The first line of this story is a prompt given to me in my fiction writing class.
Prompted: “Whenever a lion was spotted prowling the avenues, the authorities contacted my father.”
Whenever a lion was spotted prowling the avenues, the authorities contacted my father. This didn’t happen on our small island, but my father always hoped it would. He had grown up in Africa and then became a lion tamer and he loved that life. But when he was too old to manage on his own he had to move in with me and there were no avenues on our quiet island. We do get the occasional bear and my father got very excited about those sightings, but the bears soon swim away and that is that.
My father had trouble adjusting to this quiet life. Even in his infirm state he longed for excitement. I, on the other hand, am a born recluse and I cherish the peace and quiet. I do not leave my home willingly even to go into town and my father can’t understand this. My mother was killed when I was not quite 5 years old and that death affected everything in my life. I had no mother that I can remember. My father was devastated by the loss as well and in truth never recovered.
He bullied me and tried to toughen me up. He went out on safaris and helped capture lions for zoos. He kept himself incredibly busy as a way to avoid dealing with his pain and he tried very hard to make me into the same kind of person. And since I felt responsible for my mother’s death, something I didn’t realize until years later, I knew I needed to make up for that and to be what my father wanted.
So I trained as a safari guide. I learned all my father wanted to teach me. I obeyed his every word, not only to escape punishment, but also because I truly believed in him and that he knew what was best for me. In school I learned all I could about African wildlife and I even went on to get degrees in wildlife conservation and management as my father had done before me.
Eventually, when I was on my own, I discovered that I wasn’t the person my father tried to mold me into. I couldn’t live that life. And so I moved to an off shore island and became a recluse. My father was horrified, but he left me alone, having given up on me, finding me to be a complete failure.
Once I was out of his sphere of influence, I blossomed. I found my niche as an artist and sold watercolor paintings of the beautiful African scenery that I had grown up with. I became famous in my own right and while no one ever called me if a lion got loose, they did call to commission my paintings and I was at peace with myself and the world.
But when my father became too frail to live on his own, I offered him space with me. This was very difficult. Being in his presence made me revert to my old behavior, trying to be what he wanted, even though now I knew I wasn’t that person and had no need for his approval.
He lived with me for over three years and while he couldn’t fathom me or my artistic life style at all, he did try to understand as much as he was able. He refused as he always had to talk about anything to do with feelings or the loss of my mother. I had hoped when I took him in that I would then be able to learn about my mother, who she had been and what she had been like, but that was not to be. My father had bottled up his feelings long ago and he wasn’t about to let them come out ever again.
I started feeling sorry for my father and the very wounded man he was. I knew he had lived a life of emotional pain which he only kept at bay by staying busy and living on the adreneline rushes of his job, an exciting and thrilling one by any standards. But when his body failed him, he couldn’t do that anymore. The authorities no longer called him when lions came off the plains and into town, and he was forced to live with an active mind in a shell of a body.
After three years his body finally gave out. He moved on to whatever comes after this life. I am glad I took him in as I am a stronger person for the experience. I did manage to “hold my own” so to speak in the face of this strong figure, and it was the right thing to do. Now I only feel sorrow that so much will always be unresolved.