A Source of Strength This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

I came home from school with a cheery smile on my face. It was Friday, and I was anxious to get out of the house, and spend a fun weekend with friends. I was going sledding on Saturday, and to see a movie called Valentine’s Day with my friend Livi. I was sick of sitting at home, and ready to be free. I sat down on the living room couch with my mom. Her look was unfamiliar. She wasn’t able to pay attention to what I was saying about the weekend. She just smiled, and stared off into space.
Though her smile seemed sincere I could see her fear dripping from the corners of her mouth. Her weakness was hidden under the little strength she had left to show. I could see her emotions unraveling faster than ball of thread, but she wouldn’t tell me just how torn apart she was; She didn’t have to. My mom had learned to have sympathy for others at a young age, but this time she didn’t have a choice.
My father had been taken to the doctor that day to get his tonsil out. They found a growth on it, and insisted on removing it immediately. Strangely, I had been oblivious to what it really was, until my mom had told me that my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. Her words were monotonous, echoing over and over again in my head. Silence was nailed to my lips, but questions were flying through my mind.

“He’s going to be okay,” my mom said, reassuring herself more than me. This situation was a shock I didn’t brace for.

“I know,” I told her. I leaned in to touch her shoulder, which led to hug. This had been the third in a matter of five minutes.

“It’s just not normal for me, Delaney. I’m not used to being the strong one. Your Dad has always been my rock.” Her face grew solemn. Her eyes no longer carried the burdens of laundry, and driving. Her trademark, a bright blue iris, was now gray. Her eyes were darker, no longer white, and rimmed with watery red stress. But she didn’t worry for herself, she worried about him. She worried about me.

“Mom,” It was difficult to see her cry like this. “He’s not the only one with strength, I’m here too,” I said desperately trying to lift her spirits. I wasn’t ready for what I had said. I was till recovering, myself. My mom smiled, and pulled me in for a fourth time. I loved the comfort of her arms, and even in her weakest state she left me feeling stronger. This time, I knew she wasn’t thinking about anyone more than my dad.

Neither of us was talking, but our deep thoughts seemed to fill the room with noise. There wasn’t an awkward moment in that long pause, until my mother turned to me in silence, pressing for a question or thought. I had many to share, but I only asked a small few. That small few turned into plenty. My mom was fully attentive at every word. She was supportive, and her feedback was heartfelt. How long had it been since I had talked with her like this?

Later that night, Mom urged us that it was okay to have plans. It was, after all, a Friday night. I wanted to be like a girl in a movie who has her best friends who are with her through everything, and goes to them when she meets trouble. It just didn’t feel the same, though. Soon enough I did leave the house. I decided to spend the night at my friend Alyssa’s house. She had always been the one open for emotion, or gossip. She had been the one that I would cry on the phone to if there were guy problems. She depended on me for the same things.

I slowly sat myself in the passenger seat of my sixteen year old brother, Matthew’s, Chrysler Concorde. He was bringing me to Alyssa’s in my desperate attempt for friendship. Matthew sat in the driver’s seat, and turned on his rap music. This is how he let his feelings out. He wasn’t just quiet though; he was solemn. I hadn’t ever seen him gravely serious, but he was. His bushy brown hair even lost its energy.

I was on the edge of tears, as I was most days when something sad had hit me. This time it was like a brick. My black tote sat stiffly on my lap, and I looked straight ahead into my own passing thought. Suddenly, my brother’s voice sounded from the seat next to me, “We can’t fight anymore.” I was surprised to hear him say that. Our fighting had, since I remember, troubled our parents. I had silently pled for it to end, and while I was praying, I guess, he was too. I had heard stories of his maturity, from my mother, as if they were fairytales. Now I felt as though it was possible to fly.

“Good, we can’t,” I said, smiling.

When I made it to Alyssa’s, a sincere “thanks,” made its way to Matthew’s ears. I was greeted at the door with a hug from Alyssa. She was the happiest person I had seen all day, but I hadn’t told her the news. I greeted her parents, and we walked swiftly to her room. Before she could open her mouth I began to tell about my Dad. I sat on the edge of her bed while she sat on the floor, looking up at me.

“My dad has cancer,” I said aloud for the first time. The words were foreigners escaping from my mouth.

“Oh,” was all she could say. Red did not line her eyes. She did not strengthen me with multiple hugs. She only bowed her head, and frowned. I wouldn’t just take a bit of pity from my best friend. I needed more than that. I was pushing for the emotion I knew she had inside of her, but my story began to feel elementary. Every word that slipped off of my tongue felt like I was telling her about my latest crush. I felt as though I was gossiping. I wanted to stop. I couldn’t take heat of attention. I wanted her to feel for me, but this story was about my Dad. My stomach curdled with sickening selfish words that were ready to blow from my mouth.

The rest of the night was forgetful of the earlier evening. We never talked about it again, until her supportive goodbye. Every hour I spent at her house, was an hour that I wished I could be back at home. My family needed me, Alyssa didn’t. My friends at the sledding hill didn’t. My family was the ones that I needed. They were the ones that heard me, how ever silent I was. They were my best friends, and I missed them.

When I returned home, my dad was awake. He didn’t want to be shut in anymore, no matter what the doctor said. He was sick of the TV, the laptop, the bed. He wanted to start treatment. He wanted it to be over with. He was done with waiting. My father’s frustrated voice echoed throughout the house, into the phone, towards his computer.

I walked into the bedroom to see him, knees tucked in, staring at his laptop an inch away. His bald head still shined like it normally did. It wasn’t until I was standing next to the bed that he finally turned to look at me. He looked at me in a way that I could never understand, and I gave him a hug. This time I was the outlet for strength.

“Dad,” I said grinning sincerely at him. I patted the top of his bare head. “The worst thing about this treatment is your going to loose your hair.” He didn’t cry. He looked up at me and smiled.





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