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I Will Always Love You

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It was a cool, crisp day in February. I was at my best friend’s house jumping on her trampoline. We would see the cars pass by and wave, and they would wave back. Katy and I dreaded the sight of my mom’s white van pulling in the driveway to pick me up. Through the van window, I saw my mom leaning close to the heater; and her eyes were glazed. She rubbed her hands together as to gain some warmth; although, she still seemed cold. The routine argument and begging to stay did not occur; rather, there was a mutual understanding I should probably go home. When we pulled up to the house, I swung the van door open and ran in the garage to grab my scooter and ride three houses down to my cousins. But I was not allowed to go. My mom looked deep into my eyes and gave a gentle, reassuring smile. Then the question came, what I have never heard before, “Natalie, can I talk to you in your room?” Oh jeez, did I do something wrong, get in trouble? I was never one for discipline problems; in fact, I was quite the opposite. We entered my baby blue room and sat on my bed. My mom looked at me, and her reassuring eyes became heavy. I didn’t even think. Immediately my mouth began to move, “Mom, is something wrong?” She nodded. Thoughts raced to my head; I felt somewhat dizzy knowing this problem was so serious she brought me alone in my room, taken from playing with my best friend, then unable to go to my cousins. “Is dad okay?” The words somehow flung out at my mom. She shook her head. Fear, grief, anxiety, and hopelessness smothered me. I was unable to move; there was nowhere to go. My throat began to tingle and feel dry. I wanted to yell, but nothing came out. I leaped into my mom’s arms, and tears stung my eyes and began rolling down my checks.

I did not see him often, but when I did it was filled with unforgettable memories. My dad was a pilot, started OMNI Energy Services Corporations, and was a great father. Although he and my mom had been divorced a year before he passed, he would take me, my cousins, and sister out every weekend. Our weekend adventures ranged from Disney World trips and Garth Brook concerts to camp-outs on our property riding our horses and playing glow-in-the-dark football. At OMNI, I had my own office I would go to after school and “help” with the paper work; really, I taught the secretaries ballet lessons. Sitting in that office made me feel important; I was proud to say David Anthony Jeansonne was my dad. I was daddy’s little girl and spoiled rotten. For Christmas, I got everything I could ever want: a dog, a soccer goal, clothes galore (almost the whole Limited Too store!), a computer, and a Nintendo 64. I grew up receiving gifts every time he would come home from a business trip. I would make a list before he left, and he would come back with everything. I could barely deal with the suspense of seeing what he would bring home. Once (during my phase of stuffed animals) I asked for a stuffed animal: family, dog, grass, and a house with trees. Because they probably don’t make stuffed animal grass and houses, I got the closest thing: a huge doll house with people, trees, and grass, plus a stuffed animal dog.

He took me on my first duck hunt and was with me to catch my first fish. Not only did he teach me to ride a bike, but to fly a helicopter. The first time I flew, butterflies fluttered around my stomach, and thoughts engulfed my brain faster than I could think. I put on my scapular and chewed my gum. The butterflies disappeared, but my stomach sank to my feet. The ground began to disappear as we flew into the fluffy clouds, which surrounded the plane like a comforting blanket. Flying became as second nature as breathing. The suspenseful waiting of my stomach to flip was adventurous, and I looked forward to that rush.

We would make up games, the sort that would “make the house messy,” as mom would say. For instance, tying a troll to a long rope; then tying the rope to the fan; then moving all the furniture, and trying to dodge the troll. Another time we filled the back work-room with all my stuffed animals, while I stayed in the den with a fishing pole. In the back room, my dad would put a stuffed animal on the fishing line, and I would reel it in from four rooms away! As a little kid, when my dad would come home from work, I would drop down to the floor wherever I was and cover my eyes. As soon as I heard his infamous whistling, I knew that with my eyes closed, he wouldn’t see me. I remember sitting in his big Lazy- Boy chair eating jars of pickles and boxes of popsicles at a time. I only saw my dad cry once, at my grand-paw’s funeral, at which he wore sunglasses, yes… in the church. As a ten year old, I also experienced the pain of losing my father. However, that pain eventually turned into acceptance, then to understanding, and finally to happy memories. Our last telephone call ended with the usual, routine goodbye we would say every time before we hung up: “Good night, love you, sweet dreams, say your prayers, God bless, love you!”

I can still see the confused look on my little sister’s face when she was told “daddy’s in heaven now.” She probably understood better than any of us; because she smiled and reassured us he was going to be okay. Although I don’t remember much, I know my dad loved me with all his heart. He would always ask, “Nat did I tell you how much I love you today?” And his favorite song was “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston, which would sound like a dying cat when we sang it together. My dad was always so proud of anything I did, always bragging. He constantly filmed me as a child, even if I was sleeping. Everyone he ever introduced me to replied, “Oh! We’ve heard so much about you!”

Months or so after my dad had crashed flying his plane, my grand-maw prayed to St. Therese of the Little Flower, my confirmation saint, to take care of her son in Heaven. The next morning, a single rose appeared on her screen door. That rose was a small symbol reminding us of all the pain and heartache we endure on Earth, but the rejoicing and happiness of those in Heaven. Many times I run into strangers who happen to have known my dad, and they are amazed how much my mannerisms and appearance resemble his. These compliments are an honor to me. I know my dad lived a great life and affected many people. By going through such a hard childhood, I feel strong enough for anything God throws in my path, especially with the help of those in Heaven. I firmly believe he and my grand-paw watch over me everyday; which in that case, they probably have the hardest job, but I couldn’t have asked for better help!





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