The father and son from Exceter.
December 18, 2010 § 3 Comments
“A man with a sword will not outlive the memory of Shakespeare.”
Words are powerful for different reasons. We’ve all heard that the pen is more powerful then the sword but I never really understood that until a train journey in the south of England. I was sat at the window seat in a pretty empty carriage heading north when a father and son got on at one of the stops. The Dad was a tall, slim man of around 40, the son was around 5-6. The boy ran onto the train in that typical excitement and noise that should define a boy of his age. The father calmed him down in that stern and respectful way that only a father can. They sat down at the table across the isle to me facing each other. Around 10 minutes into the journey the father took the boys hand in a very intense way and spoke softly and clearly in a way a father should never have to speak to his son. He said “Son, I want you to promise me something, when I go to heaven will you look after your Mum and Sarah for me?” I was instantly taken off guard, it was only then that I took a proper look at the man, I noticed how worryingly pale and thin he was. Pale, thin and bald. With a sinking feeling in my stomach the situation hit home. The boy continued playing with his small toy car on the table, he paused and looked up at his father, who was clearly in the last stages of unsuccessful chemotherapy. He looked into his eyes in the most stunning silence I have ever witnessed and just said “Daddy, you can’t die, your Superman.” and with that, he got back to his toy car. Now I don’t know how being hit with a sword feels, but I’ve been hit with bottles and fists and neither hit me half as hard as that sentence. I couldn’t bring myself to look up. These words needed no visual aid. I could hear the fathers breathing turn heavy and quick like just before you really cry. The tears were already streaming down my face as I just stared out the window desperately trying to drown it out and feeling rising guilt for that.
It wasn’t Shakespeare or Dickens or Wordsworth but it didn’t have to be, because it was pureness and honesty was overwhelming and carried with it that beautiful blissful nativity of youth that his father was Superman, and that meant he was always fighting the good fight and that he would never leave and never die. It was from that moment I understood how powerful words can be. I couldn’t look at the father and son when I left the train at the next stop. It wasn’t even my stop. I sat on that train platform and cried like a four year old.