It wasn't until yesterday that I realized that something was wrong..
I can’t quite put my finger on it but it wasn’t my contemplation to force myself into the matters. It wasn’t until it was brought to my attention that I recognized the situation at hand. I didn’t mean to interfere, but I just didn’t know what I was doing.
I left the hospital shortly after taking a break from college not knowing what will happen to me in the future. But I was brave. And as such I acted accordingly and did what I had to do. I called my mother.
“What is it this time?”
“I screwed up.”
“I’ll be there in five minutes.” The line goes quiet. I know that I can always count on her. She always has my back. That’s what she’s there for. I can’t even begin to explain.
Moments later she pulls into the parking lot and I hop in. “Is the McDonald’s ready?”
“Just how you like it.” We pull out.
“Mom, I’ve been meaning to tell you. You remember my date from prom a few years ago?”
“She didn’t want to go with you?”
I roll my eyes. “Well, that, and we didn’t do anything.”
She’s silent for a while. “Well, we’re all grown and we’re able to make our own choices at the cost of us wanting something more. Just don’t be embarrassed. You made a mistake. But she made a promise.”
We sit for a while as we make our way home. “I never told you but your father and I never did quite agree on your decision.” In retrospect neither did I..
“It’s fine.. I just didn’t know at the time. We live and we learn.” She turns on the radio.
We finally get home when we get out of the car. I wipe the crumbs from the seat and she locks he steering wheel. We proceed to the front entrance. I’m greeted by Chinzi, our little toy poodle. I love her. She’s always been one to be there for us when we need her. Unlike the other sponge that pees on the carpet.
I pick her up and we walk into the living room. The TV is on and we watch as our favorite news reported explains how sudden change can impact living environments. We listen.
My mom heads to the kitchen and opens the refrigerator. She pulls out hummus and carrots and hands them to me. “Did you shower at the hospital?”
“Good. Don’t drink the V8 just yet. You’ll need to use the bathroom and I need to clean it first.” She goes upstairs.
“It’s still my juice..” I sit on the couch holding Chimzi as the news transitions into public television. I start to lose interest.
I’ve been watching television for some time whens she finally comes back downstairs. “The bath is ready.”
“I didn’t drink it.”
“I’ll pour you a glass for the tub.” She goes to the kitchen. I make my way upstairs. I round the corner and get to the bathroom when I notice that her door is open. I walk in. I see an old photo album on the bed.
I go over to it and sit down. It’s already open to a page where my Grandmother is sitting on the front porch with my Grandfather. “It’s different now that they’re gone.” I look up.
“I never knew that you kept it.”
“It was the only thing that was saved after the fire. We didn’t know what else to do with it so they gave it to me. It’s sad to think that it could happen to a retirement home. They chose that one especially and it killed me inside when I heard what happened. No one was prepared.”
“And the bath?”
“You should get in.” She hands me the V8.
I walk to the bathroom and close the door. I set the cup down beside the tub and get in. I just sit there staring at the tiles until I finally grab the glass. Before I take a sip, I see a red toy boat by the side. She remembered..
Back when I was 8 I used to own one just like it but someone broke into our house and destroyed nothing but what I loved the most. I never knew that she kept it. My stomach turns. I just sit there. Staring at it. The water starts to get a bit colder.
I finally climb out and dry myself off. I notice that I never did drink the V8. I take a sip, use the bathroom, then walk out. My mother isn’t in her room and the photo album is put away. I walk downstairs to find my mother in the kitchen standing by the sink. “Did you see it?” I nod.
“It wasn’t bad..”
“I never knew how to tell you.”
“It wasn’t bad..”
We’re both silent.
“After your father and I, we never knew which direction to take. We had to think of you and it just wasn’t right to leave you alone with your grandparents.”
I start to cry.
“You didn’t have to tell them..”
“I did it for you.” She hugs me.
“It was so long ago..”
We just stand there.
“Mom, I know I said I wouldn’t go to the charity but now I have to. I shouldn’t have done it and now I need to do this for myself.”
“I knew you’d say that.”
I nod. “Just be careful.”
“I will, honey.” I leave the house, get in her car and drive to the old facility. Everyone is there except for him. When I step out of the car, I’m greeted by my cousin. We walk to the tent in silence. “Well, he’s here.” Every gives me a smile. “Nice to see you Michael.” I smile back. We all take our seats.
“We’re here to honor the legacy of Martin and Cynthia. It wasn’t there time, but they were honorable nonetheless. Their legacy is one to be remembered as well as their charitable contributions. We stand together as family and hold fast to their memory today by honoring their sacrifice not only to us, but also their community. Every says their blessings, and then it’s silent. “I would like to call up Michael. I believe that he has a few words.” Everyone is silent. I stand from my seat. The podium is much smaller than I remembered.
“Hello, everyone. It’s been a while and I’ve grown a lot since the last time you’ve all seen me. I’ve been in college and I’ve decided to take a short leave. It wasn’t until last year that I had my first kiss and it happened to be my first girlfriend from high school. I’m sure you all remember. My grandparents were my greatest means of support and I never knew just how much they loved me until it happened. You see, the night that we went to prom, there was a fire not too far from where we’re all sitting. They didn’t make it. If it wasn’t for me trying to impress my date, it never would’ve happened. But they knew. And they didn’t stop me. I can’t say that I’m the only one to blame, but I do admit that it didn’t need to be. And I’m sorry to them and everyone else affected by my poor choice. I stand here today hoping that I can live out their legacy and leave everything that happened behind us all, and look towards the future that they gave to all of us. I serve to be an example of what happens when you look in the other direction when you know that you should do the right thing. It wasn’t even fair to everyone else involved, but nonetheless, they were of the wiser. And that’s why we honor their legacy. So, from here on out I expect nothing less from all of us than to be brave in the face of danger. And know, we are loved. Thank you.” Everyone applaudes. I take my seat. My cousin pats me on the back. The pastor takes the stand again.
“Thank you Michael. I know that your Grandparents would be proud.” He gives his closing remarks and everyone rises from their seats. Upon exiting the tent I run into my sister. She smiles at me. “You did good little bro.” I half smile at her. “Yeah, it wasn’t anything they wouldn’t have done..” She looks down. “Look, I know we’ve had our differences but I cared just as much as you did. They were a part of me and raised me just as their own. Don’t look to what could’ve been, but to what can happen from here on out. I’m proud of you.” I just look down. “Hey, it’s not bad but it’s different. Just know that you did what you needed to do and we all love you. I’ll see you later?” “That’s fine.” “Good. Just know that I’m watching. Walks towards the facility and steps inside.
My cousin walks back to me. “Did you hear?” I look up nervously. “What is it?” He smiles. “It didn’t last. He came back on time and everyone found it. It never did burn.” I leap with excitement. “You mean he’s still in town?” He smiles. “He never left. “Barrett, I don’t even know how this is happening but you have to come with me.” He smiles. “I’ll catch you at a later time.” He walks away.
I walk to my car as quickly as I can and get in. I drive off towards downtown and swing a left at the next light. It wasn’t real until today. I have so much nervous energy inside that it shows through my driving. I get to the grave site and pull into the closest parking space near the front entrance.
I walk to where they were buried and I see him standing there. “I knew you’d find it.”
My heart stops. I start to shake. “You knew..”
“It wasn’t in my intentions of telling you so soon. You were still young and it wasn’t your responsibility just yet. You had a lot of growing up to do, Son.”
I start to cry. “But why didn’t you save them!”
He’s quiet. “You know that mistake I made when you were 8? I never did live up to it and I just didn’t know how to carry myself. I couldn’t make it up to you then and I can’t make it up to you now. I just had to be there.”
I can’t stop crying. “Why did you come here?”
“Son, if I told you you’d never believe me.”
We sit in silence.
“What if I told you that everything was already in place? That your future isn’t decided just by you but by everyone who loves you? The choices we make in life isn’t all up to us but by a community. We care for one another. And we shape individuals lives for the better. But we still make mistakes. I can’t admit to mine, but I can start all over. It wasn’t your burden to carry and I didn’t need to. If you could ever forgive me.”
“I spent all these years thinking that you ran away.”
“I’ve been to college, I’ve been to prom, I’ve had my first girlfriend and my first kiss. I graduated with honors and even bought my own car that I didn’t know how to fix but did it anyway. I did it. Me. All me. And you weren’t there.”
He’s still silent.
“I can’t tell you what to do, but just know that I’m perfectly fine. You may not have been the best father, but you weren’t one then and you still won’t be. I can do better with you not speaking to me. I don’t want you to call anymore.”
He turns around to speak.
“Just don’t.. You’ve done enough.” I walk back to my car and get in. I sit there for a while. He’s still in sight but I’m not looking. I finally start it and head back home. My mother is sitting on the couch. She has a cup of tea sitting on the living room table. She hands it to me. “Did you find what you were looking for?” I nod. “Good.” I take a sip. We both sit down. The TV is still on and we’re both watching. There’s something that’s playing but I still don’t know what. I hear bits and pieces of it such as there’s a storm coming and we need supplies. I just sit there drinking my tea. Then there’s a commercial. A lot has gone through my mind in these past few hours and I still don’t quite know how to reconcile. It’s different than it was before but this is my story nonetheless. I was raised in a dysfunctional family but my grandparents loved me dearly. They never did pass on, but they sure didn’t stay. It was in their plan to go when they wanted to go and that was that. It never did end. But I feel that they got the peace that they deserved. It wasn’t my fault at all. I lived to the best of my ability and they saw my heart for what it was. They always knew. And they still raised me. If it weren’t for them I’d be gone a long time ago and I owe them my life. It was never a mistake. It just happened.