only way this one is different from normal is that it’s actually a reasonable request this time, unlike last month, when he griped about my new coat. Apparently, the color reminded him of fall and he thought I was hastening his death.
“Is that Eli?” Mom calls from the other side of their planting place.
I lower the flashlight so that I’m no longer blinding Dad. “Yeah, Mom. How you doing?”
“Oh, you know,” she answers. “Hanging in there.” She laughs at her own joke, lame as it was.
“You should be up here, too,” Dad grumbles. Something else we’ve been through more times than I can count. Neither of my parents believe in using sorcerer magic to manage the length of time our kind spends in tree form.
“I turn every night, Dad.”
“It’s not the same.” He sniffs in disdain. “You can’t possibly know what it’s like to be a tree without going through at least a year in this state.”
As I see things, I still spend half of my time locked to the ground, and this way I’m not missing huge chunks of my kids’ lives. But it’s not an argument that’s even worth having with my folks. Well, Mom, maybe... But Dad is never going to see my choice as valid.
Rounding the trees so that Mom can see me, I take out my phone and show her the most recent photos of her grandkids. I don’t bother showing them to Dad; my children are half-human, so he’ll never acknowledge them. It pisses me off on their behalf, but it’s his loss. He’s the one giving up on knowing the two most wonderful people in the world. What have the kids lost? Nothing but knowing a grouchy old speciesist.
“How many days left?” I ask. It’s a question I know the approximate answer to, but always ask anyway.
Mom pulls away from her tree trunk. She’s only attached below the knees now. “Not many. A fortnight or so?”
“I’m staying,” my father says. “Not that you care.”
The declaration makes my mother sigh. “Your father isn’t ready to walk again.”
“You should be staying with me,” he adds. “A wife’s place is next to her husband.”
Separation-by-species is not the only subject my father is old fashioned on.
Mom meets my eyes. I know she loves him, but it’s past time they went their separate ways; I think she’s starting to see that.
Against my better judgement, I circle back to Dad’s side of the planting. He’s nearly merged with his trunk, and his face is covered in bark. This will probably be the last time he can speak to me. Once the tree takes over completely, one becomes solely the plant. I have nightmares about it.
“Dad…” This may be my final conversation with him, and I have no idea what to say.
He closes his eyes and goes still, as if the transformation were already complete. I know it isn’t, but I let him have his pretense.
“Goodbye, Dad,” I whisper. And I wish I could say that I did it with more grief than relief.
Prompt from tsoline of deviantart
via Bliss Morgan's Nightmare Fuel Project