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The Broken Lighthouse

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They don’t talk about it. Like just mentioning it will bring it faster. I don’t really understand what’s going on. No one bothers to tell me. They just say, “He isn’t eating” or “He’s not doing so well”. And if people didn’t have emotions I would have believed them, thought that was all it was. But because of the way Dad left to visit him as soon as he got the call, and the way his face was scrunched up and his eyes were red, and the leather couch was wet beneath his face, I know. I know what is happening.
We were supposed to be skiing today. I had gotten up at 5:30 like most weekend days and went into the living room to get my ski bag. The lights weren’t on. Mom was sitting on the couch, breathing heavily into the phone. I knew we weren’t going skiing today. I went back to bed.
I woke up again soon. Light was cutting through the blinds and it stung like Purell on a cut. I didn’t look at the time. It didn’t matter. Time is just a number, like a barcode. What does it think it is, trying to measure something that’s not its own. Something so wild and free and beautiful and it is just a number that has stuck itself on. It’s like graffiti on a pure marble wall.
I knew I should do my homework. I didn’t want to. I wasn’t hungry, either, but I went into the kitchen and ate some cereal. I finished it. Then I realized I hadn’t put any milk. I also realized that my mom was still sitting there on the couch. 9:03.
I knew I should have asked what was wrong, gone to comfort her. But I already knew what was wrong. I was scared by the way she cried for my dad, by the way she shook for his loss. I didn’t need to talk to her. She needed silence to process. I never knew my grandpa too well. I guess I never would. I half sleep-walked back to bed and turned off the light again. When I woke up I thought it was over. I guess sleep can’t erase time. If I set my clock to the hour before I knew it wouldn’t do anything. It wouldn’t change time. All it would be is another stupid number that got lost and never belonged in the first place.

He had said it was ok, my dad. It was part of life, that’s how it goes. He had no regrets. He had told him all there was to say. My grandpa had given up, he knew it was his time.
And it didn’t cut me as deep as I thought it would. Maybe it was because I never knew more of him than the shoes he told me to put on him and the key lime pie he wanted to eat. I loved him, I knew that. But when I was old enough to understand, he had already started to decline. Our two souls never really met.
The last time I talked to him on the phone, all I heard was grunts. Then I said, “I love you,”, and he said something different. I think it was, “I love you, too,” And I remember how he said it, with his deep, foggy voice that was like a broken lighthouse. A lighthouse like the one on the beach where he lived. A beach now distorted by fear. With the gray waves that were supposed to be blue on the shore, the dusty seagulls that usually looked bright and clean and white. The sand that sliced your feet when it should be hugging them. He was the beam of light in the lighthouse. The beam of light that faded when he wasn’t walking, faded when he was rushed to the hospital, faded when he stopped eating. The beam of light that broke on that day we were supposed to go skiing, the day like every other day. The day my mom sat on the couch for hours without speaking and I ate the cereal without milk. The day before when my dad rushed to Florida.
And on the day that that lighthouse went dark, my whole beach went black.
And the seagulls fell silent.
And the waves stood still.





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