This is my final day under Your and Dad's roof. I spent fifteen years here, not to mention three years in that old farm house in Yakima. My first memory is jumping into your arms off of a dock at Grandma’s house. I wouldn’t have done it if it were any other person, but I trusted you. I knew that you would catch me. I felt the salt and seaweed spray onto my chapped sunburned face, and I saw your smiling face look down on me. You seemed triumphant and calm.
A couple years later you held onto my shivering hand as I stepped into my first day of kindergarten. You told me I would be fine, that I would be smart, that I should be kind to the other students. You introduced me to my teacher, a wonderful Chinese woman named Mrs. Chang. I let go of your hand and held onto hers: that was a milestone.
Within a month or so you left me for three days. I stayed with Grandma and Gramps. I remember cuddling under the duvet, holding onto my teddy bear. I waited for you to return, hoping and wishing that you would. One morning I went to you in the hospital. I tiptoed in and spied you on a hospital bed. Your cheeks were flushed, your eyes tired but oh so very proud. You held my baby brother, Crispin. I kissed his head, and then was escorted back to Grandma’s car. I couldn’t wait to see you and the baby again.
I begged you to let me have a sleepover with my best friend Livia. You hesitantly agreed, baking plush chocolate cupcakes and buying sweets and junk food. Just like a nine-year-old yourself, you giggled throughout the night with us, sharing stories of your childhood. All while Dad stood in the doorway asking us to quiet down.
Then I was twelve, sporting blonde flat ponytails and horribly applied make-up. You kindly taught me how to pucker my lips for lipstick, not cake the blush, and to lightly brush on eye shadow. I went from looking like an eighties rock star to a soft pre-teen. You braided my hair each morning brushing it delicately, fingering it so it wouldn’t pull or hurt.
Then you and I asked Dad for a dog, you were always an animal lover and we would have had three cats and two dogs by then if it weren’t for your pristine clean husband, (also known as my dad.) He said yes, and you and I binged searched craigslist and the Humane Society for the perfect pup.
One afternoon I came off the bus to you holding the leash of a Newfoundland puppy. He was brown, furry, and adorable. We found the perfect name for him: Charlie. He became my emotional support dog, helping me overcome my anxiety.
When I was fourteen you told me you were sick. That is the only time I am now frustrated with you for. You simply acted as if you had a cold or the flu. I shrugged it off and went on with life. Finally I saw you declining: fast. You were always gone at a friends house or off shopping. Now I know you were going to the doctors, trying not to show how weak you were getting or how you were always nauseas, dizzy, and
itchy. A week later Dad sat me down and told me the truth.
We would lose you within a month.
Why hadn't you told me? I could have helped you get through the physical, mental, and emotional hurt. I could have fed you, given you water, read you stories while you rested. Instead I lost you barely knowing you, the new you.
You passed in a tornado of tears and anxiety. You were my best friend, mother, and caregiver. I had lost three fundamental needs in the same second. You wanted to be home, not at the hospital. Charlie, now a year old, sat at your bed. I held your hand, caressing it close for the last time. You were paper white, thinner than ever, and your loss of hair made you look smaller, more weak.
Your funeral passed, your memorial service suddenly was behind us, but the memories were not. I would look at something in our house, or see a picture, then I would be by your bedside all over again. I kept thinking about my future, trying to cloud the past. That was my worst mistake, I was subconsciously trying to forget you so that the gut-wrenching pain would subside. I should have embraced your memory and thought of it with fondness. Now I do of course.
Then I had a boyfriend. I was fifteen, young, and dumb. He was handsome, and that was the only thing going for him. He was emotionally abusive, persuasive. He was also ten years older than me, and that alone should’ve been a warning sign. Dad seemed to want nothing to do with me. He became a workaholic, never even looking at me. My brother was my anchor, my dog my emotional support. Crispin would come into my room at Ten P.M. every evening, quiet and timid. He would tell me about his day and would ask questions about mine. Gradually we became better friends. Charlie slept on my bed with me. He was the most patient dog ever, letting me hug him through the tears.
Now I am a graduated young adult. Looking forward to Monday when I fly off to Arizona for college. First I will go see Grandma in Phoenix, and then start my adulthood journey. I miss our talks, our walks and your goofy personality. I miss our coffee dates, your smiles and wise knowledge. You helped me through my emotions and hormones, through my scares and elations.
Yesterday Dad had a full on conversation with me. He asked me what I was majoring in. He didn’t even know that simple answer. I answered calmly, “English.” He then talked about his college days, his friends and how he met you. He talked about the concert you invited him to, the chips you shared, the love that bloomed.
Then you got married and had me. Then my life began, and it still hasn’t ended. I think Dad thinks everything ended with you in a wooden box, feet under the earth. He felt the earth didn’t deserve to spin, the sun didn’t have a right to set. Now he is realizing that it is not my fault you died. That he is a father, not just a food-provider. That we needed him, and he failed us. Maybe now he can make it right.
I packed up my bedroom yesterday. The blankets, pillows, clothing, memories. Pictures of me and you throughout my first fourteen years of life, the best years of my life. I promise to write you a letter once a year, to update you of course. I don’t know why, it just makes me feel like you are closer, like I am not failing you.
I plan to be a high school teacher, a mentor to kids during their hard times. To help and hold, to love and nourish. Someday I also want to be a counselor. I need to be like you were to me, I want to be a mother to those who don’t have one.
Of course I also want to get married as soon as possible. I want to give you and Dad grandkids and be a real mother like you were to me. I want to laugh and offer wise advice. I want to have a husband that will be my best friend. I want to have the life you lived. Of course I don’t want mine to be cut off, I want to live longer. I will do whatever God plans for me.
Of course all of this starts with college.
-Karelle G. Carson