So many emotions rush through my head at once I can’t focus on anything. I eventually pull my car over and just cry. My phone is buzzing and ringing off the hook. I take it and chuck it out the window. I don’t care. Why should I? Nothing seems to matter to me anymore. Everything I once knew is gone. Thrown out the window, just like my phone. What am I gonna do? That same question pulses through my mind, like waves rushing in to shore, and then receding. And in the time between each wave, fifty more thoughts come tumbling over each other. What am I gonna do?
“You know, Ky, you don’t have to hold Cody as if he’s so fragile, you won’t break him.” My dad told me as I held my new baby brother for the first time.
“But he won’t stop crying! I can’t make him stop! Please help me.” I said. I was only seven at the time, and I was still a little iffy on the whole “little brother” idea.
“Hold him closer and tighter, this is your new little brother.” My dad said. “He’s gonna look up to you when he gets older. Do you think you can be a good big sister and be a good role model?” He could tell that I wasn’t to thrilled about sharing the household with a sibling. I had liked being the only child, getting all the attention.
“…Yes.” I said reluctantly.
“Good! You’ll be a great big sister, Kylie.”
I don’t know how to think straight. I never thought this would happen to our family. Cody is only nine! He can’t grow up without his father! He will barely remember him. The thought of that shatters my already broken heart. I break down and cry. My dad didn’t deserve this. This is all wrong. Its not supposed to work this way. My dad is supposed to die after both Cody and I have gotten married and after we’ve each had kids. He’s supposed to die a peaceful, quick death in his sleep from old age, after he had lived his life, and watched his grandchildren grow. I’m only sixteen and I just started driving! Cody hasn’t even graduated elementary school! My dad was supposed to be here for this! Then all of a sudden I strop crying. Its like I have cried out my last tear. I have a horrible knot in my throat telling me to cry, but nothing comes out. Like I am dry heaving, in a crying sense. Now I am just angry. I am angry at everything. Furious! I feel like shaking and screaming. My body doesn’t know how to contain, or control my emotions anymore. I just scream, and scream, and then I just sit, cold, and emotionless.
“Remember, what is the key to driving in bad weather?” my dad said in a surprisingly steady voice, knowing that I was driving him in a car for the first time.
“Drive slowly.” I said.
He had been telling me that my whole life, it was like it was engraved in my brain. I would have sounded sarcastic and bored saying that any other day, as I had for many years before, but not today. Today, I was exited. Today, I was driving. Growing up in Potomac, Maryland, I knew snow, and I knew how to drive in it. I was ready for this. “Ready, Dad?”
I sit there, trapped in a dull, motionless state. I don’t know what to feel. I can’t cry, I can’t speak, I can’t do anything. I knew he was sick, and I knew he was going to die, we all did, but this all seems so unreal still. My dad is dead. Is the only thought running through my head. Its like my ears hear it, and my brain knows it, but my heart doesn’t believe it. I find my self putting the keys back into the ignition, and turning on the car. I just need to get out of here. I get out of the car and pick up my phone that was laying on the soggy ground. I have forty missed calls and thirty-seven unread texts. I know all of them would be the same sympathetic message. For the first time in my life, I actually don’t care about what is on my phone, or who called. I throw it in the back seat and hit the gas pedal. I just drive. I want to go as far away as I can. I don’t want to talk to anybody, they don’t understand. No one does.
“Daddy, what does this say?” I pointed to a tattoo on my dad’s inner-forearm
“It says ‘hope’ sweety.” It was just a thin-printed, black-ink tattoo. Very simple.
‘Why do you have that, Daddy?”
“To remind me that there is always hope, even in the darkest times, you must always have hope. Remember that.”
I was only six so I was very naïve. Now that I’m older I know that the real reason he has that tattoo is because he lost a bet in high school, so he had to get a tattoo. Still, it is a good message, the whole “hope” idea. I don’t have any hope right now. What is there to hope about? It’s not like he’s coming back to life. There is nothing to hope for.
My dad was kind of a burn out in high school, but that made him one of the most influential men I knew. He totally turned his life around after high school. He got into law school, and worked at a great firm. Although, he still had some of his “hippy” self in him. He would always wear his tangly hair in a man bun, and he had a little soul-patch. He looked very rugged and grungy. He had a little bit of a Johny Depp vibe going for him. The thought of that cracks the smallest twitch of a smile on my face, but then it disappears as fast as it had come. I drive on.
“Come on guys! Lets go outside! Look how beautiful it is out there!” my mom said. It was a very sunny day in August. Maryland is particularly pretty in the summer. All of the trees are full of color, and the flowers are in bloom. The whole state fills with lush beauty. I will never forget that day. When we all just went outside and hung out. Nothing extraordinary happened. It was just a very simple day. I don’t know why, but it really stuck with me. We were all just happy. We didn’t have to worry about anything. We were so all care-free.
“Push me, sissy!” Cody yelled. He was five, and happier than ever. That day I taught him how to “pump” on a swing so that he could push him self. I’ll never forget his little legs swinging uncontrollably, flailing all over the place while trying to build up some momentum, his dirty blonde hair sticking out at different angles. I smiled, my mom laughed. Then we all sat there in the grass. My mom brought dinner out side and we had an evening picnic in our backyard.
“You know, there’s a great saying the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” My dad says. “It says ‘Everything is always good in the end, so if it is not good, then it is not yet the end.’ Or something like that.”
“That was pretty random, dad” I say sarcastically. He laughs.
“I just thought it fit the mood.” He says. I didn’t understand what he meant at the time, but I do now. That was the day that he and my mom found out about his diagnosis.
I want to go back to that place. With everybody there, feeling happy, with nothing to worry about.
That doesn’t seem so possible right now.
I pull over and stop the car again. Now I am in the middle of Baltimore. I remember something my dad told me a long time ago
“When you get pushed down you get back up. Why? Because you have to. You have to keep going no matter what. You just keep getting right back up. You might not be able to get up on your own, you might need someone to help you up, but you get up.”
He’s right. I have to get up. I can’t let this be the end of me too. My dad wouldn’t want that. He would want me to be happy. Death is just a part of life, we should celebrate his life, not morn his death. He would want that. He wouldn’t want a sad funeral, he would want a big party with all of his friends and family there, to tell funny stories about him, and eat lots of food. That’s the kind of man he was. A happy man. A hopeful man.