Saving Grace This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   If I move too quickly I will wake my mother and she will want to know why I amawake. Right now we are at Howard Johnson's and in the process of making ouryearly quest to my father's grave. I've always hated this trip, stopping at mygrandfather's house to pick him up, then driving several hours to where my fatheris buried. There in front of the granite slab, my mother and grandfather stifflyrub their eyes and stumble back toward the car. I, however, have never reallyfelt anything except bored, cold, hungry, or the urgent pressing of my bladder.Once I swiped stiffly at my eyes because I felt ashamed to be standing at thefoot of his grave in an apathetic stupor.

When I was little, I rememberthat my father used to put me on his shoulders and I would feel like I was amythical princess being whisked off into safety. I remember the jolt in mystomach when he pretended to trip, and he didn't mind when I frantically clutchedhis face with my sticky hands or if I giggled and screamed in his ear. My fatheralways made me happy, even when the scoop fell off my ice cream cone or myballoon struggled free from my hand and sailed off into the horizon.

Weused to go fishing and he would put the worm on the hook for me. Once he caught abass and its quivering stomach gave off a shiny, iridescent glow as the fishstruggled in the bottom of our boat. It was the biggest fish he had ever caught,but he put it back because I asked him to.

I slowly make my way to themain window, where I move the curtain slightly aside and slide the glass doorback far enough to squeeze through. I shiver on impact with the cool night airand draw my bathrobe closer. I look at the street below and see a boy walkinghome. He is swinging a baseball cap in his hand and turns around and waves hisother hand to someone I can't see. I imagine him getting home, where is father ishypnotized by an old Danny Kaye movie on TV. His father would look up and say,"Have you seen your sister's new boyfriend...," rolling his eyes."Where does she find these weirdos?"



"I don't know,Dad. Pass the popcorn," he would reply, even though he secretly liked hissister's boyfriend. "Haven't you seen this one before?" he would say,referring to the movie playing on the TV set.

"Yeah, but it's myfavorite." Then both of them would silently stare at the TV and the onlysound in the room would be Danny Kaye singing, a hand rustling through thepopcorn bowl, and quiet munching.

It isn't fair. I should be the onewatching old Danny Kaye movies with my dad. My mom said that my father shared mylove of Danny Kaye and old musicals. My father should be here, telling my motherand every single relative I have that my boyfriend is a nitwit. He should bethere when I can't understand my chemistry homework, when my mother is beingirrational, when I need a ride, money, someone to talk to or just a hug. Iremember once when my friend was mad at her father for grounding her, she said,"You're lucky you don't have a father like..." Then she remembered Ididn't have a father and I would kill to have a father like hers, even if he didground me. No matter what, she will always be luckier than I, because my fatheris gone forever and no matter how much I want him back with my family, it willnever happen.

In the distance, a pale light begins to seep from behind thehorizon. I trudge back into the room to get a little rest before it's time to getup again. I release a sigh. It's going to be a long day.

A few hourslater, the buzzing of the alarm clock jolts me out of my slumber. Light floodsthrough the window as my mother jerks back the curtain. Ah, another beautifulday....

By the time we arrive at my grandfather's house, it is too late todrive up to the grave. We decide to spend the night. Over dinner my grandfatherasks me if I want to look at my father's letters. I carefully ponder this. I amsick of reading my book and I figure "Why not." Isn't that what Pandorasaid before she opened that box of horrible curses like death that we still feeltoday? But weren't there blessings, too?

Before going to bed mygrandfather hands me a shoe box, which he says is full of my father's letters tohim. Propping myself on the couch, I begin to read through the letters. Theletters chronicle my father's life away from home, meeting my mother and the dayhe asked her to marry him. The letters then describe my mother getting pregnant,my birth and what it was like to be a father for the first time. Putting hisletters aside, I realize that I didn't think I would enjoy my father's letters.They were fascinating and uplifting. These letters answered a lot of unansweredquestions that I didn't even realize I had.

Something in the shoe boxcatches my eye. There is one letter I have overlooked. I start reading it, andthe date, which is a week before my father's death, catches my eye. This letteris similar to the other letters except one paragraph which causes me to catch mybreath.

"Dad, you know how I was nervous about having a child anddidn't know if I could cut it as a father? I was afraid, but looking back, I'mglad God blessed me and Julie with Sue. She is a blessing; I love being with her.Her innocence and wide-eyed wonder have forced me to look at the worlddifferently. If I was to die now (which I won't!), I'd die remembering the joyand wonder my little baby, (she's not so little anymore!) has brought to mylife."

I am now feeling something that I have not felt in a long time- peace. I realize I was bitter about my father leaving me. I thought he leftbecause he didn't love me and that he just loved my mother and grandfather. Theyhave their memories, but he left before I even got to know him. I wonder if he'sthinking of me, wherever he is, as I am always thinking of him. But now I amconfident that no matter where he is, he loves me.

Tomorrow mygrandfather, mother and I are going to visit my father's grave. However, thiswill be my last yearly visit with them. Next year I will be in college. I mayvisit by myself, but I will no longer make this yearly quest. I have found theanswers I was looking for and in looking, learned that healing can be beautifulas well as painful.

____________________



"I believethat man will not merely endure, but he will prevail." WilliamFaulkner


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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