Dear Father of mine. The love I have for you is a bittersweet love. In the beginning, a doting single father raised two kids. By all accounts a perfect father. You loved and supported me to be the person I am today. I will never forget how great you were. But somewhere somehow I missed something about you. Something so crucial that'll affect me until my last breath. It was my last 6 months of high school when you cast me out. Just one month after my 17th birthday when you discovered I had snuck before work to see my boyfriend one fateful Saturday morning. Work started at 9 am I left at 8. For 15 minutes I sat in my boyfriend's room talking before we both went in. At some point, my manager asked me if I could go to another store to help. I called you to let you know and you informed me you saw I wasn't at work at 8 am and my heart went through the floor, then I knew what was in store. The screaming match that ensued when I got home at 1:00 am kept me awake until 5:00 am knowing I still had to work at 9. This was my last day at your house. But nothing. Not the lying about where I was. Not the sneaking behind your back. Nothing but the fact that you thought, just thought, that I was with a boy was what made you cast me out. Still, I invited you to my graduation for you are still my father who I still love and respect, but I never saw you. I knew you were there with my sister. But because you saw the boy who had taken me in, you left before I ever saw you. Not a word. Not even a text. Still, I had hope. I keep turning over and over in my head the words you said about my mother. “How could someone ever choose drugs over their kids?” But I believe addiction to be harder to kick than prejudice. To make it worse. She had always, always tried in the 10 years we had no contact with her she always tried to talk. I can count on one hand the number of times we've talked since that Saturday. Once for the graduation. Once for my enlistment. One happy birthday. And once before I left for basic. I remember so vividly that last one. Because it's what gives me hope today three years later. You had told me all you needed was a little time to come around. Let the dust settle from my escape. Let you grasp your feelings. I told you then that the boy wasn't going anywhere. We'd been together a year by that conversation. We spoke about how I'd reconnected with Mom and how she seemed to be much better and I was hopeful for the relationship. You reminded me we'd done this song and dance before. Unfortunately January 1st, 2022 the day before I left for the second part of my training she took her own life. I was too drunk the night before partying with my best friend and boyfriend on New Year's Eve to answer her call. I never got to tell her I got married just 10 days before. Married in the back of a hair salon by the barber who'd only performed 1 wedding before mine. I didn't want you to know and out of fear she'd talk to you about it I didn't tell her the last time I saw her on Christmas Day. I haven't heard from you since. Didn't see you. Didn't call you. I gave up then. A part of my soul died whether I knew it or not. Yet in all this turmoil, my now husband by this time had stood solid. An ever-present wall for me to lean on. My anchor to reality. So I left. Off to Fort Sam Houston, I went. Luckily the army gave me the money and time off to fly home for her funeral. I decided to leave you and everything else during those months. My husband and I moved to San Antonio 1100 miles away. So here I am in Texas working as an EMT. I make enough money to provide for the family I want to build with the love of my life who's never wavered by my side. I'd be lying if I said there weren't hard feelings from him towards you. You never gave him a chance. I got his parent's blessing to marry him and you haven't even met him yet we've been married almost two years. Maybe it's hopeless. Maybe my brain is right. But my heart still beats for the chance you'll be there for the wedding ceremony my husband and I swear we'll have in the home we're set to buy in a few months. I still love you Dad, And somewhere in the bottom of my heart, I know that great father is still there. I'll be waiting at the altar for the day you can accept me for who I am. The photo attached was the last photo taken with my mom on December 15th 2022.
Hooray! End of the exam week! I was feeling blissfully happy that unwelcomed exams finished. As usual, we started dancing to our favorite songs with the girls as we have just finished 20-day exams. There was an announcement on the radio: we are going home for a holiday! It was such good news for all of us. The holiday was planned to be for a week or so. Nobody even thought that it would take months to come back to school. I grabbed my stuff, including clothes and my favorite book "Aleph" and then went to the amphitheater with my sister for waiting for our taxi to arrive. We spent a week at home and were getting ready to continue our studies. But then, some tragedic news... The virus that started to spread in Wuhan was also recorded in my country and for that reason, Uzbekistan has also declared a quarantine. Everybody was shocked. The government was encouraging people to stay at home, not to shake hands, and to wear masks. Daily products in stocks were being sold rapidly and more and more people who were facing poverty were having tragedic times. My family was frightened even though we had money to survive because that virus was taking the lives of people who had comorbidities. I have a grandpa, who had had two heart surgeries and it was predicted that those kinds of people would not recover from Covid-19. Knowing about that, my brother, who was studying for his Master's Degree in the field of Anesthesiology and Reanimatology in Tashkent, decided to come back home to look after him. He was considered the only one at home who could go out and buy items without being infected. Everything was going smoothly at home, we were having online lessons on Zoom and telegram and all my family members were safe and sound. But my brother, Bunyod, was thinking of working at the Central hospital for infected patients from Covid-19 in Tashkent. When he told his plan at the family gathering, my grandma started crying because she didn't want to send her son where everybody was suffering. She was afraid that her son might also get infected. He started to explain that it was his duty to serve the population when there is a disease, he has taken the Hippocratic Oath and was now feeling guilty because he was at home while hundreds of people were dying. However, my daddy who was in Dubai at that moment encouraged him to do what his heart was willing. Then my brother took the first flight to Tashkent and got an occupation there. He sent us a photo of him. He was in a disposable protective suit, covering all parts of his body, even his face. As soon as he got there, he began working with all his effort, doing his best for protecting human lives. He was in an area where some people were hopelessly waiting for their destiny, where others were crying, craving for their children and family. It was a dramatic scene, an unbearable situation for each of us. Not every doctor could do this, some of them were caring about themselves and their lives while some of them were sacrificing it. My brother was that kind of brave doctor. He didn't lose himself, grabbed his courage, and was ready to face any upcoming challenge. Unfortunately, while he was striving for human lives, my grandpa got infected at home. The virus had already taken the 70% of his lungs. Doctors in Urgench were telling us that he cannot handle this, it is absolutely hopeless to cure him. But my hero brother as a perfect child brought grandpa to his working place. Grandad was lacking air, oxygen, and his blood pressure was extremely low, he could not even speak as a result of the pain! Brother was always monitoring and recording his temperature, saturation, and the food he was eating. He was doing the same for all the patients! Most of the days, he had no sleep, and no balanced nutrition, but still, he was able to work with such potential. My father Pulat, who was in quarantine in Dubai, immediately found a way to come back and help his brother. He is not a doctor but is a responsible and golden child. He was infected by this virus twice in Dubai while working in an airport, helping people to go back to their homes. Even after that, he was still fearless and went to the hospital daily, providing medicine and injections for grandad even if he was not able to get inside the hospital. After so many healings, grandad started to recover, he was so thankful for all the kindness and prayed for them both. Almost a month later grandad recovered and was transferred to another hospital to continue the healing. The professors who told us that it was impossible were amused, I guess they still say it was just luck. Yet, there is the result of hard work, there is a possibility in impossibility, there is always hope and there are people who are courageous to face difficulties, who can sacrifice anything just because people are suffering. There is power in a promise, in a sware. There are real heroes in life. And that hero is my brother. His name is Dr. Bunyod.
Having a keen eye for real estate and working on a timeline of no more than two months, Mama was scrupulous and swift when choosing the right house. After a hard and footsore morning of self-guided showings, it was on Oakridge Drive where she found just the thing: a midcentury split level, set back from the road and nestled into a hillside, trimmed with wrought iron details and a bedroom balcony that overlooked the pool. The pool was really what caught Mama's attention, specifically the thicket of verdant elephant-ear plants that wrapped around the outdoor patio, intertwining with fat terra cotta pots of bright fuchsia bougainvillea, creating the feeling of a miniature jungle. It was there, fifty-six days later, with the faintest breath of spring in the air, she gave birth to five kittens. My parents instantly regretted telling me they were there, for when we made our pilgrimage to my grandparents' tidy house I skipped polite chat and bolted down the stairs, pressing my face against the sliding door in hopes of seeing the kittens, so desperate I caused a clatter and an obvious round white fog of my breath against the glass. Startled by the commotion, Mama deftly ushered her round and mewling children back under the elephant ears, her lustrous tabby fur slipping through the giant leaves and closing them behind her like a beaded curtain. As March gave way to April, I learned to control my volume, and as I calmed, I caught more glimpses of black and white fluff, tabby tails, and tufted orange ears. With every passing day, they grew bolder. Mama sat just at the edge of the little jungle one Sunday, watching as the five tussled in the late morning light, chasing pillbugs across the patio. Mama was starting to get that restless, primeval itch that made her turn to house hunting again, and the kittens had started to find meals on their own. As I watched the little clowder tumble in the sun, I overheard the adults in the room ruminating that it wouldn't be long before all of the cats had wandered off and we should probably consider sprinkling a box of mothballs in the bushes before the next set of pests moved in. My pleading eight-year-old eyes turned to each grown up in turn, looking for weakness of will that might somehow result in my acquisition of a pet before they aged out of my grandparents' garden. A firm no, an exasperated head shake, a “don't even ask..” But bless him, my father, well into his sixties at the time and perhaps not at the peak of his physical prime, stood up and slid the sliding glass door open, startling Mama cat who dove into the thicket, teenaged kittens in hot pursuit. Dad stood as a Midwesterner does, hands-on-hips, scrutinizing the situation and evaluating all possible escape routes. Without further prompting, he plunged into the elephant-ear thicket and a great cacophony of rustling and squalling carried into the house. Just as my mother began her protests in urgent, as I clenched my fists under my chin in trepidation, he emerged— mottled old hands bloody, Dockers khakis covered with mulch, and clutching a screaming, swatting calico kitten. I called her Wildflower.
Through the years, my sons teased me about my good posture and how, while they were growing, I wouldn't tolerate slouching. “Mom's fault,” I'd say with a smile. Although no genius, as my sons often point out, they are also just as quick to comment on how much I do know. They call me a walking encyclopedia of nonsensical trivia. Once again, I shrug and say, Mom's fault.” While my mom was never what was considered a strict disciplinarian, when it came to schoolwork, she was tough. I remember as soon as I could talk, she'd drill me every me every Saturday morning. Using two pages at a time of the dictionary, she would read each word, emphasizing on its pronunciation, encouraging me to try and spell it correctly. Back then, luckily, the dictionaries were small. Mom kept track of the words I misspelled in order for me to study them for the following Saturday. By the time I reached Kindergarten, I found it easy to read whole sentences. Soon, my “home education” expanded adding Math to my list of things to learn. After my spelling and reading lessons, Mom gave me wo sheets of paper with arithmetic problems to solve. Mom never confined her idea of teaching to just schoolwork. She believed in a healthy mind and healthy body. While I'd be pouring over homework, if Mom saw me slouching, she'd quietly walk behind me and gently t ouch my back. With one finger. Without one word spoken, I would immediately straighten to a more proper position. For about five minutes a day, three times each week, I would have to stand with my back against the wall. “Touch your heels to the wall. Now, your butt! Head up and back; shoulders back! Stomach in!” I know, I know. She sounded like a drill sergeant, but it kept my posture intact and my spine straight. Most of my friends learned to cook while their moms stood at their sides verbally instructing their every move. Mom's method differed completely. Handing me a recipe, she'd back away. Her reason was simple. Anyone can mimic; anyone can follow step-by-step instructions as each is given. It's more important to read and comprehend. As she often said, “Following a receipt teaches you to learn to follow any instructions.” However, she remained in the kitchen with me – just in case. Mom believed in teaching by example, not by using a bunch of words. Too often, my friends heard their moms say. “Do as I say, not as I do.” Never once did I hear that phrase from my mom. I also never heard the more familiar, “Because I said so.” Mom would often take me for long walks in the park, weather permitting. At times, we'd go for a train ride to the local zoo or museum. Once a month from June to September, mom and dad would pack a lunch and we would head to the nearby lake for a picnic. In addition to schoolwork, mom taught me to appreciate the beauty of a flower, the wonder of a rainbow, and the compassion needed for those less fortunate (like the WWII Veteran who sat legless on the street corner begging for a few cents to help him get by. Even tough money was tight, we never passed him by without Mom dropping a few cents in his little tin cup. She also taught me that although life is not perfect, we must strive for that goal and not be disappointed if we fail. Mom taught me the appreciation of demanding work. “After all,” she said, “the harder you work the more you appreciate the end result. If things came too easily, we would take those things for granted.” Yes, mom taught me many things: reading, spelling, love, and life. Now, here I am in my seventies. Mom passed away a number of years ago but even at my age, I am in good health. I still sit properly, and my back is straight. While I never went to college (as I said money was tight), my knowledge and education about what matters is exemplary. I am not afraid to tackle new projects and while I strive to succeed, I don't sulk if I fail. I just change my attitude and try again. My sons now, are grown with families of their own and emulate Mom's parenting as much as possible. I insisted on rearing my children the way Mom reared me, with compassion, understanding right from wrong, a thirst of knowledge, and fun in doing everything. I have been a good mother and teacher to my sons (they told me to say that), and I can see what wonderful husbands and fathers they are in every way (their wives tole me to say that!). Mom would be so proud of them. The reason for our successes in maintaining such happy homes, I feel is simple. It's Mom's Fault.
They are the reason why you even exist, Now try to think how you'll pay their love back? You may have left behind your childhood, But I'm sure they have the day-to-day track. They are your protection against your parent's slaps, They can't live if you go out of their sight. They are probably the first who bought you cotton candy, But did you ever think of giving them a bite? Your current assets, ethics are unrecognized gifts from them, They love you more than you'll ever know. So spend some time with them while you still can, Time really passes with a furious flow. They share their surname with you, They are the seeds of our identity. Most lovable people on earth they are, Every grandparent is a silver haired-golden hearted entity.
Mom was only fifteen when she met my dad – to be more specific, when she first saw him. He was doubled over gasping for air, lying in the street when she saw a crowd huddled over something. She walked over to see what the fuss was about and saw what she described as the handsomest boy she'd ever seen. Dad's hair was dark-blond, and his eyes were milk chocolate brown. Her heart melted as she watched him struggle to catch his breath. He had been playing hockey with his friends and his stick hit a slightly raised manhole cover, got stuck, and as he tried to skate by, jammed him in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him causing him to curl into a ball and lie on the ground. Mom cried out, “Don't let him lie in the street. He'll get hit by a car. Carry him to the sidewalk.” Dad's friends first looked at mom like she'd lost her mind but then realized she made her point. The carried dad the few feet to safety. She wouldn't leave his side as his breath began to normalize. Mom held his hand and talked almost non-stop to help him relax. It worked. His breath steadied and soon, he asked, “What's your name and where do you live?” Mom smiled. “Mary and actually, just around the corner.” Dad walked her home and asked if she'd like to hang out with him and his friends later that night. “We're only going to the candy store for some soda; it's nothing special.” To mom, it was more than special. He didn't have to ask her twice. As I said, mom was 15. Dad was 14 but neither cared. They were inseparable as the years passed. Dad eventually joined the Navy and when home on leave, married mom. To say they were happy is a mild statement. Dad was mom's world and dad idolized mom. Their love was obvious to anyone who saw them look at each other. One day, tragedy struck. A few days before dad's 65th birthday, he had a stroke which paralyzed his left side. With therapy, he gained the use of his legs, but his left arm remained useless. That didn't stop them from enjoying their lives together. With a modified steering wheel, he was once again able to drive and took mom on many vacations which included Montauk NY, Virginia Beach VA, and Baltimore MD. When dad turned 71, he stumbled and fell. It was determined that he experienced a TIA – mini stroke. While dad lay in the hospital, an astute nurse noticed something with dad that wasn't quite right. She prompted the doctor to order a few tests. The diagnosis was stage 4 colon cancer. The doctor told mom that dad had about 8 months to live. We were horrified. Trying to extend dad's life, we agreed to an ileostomy but when it was performed, it proved fruitless. Dad died six weeks after that procedure. Mom was devastated. Not too many years later, I noticed mom began forgetting things. It was subtle but the signs were there. She repeated herself a little too often; she'd forget where she put her purse; she'd call me two or three times a day but never remembered why, etc. Eventually, mom moved in with me. Her dementia was much worse but still tolerable. She could hold small conversations and create full sentences. One day as mom and I reminisced, I asked her to tell me something about dad. She looked horrified as she asked, “I was married?” How could she have forgotten dad? Did she know me? I asked her who I was and answered correctly. That was a relief, so I backtracked to help her remember dad. “Mom, do you remember that handsome young sailor from years ago?” Within seconds, her eyes glowed with love and remembrance. “Oh, yes, my Frankie!” “Mom, he was your husband.” She sat there for a few silent minutes then in a soft voice said, “That's right. I married my Frankie. My sailor. How I cried when he got sick and died.” That was the last full sentence mom said. The dementia took hold in a big way. Mom died not long after. I was reminded of an old Buck Owens song, “Together Again”. Thank you, Buck Owens for writing and performing a song that has become so very dear to me as I think of my parents holding hands and walking forever side by side. For my mom's funeral, I printed a photo of my parents the last time they were together and modified Owens' song to read: Together again her tears have stopped falling; Her long lonely nights are now at an end. The key to her heart he held in his hands And nothing else matters they're together again Together again her gray skies are gone; She's back in his arms now where she belongs. The love that they knew is living again, And nothing else matters they're together again.
A wonderful feeling of joy would come to me by opening the gray door of my grandparents' big house, which grew small as I grew big. We had to travel to my Grandparents house for about one hour, and I clearly remember that we had flown over this beautiful, green and full of life oak forest which was followed by a pink lake. The best part of the trip was guiding the taxi driver to the allies that would lead to their house. After opening the gray metallic door, I would look for my grandma. She would run outside of the house with a big smile on her face and would greet us with hugs and kisses with a big excitement and joy. The house I will forever have embedded in my mind is located in Tehran, Iran at the end of a blind alley. My Grandparents' house looks quiet and serene, surrounded by its own garden. The front door of the house is connected with the garden by a stone path made of limestone which is smooth to step on. Along both sides of the path were some pink and purple wildlings. The garden is bordered by a circle of different types of tall, green trees and beautiful, colorful ﬂowers which made the garden smell amazing at all times. As far as I can recall red roses were in the garden at all times. The dew would shine on top of the red petals every morning. The first time I heard that roses bloom once or twice a year I was surprised. I remember I would spend the afternoons enjoying the coziness and happiness of the living room, “red room” as everyone calls it. Someone outside the family cannot guess which room it is. Because the room is no longer covered in red velvet wallpaper and a new life has been given to the furniture. They don't have small red roses on top of the milky background anymore. Instead, it is covered in a light blue velour. There is still evidence of red in the room. A medium-sized painting of red rose bush is hanging on a white plaster wall. The painting is in bright colors but somehow it is still dark. It is framed in dark wood. Every color in it is bold and it is painted with such precise lines that it almost looks like a photo. The lines are curved, yet sharply defined. I never saw the “red room” in its original state. I didn't like drinking any kind of tea but the only time that I would be the afternoons in the “red room”. My grandma would bring me a special one. It was lighter than the other ones. The best part about it was the sweets next to it. Carrot cake, banana bread, apple pie or petibor biscuits, didn't matter which one, they all tasted differently in the red room. They tasted wonderful. After having tea I would invite my dolls for a picnic. I would sit under a short tree with feather-like leaves in lavender, next to the swimming pool. The main element of the tea party was my small set of rose teapots and cups. They were similar to a set that grandma has. I would spend hours under the shadow of that tree. My grandma would make a big jar of lemonade with big pieces of ice, it was the colour of summer sun. It would steal the heat from my sole. Sometimes she would play with me while drinking the cold lemonade and she would tell me stories. These days when we fly to Tehran there are no signs of green forest or pink lake. I don't need to guide the taxi driver though the allies. He has the destination address on his phone. Still, sometimes I show them the way. They may think I'm weird but I don't care. I like to go through the allies as fast as possible and get to that grey door. These days grandma doesn't run out in the garden when we arrive. She observes me running through the gate and then garden with a warm smile on her face from a large window of the red room. Although the garden still has green plants, it is not as green as it one day was. Once in a while bushes of roses appear, and grandma asks someone to pick a few for the red room. Grandma doesn't pour tea anymore. So no one brings me a special one. I still drink tea in the red room but without sweets. Grandma forgets how many she had and it is not good for her so anyone who pours tea doesn't bring sweets with it. Grandma points at the dired short tree with feather-like leaves in lavender and tells me “do you remember the picnics you did under that tree?” After having a bitter sip of the tea she points at the short tree again and asks, “do you remember the picnics you did under that tree?”. I miss everything about the tea and chocolate cake in that room but I prefer drinking bitter tea with her in the red room to anywhere else. I enjoy listening to her stories over and over just like the old days in the garden. The roses are not always around, we should enjoy their company while they are still around.
I wonder if one can actually sense the beginning of his end. Death. Manifest to mankind yet veiled when it arrives. For three days my grandfather had complained of a tightness in his chest. The fourth day there were no complains. That night he passed away quietly in his sleep. I remember how he'd take my hand and place it on his chest, directly above his heart saying, “it's like someone's standing right here". The rhythmic beat would feel just fine. To this day I wonder what had made him go quiet the day before his demise. Had he known? Could he feel it? The soul slowly gliding out of his body leaving it stone cold or was he asleep all long? I wish he had known no fear. People say there are five stages of grief- denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance. My grandmother had only known the fourth. The news had left her in tatters. She was torn from the inside. Every day she'd go visit grandfather's grave, shower it with rose petals and come back enveloped in a new layer of gloom. Talking to her only worsened her pain so we thought it would be better to just let her be. Time passed gradually. It is July 19th. My grandparents could've been celebrating their 56th anniversary just like they always did in the backyard with all twenty five of my cousins and their parents. We'd set up a long wooden table and decorate it with huge sunflowers that we plucked from Mrs.Faizan's garden who lived next door. She despised the action otherwise but allowed us just for the sake of her friend's anniversary. The women of the family would fill the table to its corners with delicacies brought from their homes. We'd sing songs and recall moments that would leave us laughing so hard that it felt our sides would split. The sun would leave us burnt by the end of the day but we couldn't care less for happiness would swallow every other feeling. I wonder if we will feel the same way we did back in those days. Someday, maybe. Today, replacing the table is the bed my grandparents once shared. My sister and I carefully bring out the mattress and set it over the wooden frame. Following it, we spread on the mattress the finest bed spread we own -blue Egyptian silk with yellow flowers marking the borders. I place two big pillows at an angle against the headboard. One of them has sunk inside due to excess use, the other one seems fine. Next, we place a comforter at the foot of the bed careful enough to straighten out every single wrinkle. The bed is placed in the exact middle of the backyard underneath the sky which resembles a canvas painted ink blue. Speckled throughout the blue eternity are innumerable stars. One of them is strangely big and bright. My grandmother swears it appeared the night her husband left her. I avert my gaze from the sky and look towards the door where my grandmother has just appeared. She looks small and fragile in her ankle length night gown which clings loosely to her bony frame. Her hair hangs in loose curls that are gently moving with the wind. Etched on her face is an expression unreadable. But I believe she's happy. That she has reached the final stage of grief. I walk towards her, grab hold of her arm, and lead her towards the bed. Carefully, she gets on top and lies down closing her eyes the instant her head hits the pillow. I notice her lips that have curled into a tiny smile. Out of the corner of her eye falls a small tear that surfs over her temple and gets absorbed into the cotton underneath. She sighs and rolls over. Tonight, on her 56th wedding anniversary, my grandmother wants to sleep under the brightest star.
Sitting on the stool in Gran's kitchen. The fire is popping and crackling in the stove, and I edge my stool slightly closer to the good, cosy warmth as Gran pushes another block of wood in through the little blue stove door. The old black kettle is sitting on the heat and whistling away, really whistling like kettles do in stories, and I look across at the wooden door of the pantry where I know the biscuit jar lives. It's on one of the side shelves where it has been as long as I can remember. It wouldn't be right if it was moved anywhere else. "Go down to the chook pen and see if there are eggs, darling," Gran says, moving to the pantry and pulling out the jar just as I knew she would. We call them chooks because we're country people--she is, at least, and I am one at heart. Gran is the only person who ever calls me darling; she wouldn't seem like Gran if she didn't. She tells me to take as many biscuits as I like, and then she pours out Grandad's tea into the cup that he always, always uses. I jump off my stool, taking two biscuits to put into my pockets, and I go out into the porch to put on my shoes. Then I open the door and skip out along the stone path, through the gate and race down as fast as I can to the pen. There are no eggs; it's the biggest disappointment in the world while it lasts. The air is cold and smells good, and as I make my way back to the warm house the rain drops begin to fall. Of course, I don't run now. I've got to stand and lift up my head to catch raindrops on my tongue. When I open the creaky door to the kitchen and go to take my place on the stool, Grandad sits in his chair drinking tea. He's come from his study; it's his special Grandad place. Sometimes I go in there and look at the old picture of his grandmother that sits on his study table, or the one of his curly haired mother on his shelf. The chair he sits on has always been his chair, as long as I remember. I don't know how, exactly, but it's just the right chair for him and if he sat on any other chair he wouldn't seem so much like Grandad. "Can I please have a cup of tea, Gran?" I ask innocently, because I want to be grown up like her; it's fun to try grown up drinks when you're only six years old. "You drink tea?" Gran asks, and she looks shocked. But then she agrees and goes to the cupboard, sliding back the glass door, and takes one of the teacups off a hook. It's one of the tiny ones. It's much too small for a big girl like me, but I don't say anything, because it's Gran who is giving it to me and I wouldn't ever dare be cross at Gran. Now I'm sitting and looking out the window, and I really am cross because I'm not allowed to go outside; Gran says I'll catch cold if I go out now. But she's gone out herself, to lock up the chooks. And as I sit here brooding, alone, the curtain rod somehow comes down by itself and falls on my head, and I'm just sure my day couldn't get worse. But then I remember where I am; I'm at Gran and Grandad's, and it's the best place in the entire world. Later we'll eat tea and then there'll be dessert, and probably Grandad will play at the old piano that has lived in the house since he was six years old, like me. I'll have to sit listening for ten minutes, but I don't care, because to me, he's a master pianist and the piano doesn't sound out of tune and old. Maybe I'll get to have a go on the old accordion. Everything in the house is so much older than me, but I like it that way. It means that everything is familiar and cosy, like the fireplace and the kettle and the wonderful house itself. Grandad says it's good to be old, and Gran is always telling me how good it is to be a little girl like me, able to dance and run and jump and twirl around and around. They're both right. I just think we're all the best as we are; old and young, and in between … it wouldn't feel quite the same way if anything was changed.
Grief. We all experience it at some points in our life. The death of a beloved pet, the death of a loved one. It comes for us all, eventually. How do you explain that feeling, though? If you haven't lost someone yet, how do I explain that hole? How do I explain trying to fit that square peg of their memory into the round hole of the loss in my heart? Especially when that peg is spiked and tainted with negative memories of abuse and neglect. The person who is gone wasn't a saint, they weren't even a good person, but I still miss them! Amanda Palmer's song “The Thing About Things” put it so well. “If you aren't allowed to love someone living, you learn how to love someone dead.” No one stopped me from loving my father when he was alive except me, and it's a damn good thing I did, too. He was toxic. He was abusive. He was neglectful. He was manipulative. He was everything negative that you shouldn't have in your life. And now that he's gone, I'm trying to learn how to love his memory, the GOOD parts of his memory (because, despite all the negative, there WERE some good parts), and it's so damn hard. Every time I think about him, I think about how he hurt me and how he hurt others around me. Every time I think about his memory, I think about his mental illness that he refused to get help for. Every time I think about his presence in my life, I think about how adroitly he manipulated me every time he was in my life for any length of time. I can't extract the good from the bad. I can't just remember the man who was there for me when everyone else bailed. I can't just remember the man who taught me, as a toddler, about life and death by explaining that he couldn't resurrect the dead grasshopper on the asphalt. I can't just remember the times we would talk and laugh and share stories. I can't just remember the man who took me to San Francisco when I was a teenager, for my 13th birthday, because he knew I loved the city. I can't just remember those things, because those memories are constantly crowded out by the bad ones. I write Dead Letters to him on occasion. The irony of doing so now that he's actually dead is not lost on me. I tell him how he made me feel, how he screwed me up, how much I wished he would have been a better dad. I learned the routine back when I was a kid, from a counselor who gave me many tools to deal with an absentee father. So I write my letters and pour my heart out to a father who never would have read them anyway, even before he died three years ago. Now it just feels pointless, and I realized today that somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought I was writing them to get my thoughts in order to confront him. I honestly thought, deep in the subconscious, that I would be able to talk to him about these things someday. I don't know what I expected to happen, but I thought it would be… cathartic. Some closure. Release. I hoped for it, since I was a little girl--the chance to confront him about what he did to my psyche with his behavior--and now I am faced with the stark reality that I will never get that chance. I don't like permanent doors closing on me--ever. I've never been good with that. I struggle with goodbyes, I struggle with permanence… let's just say I have “commitment issues”. Even when I was a kid, I was afraid to put stickers somewhere, for fear of finding somewhere better later. Now that anxiety plays out in various ways in my life, all because I'm terrified of something going wrong later. That “future fear” is something I've always been afraid of, and it has led me to catastrophize almost CONSTANTLY about the people in my life. When my father died, one of my biggest Future Fears came true. It was one that was in the back of my mind for decades--I even had nightmares about his death, some in which I even killed him myself--but this time it was really happening. Now here we are, three years on, and I still can't process the permanence of it. I still remember his phone number, and every once in a while I will reach for my phone to call him, to try to reach out one last time. I can't parse in my brain the fact that he is actually GONE. The reality of his death is so much different emotionally. I have lost people before, but never someone that I simultaneously loved and loathed. It has made grieving for him difficult. I swing between missing him and hating him, between wanting to talk to him for reassurance and wanting to confront him for the abuse. I am a strange dichotomy of grief. My grief is an ugly animal sometimes, eating me up inside. Other times it lies dormant, just a hole in my heart. Every once in a while, I smell his smoke in the elevators at my apartment building. When I go out for my last smoke, I try to time it where the light is just right, and it reminds me of him--of the good times with him--and I put on music in my earbuds that remind me of our good times.
Amelia stared out her bedroom window overlooking the neighbors' lawn - wondering whether other children her age had families like hers. Were they also sent to their bedrooms so the grown folk would yell at each other and fight? Did they ever have to hide under the bed just so they could feel safe? Were their lives full of horror and misery like hers? She adored her parents, like most kids her age but never spoke of them with the enthusiasm other kids did theirs. Whenever anyone asked about her parents, Amelia would hang her head low with sadness. And if they insisted, she would get furious. “I don't want to talk about it!” She was often quick to end the conversation. Most kids at school despised her. If your parents did not drop you off in the morning or pick you up after school, you didn't have any friends. Most of the other kids assumed she had no parents. Whenever her parents were summoned she would go all the way to Aunt Flora's place across town and ask the bulky noisy woman to fill in. Aunt Flora had no children of her own and had given up trying a long time ago. Now she simply stayed home tending her garden, looking after Molly, Jolly and Polly, her three cats, and yelling at whoever appeared on TV. For Aunt Flora, people on TV either dressed badly, spoke poorly or just looked bad. Having been kicked out of a convent a few years back, Aunt Flora had dedicated her life to being a noisy loner. Not long after she was kicked out of the Convent she had met Patrick with whom she tried to have children. The news of her bareness came as a heartbreak to Patrick who eventually died – possibly of disappointment. Now all Aunt Flora had was her garden to tend, her trio of nonchalant cats to keep her company, her TV to yell at, and the occasional visit from her little niece, Amelia. Amelia noticed the lights go out from the neighbors living room window. Around this time of the night, they would all be seated in the living room playing Scrabble, Monopoly, or charades and laughing the night away. But tonight, they were turning in early – either because of the storm or the noise from Amelia's house. “Please stop it, Nathan! You're hurting me!” she heard her mother plead from downstairs. “I will do as I please," her father retorted. "And you will do nothing." “You're hurting me, Nathan. Stop!" Her mother began to scream. Then for a whole ten seconds, everything went silent. But Amelia knew what was coming. This was not the silence she was hoping for. Something horrible was about to happen downstairs - it always did. Her mother was about to let out a loud painful scream. Without warning, the sky let out a thunderous roar drowning out every other sound, including the noise from downstairs. Amelia dove right under her bed. The loud thunderstorm outside seemed to offer her a bit of reprieve, albeit scary reprieve. Perhaps the universe had listened to her silent prayer for the noise in the house to be drowned out because, for a few seconds, she could not hear anything more than muffled sounds of fighting and screaming coming from downstairs. Her mother was pleading for her life but Amelia was momentarily glad she could not hear it. Just as quickly as the thunderstorm clapped and roared, it went silent and heavy rainfall replaced it. A steady pouring of tears from the sky replaced the noisy thunderstorm and the sky became one with her emotions. As Amelia became teary, the sky wailed and sobbed, letting out its own steady flow of tears with the occasional cough or sneeze marked by a bit of thunder here and lightning there. From under the bed, she could see shadows floating around the room. And she held tight onto Dory, her only friend. Dory was a plush little blue fish with large eyes and a little yellowtail. She wore a constant smile and always reminded Amelia that everything was going to be all right. She pulled herself from under the bed and quickly jumped into it, clutching Dory close to her. “Dory, I am scared,” she whispered to her inanimate blue friend, hoping for reassurance. Then she pressed Dory close to her chest and waited for the magical words. “When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming.” Dory responded. And that is what she always did - swim. Through the tides of noise and fear, through the waves of sadness and pain, she was going to keep swimming. Most fifteen-year-olds had big fluffy bears and large stuffed animals. She only had Dory, and that was all she needed. Most teenagers worried about how they looked, who their friends were, what dresses they wore and what toys they had. She worried about the constant arguments and fights between her parents. She held Dory close to her chest, folded herself into a tiny little bundle of fear and drifted off to her safe place - dreamland - a place where there was no noise and no one could hurt her.
I am fighting, flailing my little arms. A lady and a man I don't know, are stuffing me into this stupid car seat. I look out the fingerprinted window and there she is. Staring, watching, not doing anything at all. A single raindrop wanders its way down the window, lost, nowhere to go. I fight even harder, refusing to stop until I get what I want. The car starts to move, so I twist my body to see if she is still watching. Deepening my twist, so I can get one last glimpse before we turn off the street. I face forward with tears streaking my face. I don't know these people who are taking me away from her. From the lady, I have known all my life— my mother. I am confused, trapped in this strange building. After they took me from my mother, they took me to this horrid place. I feel completely claustrophobic locked in this small room. I hope I can leave this devastating room. I honestly don't know why it seems so devastating, but I guess it just is. The room is bland, boring. The walls are an off-white color. A dissatisfying color. The only toy here is a small kitchen set. The kitchen set looked as if to break at the slightest touch. It has white paint peeling off. The paint being torn from the set, just like me. I miss her terribly, my mother. I feel scared, my anxiety spiking. I am just sitting on this patched up couch looking at the cup of water on the table next to me. Random people keep poking their heads in, trying to encourage me to drink water, but I am not thirsty. I hope they find something better to do than to keep bothering me. The same woman and man that took me from my mother walk through the door and stand in front of me. I stare at them blankly as the woman says, “My name is Ms. Blaster and this is Mr. McDoris.” I nod my head, for my mind is elsewhere. My mind is busy. Busy on all the worries rushing through my head like a tsunami. Ms. Lee gets on both knees and looks directly into my eyes and says gently, “Can you come and follow us, please?” She stands up and walks out of the room, with Mr. McDoris following. I hesitate, then finally give in and run to catch up with them. I walk into a massive lobby. People are sitting in black chairs. It felt airy, unlike the small room I was in. The people were all nicely dressed, they seemed arrogant, even though I have never met them before. Windows cover most of the walls. I continue to follow Mrs. Blaster and Mr. McDoris. They lead me to this woman I remember spending time with a couple of months ago. She would take me to the Kings Dominion and Maymont. The woman is wearing nice clothing just like everyone else, except I could tell that she wasn't like them at all. She's not really tall, but she is definitely much taller than me. Ms. Blaster, Mr. McDoris, and the woman start talking about something that seems like it's important, but I'm not paying attention. I am busy trying to understand the situation. I squeeze onto the woman's hand as if it's my life support. I make our way to the car and she buckles me into my car seat. She walks around the front of the car and gets into the driver's seat. Once again, raindrops hit the window. A single drop wanders all the way to the bottom and disappears. More lead their way into the safety of the frame. Tucked safely together. United. Every insignificant thing belongs somewhere. For some reason, that gives me a sort of clarification that everything is going to be alright. I think this is the first time I truly feel safe in a really long time, I don't have to endure any more pain, physical nor emotional like I have before. I also think that you have to believe it yourself, you have to believe that things are going to get better. You have to have hope. Hope. Hope is a wonderful thing. For the first time, I have hope. I have hope that I will be safe. I have hope that I will be happy. I have hope for my future and hope for now. Even though I have endured tragedy, I have regained hope.
Today I informed my parents, mental health worker and the few friends I have about my new found beloved. I did not mention his age... but they approved my feeling towards the guy. It feel good to tell my parents that I am in a safe and decent relationship and that I am being safe online. I did not list all the topics that we discussed that would have pissed them all off. All that my pearl (mother) is worried about is if I get hurt. I am look to have this guy and I am lucky to have the best parents too. My biggest problem was my father.... I thought the news would give him a heart attack because of his weak heart (I meant medically). But he still here thank god and reacted to the news postitively.
I can't handle it anymore. All the yelling and screaming, it's hurting my ears. I plug my ears and shake my head wildly. I walk down the spiral staircase, trying to figure out what the big stink is all about. There are only a few lights on, and they're yellow-ish and dark. Mommy is crying and Daddy is yelling. “Daddy?” I yell. I try to get his attention, but I don't think he can hear me. “Daddy!” I try again, my voice all big and strong. He turns and looks at me, but just looks away again. He's yelling at Mommy about something that I think is bad. Daddy keeps yelling, and Mommy keeps crying, until I say, “Stop it! Daddy! You're scaring Mommy!” Now I'm crying. I think I'm scared. Mommy is not crying anymore. Instead, she gets up and pokes Daddy in the chest. “You,” she says, “are the reason this family fell apart! You,” she looks at me, then at Daddy again, “are the reason that she is crying.” Mommy starts to backup again, tripping on her feet as she goes. Now she looks scared. "Mommy?" I ask. Before Mommy can regain her balance, Daddy pushes her out the door and locks it. Then, Daddy scoots my sissy and I up the stairs. It looks like sissy is scared, so I reach down and hold her hand. But sissy breaks away and runs down the stairs to unlock the door for Mommy. Mommy's banging on the door right now. Sissy's smart. She's my favorite. 12 years later, I remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember what they have said, I remember what they threw, I remember every little microscopic unimportant detail. I love them both, but I think their personalities were too similar for them to be together.