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My life never seemed to go as planned. It all began one day when I was just a boy. At 3:30 p.m. the ring of the bell indicated that it was the end of the school day in the small town called Freeton. As Iwas walking home from school, I thought about what I wanted to be when I was older and what kind of life I would want. What I had in mind was in no way similar to what I was about to encounter . . .
I reached the laneway of my house and there it was; my dad’s pickup truck full of furniture and personal possessions. I knew it could only mean one thing; we were moving again.
“Son, pack your stuff. We are leaving in 10 minutes,”
“Yes, sir,” I replied and then ran into our home to get my stuff. I packed what could fit in one box and we jumped into the red, rusted truck. The truth is we weren’t moving but we were evicted from our home.
That was the beginning of my problem-filled life. My parents divorced when I was just baby and ever since, my father had raised me. He was always working and I only saw him a few hours a week. After that eviction my father’s life went in a downward spiral. He lost his job, and began drinking his over the rest of his money away. I only remember being kicked out from under his shack.
Six years later. . .
“Ding dong, ding dong” the door bell rang.
I opened the door and there stood two officers- with their hats off, perhaps filled with grief and sympathy.
“Your father-, He’s. . . I don’t know how to say this Tom, but he’s gone. He was shot and died before he reached the hospital.” There was a pause… I slammed the door and collapsed to my knees crying. Why? What did he do to deserve this? Thoughts ran through my head like rain falling from the sky. The door opened again the officers explained to me about the funeral arrangements and expressed their condolences and then left. I crashed onto the couch and sunk my head into the deep pillow. How am I supposed to feel? The only one that was there for my entire life is gone, gone in an instant. Who could have done this?. . .
Two days later the funeral took place. Only a few people we present as the cemetery: two women, the funeral director and an old man dressed in an old, charcoal suit with a faded white shirt. One woman was my father’s ‘bartender’ and the other one was my mother. My mother embraced me with tears. “I am so sorry, Tom. You know I loved him. I never wanted to see this day.” That was the last time I ever saw her. She left without even saying goodbye. The other woman came to me and embraced me with love. “I’m Alexis and I am so sorry, I worked at the bar that your father went to for months, he talked about you all the time and about how he was a failure. He was sorry he could never give you the life you deserved. If you need anything I’ll be here just call me.” She then handed me a piece of paper with a number written on it. The only words I could say were, “Thank- you.”She then left me with my father. I stood there beside my father for hours and hours.
Three months later. . .
R-r-r-ring, r-r-r-ring. . .
“Hi this is Judge Testler, I am just informing you that the trial for your father’s death begins Thursday at 10:30 a.m. and we request that you be present for the trial as you are the only kin left.”
“Thank-you sir. I’ll be there.”
Thursday morning soon arrived and I dressed myself in a suit and went the courthouse. The inside of the courthouse was old. This was the place of innocence and guilt. It was the place where forgiveness was not introduced. Payment was to be made for mistakes. I seated myself at the front on an old, rickety bench. I looked beside me and there sat Alexis. She was dressed in a beautiful red dress. “Hi how have you been lately?” she said quietly. “I’m surviving, thanks,” I replied in a mellow voice. . . . “Please rise, this court is now in session, the honorable Judge Testler presiding.”
The defendant entered the room, a scarred man in many ways. He wore an orange jumpsuit and seemed old. I recognized this man. Could it be? No it couldn’t. Why would he be here? It was him; it was the man at the cemetery that was dressed in a charcoal suit. We exchanged unstoppable stares at each other as he walked down the aisle of the courtroom. His eyes were filled with tears. His face portrayed sympathy and respect for me. . . The trial went on for two hours. “Mr. Cramer, how do you plead?” “Guilty, your Honor.” “I hereby sentence you to serve ten years in prison.”
Only ten years for taking away someone I could never get back. After ten years he would be back out there living his life. How could this be? I hate him. I’m going to kill him. . .
I sat down at a bar one evening sipping away at my Jack Daniel’s. I was thinking of what has happened in my life and how my life had never been the same since the day those officers came to my front door. I thought about how my life had been since that day. I had removed myself from all forms of social interaction around me. I stopped communicating with my friends. I quit my job and secluded myself in my home. But tonight I decided to go for a walk and I ended up at this bar. I turned my head and there she was sitting beside me dressed in beauty. She looked at me and smiled, “And how have you been doing lately?” she asked inquisitively. “Not to good I’m afraid. I quit my job and I’ve been going downhill from there.”
She sat there thinking and then she spoke. “Your father wanted me to give you this. He could never face you and speak to you. He knew that he had ruined your life. He said how proud he was of you and he only hoped that one day you could forgive. He loved you and wanted to make things right but couldn’t find the courage. Instead he wrote this short letter.” She then handed me the piece of crinkled, and faded paper and then she left. I opened the letter and read:
I am so sorry for not giving you the life you deserved. I was not a father to you. I set the wrong example by drinking and loosing my job and kicking you out of my home. You did not deserve any of this. I still imagine your face on that day when you came home from school and I told you to pack your stuff. I realized later that it was at that moment that I failed at being a father, mentor, friend and leader. I should have been the one to help you through your life and give you guidance. Instead I ruined it and I drank away that opportunity. The truth is son, since you left my shack that day, I became worse I drank even more. I kept thinking of ways to tell you how sorry I was, but I couldn’t find the courage or strength to do it. I am a coward. The truth is, I love you and never wanted this to happen to you. I only hope that one day you will forgive me for my wrong. I found a paper and it read this, "To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness." I only hope that one day you will forgive me and receive the peace and happiness that I could never give you.
I sat there pondering as tears rolled down my face. It was at that moment that had been freed from the chains of bitterness. I felt a fire inside of me that seemed to melt my heart of coldness. I was willing to forgive and let go. I knew there was only one thing left to do. . .