I Am Not Worthless Anymore

June 4, 2012
By , Park City, UT
“Kay, Dad. It’s four o’clock. I’m ready to go.” I said as I released him in a hug. His arms were awkward around me and I tried to put as much space between the two of us as possible, but that only increased the awkward aura that surrounded us. That’s not how it should be between a father and his daughter.

“Here’s the thing,” he said slowly as he enunciated each word, “I won’t be taking you home. I’m heading home and you know that I would have to drive a whole lot more to drop you off at home.” he said, but when he saw the look on my face he added, “It’s just not convenient for me.”

I forced a smile across my already tired face, the muscles burned, but I persevered. “Ok.” That small word was all I could manage.

“Great. I’m glad you understand. You just know how Jenny is about money. I’m glad you understand.”

Yeah, I understand that I am worth less than money and nothing in my life will ever change that. I just smiled again and turned quickly around. I walked with my head held high all the way to my tent; the grass beneath me was a dying shade of green as fall was descending upon us. I pulled on the zipper and it wouldn’t budge. Frustration held me in its grip and I ripped the device open. Mary watched me with a pale face.

“Who’s getting us home?” she knew already what was causing me to act this way.

“Somebody else. You can’t count on him for anything anymore.” I said bitterly spitting the words out.

“Call Mom. She’ll find a way to get us home. We have school tomorrow. Why is he doing this again? I thought we had agreed that he would get us home by 4:30 and that it wasn’t a problem.” She said softly.

“That is exactly what we agree upon. But as you can see that is not happening today.”

I hurried back out of the tent and over to an isolated corner. I stared at the horses trying to force tears away. The familiar ache in the back of my throat and the blurred vision did nothing to ease my self loathing.
My palm brushed against my cheek in a mockery of a caress between two lovers. Tears leaked of their own accord and nothing I could do would stop them. My heart beat quickly sending blood pulsing through my veins. My hands were shaking so badly that I tried unsuccessfully to pull my cell phone out of my pocket. I fumbled several times before Mary reached in and grabbed my phone right out of my grasp. She carefully handed it to me and I gave her a small smile, the salty taste of tears tickled the tip of my tongue.

“Thanks.” I mumbled to her although my heart wasn’t in it.

“You’re welcome.” She replied automatically slipping into formalities.

My fingers felt as light as a feather even though the air around me was hot and oppressive. I punched in the numbers. I listened to the dial tones and tapped my left foot in agitation.

“Hello?” Mom asked her voice high and friendly over the phone. She seemed to be in a good mood, but that would end soon.

“I don’t know when we’re coming home.” I said it plain and simple, there was no need to sugar coat things with my mom.

“Is your dad being difficult again?” she said with understanding flooding through the phone.

“Yes. I’m sorry. Could you come get me?” I asked trying to hide the tears in my voice.

“I won’t be able to get you until ten o’clock. We have that party; we won’t be able to leave. Can you wait there that long?”

“Yes. I’ll wait.”

“Please stop crying. It breaks my heart when you cry like that. I’m sorry that your dad doesn’t have a brain and that he never follows through on his promises. If I could go back I would change the decisions I’ve made. I love you and I’ll see you tonight.”

“Love you too. Bye.” I said hollowly. I turned to Mary. “We’re stuck, again. This is why I told you we should never have come in the first place. He can never get us home. It’s always about the money and the sooner you learn that the better off you’ll be!” I shouted at her, but the tears had stopped coming. I had used enough tears to last any emotional woman a lifetime.

As the grass crunched behind me I composed my face as best as I could. I knew that the mask wasn’t as convincing as it would have been on any other day, but I was too tired and so I turned around.

“Hey, Moozely. I asked Colt and Nicole if they could take you home, but they can’t. Neither can Eliza or Audrey.”

Well of course they couldn’t. They all lived here, or down in the valley that would cause them the same problem as Dad. I wasn’t a rocket scientist, but that seemed obvious.

“Mom said that she could pick us up later tonight.” I said numbly.

“Oh, that’s great.” He said touching me gently on the shoulder.

I stood there and let him. I pretended to be the daughter he always wanted and I watched him give me a sincere smile. I did believe that he loved me; just that he loved the green in his wallet even more.

“Yeah.” I said trying to mimic a cheery tone.

Mary stood still next to me and after a couple minutes of uncomfortable silence Dad wandered back into his trailer. Mary turned to me.

“What are we supposed to do?” she asked.

“Pretend to be happy.” I replied.

We walked around the camp until we bumped into our grandparents. They were talking to each other in hushed tones and normally that would send a signal to me that I shouldn’t interrupt, but I sat down at the table next to them.

“We’ll take you home.” Grandma said without any remorse or shame.

“What?” I asked.

“Your dad can’t take you home, but we will.” She said as if talking to a youngster.

“You will?” I asked as hope flowed through me.

“Yes. I have a license. I can drive. Pack up your things and we’ll get you home by six.” She said happily.

I stood up abruptly and gave her a big squeeze. The top of her head barely reached my chin and I felt like I was an adult, but at the same time it made me realize how frail and old my grandma was becoming. “Thank you.”

Grandpa had been a mailman for thirty-five years. He had never had very much money and yet he was willing to spend the time and money to get me home even when it wasn’t his job. He was sending me the most powerful message in the whole world and yet he didn’t even know it. They had basically just said, “You are worth more than anything in the whole wide world.”

This particular moment made me realize how many times I’d ever been told that I wasn’t worth the money or the trouble for anything. I realized how I had shaped my life for sixteen years based on the fact that I was worthless and didn’t deserve the time or attention that a kid deserves. But my grandpa corrected that misfire in my brain and told me that I was worth something and that I would be doing great things in my life. I couldn’t stop the flood of emotions as I went back in my childhood that had made this moment the most important moment in my life.

My face was composed as I watched my father and step-mother talk softly with one another. I tried very hard to block out their insistent voices, anxiety clawing at my heart and butterflies growing in my stomach.

“This is ridiculous. Why does Devon have to use an old, rusty trumpet when your girls get brand new flutes? You realize that the cost for them to have new flutes is ten dollars a month?” Jenny’s voice rose with each word she spit across the room at him.

I flinched as if she was directing those words at me herself. In that moment I pretended that I wasn’t one of the girls she was talking about. I was a different girl; one who required nothing and gave everything; one that was perfect in every way acceptable. But of course, one can only pretend for so long. My imagination crumbled before my eyes as if it were a physical being that had been my companion for so long.

Mary who was sitting so close to me on the cold wooden floor had glistening eyes. I knew that look very well; I should after all, because I’ve worn it too many times. Something inside of me urged me to reach out and comfort her because that’s what she needed most, but I held back and wallowed inside myself.

“I didn’t play the flute when I was in band so they don’t have one that they could use from me.” He said without allowing his cool controlled voice shatter.

They moved out of the room together as they noticed that their three children watched the scenario unfold. At least they afforded the decency we deserved.

“They could have rented one from Summerhays. They could have and you didn’t even stand up to Lisa to tell her that. I don’t want to pay ten dollars for them!” She screamed at him.

The words echoed through my head. I was nothing but a child. I had just started my seventh grade year and I had decided to play the flute along with my sister. I, being a child, did not realize the impact that my playing a flute would cause. I was just excited and thrilled to be a part of something bigger than myself. The idea of a band family was too enticing for me to shut out for long. I had almost joined the choir for fear of something new. But I had conquered that fear and I had expected my father to be pleased with me at the very least. I did not expect this.

I didn’t know what to do. I was frantically searching for options and I almost considered giving up the flute, but realized that my mother, my real mother, would not find that option appropriate. So I did what I do best, I took it all in and held it inside me. The memory would stick with me for all my life, and it would not be the last time I was told that money mattered more than me.

I sat in silence, the way I do most of the time I’m around a ticking time bomb. This particular time bomb has a name, her name is Jenny. I was in the backseat of their Corolla and I looked out the window at the passing houses and laughing children. I didn’t belong in this car with these people, but I didn’t belong out there with those happy children. I tried to close off my ears from their constant yammering, but it’s a skill I hadn’t quite mastered yet. We were heading home, forty-five minutes away from Dad’s, to be dropped off after a weekend with our lovely step-mother. We would be dropped off at our house and returned to our mother, and they would head to the shopping outlets like they had been planning for months on end.

“Mat, do you realize how much money it costs in gas to drop your girls off?” she produced one of her countless snide remarks, quickly changing attitude.

He shook his head, “No.” he said in his familiar monotone.

“Well, it costs twelve dollars. Twelve dollars! Do you know what we could do with twelve dollars?” she asked, high and nasally.

He just shook his head in submission one more time. I turned my face away from the two of them discussing money towards the canyon around me. I was comfortable in this canyon because it was one step closer to getting away from them.

The rest of the car ride I sat still and patiently waited. That was unusual for me, at least when I was around my mother. When the gravel crunched under the tires I leaped out. The metal that had been around me for so long was gone and I was free from that awful prison. I carried my backpack on one shoulder, too anxious to even be bothered by something so trivial, and went into my house. I could hear Mary making her way behind me. I bounded up the stairs and crashed into my bedroom. The cupboard jarred open as I reached inside to find my wallet. I tore it open and peeked inside. More than twelve dollars stared back at me, the snide comments echoing in my head. I carefully and efficiently counted out twelve dollars. I gripped the cash in my fist the whole time telling myself that money was more important than myself.

I stood there enveloped by my emotions after reviewing the past. Tears leaked freely from my face and I was no longer ashamed. My chest swelled with butterflies and I breathed the air in deeply. This feeling that I couldn’t name came over me. I was free and nothing could ever hold me back again. This is the moment that changed my life forever.

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