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February 3, 2012
By , Sunman, IN
Everyone is thirsty. They always want something new in life. No matter how rich, how famous, or how much they are loved, they never stop wanting. At least, that’s what Mom says, but the more I think about it, the more it’s true. Everyone is always searching for happiness. Like my life. I searched for hope in my dad. That one day, he'll be my father again. Maybe even love me like he did. But, what would I want after that? I'd stop wanting, but even my full happiness from dad’s recovery could not be imagined by me. So what makes you fully happy? What is the true thing that can erase everyone’s want? What makes you so filled with peace that you stop looking and start to truly live? That’s right, nothing. If there were something, it would have rescued me by now, but it hasn’t. That's why I have to test this theory, just to be sure if it's true or not.

6:45 A.M. has to be the worst time ever known. Every school morning at that exact minute, my alarm clock buzzes. It’s a sign of get-up-or-be-late-for-school. If I had to choose, I’d choose to be late, but mom prefers me to be on time. I reached over to feel my oak wood nightstand and pressed the off button. I slowly stepped out of my warm bed and pulled on my purple Aeropostale shirt, the one Grandma sent for my birthday, and a pair of blue jeans. It was something casual for the last week of school before summer break. I pulled my hair up in a ponytail and headed downstairs to find my mom in the kitchen.

“Good morning, Emma. Would you like some bacon?” It smelled good but I was never hungry in the morning.

“No thanks, Mom.”

“Well, I guess I could leave some out for your dad,” she said to herself.

Dad was most likely in his room. He usually always was. My mom and I both knew he got around, but it was just when we weren’t in the house. I remember the first time mom had sent me up to his room since he started drinking. It was about a month after he lost his job. My mom tried to get him help but he didn't accept any. Although, she did always keep a little piece of hope in the back of her mind that it was all temporary. But it wasn't. It had first started when I was about seven. She thought maybe him seeing me could help him somehow. Now she knows it was the wrong choice to send a seven year old up to that room. I can recall slowly opening his door to find him lying on his bed. At first, I thought he was out. I was about to call for Mom, but then I heard him grunt and roll over. I can replay the whole conversation in my head.

“Daddy, Daddy, are you awake?” He sat up and squinted his eyes at me as if he couldn’t tell who I was. We stared at each other for a while and then he finally said something.

“Oh, what do ya’ need?”

I immediately took that question to heart. He asked what I needed. He didn’t ask me what I wanted but what I needed. Right after that question, the answer popped right into my head and I thought, “I need love, Dad. I need love. I need you to wrap your big arms around me and whisper in my ear that you love me.” Of course, I didn’t say this it out loud, but you don’t know how hard it was to keep those words from being spoken. Now those words are always in the back of my mind. They are swelled up in my heart ready to explode, but yet I have to continue to push them down more times than I ever would want to.

“D-do you want something to eat?” I asked.

He sighed and said, “Emma, you know I don’t eat.” I stood there for a moment not knowing what to say back. I knew he ate. He was just trying to use it as a lame excuse because at the moment, he knew he'd probably just chuck it up if anything went down his throat. I was going to say something, but he beat me to the word.

Waving his hand to shoo me away, he said, “Now, jus-just go away and get outta’ here!” I took a quick glance around his room before I left. Cans, bottles, and a pack of cigarettes are what I saw. I watched him turn to his side and lay back down. He probably didn't hear the door shut so he turned back around. He looked at me with a glare that made me feel uncomfortable. That’s when I left.

I didn't know it was going to continue. I tried many ways to make him realize what he was doing but eventually gave up. There was a day when he did think of us. He might have even thought about doing something about it. But he was too sucked into the easy way out of what he thought solved his problems, even though it was the hard way. I was probably in sixth grade. I was in my bed trying to get to sleep but it was no use. My mom and he were fighting again. They were louder than usual. It was one of those nights where I couldn't take it, but I laid there, trying to cry myself to sleep because I knew there was nothing I could do about it.

When I thought I had heard it come to a stop, my bedroom door came open. I stayed where I was, facing the wall, and didn't turn around because I was mad at my mom for fighting like that. Let alone with me in the house. But later on, I figured out it was my dad. I felt his big hand on my shoulder when he leaned over and gave me a slight kiss on the cheek. He said, “I'm sorry, Emma.” That little piece of loving attitude he showed me that night only lasted for one more day. After I saw it would take the world to change him for good, I gave up hope. And when I gave up hope, a piece inside of me died, too.

I don't mind school. Beakon Middle School is solitary; it isn't linked to other schools so there are always new kids coming in. I don't really know too many kids that go there so I normally hang around Katie. Katie knows a lot of people, but she especially likes me. We met in seventh grade. I remember her saying I’m the only one who she can stand but I just think she felt sorry for me. I didn't get around much in seventh grade. In eighth grade, we became close and eventually took the title Best Friends.

School is one of the places where I can be myself. I’m a straight A student and for the most part, I’m on my teacher’s good side. I like learning because I’m good at it. It was interesting to learn new ideas and how other people came over their problems in the past. It was an escape from home and I enjoyed hearing other things than what I have to listen to at my house.

Even though I like school, I’m always anxious to get home to my mom. But the bus ride home is always long and boring and the driver is strict and often yells at the kids in the back for having their feet in the aisle. So when I arrive home, I try to get off as quickly as I can.

I stepped of the squeaky bus stairs to face my house. Coming home was never really inviting. All the plants we planted last spring were dead, a few shingles are missing on the left corner of the roof from last month’s storm, and yesterday, I noticed the paint is starting to wear off on the bottom of the front door from neglect. But I walk in with a good attitude everyday anyway. I liked to be home. My mom and I always got along really well.

I walked in and threw my bag on the chair to find a message on the answering machine. I heard,

“I’ll be home around 6. Got caught up at work again. There’s leftovers in the fridge for you to warm up. Love you.”

I sighed. She didn’t really get caught up at work. We both knew she had to start working overtime considering we’ve been low on money for a while. But I knew she hated to say it. I opened the fridge to find dinner. As I was searching, I heard my dad coming down the stairs. I quickly closed the door and swung myself to face him. “You scared me,” I said. He looked at me and went back upstairs. He was probably hung over. Last night, just as I was slipping into my bed, I heard him attempt to sneak out for the bar. I'm not even sure where he gets the money. I sighed. It was pitiful the way he lived.

I never felt comfortable after I encountered him so I quickly grabbed an orange and headed for the back porch. It was the place I always went to after school to sort out my thoughts. I opened the door to a warm, peaceful breeze. I sat on the porch swing and closed my eyes. Then a thought came to me. “What if my dad needs love just as much as I do?”

I thought about how I could fix things because there had to be a way but I couldn't come up with one thing. The hopeless feeling started to arise in the dark corner of my heart. I started crying. “All I want is to be happy,” I thought. On the swing that day, I decided this; Happiness is no longer in my life and maybe it never will be.

The next day was a Saturday. My mom had just left for her weekly trip to the grocery store so I was alone again. I was planning on going to the back porch because I usually went there when nobody was around. I walked down the stairs and aimed for the back door but something stopped me about three feet away from my destination.  A hand.  Mom? No.  It couldn't be.  She wasn't supposed to be home for at least an hour.
       "Ahhh!" I screamed.  I felt it grab me and shove me to the ground.  I landed on my back and was being held down.
At first, I thought it could be a joke, or maybe someone just trying to scare me. But those thoughts were useless because the way they were holding me down hurt too much to ever be a joke. A fear shot into my mind.  Dad?  It had to be.  I was being shoved to the ground like he was trying to bury me.  I kicked and screamed but it was no use.  I opened my eyes.  Which after I opened them, I knew I would regret doing that for the rest of my life.

He looked like nothing I’ve ever seen before and the bags under his eyes were enormous.  His face was chalk white and his eyes were squinted as if it was hard to see for him.  His hair was different.  It looked aged and worn, like a plant that needs water.  His pupils seemed really dark and wide. How could this man be my dad? 

“Dad!” Fear took the place of my words so I could barely breathe. Then he did the unthinkable. He wrapped his hands around my neck. “Dad, get off of me! Get off!” I screamed.

He held tighter. So tight, that I was going numb. My body tensed up. He was gripping to a point where I could no longer scream for him to stop. He was in rage. All I could do was stare at the ceiling, motionless, and imagine myself turning blue. The breath was being sucked out of me.

“Emma!” He yelled my name so loudly; every room in the house heard him. “Emma, Emma, Emma.” He was yelling every word that came out of his mouth. I didn’t understand it. He kept saying my name over again. His voice sounded different. It sounded like he was going to kill me.

He finally let go of my neck after what seemed like years, but pinned me down by my arms. I gasped for air and started coughing, trying to take it as much air as I could. But I couldn't. It felt like I was in a world with no air, yet, that's the only thing I needed. My vision was blurred. I felt as if my life was slowly slipping away.

“Not enough air,” I thought. “I’m going to die. I’m going to die.”

“Daaad!” I tried to scream but my words ended up being mouthed. My voice had no breath. It was barely there. Tears were racing down my face. “Please Dad!” I mouthed as I sucked in air. He didn’t stop holding me down. He squeezed so hard, my forearms had no feeling. I wanted to shout, “Please!” but I was incapable. My thoughts had fear in them. They had a plea that was so desperate, it was all I had.

He took my head with his big hands, wrapped his strong fingers around my face and started slamming it into the hard wood floor. His hands were grasping my head too tight. My world started going black after a couple hits. Each hit against the floor was agony. My view was getting darker.

I remember yelling and screaming for help, crying as loudly as I could for it to stop, but looking back I know those cries were only my thoughts because there’s no way I could have spoke them. My world was falling in and out of darkness from each hit. I finally regained full consciousness and realized his hands weren't on my head anymore. I laid there helpless and barely conscious. Then the head banging started again.

I started going unconscious again after just a couple more hits. In my mind, I could see the black wall in front of me that I was about to hit. My words not only left me, but my thoughts were packing up, too. I remember my last thought being, “My name is Emma. And this is my dad.”

I woke up to the scent of anti-bacterial soap and fresh sheets. I was in a small hospital bed, and my mom crying at my side. There was what felt to be a plastic cloth around my neck and a thin, tough towel was secured to my forehead and around my head. I looked at my arms. They were covered in blue bruises. My mom looked up to see me awake. She was sobbing.

She got up and gave me a hug and said, “I’m so sorry Emma.” She choked on every word. I didn’t know what to think. Then it all started coming back: the pain, the fear and my poor excuse of a dad. I didn’t want to think. I just wanted to sleep. “My head hurts,” I muttered to my mom and I dozed off.

I woke up the next morning to find the towel on my head removed. A middle-aged nurse was in the room giving the patient next to me medicine. No sign of my mom.

The nurse looked over at me, not leaving her patient, and said,” No bad news for your head honey, just a concussion, but we’ll keep an eye on it.” The nurse continued, “We really thought you would have an epidural hematoma. That’s when blood gets around in your brain. But you didn’t. You were a pretty lucky girl.”

I took a look around the room. There was a chair in the corner for visitors. I spotted my mom's purse under it. I took my hand and felt my neck. Just one small touch hurt a lot.

“Your neck was severely bruised. But you are going to be okay. It’s going to be very sore for the next two weeks or so.” The nurse added with a smile, “Might want to keep the talking down a little.”

That was no time to smile. I knew she wasn’t telling me everything, but what nurse doesn’t leave out the bad news? I brought my hand up to my head and felt the back of it; stitches. The slight feel made my head ache. The door to my room squeaked and got my attention. My mom walked in.

“How are you, honey?” she asked with tears in her eyes. She looked like she hadn’t slept in days.

I nodded my head. I felt like words were limited. They were hard to get out.

“Dad’s getting some help. He will be gone for a while, honey. I just thought I’d tell you now because I figured you wouldn’t like asking, but I won’t say anything if you don’t want me to.” She explained, with tears filling her eyes.

I didn't say anything. She’s right. I did want to know, but I will never mention his name again.

She started crying again and laid her head on my bed. She tried to pull herself together and sat up. “I was so worried Emma. I’m so sorry,” she managed to say out of a sob.

This is when words came back to me. “I love you, Mom.” But it came out in a whisper. She managed a smile and kissed my forehead, but cautious so she didn’t hurt me. “Really, Mom. I’m okay,” I whispered quietly.

Katie came by to visit about a week after which was more of a burden then a good surprise because I couldn’t really talk to her. It hurt too much and to be honest, I was just plain exhausted from the hurt, the pain, and the disappointment. So, she did most of the talking; telling me about school and what all I didn’t miss out on. I wish I could have been myself when she came. Right now nothing seemed normal, but I was still glad she stopped by.

I went home about three weeks after with feeling in my arms and a bruised neck, but I got some rest and recovered completely. I somehow continued going about things just as I would like nothing happened. For some reason it was easy. My grandma came from Arizona to live with us for the summer so I wouldn't have to stay home alone while my mom worked. Until the end of the summer, things were okay.

My mom had received a letter from my dad. It explained that he was better and he wanted to come home. “I'm better. I am myself now. I want to come home,” was the main message. Mom threw it away. She said it was too early and there was no possible way he could be better already. She said those things need time to heal, and that they don't happen that fast. I didn't say anything about the letter. If I had said something, it wouldn't have been nice. I wasn't ready to see him, let alone him coming home. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if I could face him right now. The pain was too deep. I felt it would take a whole life time to forgive him. I told myself that I would probably never look at him the same way again, and that hurt. This reality cut deep into my heart. I was certain my heart couldn’t handle it. After all, it was more bruised than my head was. Once again I repeated the words in my head that I was not ready to see him, but little did I know, the summer after, that thought would change.

I was the first to discover it. It came in a big envelope. One that was too big, and probably cost him an extra stamp. It was a long letter. One that I wasn't about to look at. I handed it off to my mom and she took it up to her room.

She came down an hour later. It looked as if she had been crying. “I think you should take a look at it. I know you don't want to but just read it when you’re ready,” she said.

I grabbed it from her and went up to my room. I was going to shove it in my closet and try to forget about it. The pain that stood still in my heart was still against him. But, something stopped me. The front of it did not say Catherine Crossford. It said Emma May Crossford, clear and bold.

I picked it up and took out the letter. It was typed, which surprised me because the last one was written in green ink. It went something like this,


These past few months were the hardest thing I have ever done. Not because of the treatment, not because of the absence from alcohol, but because of you. For a long time, I didn’t want to be here. I wanted to go back to my old life style where my problems could be covered up. I hated the treatments and the counseling meetings; most of the people here have never experienced anything but bad things in life. But not me. I have had a perfect life. One that I had ruined over something that could have been fixed.

You probably wonder how I got that way. Well, here it is. I felt hopeless, Emma. I was scared I couldn't support my family. I brought myself so low, that I made it look like I was incapable. It worked for a while, but then I started to forget myself and eventually stopped my life completely. I wasn't planning to get carried away but things like that do.

For a long time, I didn't know what I did. And there's something you need to understand. I am truly sorry and I promise you that I will never blame it on anything but myself. My counselor kept trying to bring it up, but I didn't know what she was talking about. I made myself believe that it was just something that was supposed to help me. Ms. Rehdd, my counselor, gave me key words each day to help me remember but I couldn't.

There was a day I did remember, though. It wasn't in Ms. Rehdd's office. I was in my bed, lying awake. I couldn't sleep. My mind started wandering to places I never been before and pieces started coming back from the incident. I went to Ms. Rehdd's the next day and it took a couple of days to help me with the whole story. I have never felt so wrong in my entire life.

I pulled myself together and started working hard, keeping my eyes on you to motivate me. I am sorry it took so long. I'm sorry it ever happened. If there's one thing you should know, it's that you fixed me. You were the one who picked up the pieces and put me back together. If it never happened, I don't know how my life could ever be fixed. I didn't want it to happen this way, but I'll tell you, it was meant to be.

Emma, I don't expect you to ever forgive me. I don't expect you to let me come home or even be known as your dad. But I want to say this: Thank you. Thank you for keeping hope. Thank you for bringing me back from what I once was. I'm sorry for what I did. I, myself, have not gotten over it yet and I wish to spend some more time here so that I can. It’s going to take some time to heal. But we can try. I can’t make any promises in fear of me breaking them but I’ve decided that trying is just about all we can do right now. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a fantastic way to start. I hope you’ll let me contact you again because I have so much more to tell you that I can’t express in a letter. Take all the time you need. There are a couple of last words you need to here. Emma, you are my beautiful daughter and I love you with all my heart.

A tear ran down my cheek. My resentment against my dad left me. That was the summer where there was start of renewed hope. It was the days of sadness and a never fading scar but it was worth it. If there was one thing I learned, it was this. Maybe people never stop wanting. Maybe their lives are full of searching, and they never find that ever-lasting happiness. But I know one thing. Life can still be good. It can still dwell with happiness and we can all be fulfilled with the lives we have.

And so I chose to live because happiness does not come from searching or running around with our head full of worries. It does not come from sitting in depths of bad moments or from the sour lives around us. It comes from the place where you don’t have to move to be happy; from the deepest part of your heart. Here, I’d have to show love for my dad. I would have to have forgiveness in my heart and I’d have to accept the things that did happen. And that’s exactly where I was.

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