Routinely a smile falls into place as I make my way through the house and toward the back patio to mingle. Though the smile isn’t present for my own account. It’s a mask for the passing faces of my friends and family gathered around my home to bring in the New Year. A false statement, like many resolutions made at this time of year tend to end as. 

I’m submerged in a sea of happy faces, washed over with waves of their genuine laughter and splashed with the musical clinks of crystal glassware. And yet, as usual, around this time I start to feel caught in a dark current. Pulling me out of this home and under the depths, washing out the pleasant sounds as the pressure fills in between my ears. Like I’m drowning in a rush of emotion that starts to leak into the empty space my heart was left with seven years ago. 

For as long as I can remember my parents held an annual New Year party. It was always great fun and a big success. They invited friends and family, friends of friends, coworkers, and even the stranger with a kind smile that they happened to be standing in front of at the local market. Not that I can really think of my parents as having strangers. They were very much the kind of people who couldn’t have too many connections. They loved the people. And the people loved them. 

But then when I was seventeen, my father passed away. He suffered from a long painful battle with Cirrhosis of the liver. And while his sickness wasn’t sudden, his death certainly was. Over a matter of three days, he went from laying at home moaning in pain to being in the hospital on life support. It was a hard hit for my mother and I. I had to step up and cover half of his absence, my mother meeting me with the other half. 

Although I mourned my father and still continue to feel his loss today, I didn’t have quite as close a relationship with him as I did to my mom. I loved my dad, of course, but something about my connection with my mother was always magical. She was not only my mom but also my best friend. My confident. I couldn’t have gotten through my father’s death without her and she told me likewise many a time. 

It was hard learning to live and do things without him but we did. One day at a time. One action at a time. Including our annual New Years party. And so for the ten years after his passing, we continued our family’s tradition. 

At the age of twenty-seven, I became pregnant and gave birth to a son. In honor of my father, I named him Micah. He was a healthy baby boy and the most beautiful child I’ve ever laid eyes on. Wanting to have my family together, we decided to move my boyfriend Danny into our family home. 

It was the first time since my father’s passing that my mother had a newfound purpose. She fell head over hills in love with Micah and her world suddenly revolved around him entirely. She would sit for hours and rock him, read him fairy tales, and tell him stories about his wonderful grandpa Micahel. At times I was almost convinced that she loved him more than I did, though it was never jealousy. I was grateful to see my mother smiling all the time again. 

When Micah was a year old, Danny and I got married, and for the next two years, our lives started to pick up some form of normalcy. It was easier to cope thanks to Micah and the spark of life he brought back into our home. Even kicking into his terrible twos, grandma was his number one fan. I started to think that maybe it wasn’t just my connection with my mother that was magic. Maybe it was just her. Maybe she was the magic.

But they say nothing lasts forever. And on that 13th year after my father’s passing, we held our New Year party like always. Everything went to plan and we all had a great time. Micah was on decent behavior for a toddler with a cold and the party clean up was no worse than the typical damage. It was now in the early hours of the morning and as the last of the guests began to exit the party, Danny and I readied to settle into bed. 

After a soft knock at the door, my mother pulled me aside and informed me she would be acting as the designated driver for a good friend of hers named Will. She hugged me close, told me goodnight and wished me sweet dreams before she left. I never would have imagined that that would be the last time I’d see her. 

My mother along with her passenger passed away after being struck by a driver in a semi-truck. My world has been significantly darker following this event. I lost a mother, a best friend, a mentor.  I’ve since been diagnosed with chronic depression and separation anxiety. I continue to have regular therapy sessions. Today I still struggle with many things but I try my best to be the mother Micah deserves. And so even when I don’t feel like smiling, I do. 

I won’t let him forget either of them. At nine years old now he’s quite bigger than he once was as a two-year-old toddler. But still, I rock him and read him fairy tales. I tell him stories of his wonderful grandpa Micahel. I tell him stories of his magnificent grandma Janette. He knows just as much about her now as he would if she were still here to tell him herself. My mother and father are gone, but they are still apart of our lives as much as we can make it so. 

Even with the loss of both my parents, our New Year party rages on. Micah is quite the entertainer at our parties these days. Every year, our tradition stands strong and I’ll make sure it does. For as long as I’m capable. 

But with such a loss, a new tradition has arisen. One that I will refuse to give up even more so than my parent’s annual New Years party. For the past seven years since my mother’s passing, I have continued to pay her monthly phone service. 

Every year, after the ball drops on the big screen, I scamper into my bedroom for some privacy and slip my phone out of my pocket, resting myself on the edge of my bed. Directly in front of my current position are two photos. The first of my mother and father a few years before his passing. The other photo contains Danny and I standing behind my mother who sits with Micah on her lap. That was the last Christmas we had with her, just a week before her accident. 

I give myself a few moments to take in their faces. The way their eyes crease with a smile, the way their lips cause their cheeks to dimple and crinkle. And as my routine for the last seven years, I’ll admire their beauty, practice a few breathing techniques, and dial a number I’ll never forget just to leave a new message.

I take a deep breath and dial the number watching the words dance across my screen as the timer starts to add up on the call. Mom. I sit in silence other than the ringing that always seems louder than it should be. Ring. After ring. After ring. Of course, there will be no answer. But that’s not really what I’m waiting for. 

“Hello, you’ve reached Jannette and Micahel Vaughn. Sorry, we’re currently unavailable but please leave your name and number so we can get back to you shortly. Thank you so much and have a blessed day.” 

The beep following her voice is always the most unpleasant noise no matter how many times I hear it. 

“Hi mom, it’s Tara. I just wanted to tell you Happy New Year and that I love you. We miss you, everyone does. Especially Micah. The one thing I haven’t been able to satisfy for him is your voice. He says he can’t remember it. I suppose I could let him give you a call. Maybe I will for his birthday so he can hear your voice once again. I’m curious what he would say to you, I’ve never asked him. But he continues to ask about you all the time. What you would say in certain situations and things like that. He asks me quite often if you would be proud of him. I know you would. He’s so kind, compassionate and smart. He’s getting so big now, I wish ...well I guess you can see him, huh. I wish we could see you, though. I wish we could hold you one more time and spend just one more day with you. But I know just one more would never be enough. Same for you, dad. We miss you too. We love both of you so much. Even though neither of you are here, Micah still believes he has the best grandparents in the world. And he’s right. I know you’ll be watching over us for another year and always by our side. Even if we can’t physically see you. Everyone is downstairs at the party bringing in the New Year. I figured I’d come give you both a call and ring in mine. Goodnight, mom, and dad. Happy New Year.”

December 29, 2019 16:31

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