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welcome home sweetheart

I watched as the bus roared to life and drove away, filling my lungs with its exhaust and leaving me utterly alone on that quiet stretch of road. I bent over to grab my small gray duffel, took a deep breath and started my long walk down ‘memory lane’. Feeling the weight of so many years pressing down on me and forcing me to remember my long suppressed childhood. A childhood I took for granted. The memories flooded back as I passed everything that used to be so familiar but now just barely passes through my mind.

The soft crunch of fallen leaves beneath my shoes was the only sound breaking through the smothering silence. I passed in front of the old playground and stopped. Looking at the rusted swings and broken slide I was thrown back to when I was in elementary school and spent every minute I could jumping, laughing, and playing with the other kids. Then during my teenage years when I ran here after a big fight at home or my first kiss with my best friend right there on that swing.

I shivered as a gust of wind hit me, filling my empty body with the cold embrace of autumn and bringing me slowly out of that trance. I shook my head and continued to walk. Passing houses, stores, and the empty building that used to be a school. All of it seemed to stare me down, surrounding me with the guilt I tried so hard not to feel. I looked down whenever someone stepped outside of a house or passed me on the sidewalk. I tried to hide from them, from all of it, but it didn’t mean I couldn’t hear the whispers echoing through my body or feel the stares. When I reached the end of the road I turned left and walked only a few feet, when I saw that small white fence.

Almost as if I had been punched in the gut, I suddenly couldn’t breathe. Fear gripped me, making me take a step back. What am I doing here? I thought over and over again. I was so shaken by emotions, I had to sit down. It took me a few tries but finally I got my nerve back and stood up. After taking a few quick breaths and brushing myself off I closed the distance between me and the place I’ve been going toward ever since I left.

Standing before the little gate I looked in at the old yellow house. It was worn out and tilted, with paint peeling all over and weeds growing up and around it like a giant hand. I stood there like that for at least an hour; just taking it all in. This is the house where I lived most of my life. This is the house that made me who I am. This house, this place, is me. With a shaking hand I carefully opened the gate door and walked in, down the small cement path with a million and one cracks and up onto the creaking, worn down porch. I was debating whether or not to step forward and knock when I heard the knob turn and watched as the front door opened.

Out stepped a small, old man. His hair was wispy and gray and hands covered with callous. I stood there, frozen in place and holding my breath, as he fumbled with his cane. I could feel the slow raise of the hairs on the back of my neck when he lifted his head and met my gaze for the first time in years. I heard the echoing sound of metal and wood when his cane fell to the ground by his feet.

“Hello daddy.” I choked out, while walking towards him then bending down to pick up his cane. When I tried to give it to him, I was met with a bewildered look and the gentle feel of his hands as he pushed it away.

“G...Grace?” he croaked. Then he put his weathered hands carefully on my cheeks, caressing my face while tears streamed down it.

“I missed you daddy.” I blurted while reaching out and wrapping my arms around his soft, fragile body.

“I’m so sorry.”

I felt the tears spill out of his eyes and land on my neck. I flinched when every choked sob tore through him. He drew in a few shallow breaths then whispered,

“Welcome home sweetheart. Welcome home.”





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