The radio played a bunch of noise that I’m not too fond of as I was pulling into the drive way, but I was too tired to care. I felt exhausted not just from work, but from feeling entirely angry while I was at work.
It just happened to be one of those days where a sequence of events happen that don’t necessarily go the way you’d like it go. And it led me here, sitting in my car listening to God knows what, super catchy, goodfornothing music.
I don’t want to go inside the house. All I want to do is go inside and eat a nice meal that my wife has probably prepared and sit on the couch and stare at something. My wife usually asks me what I think about during those times and I usually tell her the truth: that I’m really not thinking at all. She never believes me though.
As I walk towards the door, I can hear the kids are still up and playing around.
They should be in bed already. I can already tell this won’t go well. I open the door the warmth of the house was the first thing I noticed. A warmth that felt so familiar, but not the kind I wanted to feel right now. I hug my kids and play with them for a bit, but my anger rose to the level at which all I wanted to go to the kitchen and eat. Eat. Eat.
I’m looking at the kitchen table and there’s nothing on it.
“Where’s the food?”, I said to my wife.
Before she looks up to reply, I begin to dart back,
“The kids aren’t even in bed, there’s not food prepared, the house looks like a mess! I mean, what have you been doing all day?”
My wife and I always had a past of arguing with each other. Most of our arguments never really end well, no matter how small of big they become.
She looks up and waits for me to finish. She gave me this look as if she was on the verge to break into tears, but quickly responds in a very soft tone,
“Honey, I’m sorry. I—I will make… I’m so sorry honey, Ian wasn’t feeling well earlier today and I didn’t get a chance to prepare dinner. I’m so sorry. You must be so tired. Just give me ten minutes, I’ll prepare something for you right now. Okay?”
I remember staring at her for a good minute, but it must’ve been me now that looked like I was going to be on verge of tears. I said okay, and said I’ll be right back.
I walked to the back yard where my tool shed was and I picked up this oak two by four and I started pounding the tree trunk that was situated in the corner of our backyard. It was so difficult for me to breath, I was so angry. I was angry because I couldn’t get angry at her. I felt myself melt under my own wrath.
With her kindness, she has heaped hot coals over my head.
I come home late as usual. The only noisy thing in the living room is the fan, and I almost never hear the fan on. It takes a while for me to put down my bags for the most part because of all the paper work and medical files I have to review from work. For just a moment I’d like to forget that I have any work and just walk to the fridge and pour myself a glass of orange juice.
I think it’s stupid when people say that they think about their wife first thing coming home, because that just negates the fact that we’re selfish. Anyway, I was wondering how her day was, the moment I sat down at the table with my glass of orange juice. I’ll ask her when she wakes up in a couple of hours.
My eyes start to feel very heavy, so I make my way upstairs to get ready for bed. I enter the bathroom only to notice a sticky note on the mirror with a fairly long note written in red permanent marker. At this point, my stomach drops. I’m not sure what to think other than the fact that I have this overwhelming urge to read it, while at the same time coming up with an infinite supply of reasons why there would be a sticky note on the bathroom mirror and actually being terrified of reading it.
I only want to get the jist of the letter or maybe perhaps glancing at a word or phrase that will tell me the general theme of the entire sticky note, and fortunately for me, I did. But also, unfortunately for me, I wish I hadn’t seen it.
“…some of us aren’t able to cope with life any longer and have decided to take it. I love you Brendan. I have decided to take mine.”
My knees weaken as I jolt immediately afterwards towards our bedroom door. It’s locked. I manage, however, to unlock it since it is our bedroom door and we both have copies of the key. But the door still would not open. I shove the door using my body weight and I noticed that she put the bed up against the door. At this point I don’t really feel the tears running down my face as much as I feel the pain in my shoulder trying to bust the door open.
The door finally opens enough for me to squeeze my body through, knees are still weak. I stare at her body lying in bed, with the prescriptions piled up on the night stand. I crawl into bed with her one last time. I hold her. I scream. And I scream. And I scream.
There’s nothing worse than screaming only to hear complete silence after, as if no one heard it. Because no one did. I heard my scream, sure. But I also continued to hear the fan downstairs, which managed to win at being heard more than my tears.
I gathered all of the candy I could from the store. My pockets were empty so I couldn’t afford to buy any, so I acquired all the candy I could when no one was looking. The store entrance was a long way off, I could see the people walking by it and thinking “I wish I can just disappear here and end up there without breaking a sweat.
In my luck, the store was busy. The line was really long and all I could think about was how fast I could get out of that store, because the last place I want to be is in Bob’s handcuffs. Wait, do they really handcuff children? I hope not. (What 11 year old uses the word acquired anyways?).
I managed to get out of that store without paying for a thing. The bag I was holding was heavy, but it was a good type of heavy because I knew how much candy was in it. I ran as fast as I could towards the bus because the last thing I wanted was to wait another half an hour for the next bus to arrive while the candy store clerk realizes how much candy was missing.
I got home and my sister was making candied walnuts with mom. When I was just a tad bit younger, before we moved to London, my mom used to make these amazing candied walnuts for us to eat after we had dinner. Me and my sister would shovel them in our mouths like it was no tomorrow.
My sister asks me, “what’s in the bag?”. I tell her what it is, and like usual she giggles with excitement, hoping that I’d share some with her. But no, I felt super reluctant to share. I’m not so bad of a kid am I?
She kept insisting and it was getting a bit annoying. I knew without a doubt I wasn’t going to give her any candy because how can I know she wont’ do the same for me.
Her excitement turns into bitterness in a split second, while she storms back to the kitchen to finish the candied walnuts. Our mom tells us to calm down and for me to share what’s in the bag, but I don’t listen.
After a while, my sister comes up to me while I’m in my room and tries to make a deal with me. At first, I promise myself that I’ll decline any offering, but once she offered all of the candied walnuts (EVEN HER BATCH), I couldn’t resist. I said, “ok, you give me all your candied walnuts, and I’ll give you all of my candy…how does that sound?”.
“Deal” she replied with the biggest of smiles.
I went to the corner of my room where all the candy was and I managed to hide some of the candy where she couldn’t see it, so that I could still have some for myself after this deal went down. I put the rest of the candy in the plastic bag and gave it to her. She gave me the bowl of candied walnuts.
That night, I couldn’t sleep. It was horrible. I was completely restless, because all I kept thinking about was if she had given me all of the candied walnuts..
I kept switching my camera from one hand to the next, because it was heavy, especially if you hold it for a very long time. And plus, I don’t like having a strap.
M (my sister, and yes, I call her M) also had a camera, but it wasn’t as good as mine. She knew it too, and I’m not sure she was too happy about that. For one because she couldn’t afford what I had, and two, because she was fond of the idea of having as many pixels as you can possibly own. Her camera had this subtle pink-colored body with a standard black telephoto lens, which can take very detailed photos both at a distance and close up.
One thing she loved to do with that camera was draw little flowers on it, one each day. I didn’t understand that, because well, it’s a camera, not a piece of pottery.
Me and M went to the park one day and we took our cameras. and for some reason that I probably won’t understand, she loved to take pictures of the ground. I asked her why, and she said it was because the ground is something we always take for granted. Think about it, if it weren’t for the ground, how else would we be able to stand? and take pictures? and play soccer? and lie down? and dig holes?
So she said it was the least she could do was to thank the floor by taking pictures of it.
Me? Well, there’s something about flowers that strike me. Not because of their colors, or because of their smell, but of the connection between the flower and my ability of which I’m able to be awed by the flower in the first place. A flower is something like a relationship, an intimate one. No matter how physical it can seem, there’s a quality outside what is seen that is stirred within us and can make us do things that may not seem very ‘natural’ to the average human.
What is that quality? I don’t know for sure, but it’s there.
Whatever, they’re just flowers for cyring out loud.
The day was getting old, so I told M we needed to get back home. As we were walking back she was showing me all the new angles she was able to get of the road and of the grass-field that surrounded the asphalt.
I tried showing her the pictures that I took, but she became a bit annoyed that I wasn’t spending too much time looking at her photos. Well, they were nice…but they’re of the ground. I know I should be thankful (according to her), but it’s the ground . . . the ground!!
It was a bit distracting that one night she showed envy towards my more expensive, more megapixely camera, yet on the other hand, how much contentment she showed for something so mundane.
Maybe I’m just being a bit bitter for my taste. I’m sorry. M has always had an eye for stuff, even when we never understood her.
After all, she drew flowers on her camera. And I like flowers, because they’re everywhere, including in our minds.
I looked over to him see if he needed any help. Usually I’ll do this because it’s courteous to be available if your parents need any help with anything around the house. My dad had an intense look of concentration on the task at hand, which was something under the car.
“Son?” I heard as soon as I looked away.
“Can you come here for a second?”
I get up from my desk and walk through the kitchen and out the back door. I enter the garage only to find his legs sticking out from underneath the car. It really looks like he got squished and the legs are just moving about aimlessly.
“What it is it?” I asked after a quick silence.
“Can you grab me a glass of water? I’m thirsty”.
Usually, you’d think a father would ask his son to grab an extra wrench or a screwdriver from the all-famous tool box, but no he asks me to get up from whatever I was doing to get him a glass of water.
He loves to fix the car. And of course, cars need maintenance. Cars have parts, and then there are spare parts, which help in replacing other parts of the car that are broken. I think humans are like that too. But we don’t like to fix ourselves, because often we afraid to find out what’s broken. But we love to fix other people. And I was glad to fix my dad who was broken with thirst and needed a spare part: a glass of water.
I rented a car the other day at this company that always smells like an elevator. The workers in suits are always very awkwardly nice to me and hand me keys to a car, but not before trying to combatively, yet, passively trying to up sell insurance to me. Am I that bad of a driver? Or maybe I just look like one? Whatever.
I was renting a car because my car was totaled and I needed a new one for the time being until I can figure out how I can get to work from now on. But something happened as I was driving out of the parking lot. The last time I rented a car was the first time my wife and I adopted our first child and we needed a car to go and pick her up from the hospital.
Emma was a beautiful six pound baby, with gorgeous light brown skin and light brown eyes. She smiled as we stared at her in her crib, but she immediately cried once I carried her for the first time. Of course, my eyebrows make my face look like I’m ready to stab someone, so why wouldn’t she cry?
Emma’s thirteen years old now and we live together in our house, just me and her. She’s always telling me how much she misses her mom, and although I try work up strength not to overreact to it, it gets overwhelming and I end up with tears in my eyes.
Emma is nothing like her mom in a sense where she picked up some genetic characteristic from her, but in every way on a level I can’t quite explain, she is just like her; from her laugh all the way to how she responds to my lack of a sense of style.
I drove out of the parking lot of the rental car company, and the first thing I had to do was pick up Emma from school. She left her group of friends, walked over to the car and looked at it for a quick minute, tilting her head as if to attempt to disapprove the color of it, so that she can tell me to go back and pick a better color.
“Just get in”, I said.
“Dad, when’s the last time you rented a car?” she asked me. I told her it was the day when her mom and I went to pick her up from the hospital, to adopt her as our daughter.
“Oh . . . are you okay?”, she responded back with careful concern.
“Yeah, it should be fine.” I said.
“It should be fine?” she darted back. ‘What do you mean by ‘it’? Do you mean the car itself or do you mean the situation by which you are the participant and in such a situation you have aggravated an emotion that you’ve longed to avoid altogether for as long as your living?’
‘It’s probably the second one’, I said.
“Okay.” She said softly.
I knew she felt uncomfortable. We both knew how I felt, but she always had a way of helping me move on in the moment. And she made it look very easy.
“It’ll be alright… You want to get some ice cream? I’m craving something cold and sweet. Whattaya say?”
‘Cold and sweet? Wouldn’t your attitude do just fine?’, I responded with a kind smirk.
She rolled her eyes and said nothing.
After a short but lingering silence, she told me she misses mom too, but then looked up in frustration, turned towards me and asked, ‘why do I miss her so much, dad? She’s gone and there’s really nothing I can do about it. I mean, I have all these images of her when she was alive, how she used to laugh, how she used to cry, how she loved to smell her cooking longer than it took her to actually finish the cooking. Yet, sometimes I wonder if I’m really just starting to create my own image of her in my head. For all I know, her body is buried in a ground somewhere and her body is probably halfway decayed and is just a dead corpse, but it’s not her that I miss, it’s the image in my head; my concept of her. Sometimes I wonder if the longer I entertain these thoughts of her in my head, the more I lose my sense of who she actually was. Am I just being crazy? This is why I don’t understand how someone could ‘miss’ someone after they’ve passed. What are they missing, the dead corpse or the altered image they make of them in their own head? There’s nothing in between.’
The freeway was fairly empty. I couldn’t look at her as I was driving mostly because one, I was driving, and two, I just didn’t know how to answer that question. Her concern was legit. I pondered at it for a while as I was staring at the road.
‘No, you’re not crazy’, I responded in a broken tone. “Look, I can see what you mean and I agree, I can’t say that I miss her any more than the image I create of her in my head as well. But I think what’s more important in all of this is that where there is despair for someone, there is also growth. I’m not sure in what exactly yet, but there’s a type of growth we experience when we lose someone.
Like a seed that dies, when it dies, it grows into something more beautiful. A part of us dies when we lose someone. But that death shapes us into something we never thought was possible. That growth is a part of life, and therefore, despair for other people is also a way of life.
I can easily grow bitter and cynical, but I can also grow in maturity, and spiritually. Sure, I miss her to death and life doesn’t get any easier, but where there is also affliction, there’s meaning.”
Emma slowly turns her eyes off me and into the distant mountains as if in deep thought.
I continued talking to her and said, ‘and you know what? despite all the despair, I can say that I’m thankful for you, Emma. As much as I miss your mom, I’ve grown to love you more than I’ve ever loved you before. That’s probably the growth I was talking about.’
She looked at me for a quick moment and turned away to look out the window again without saying anything.
I looked at her said, ‘ . . . uh, this is where your cold and sweet attitude breaks the emotional tension in this car.’
She slowly smiled and said, ‘I’ll let the ice cream do that … let’s go we’re here.’
We got out of the car and walked into the ice cream shop as I put my hand around her shoulder.