An Ode To A Forgotten Sanctuary This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , Shelby Twp, MI
My entire life has revolved around the closeness of my family, and a place we called home. This imaginary place was created by my loving parents, who had had both my brother and I early in their lives. I have always admired them for their persistence to establish a world where they showed their children such subliminal beauty, even if it was through something incredibly simple. Both my father and my mother understood what it was like to be a kid: I had never felt misunderstood or outplace in their eyes. This strong feeling of comfort allowed me to cherish every moment I spent with them. I looked forward to coming home from school, walking into our open kitchen, smells of homemade pasta filled the atmosphere. My father would kiss me, and my mother would too, after she had set four plates alongside the wooden table. They always knew how to make everything around me feel wondrous.

As a kid and young teenager, my parents would take us on a vacation to the ocean every year. These vacations meant more to me then anyone could ever imagine. It was as if my parents had taken us to our own private heaven; where waves of blue brought salty winds through the windows, and hermit crabs crawled creepily away from our scurrying feet. Even greater was the way the sun rose every morning. The translucent mass of water, calm and beautiful, glistened in the orange sunlight. I felt completed and infinite whenever I had the opportunity to witness something so magical. All of this was made possible by my father and mother, and it had all fallen apart when they had fell apart themselves.

My first year of high school had been a difficult year for every person in my family. The death of my Uncle John, a young, energetic man, whom had two small children, was the first person I had known to die. My mother’s mother, my grandmother whom I was able to see very infrequently, developed breast cancer. She had to remove both of her breasts, go through chemotherapy, and endure long months of radiation therapy. These tragedies distorted our perceptions of how perfect life can be. Although my family still shared an unimaginable closeness with each other, the relationships we had with our relatives slowly disintegrated. We no longer attended Sunday dinners at my other grandmother’s house, which bloomed animosity between my mother and my father’s side of the family. My relatives had worsened the isolation my mother had felt. She felt alone. Her mother was dying in Ohio, and the comfort she had once felt was completely dead.

The following year had morphed into something even worse. Ford Motor Company forced my dad to work on the afternoon shift, which literally eliminated him from our lives. He was no longer there for dinner like he had always been, he was no longer there to help my brother with his homework, he was no longer there to appreciate my artwork, or even to be there for my mother when she needed him most. They no longer went out on the weekends, took baths together after dinner, watched movies on weekdays, or brought my brother and I to the park with our dogs. My mother knew their lives together was being suffocated, but my father had refused to accept this fact, hoping that denial would solve existing problems. He had left my mother alone in her misery. In secret and in guilt, she tried to find happiness with another man.

When my mother’s affair had been uncovered, that was when everything had come crashing down. Our family fell apart. The strings that held us together so tight before dangled by a single thread. Divorce was something that had already threatened their relationship, although at this point it was almost inevitable; however, it was their decision to stay together. Our house that was once filled with obnoxious laughter now swelled with screams, horrific crying, and curses. Max, my brother, and my parents all attended weekly therapy sessions in order to cope with the mess. I, on the other-hand, found escape in things I should not have. I made myself sick to a point where I could forget everything.

I became everyone’s therapist at home, and they used me to their disposal. One Monday night, my mother had stormed out of the house, slamming the front door on her way out. Max had been blasting his music to a point where it was difficult to hear what had been going on downstairs after she had left. Immobile, I laid on my bed wishing I could be somewhere else. I wished I could return to that feeling of home because nothing was the same anymore. Shortly after, my father had walked into my room, his expression empty. He stood over my bed for a while; I could tell he was trying to think of something to say. First solemnly, he asked, “Anthony...what am I doing wrong?”, then he broke down into tears. That was the first time I had ever seen my father cry. I got up and held him, just like he used to hold me when I was upset. Pity overflowed my entire body. The cell-phone rang underneath my pillow; it was my mother. When I answered, she had asked if she could pick me up, go for a ride, and find some place to talk. I agreed and told her to call me when she returned home. My father, helpless, asked simply of me to tell my mother he wanted her back home, back with him.

The next day we all had been home for dinner. My mother had cooked for us. Once dinner was ready, we all sat down in the spots we always have. We sat at the same dinner table I had used to look so forward to coming home to. It was our sanctuary. My mother passed around the steaming pot of spaghetti, and we began to eat in silence. We sat there alone, together. I had never experienced something as heartbreaking as that moment made me feel.

When summer had finally came around, my situation at home began to heal itself, like seedlings reappearing from a traumatic forest fire. I could see the excitement and happiness in my parents relationship was slowly rekindling. Just as we always would do, we left for a vacation on the ocean. Although everything had not been exactly like it used to be, I was satisfied with the progress that was made.

The last morning of our vacation I had woken up early, and decided to enjoy my own private sunrise. On the elevated balcony, I peered into the distance. The horizon was dark and the weather was overcast. The water had been restless, and churned angrily. The sky was black. I waited for a while, but there was no sunrise. In the darkness, I felt infinite.





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