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Always Be Loved
When you’ve gotten bad news, have you just wished you were with that one person? The one person who always understands? That one person who can always make you feel better even when you feel your world is falling apart? For me, this person has always been my father. He took precious time from his hectic day to share with me some of the most impacting recollections of my life.
Every so often, before I went to bed my dad would lie down next to me and we would just talk. He worked in Hartford, about an hour drive, so he tended to get home pretty late. My mom would let me stay up until daddy came home on Friday nights. Even before he ate dinner and talked with my mom he would kick off his shoes by my doorway and lie down to ask me about my day and my friends, almost anything.
I couldn’t say when talk time began, but every so often when I’m upset or just when we want to talk, my dad and I will spend a couple minutes, sometimes a couple hours just talking. Some of the conversations that I remember most don’t have much significance, but talk time was very therapeutic for me during some harder times too.
The day seemed like any other summer day. It was July 7th, 2003. My brother Jonathan and I were sitting on the driveway scribbling flowers and other doodles with chalk onto the pavement. My mom was sitting on the steps leading into our mud room. She leaned back on her elbows and sipped lemonade from a straw. She had a small pile of Good Housekeeping magazines on her lap and a yellow hat protecting her face from the sun. Every few minutes she stood up and complimented our drawings, sometimes adding to them herself. She never stayed away from the kitchen door for too long, afraid that she would miss the phone ringing.
After an hour in the sun my mother ordered Jonathan and I into the house. She made us a quick lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. My legs burned from the heat of the black pavement so Jonathan and I were allowed to sit cross-legged on the cool tile floor. We each sat in our own cream-colored ceramic squares, eating our sandwiches and drinking lemonade from our Disney character cups. As we sat eating the phone rang, my mother was in no hurry to answer, and caught the caller only minutes before they hung up. Within seconds of the conversation my mother was in tears. My mother never cries, aside from It’s a Wonderful Life and The Sound of Music. I wasn’t sure what had happened, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. She left the room for a long while. Jonathan and I left leaning against the cabinets holding hands.
My mother stayed on the phone for hours, leaving my brother and me in the dark. She finally took us aside and delivered the news that I had been dreading. Instantly I ran from my mother into the playroom. My father had built a loft designated for my brother and me. The entrance was a long wooden ladder and it was carpeted. I had even helped my mother sew a small curtain out of blue checked material to make the loft even more private. The small room was very entertaining. We spent hours on end leaping from the edge and plummeting those few feet onto a pile of bean bag chairs. But the loft was also a quiet corner, perfect for thinking. I had spent a lot of time in my loft while living in that house. Jonathan and I even camped out up there with sleeping bags and flashlights. I liked just sitting up there, sometimes with friends, sometimes on the phone, but most often by myself. I would even create a room for my dolls up there. It was a calm domain, perfect for a child’s imagination.
I sat in the corner of the loft for the rest of the day, squeezed into the narrow corner. I wrapped my arms around my knees and banged my head lightly against the slanted ceiling. I kept my eyes shut, with that childish idea in my head that I could make my problems disappear if I got them out of my mind.
When I heard the kitchen door open and my father stamp his shoes on the Welcome Mat I realized just how long I had kept to myself. I have never been one to stay isolated on my own, however when faced with situations like this I’ve never been comfortable around other people. I crawled out from my corner and if I leaned all the way over the edge of the loft I realized I could make out my parents sitting at the dining room table. My mother’s face looked grief stricken. She had tear stains under her now cloudy green eyes. Mascara streamed down her soft, freckled cheeks. She ran her hand through her tousled dark waves every few seconds, emphasizing her trauma. My father looked very serious, an expression that did not often cross his seemingly permanent smiling face. He held my mother’s hand and listened as she spoke. I couldn’t hear a word that she said, but after a while she nodded her head in the direction of the play room. My father stood up and walked towards my hiding place. I scurried back into my corner just as he climbed up the ladder.
“Hey,” he whispered. “I’m getting too old for this,” he chuckled as he reached the loft. I met him at the top of the ladder and wrapped my arms around him as he was still crawling up. He settled himself against a pile of pillows and held me against him.
“So I think your mother already explained this to you, but your Aunt Mary Ann, Babci’s sister, had a heart attack. She’s in the hospital.” I bit my lip and nodded into my father’s chest. My throat felt constricted, refusing to admit my voice through my clenched teeth. I didn’t want to hear this all again! It was painful enough hearing the nearly inaudible news through my mother’s coughs and sobs. But to hear it from my father? I had counted on him to diverge my thoughts from this topic. Could he honestly be delivering sympathy to me? My father? His refusal to give in to wasted emotions such as jealousy and hatred had always given me strength, exactly what I needed now.
“This is very hard for your mom. I need you to be strong for her, can you do that?” He asked softly.
My heart had stopped. This was so new to me. I had been blessed with a healthy family. Actually, until then no one that I had been very close to had even been in the hospital for a reason as serious as this. So many questions were flying through my head, but all I managed to get out was, “Do I have to be strong now?”
My dad kissed my forehead and shook his head “no” and just let me cry into his shoulder. It felt like only minutes had gone by when my dad gently shook me awake.
“Let’s bring you to bed.” He guided me down the ladder and carried me up the stairs. When we got to my bedroom I whispered, “I love you daddy,” before falling asleep.
I realize now that sometimes sympathy and consolation is what we are looking for when faced with traumatic and otherwise unbearable situations. My father taught me that sympathy is not a wasted emotion, sympathy means love. My father loved me enough to feel my pain, along with my mother’s. My father had always told me that when with family we shall never be sad, never be lonely, but always be loved.
The next few weeks were agonizingly long. We stayed with my Babci while my Aunt remained unconscious in the hospital. I wasn’t allowed to visit her. I’ve never been good with hospitals. The idea of sickness and death surrounded you, and that didn’t sit well with me. I hated the smell, the pastel colored walls, and those ridiculous, falsely cheerful nurses who were convinced to looking on the positive side of life. It had already been very difficult to see my aunt with her pale, papery skin, and her frail frame in a wheel chair, but to see her in this condition, in this atmosphere… I can never be sure I would have recovered. My father however, was my rock the entire time. As he lay down next to me and whispered, “I love you.” That is what kept me going.