Things Left Undone

The phenomenon started a week ago. I first heard the sweet melody of a violin somewhere inside my mother’s house. It was Jules Massenet’s ‘Meditation’, seeming to float down the hallways and in and out of bedrooms until finding its way to my ears. It couldn’t be, though. Dad loved to play the beautiful song, but he passed away over two months ago.

Us kids had moved out when we created families of our own, so now the house was quiet. Mom all alone. I had come to stay in the house with her for a few days, until the home care nurse could start with regular visits.

I knew some of dad’s old stuff, like his violin, was stored in the massive attic of the old brick farmhouse. After hearing the haunting melody, I felt compelled to go look. The music must have been coming from somewhere.

As I opened the attic door, a breeze came from the long staircase behind, rushing by as if to enter the space before me. Shuddering, I stepped inside.

I saw a violin case resting on a nearby shelf, so I reached out and opened it. The coating of dust on the Stradivarius copy told me that no one had disturbed it for quite some time. Dad’s fingers had become too arthritic to continue. Still, the music he would play had brought so much joy to our family.

Up high on another shelf, I noticed his manual typewriter. He sold a few short stories in his day, but like most everything up here, it was laid aside at some point. Never to be picked up again.

I spied a sheet of paper stuck inside the roller, and I just had to see what it said. As I turned away to look for the ladder, I heard a sound coming from the typewriter; snick, snick, snick. The definite sound of letter-heads smacking into paper. A chill ripped down my spine. Couldn’t be. 

I climbed up the creaking ladder and grabbed the dust laden machine, bringing it down to an old wooden table. The last three letters typed were visible on the page: Dad

First the violins, now the typewriter. There must be some explanation. Maybe another joke he set up long beforehand? Dad was the consummate prankster, always pulling fast ones on unsuspecting family members.

I pulled at the paper trapped within the typewriter and read the note:

I hope this finds you well, son. I know things have been difficult lately, but I want to give your mother a gift. Something she can hold on to during this trying time. You must go to Southfork and enter the forest. There you will find it.

I love you.


How could this be? I hurried downstairs in fear of another inanimate object coming to life in that spooky room. I called my wife.


“Hi hon,” she said. “How’s it going over there?”

“Fine. You know how you’re always telling me that spirits, you know, ghosts, are real?”

“Uh huh.”

“Well, I’m thinking I should believe you.”

“What happened?”

“It’s dad. I think he’s trying to communicate with me. In fact, he left me a note on his old typewriter.”

“Maybe it’s something he typed a long time ago?”

“Then how do you explain the sound of him playing the violin?”

“Um. You sure you’re okay?”

“Look, I gotta go talk to mom. Bye.”

After mom woke from her nap, I asked if she remembered the last time that dad had used the typewriter. Years, she said. And how she missed him.

“I’m going up to Southfork, into the forest,” I said. “You know, the wildlife preserve?”

“Oh yes. That’s where we first met. Did you know that?” After softly recalling his name a few times, she shut down. Seeming not to want to carry on the conversation any longer.

I had to try. I had to do as dad requested. Even if it was a practical joke from years gone past.

After calling my sister to come stay with mom, I pulled up the map on my phone. Access to the wilderness reserve being a short ride from the station. When my sister arrived, I left to catch the train.

The restored locomotive 99 chugged through the Pennsylvania late-afternoon mist as I wondered what the hell I was doing. Chasing some chance of my late father sending a message from the great beyond. I couldn’t get the note out of my head, just too specific in response to the recent heartache we all felt.

Leaving the train for the forest, I found the path many hikers followed underneath the arches of entangled trees. After an hour, I halted and questioned my sanity. A sudden breeze scattered leaves all around. In their motion I swear I heard his voice; Keep going.

I started again, coming around a thick patch of brush to see an odd scene. A small dog sat silently before me. Specifically a pug. Wrapped in a blanket. Looking like a Russian Babushka.

Suddenly I knew. I knew dad had some unfinished business here on Earth. It may not have been some ultra important world-changing mission, but it was no less important where mom was concerned. For he loved her so. And I now remembered that he had mentioned maybe getting a dog before he died.

I scooped up the little guy. He licked my face, both of us knowing we somehow played our parts.

Holding mom’s gift securely against my chest on the way back to the house, I understood a bit more about life. Things will never be perfect, because our time on Earth is limited. But Dad assured me we can get through them with the help of family, and a good friend snuggled in a blanket.


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