The most that eleven year olds should have to worry about is a weekly spelling test or who they will eat lunch with.  An eleven year old should not have to experience feelings of abandonment, or worse, tragedy.  In 1958, an eleven year old-my grandmother- lived through both of these.  This is her story.
The early morning light peeked into Deborah's room and stirred her from her deep slumber.  Her eyelids blinking open, she saw her sister Mary still sound asleep.  Before drifting back to sleep, Deborah heard a creak underneath her floorboards.  Then another.  Deborah’s brow furrowed as she wondered who could possibly be moving downstairs.  With an essence of fear in her step, Deborah tiptoed downstairs, determined to catch the mysterious being.  As she reached the last step, she caught a glimpse of a familiar figure.  Her father, a man who she had idolized, confided in, and loved her whole life, was clutching three bags of his belongings with one foot out the door. 
“What are you doing?” Deborah hesitantly called out.  Deborah’s father sighed deeply, but said nothing.  With serious eyes and a breaking heart, Deborah replied, “If you’re really leaving, just tell me. I can handle it.”  The girl’s youthful face did not match the maturity of her words.  Deborah’s father took three small steps towards her, squatted down, and looked her in her eyes. “Yes. Yes, I am leaving, Debbie.  I love you, and your brothers and sisters, and your mother.  Especially your mother.  Take care of her for me, okay?”  Deborah gave her father an emotionless nod as he wrapped her in a brief hug and walked out the door. It was if he was never there.
Deborah had lost count of the final goodbye hugs her father had given her. She had stopped being surprised a long time ago; now, each exit just left her numb. She caught a glimpse of the clock: 6:00 AM.  She poured herself a bowl of cereal and ate in her bare-bones, lonely kitchen.   As she ate, she thought back to the last time he had left: 7:15 AM, the same goodbye hug, the “new job” excuse. But Deborah knew what to expect by now. Her father would return in due time, as though he had never abandoned them in the first place.  An hour later, Deborah’s mother arrived downstairs.  Her luxurious ebony hair, angelic face, and air of gentleness made Deborah’s mother a saint in her young eyes.  Deborah could not imagine life without her; she wondered why her father so easily could.
Months passed, the weather became colder, and Deborah’s home became quieter.  Her father had given no sign of returning, which was unprecedented.  In the past, he always sent a single postcard from some ambiguous location, addressed solely to Deborah and her four siblings.  Soon after, Deborah would return home from school and see her mother on the phone, a contemplative, hopeful look on her face.  When those phone calls happened, Deborah knew her father would be back within the week.  This time, though, no letters arrived and the phone never rang.
One Tuesday evening, Deborah and her siblings endlessly pestered their mother for ice cream.  She had promised them the treat weeks ago as a reward for cleaning the yard.  Deborah’s mother understood how much her kids had suffered over the past year, and if could give them a treat even as small as ice cream, she would feel better.  After a few more minutes of begging from her five children, Deborah’s mother grabbed her keys and purse and rushed out the front door, promising to return with mint chocolate chip ice cream. 
Seconds passed, then minutes, then hours. With each passing moment, Deborah’s gut told her that her mother would not be returning, much less with ice cream.  The phone rang, snapping Deborah from her worries.  Ring. Ring. Ring. On the fourth ring, Deborah mustered up the courage to answer. From the other line, she heard four words that would change her life forever.
“Your mother is dead.”

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