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I’m running, running as fast as I can; but it’s not fast enough. I can hear my footsteps pounding, getting louder and louder as they carry me into the darkness. I’m out of breath, but I can’t stop; my legs won’t let me. I don’t know why I’m running, but I know I’m about to ruin everything. I think back and remember…
My mom is in the hospital. I remembering coming home from school and seeing the ambulance there. My mom was being wheeled out of the house on a stretcher. I was frozen with shock. I couldn’t move. It was as if someone had welded me to the ground. She was fine this morning when she fixed me breakfast, and when she said goodbye to me before I left for school. I finally get over the shock and run to the ambulance. I am asking so many questions and none of them are getting answered. My dad came out of the house and told me to get in the ambulance with my mom; he would drive to the hospital after he finished his paperwork. I didn’t hesitate to jump in with my mom and hold her hand. Her eyes were closed, but I felt relief when I saw the rise and fall of her chest.
Now I’m pacing next to her hospital bed, furious with my father. How could his paperwork be more important than his wife? I should be used to his behavior by now. Work always comes first, family second. Every time a nurse comes in, I ask them what happened to my mom; every answer sounds like this, “It’s alright sweetie she’s fine,” or this, “We aren’t allowed to tell you her condition until an adult is here.” You would think that sharing blood would be enough to get some information, but apparently it isn’t.
My dad finally walks through the door. I give him a dirty look. He’s too ignorant to notice.
“Sorry Janey, I didn’t think I had that much work to do.”
I look at the clock and realize I have been waiting for him for almost two hours. I can feel my anger boiling, but decide to forget about my fury. I just want to know what’s wrong with my mom. “It’s alright,” I say. I don’t make eye contact with him, because I know I won’t see the same sadness that is in mine.
A nurse walks in to check on my mom. My dad pulls the nurse into the hallway and has a five minute conversation with her. I hear my dad’s voice rise and I know his temper is getting the best of him.
My dad walks back in. “The doctors say your mother had a stroke, but she will be alright. She will have to stay here for a week or so though, to make sure she is okay.”
I nod. Now I know why he was getting angry. A whole week stay at the hospital must be pricey.
I go down to the cafeteria and get a salad. I finish eating and go back to my mom’s room. As I approach the room, I can hear my mother’s voice and almost run in the room, but then I hear my dad’s angry voice. “Do you know how much this hospital bill is going to be?! We don’t have that much money Katherine!”
I lightly kick the door so they know that someone is coming. I smile as I walk in, hoping they don’t know I heard them talking.
“Hey Jane!” my mother gushes. That’s so like her, to pretend that she is fine, like nothing has happened.
“Hey Janey,” my dad says in his monotone voice, obviously still mad. I wish he would stop calling my Janey. He called me that when I was little, but I wish he would understand that things have changed, and that nickname doesn’t make me smile like it used to.
I sit down next to my mom on her bed. We all talk for a few more hours and then my dad and I leave. In the car I don’t speak. After several failed attempts at a conversation- “How was school?” or, “Was your salad any good?” and even, “You have any boyfriends?” my answers being: good, yup, and no; my dad gives up and follows my lead into silence.
The following seven days are all the same. Wake up, shower, go to school, come home, eat, go see mom, bed. I’m not in the mood for conversation, and after a few days, my dad gets this and starts to leave me alone. This is what I want, to be alone. I don’t always want to be alone; it’s just that I would rather be alone than listen to my dad rant about money and work. He isn’t observant enough to notice the lack of interest I have in his rants. So, when he goes into one of these discussions, I just nod and stare at the creases in his forehead.
It’s the end of the week and we go to the hospital to take my mom home. I go into my mom’s room while my dad talks with the doctor. Again, I hear my father’s voice grow louder. He walks back in, his face red. He tells me that my mom has to stay another day or so. He goes to the car without talking to my mom. I say my goodbyes and get in the car.
I can’t take this anymore. The silence and seclusion that has now become my life is unbearable. Even when my mom was home, we didn’t sit and talk as a family, I didn’t talk much to my dad, my dad only worked, and it’s as if nothing has changed. I decide I need to get away. And that’s what I do.
I just walk out the door. My dad sees me, but says nothing. I start running and here I am now, in the dark, still running. I know why I’m running now. I can’t stand being this alone. I keep running. My legs are burning as they are pushed to their limit, just like me. Now I’m falling and watching the concrete come to meet my face. I feel and hear the smack.
I open my eyes. I’m breathing heavily. It’s not dark anymore, and I see my mom open my door to wake me up. She smiles when she sees me already awake. I get up and get in the shower.
That nightmare was so real and vivid. I cannot believe I still get flash backs from that night. My mind picks up where my dream left off. My dad is running toward me. He must have heard me scream. As he bends down to pick me up, I see the headlights coming, hear the tires screeching, and see him crashing to the ground. I see the blood pool and his chest stone still, and I’m helpless.
I watched my dad die. I watch him die every night, and every night the nightmare matches the reality. Sometimes, it follows chronological order- come home, go to hospital, run away, my dad comes to save me, and then he dies. But other times, like last night, the events are out of order and it starts from the running then jumps to the beginning of coming home. It has been a few years now, but I still remember every moment of that week because the flashbacks haunt me every night. And every time I wake up, I know that my dad’s death is entirely my fault.
Now I stand in the shower and wash away my sorrows, a clean slate for tonight’s nightmare. I prepare all day for the night’s gift. Too bad I will never get used to the pictures I see at night. Too bad my dad is dead.