December 18, 2008
By Dani Bellante, Arnold, MD

He lied. She lied too. They didn’t love each other anymore. The love had left when he did. No matter, they both looked me straight in the eye, and lied. It’s been ten years, but I still remember the day perfectly; the tears and the silence. It hadn’t been silent in our house for many months but…silence fell. It was too much arguing and too much disagreement for both of them to handle. They got fed up and just called it quits.
He walked into my room and took his jacket from the big closet. It held all of our winter clothes. The closet held in the moth balls and the dust, but most importantly it held our memories. The small tear on the sleeve of my pink jacket from the time Mom, Jenna, Dad and I had gone camping. We had gone running through the woods, a vicious snowball fight in process when I snagged it on a low snow-covered branch. Later that cold winter night we lay under the stars and sat by the fire sharing stories, and memories. Now he slipped the jacket over his arms, gave me a smile and walked back into their room to continue packing. I followed him out and sat on the bed while he packed up the last of his clothes.
“Are you leaving because Jen and I used your shaving cream on the mirror? I promised I’d clean it off.”
I wanted to know why he was going; I wanted to know if I did anything wrong. I would have changed, I could have been a better daughter, and I wouldn’t fight with my sister as much. I promised.
“No no, this has nothing to do with you guys, you’re both perfect. And the shaving cream is cleaned now it’s fine. Mom and I are just not getting along; we just want a little bit of room. You’ll understand.”

He wanted me to know it was okay, and it would be, but I didn’t know then. I smiled and let him know I was okay, then he patted me on the head and asked me to help him close his suitcase. I jumped up on top of it letting my weight hold everything in place. He zipped it up half way until the zipper reached my legs, he lifted them way in the air making me fall backwards and finished his zip, we broke into laughter. I remembered the times when we would be packing up for vacation; the trip to Disney Land, and up to Kings Dominion, it was our packing tradition. It was always different; I helped when we were leaving and Jenna did the job when it was time to come home, every sit on this suitcase marked a new adventure and new memories.

I scooted off the bed and he picked up his bags and walked into the living room. I headed down the hall after him, peeking in to see Jen playing with her Barbies on the bedroom floor. How it must feel to be three years old, and oblivious. I walked into the living room right behind Dad until I saw him walk out the front door to the car. He left a few bags behind so I wanted to go help him I knew dad didn’t like making second trips, he said it made leaving take too long, ‘if we were ready for the vacation our bags should be too’. Before I got out the door Mom peeked in and let me know my lunch was ready so I put the bags down, I didn’t want him leaving too soon anyway. I walked into the kitchen and got ready for lunch. I washed up my hands and sat at the counter next to mom. She was looking down at me, but I don’t think she was seeing, her mind was elsewhere and I wanted to know where.

“Whatcha thinking about? Did you want Daddy to stay too?”

“Yes I did, but it wouldn’t have been good for you girls, dad and I just need sometime to think, but it’ll be okay, it’ll be just like old times.”
She was lying. I was only six but I still knew. Either way I took a bite of my sandwich and let her go on thinking. A few minutes later my dad walked in and gave me a wink as he picked up the rooster cookie jar. He always liked roosters, I don’t really know why. He picked up the top and handed me a cookie as the jar sang out a “Cocka-doodle-doo”. Mom gave him a look; he knew I wasn’t allowed dessert until I was done my sandwich. He walked out of the kitchen, Mom smiled at me and walked downstairs. I took a bite out of my cookie. It reminded me of the day we had desserts all day. We were just hyper so we snacked out; we ate cookies and candies and had lots of fun. Then I got a cavity. The cavity was worth it though; Mom, Dad, and I had tons of fun that day. Dad walked back into the kitchen, he interrupted my thought, but he came at me with a tickle fight which cheered me up a bit. Then he reached up and untangles my hair from the rooster photo on the wall. It was my favorite; a 3D picture of a rooster in a cage, the cage was real wire too.

“Can I keep this one? I’ll hang it up nice in my room.”

“If you’d really like it, it’s yours.”
I ran to the room and put it on my pillow; Jen stood up and followed me back out of the room. We went back down the hall and saw mom and dad hugging in the living room, saying goodbye. We ran up to Dad, he started crying. I’ve only seen him cry once before, but he’s really embarrassed to admit it. We were watching the movie Old Yeller, just Mom, Dad, Jenna, and I. I fell asleep on Dad’s lap, I woke up towards the end of the movie and he was sniffling and crying like a little baby, he said it had to be our secret, I thought it was funny. Now he was crying and it wasn’t very funny. I was sad too, I thought I had to be brave for Jenna so I tried not to cry; but I couldn’t help it. We cried and hugged for a few minutes and then he handed us over to mom where we hugged and cried some more as he walked outside to his car, and left.
It seems like forever since he left, but it’s not; we still have so long to go together. Mom remarried and now I have a new Step-Dad and a baby sister. Jen and I really like our family now. We moved into a big house and a new community. The old house was just really sad, but either way it held our memories both good…and bad. I get to see my dad a lot. Jen and I go over every weekend, and we have a great time. We’re really close now and we’ve got a whole bunch of good memories together. It’s sad when someone leaves, but as long as you care enough, they’ll always be with you, even when they’re not around.

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