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An elderly man in the hospital making a phone call | Source: Pexels
An elderly man in the hospital making a phone call | Source: Pexels

My Dad Who Left 20 Years Ago Called from His Deathbed for a Final Wish — What He Asked Broke My Heart

Byron Loker
Jun 06, 2024
12:16 P.M.

When my estranged father, who left 20 years ago, called from his deathbed, I was torn between anger and curiosity. His final wish was something I never expected, and what he revealed about his disappearance shattered everything I thought I knew.

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I was getting ready for bed when my phone buzzed on the nightstand. The number was unfamiliar, so I let it go to voicemail. Not even a minute later, a text came through: "ALICE, THIS IS YOUR DAD. PLEASE CALL, I AM IN THE HOSPITAL."

A woman in her bedroom at night, looking at her phone | Source: Midjourney

A woman in her bedroom at night, looking at her phone | Source: Midjourney

My heart stopped. Dad? After twenty years? I sat on the edge of my bed, staring at the message. Part of me wanted to delete it and forget, but curiosity won. I called the number back.

"Hello?" The voice was weak, barely audible.

"Dad?"

"Alice, it's me. I... I don't have much time."

"Why are you calling now?" My voice was harsher than I intended.

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"I need to explain... to ask something of you. But please, don't tell your mother."

Doctors standing beside a hospital bed, looking concerned | Source: Pexels

Doctors standing beside a hospital bed, looking concerned | Source: Pexels

There it was, the same secrecy that defined my childhood. "What do you want?"

He took a shaky breath. "I left because your grandfather, Harold, paid me to disappear. He hated me, thought I was a failure. He found someone else for your mom, someone better."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "Grandpa? He did that?"

"Yes. I was struggling back then. Addictions, bad decisions. Your grandfather saw a chance to get rid of me, and I took the money."

A sick-looking man lying in bed | Source: Pexels

A sick-looking man lying in bed | Source: Pexels

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"So you just left us for money?" Anger bubbled up.

"I know it sounds awful. But I invested that money, built a business. It was all for you, Alice. To secure your future."

"Why didn't you ever come back?"

"Part of the deal. I couldn't approach you or your mom. But I was there, watching. I saw your graduation, your volleyball games. I was always there, just... from a distance."

I felt like my world was tilting. "Why didn't Mom ever tell me?"

An old man in a hospital bed talking on a cell phone | Source: Midjourney

An old man in a hospital bed talking on a cell phone | Source: Midjourney

"I don't know. Maybe she didn't want you to hate him. Or maybe she thought she was protecting you."

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"What do you want now?" I asked, my voice trembling.

"I need to see you, Alice. One last time before I go. I'm at St. Mary's Hospital."

I didn't know what to say. Could I face him after everything?

"Please, Alice. It's my dying wish."

The exterior of a hospital building at night | Source: Midjourney

The exterior of a hospital building at night | Source: Midjourney

The line went silent, and I sat there, the phone still in my hand, my thoughts tumbling. Should I go? What would I even say to him? I needed to think, but there was no time. He was dying.

The next morning, I called in sick to work and sat in my kitchen, staring at my coffee. Should I tell Mom? But he'd asked me not to.

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I called my best friend, Jen. "Hey, can we talk?"

"Of course. What's up?"

A woman talking on a cell phone | Source: Pexels

A woman talking on a cell phone | Source: Pexels

"It's... it's my dad. He called last night."

"Your dad? The one who left?"

"Yeah. He's dying, and he wants to see me."

"Wow. How do you feel about that?"

"I don't know. Angry, confused. He told me things, Jen. About my Grandpa."

"Like what?"

"That my grandfather paid him to leave. He said he was there at my graduation, my games. But he couldn't approach us."

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"That's insane. What are you going to do?"

"I don't know. He wants me to visit him, but I'm not sure I can."

A woman in conversation on a cell phone | Source: Pexels

A woman in conversation on a cell phone | Source: Pexels

Jen was silent for a moment. "Maybe you should go. Get some answers. Closure."

"I guess. But I don't know if I'm ready to face him."

"Take your time, but don't take too long. If he's dying..."

"I know. Thanks, Jen."

After hanging up, I sat back, deep in thought. Jen was right. Maybe I did need closure. I couldn't keep living with these unanswered questions. And if he really was dying... I had to see him.

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A woman driving a car | Source: Pexels

A woman driving a car | Source: Pexels

I decided to go to the hospital. As I drove, memories of my childhood flashed through my mind. The good times before he left, the confusion and pain afterward. The way Mom never spoke about him, the unanswered questions that haunted me.

I walked into the hospital room, feeling the weight of years and unanswered questions pressing down on me. The beeping machines filled the stark room with an unsettling rhythm. My dad lay in the bed, looking more frail than I had ever imagined. His eyes lit up when he saw me, a weak smile forming on his lips.

An old man sitting up in a hospital bed | Source: Midjourney

An old man sitting up in a hospital bed | Source: Midjourney

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"Alice," he whispered, his voice barely audible.

"Hi, Dad." I stood at the foot of the bed, not sure what to say. Anger and confusion swirled inside me, but seeing him like this, so vulnerable, made it hard to voice them.

"You came," he said, relief evident in his eyes.

"I had to. I needed to understand why."

"I know, and I'm so sorry for everything." He reached out a trembling hand, and I took it, feeling the cold, fragile skin.

A young woman close to an old man in a hospital bed | Source: Midjourney

A young woman close to an old man in a hospital bed | Source: Midjourney

"Why did you do it, Dad? Why did you take Grandpa's money and leave us?"

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He sighed, a deep, rattling sound. "I thought it was the best way to secure a future for you and your mother. I was a mess, Alice. Addicted, broke. Your grandfather offered me a way out, a chance to give you a better life, even if it meant I couldn't be part of it."

"Do you know how much that hurt us? How much it hurt me?" Tears welled up in my eyes. "You missed everything, Dad. My graduation, my volleyball games, my entire life."

A woman with tears in her eyes | Source: Midjourney

A woman with tears in her eyes | Source: Midjourney

"I was there, Alice. Watching from afar. It broke my heart not to be with you, but I thought I was doing the right thing." He paused, struggling for breath. "I tried to make it right. I invested the money, built something that I hoped would help you."

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"Why didn't you come back when you were better?"

"I couldn't. Part of the deal was that I had to stay away. But I wrote to you, Alice. Letters, every year. They're in a safety deposit box. Here." He handed me a small key. "After I'm gone, open it. You'll find proof of everything, and the letters."

A small key in the palm of a hand | Source: Pexels

A small key in the palm of a hand | Source: Pexels

I took the key, my fingers trembling. "Why now, Dad? Why tell me all this now?"

"Because I'm dying, and I can't leave this world without you knowing the truth. I love you, Alice. I've always loved you."

Tears streamed down my face as I gripped his hand. "I needed you, Dad. I needed my father."

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"I know, and I'm so sorry I wasn't there. But I hope you'll understand why I did what I did when you read those letters."

An apparently comatose figure in a hospital bed | Source: Pexels

An apparently comatose figure in a hospital bed | Source: Pexels

We sat in silence, holding hands, the machines' beeping the only sound in the room. After a while, his breathing became more labored. He squeezed my hand one last time, and then he was gone.

I left the hospital feeling a mix of emotions. Relief, anger, sadness, and a strange sense of closure. The next day, I went to the bank and used the key to open the safety deposit box. Inside, I found stacks of financial documents and a bundle of letters, each one addressed to me, dated over the years.

A corridor of safety deposit boxes | Source: Midjourney

A corridor of safety deposit boxes | Source: Midjourney

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I took the letters home and spent hours reading them. Each one was filled with his regrets, his love, his hopes for my future. He wrote about the business he built, how he watched over me, how proud he was of my achievements.

By the time I finished the last letter, my anger had softened into a deep, aching sadness.

With the financial documents, it was clear that my father had indeed worked hard to secure my future. The money he left behind was substantial, enough to change my life. But it wasn't just about the money. It was about understanding his choices, his sacrifices, and his love.

A woman takes up a hand-written letter | Source: Pexels

A woman takes up a hand-written letter | Source: Pexels

I knew I had to talk to my mom. I needed to know her side of the story. When I confronted her, she looked at me with sad eyes.

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"I knew about the offer," she admitted. "I didn't stop it because I thought it was best for you too. I thought you deserved a better life than what your father could give you at that time."

"Why didn't you ever tell me?"

"I wanted to protect you from the truth, to let you remember him without bitterness. Maybe I was wrong, but I did what I thought was best."

An elderly woman looking down thoughtfully | Source: Pexels

An elderly woman looking down thoughtfully | Source: Pexels

Her confession was another piece of the puzzle, helping me to understand the complex web of decisions that shaped my life.

In the end, I decided to use the money to start a scholarship fund in my father's name. It felt like the right way to honor his memory and his efforts. It was a way to help others, just as he had tried to help me.

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As I launched the scholarship, I felt a sense of peace. The past was complicated and painful, but it had brought me to where I was. And now, with the truth out in the open, I could move forward, honoring both my father's love and my mother's sacrifices.

A woman making calculations with a pen in hand | Source: Pexels

A woman making calculations with a pen in hand | Source: Pexels

What would you have done in these circumstances? If you enjoyed this story, here's another one for you about an older woman who is embarrassed to tell her son about the new man in her life, but the truth is exposed when she is rushed to the hospital.

This work is inspired by real events and people, but it has been fictionalized for creative purposes. Names, characters, and details have been changed to protect privacy and enhance the narrative. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

The author and publisher make no claims to the accuracy of events or the portrayal of characters and are not liable for any misinterpretation. This story is provided “as is,” and any opinions expressed are those of the characters and do not reflect the views of the author or publisher.

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