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I was 18. Born and raised in St. Louis as an only child. You cold say that my parents were somewhat conservative. Graduating from high school was maybe the most exciting chance I had at that time. I was finally free to be who I wanted to be and do what I wanted to do. I realized this when I decided to move out to California.
My stomach tightened when I told my parents. Immediately, my father left the room. He did not agree with much of anything I did. We were always close, or at least I thought we were. My mother quietly sat and listened to me. She didn’t say much either. We always had an unspoken understanding of each other, which probably was what held us together. I told her about California and how badly I wanted to leave. We both knew that there was no stopping me anyway. My mind was already made up.
I really wished that my father understood the opportunities that lay ahead of me. I had to be brave. I would be on my own, with little support.
My journey out to California was something I will never forget. My friend Rundy and I rented a van and loaded all of our belongings. It took us forever to get there, but I didn’t mind. We constantly stopped to take pictures and take in all of the new things. It was everything I imagined and more. On the road. I called home every once in a while to talk to my mom. My father was still very angry with me and refused to speak to me. It made me feel sad and empty. I always told my mother to send him my love.
Rundy and I reached California with hopes high. This was the place to be. Finding a small apartment was not very difficult. We ended up in a little, funky bungalow house with two rooms and a bathroom. It was perfect.
A year went by and I still hadn’t talked to my dad. He still resented me for leaving home. Besides the fact that we hadn’t talked, I was still happy that I had gone. I spoke with my mother often and at least I knew my father was okay. I loved California. I was working, going to school, and playing my music.
My time in California was so refreshing. I indulged every moment. I finally felt free. Rundy and I enjoyed living together. He was a good roommate. We had been friends for years and I would have chosen no one but him to come to California with me.
It had been two years when I got a call from my mother. By the tone in her voice, I could tell something was wrong. She told me my father was dying. The time it took me to grasp her words was instant. My heart dropped to my feet and I knew I had to move back home. Leaving California was the easy part. Looking my dad in the face, with whom spoken to me in two years, was what I dreaded.
The next day I was on a plane back home. I didn’t really know what to expect. I left with a feeling of fear. Fear of being on my own and now I’m coming back with a feeling of fear. Fear that my father would still resent me. With that in mind, I still went home. Sadness filled my body.
My mother was out when I arrived. My father was sitting in his favorite chair with the television on. He smiled at me when I walked in.
“Hi hon, how was your trip?”
Those were the first words my father had spoken to me in two years.
We sat and talked about everything that happened. I told him about California, and he actually listened. I cried when he told me about his cancer. He also told me stories of when he was my age, and all the opportunities he had missed out on. I understood more of why he was upset that I left. He told me that even though he was upset with me, he was happy that I still went.
After I came home, my father was a different person. The man who had tried to control my life for so long was finally my friend.
My mother and I took care of him for two months. He progressively got worse, until one day he called me over to his favorite chair where he was sitting. I looked into his tired eyes and he thanked me for giving him a second chance.
“It’s time for you to go back to California, hon.”
I was very reluctant to leave, but he insisted I did. I didn’t want to leave my mother either. She was having a hard enough time as it was.
I returned to California and two days later my father passed away.
My mother and I took it extremely hard. It all happened when I finally got to know him.
In the two months I spent with my father, I learned more about him than I did for the past 18 years of my life. He taught me a lot about myself and I gained a better understanding of my father and his life.