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“I’m Sorry.” the words hung in the air as I tried to grasp them, but I couldn’t seem to bring myself to believe what they were telling me. My mom tried to make me feel better by telling me he didn’t want to leave me and my brothers behind, but he had no other choice. “There’s always a choice” I thought.
“How could he do this to me!?” I screamed, unaware my younger brother was watching me. “What’s wrong sissy?” He asked as his puppy-dog eyes grew.
“I’m fine Dylan, go watch your movie.”
His expression doubted my words but he eventually walked out saying, “Okay.”
My dad had left. That was as simple as it got, but I knew there was nothing simple about it. He’d chosen to run from his mistakes and leave me behind. My best friend was gone. My mom claimed he mentioned something about coming back soon, but we both know soon meant never. I hadn’t seen Jayden since we got the news. He was 17 and angry, so I probably won’t see him for a week, 2 at the most. The sound of Transformers blasting from the living room woke me from my thoughts. I heard Dylan calling my name, so I lifted myself off my bed and trekked down the stairs.
“Wanna watch it with me?” he said smiling, showing where he was missing his two front teeth and I couldn’t help but smile and nod. We curled up together in our favorite chair and within minutes, I was asleep.
The next morning I awoke tDylann screaming like a banshee, “Jayden’s home! Jayden’s home! Jayden’s home!” I shot up, causing me to get light-headed. Once the room stopped spinning, I ran to where Dylan was screaming and pointing just in time to see Jayden reach his over his mouth and say in a very stern voice, “Scream one more time and I’ll hang you by your toes, got it?”
Dylan slowly nodded, eyes wide with fear. “When I let go, you better be quiet.”
Jayden took his hand off our baby brother’s mouth, and he quietly sat down next to where he was lying.
“When did you get home?” I asked.
“Late or early, who knows.” He shrugged.
“Where’d you go?” I pressed.
“Why the hell does it matter?” he answered avoiding my question.
“We just missed you,” my voice cracked, and I felt the tears begin to sting my eyes.
Jayden saw his words had hurt me and wrapped me in a hug. “I’m missed you too,” he whispered. “I shouldn’t have left like some people.”
I felt a tug on my shorts and we looked down to see Dylan staring at us with his big brown eyes, saying, “I missed you too.”
We let him in and just sat there for a moment embracing. “Were going to be okay guys, I promise.”
Those words stayed with me for the next three years. I remembered those words when we got a phone call from my grandma saying my dad was in a car accident and they were doing everything they can but it may not be enough. We flew to Madagascar where he was hiding to see him.
I hadn’t seen my dad in three years. The last time I saw him, he was smiling. He was still young, not a sign of gray and so full of life. Now as he lay in the white hospital bed, I saw someone completely different. This man was pale, with barely any hair and his head all wrapped in gauze. His eyes had sunken into his head and his skin was wrinkly. This man was not my father.
“Daddy!” Dylan exclaimed ignoring the signs mom gave him telling him to be quiet.
He attempted a smile but it was so hard since his head was wrapped tight. The nurse said he went through the windshield after his seatbelt somehow became detached during the accident.
“Hello Matt.” My mom whispered.
Jayden even managed a small nod, but I couldn’t seem to find any words. I didn’t know who this man was; he is a stranger. The man I knew wouldn’t have left us.
He reached his hand toward me and seemed to beckon me to come forth. I hesitated until my mom gave me a slight push of encouragement. I walked for what felt like an eternity towards his bed and sat next to him. He tried to speak but his voice was hoarse. Jayden gave him a glass of water the nurse brought in and he took it acting as though it weighed 100 lbs.
“Paige, I know I hurt you but please don’t shut the world out. Be angry with me but don’t isolate yourself from the people that love you.” His breathing became uneven until a nurse came in to adjust his oxygen tube.
“I never should have left, but at the time I thought it was in everyone’s best interest. I—“
“Best interest?” I heard myself say louder than I intended. “It was best for us not to have a dad? It was best for Dylan? Are you crazy?!”
My mother then stepped in “Paige—“
“No let her finish.” Matt choked out.
I took a deep breath, “You left us. You weren’t thinking about us, you were thinking about yourself.” I heard my voice getting louder and louder but I didn’t care, I had to get this out. “You never even wrote or called or offered to have us visit or even ask if we were okay. Three years dad! It took you three years to contact us and it’s only because you’re badly injured. You didn’t even say goodbye. You left two words on a note. How dare you sit there and say it was in everyone’s best interest.” At that point I began to cry. He tried to reach out and hug me but I ran to Jayden and Dylan for comfort.
“I’m sorry. I should have wrote and called. Just remember that I do love you all and nothing will ever change that.”
That night we were asleep in our hotel room when the phone rang, pulling us from our dreams back to reality.
Mom answered, “Hello?” she still sounded groggy. I heard a woman say something and my mother’s eyes shot open and began to fill with tears. “Are you sure there’s nothing more we can do?” she said while fighting back tears. The woman spoke again in soft, remorseful tones. “Thank you so much. Goodnight.” As soon as she hung up we all surrounded her in a hug as she broke down in sobs.
“Who was that mommy?” Dylan asked trying to make her stop crying.
After she pulled herself together enough to speak she told us it was one of dad’s nurses. He had passed away in his sleep about an hour ago after his head trauma reopened and his brain bled to death. We spent the rest of the night crying together at our loss.
That morning we flew back to Texas to bury my father in his hometown. During the funeral a week later, we all spoke. Even Dylan who only said how he’ll miss watching Transformers with daddy and playing Cowboys and Indians. My mother got about 2 sentences in before Jayden escorted her back to her seat because she was crying too much to speak. Then it was my turn.
I slowly made my way to the podium knowing everyone’s eyes were on me, waiting to hear what beautiful I had prepared for my father’s funeral. I took a few deep breaths and began, “As most of you know, my dad was in hiding for things that will not be mentioned. He left the United States about three years ago with only a not saying ‘I’m sorry’. We hadn’t heard from him since until a few days ago when a hospital in Madagascar called saying they had my father and he had terrible head trauma after crashing through his windshield during a car accident. He was wearing a seatbelt that somehow became detached. I said some things that were hurtful but also the truth. If there is anything I have learned from what has happened to me in the past three years it’s: My father never left. He was always with me. And he always has and always will love me. And as long as I have my mom and my brothers, I’ll always be okay.”