He was no longer what he once was: a daily morning 5k run, before the household stirred, followed by a busy round of meetings and calls, all of which afforded little time to get home before his only daughter’s bedtime. That was then.

Now, he tagged along, at heel, willing weary legs forward, as his breaths came short and raspy, betraying his effort. Did she know the cost? He loved her. Those unspoken words were held in his mind and lay in all the silences between them.

When she answered her phone, he heard the sharpness; the normally soft timbre turned into something edgier as she gave instructions to the unseen caller. Her agitation ground itself into her very stride and she unconsciously quickened her pace, moving ahead of him.

He could never remember what she did. He could not bear the condescension that would come in a query now. He wondered at rage and all its range. He used to be able to contain his until the day’s weary end and a whiskey at home weakened all restraints.

He leaned heavily on his cane, allowing this and the yielding earthy ground to support him, its smell a comfort and a distraction from effort. When he caught up with her, she had finished her call and acknowledged his arrival through the flash of an eye’s sideway flick.

Their time was up. She drove him home with radio DJ’s voice expanding to fill the space between them.

-See you next week Daddy.