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Thank You For Leaving
As each chipped blue game piece moved closer to its home, I was that much closer to losing mine. My brother picked up the card to move his piece in our game of Sorry. We were trying to kill time while we waited for our mom to come home from the hospital. I looked around at the stone walls of our basement and peered out the window into the driveway. No car. Just the late November snow. I turned back to the board and grabbed the top card. It seemed like forever as I moved the pawn seven spaces forward, the same number as my age. I had won the game. I started to pick up and my brother jumped on the couch to turn the t.v. on. I paused as I heard a car pull up and our heavy oak door gently creak open and close. My mother was home.
I sat there and listened, trying to figure out how many people had walked in. One set of footsteps, not two walked across the polished floorboards. I glanced over at my brother and to tell him to wait, but he had already fallen asleep. I quickly and silently crept up the stairs to the living room. My mom was sitting on the couch. The soft green one that felt like velvet but wasn’t really. As I looked at my mother her brown hair suddenly seemed frail and thin. Her eyes looked sunken in and darker. I watched as tiny crystal beads formed at the corner of her eyes and I heard each one gently hit the floor. For the first time in my life my mom didn’t look like a mother, but a child, distressed and confused.
Staring at her I thought, what happened? Why was my father not here? My father, who had taken me to my first basketball game, even if I had hated it. The one who gave me jelly beans when I was supposed to be asleep. My father who stopped in abandoned parking lots and bought thing in paper bags from strange men. Things I wasn’t supposed to tell my mom about. After watching my sobbing mother, I tapped her on the shoulder, looked her in the eye and asked,
As the month changed and it really became winter, I got to see my father every other Tuesday, supervised by a complete stranger named Dave. My mom stayed out in one of the hallways that led to the room. For dinner my dad usually brought apples, peanuts, or some kind of candy. On those nights we stopped at the Chinese Buffet on the way home with my mom. When Christmas came my father didn’t get us any presents.
“Daddy why don’t you have any thing?” my brother asked.
“Oh. Right. Presents. They are, um coming in the mail. They’ll be here in uh… a couple of weeks.” He then shifted in his chair so he was looking directly at me. “Is that ok?”
No it wasn’t, I wanted to yell at him. No it’s not ok you abandoned us and don’t have the heart to get us anything on top of it. I couldn’t say that though, right?
“Yeah that’s fine” I lied, as I mustered up a smile.
When early spring came Dave stopped paying attention. With this opportunity my dad and I took my brother out side. One day I told my mom of one of the visits and how Dave had actually fallen asleep while my father spent almost the entire time in the bathroom. That was when my mom decided to cancel the visits. Instead of taking us to visit my dad, my mom would instead go to court on almost every Tuesday. After several months of this my mom sat me down at the table.
“Lila, you wont be seeing your father any more.” She could tell I was going to ask why so she held up a finger to tell me to wait.
“In court today, I won sole custody over both you and your brother. That means you will live with me and not get to visit our father. Lila, I’m really sorry but your father is a dangerous man. He’s stolen money from both me and his father. And he’s cheated on me several times. He is sick in the head Lila. And he refuses to get help. Until he can, he is a threat to both you and your brother. Do you understand?”
“Yes” But at that point I didn’t. Not then, and not that night when I cried myself to sleep that night.
Nearly a year later from that cold November day, we packed up the house and moved from our raised ranch to a little apartment. There I shared a room with my brother, but still got to go to my school. I still got to see my friends. I got to hope that I would see my father again. I could still pretend. But another year after that I moved yet again. This time it was to another state. I left everything I knew behind. And I never did get those late presents.
Seven years later, half of my short life has gone by without him. I’m almost fifteen now and will be a sophomore soon. My brother doesn’t even remember our father. He was just too young. And in some ways was too young as well. Too young to have my world suddenly pulled out from under my feet like an old mangy rug. Too young to take care of my brother and do all I could for my mom. When I was supposed to be playing with friends or riding my bike, I was instead crying on my bed or watching my brother until my got home. No seven year old girl should have to deal with that. But I know how to contact my father. It is so easy, yet I can’t do it until I’m eighteen. Some day though, if I can come up with courage, I want to talk to him. I want to yell at him for leaving us, how it changed all of our lives and how it took so long to get back on track. I want to apologize to him for not being a better daughter. I want to tell him the things I have done in my life, without him. The good things like skipping fifth grade, getting into a private high school and coming first in a state gymnastics competition. But the bad things too like slitting my wrists in middle school, being molested and failing all my classes. I want him to apologize to me for loving substances more than his family. And perhaps most importantly I want to thank him for making me the person I am today.