I remember when I was younger we would go to the park, just my parents and I. We would pack sandwiches (ham salad for my dad, turkey and cheese for my mom, and PB&J for me) and chips. We would lay out the old, worn out, baby blue picnic blanket next to the pond and watch the ducks. I remember the way my mother smiled and laughed as my father and I flew our dragon shaped kite. But that was years ago. Things are different now. My father’s eyes don’t sparkle with laughter and love anymore.
Everything started going downhill three years ago when my grandmother died. I was ten. I came home from school and bounced off the rumbling bus. I remember being excited because I aced my science test. I ran inside to find my mom sitting at the kitchen table, her head in her hands. My father sat next to her, his head bowed.
I dropped my lunchbox and ran over. My father looked up. He walked over to me, slowly, dragging his feet.
“Honey,” he said “Your mother isn’t feeling well. You see…” he glanced at my mom. She raised her head. Her face was puffy and red, as though she had been crying. She walked over, unsteadily.
“Sweetie,” she croaked, her voice raw “your grandmother, well, she died this afternoon.” Tears slid down her face.
I was shocked. It felt as if someone had slapped me. My Grammy couldn’t be dead. It was impossible. This wasn’t happening.
A strangled sob came from somewhere. My mother hugged me tightly, and my father patted my back. It wasn’t until I felt the salty tears sting my cheeks that I realized it came from me.
I remember Grammy’s funeral was the worst. Everyone said what a wonderful life she had, and how we should celebrate that. But it was still horrible, and heart-breaking. She was gone forever.
Over the next few years, we began to drift apart. My mother became quiet, and secluded, my father, distanced and worried. By the time I was thirteen, I was used to coming home, making my own dinner, doing my homework, and putting myself to bed, only stopping to say goodnight to my parents.
But one day, it changed. I unlocked the door, threw my backpack on the couch and popped a TV dinner in the microwave. I was just settling down to fresh-out-of-the-box- Mac n’ cheese and attempt my algebra homework when there was a knock on the door. I opened it up, and there stood a cop in his crisp, clean blue uniform.
“Can I help you?” I asked. He cleared his throat.
“Is this the Bridger residence?” he rumbled.
“Yes, come inside” I beckoned and led him to the couch. “I’m Jessica Bridger.”
“Pleased to meet you,” he looked uncomfortable. “Listen, Jessica. I work up at the station, and they sent me to tell you that…” He took a deep breath. “Well, Jessica. Your mom… She’s dead. She killed herself this afternoon.”
I froze. It felt as if my stomach had dropped to my toes. My insides went cold with the feeling of dread you get when you know something is wrong. Horribly wrong. I felt sick.
The officer shifted uncomfortably and said, “Look, kid, I’m really sorry, is there anything-“
“I need to call my dad” I interrupted. I felt like a robot like my brain had been turned to autopilot.
The next few hours rushed by in a blur. I called my dad, he came home, the cop gave us a bunch of paperwork to fill out, and my dad had to identify the body. I can’t imagine how hard it was for him. They said she overdosed on prescription drugs. I felt as if my world was a bathtub and someone just yanked the plug. Everything was draining away.
When everyone left, I retreated to my room but didn’t bother to trade the door. On my pillow was a sheet of paper. I picked it up. My hands shook as I unfolded the neat corners. It read
“To my lovely daughter,
I will never be able to put into words how much I love you, and your father. What I have done is selfish, and cruel. I apologize for all the pain I cause you. I was weak. I couldn’t deal with the loss of my mother. I feel terrible leaving you, and forcing you to deal with what I did. But I would never have been the same. You and your father are much stronger than I am. You’re a fighter. I know you’ll get through. I believe in you. If you can ever find it in your heart to forgive me, please do. I love you.
I stood frozen to the floor. I let the tears slide down my face, not bothering to wipe them. And suddenly the reality hit me. I would never see my mother again. Never hear her laugh, never see the way the edges of her eyes crinkled when she smiled, never inhale the way she smelled- like clean wood- never again. And now I was crying in earnest, great heaving sobs, rivers streaming from my eyes.
The paper fell from my numb hands. I was suddenly engulfed in my father’s strong arms. I buried my head in his shoulder and cried my heart out. He cried with me, and we stood there for hours, simply holding each other and crying.
He finally pulled away and looked at me. His face was blotchy from crying. He cleared his throat.
“Well kiddo” he began. He hadn’t called me kiddo in years. “It’s just you and me now. We’ve gotta get through this together. I love you.”
“I love you too, dad,” I whispered my voice hoarse. As he began to leave, I said “Dad?”
“Can… can I sleep with you tonight?” I blushed.
“Of course, Jess”
I hadn’t slept with in my parents’ bed since I was about five. When I woke, I heard the unmistakable sound of rain pounding on the room, clinking against the window, dripping from the gutter. My dad had already got up. I lay in bed for a while, just thinking, wishing my mom was here. Every time I thought about her, I felt hollow inside, like a shell of my former self. I had to get up, had to do something, anything to keep my mind occupied, my hands busy.
I dragged myself out of the cozy, warm bed and slipped on my raggedy old lavender slippers. Shuffling over to the fridge, although I wasn’t hungry, I spotted a slip of paper on the table. I picked it up and began to read
Sorry I had to leave so early. Had to deal with something that came up at work.” – I knew he was lying to protect me. He was dealing with something to do with mom. - “I’ll be back around ten.
I put down the note, feeling empty. Glancing at the clock, I saw that I had about an hour to burn. Suddenly I felt anger. Anger at my mother, for putting us through this, for not coping with her mother’s death, so leaving me to deal with hers. For leaving me. For leaving my dad. For everything. The hot tears fell once again down my cheeks, stinging as they fell. I was so angry, so angry. I let out a yell of anguish and threw my fist at the table. I didn’t care about the bruise it left.
I had a thought. A simple thought. To escape the pain. I could end it. Just as my mother did. I walked like a zombie to the bathroom and sat in the tub. It would be so simple. Just a swift cut and I would leave this world and all of its pain behind. I picked up the razor from the sink, feeling the cool metal on my skin. So simple, so simple.
I raised it to my upturned wrist, ready to do it. Then I remembered the many days spent in the park, the nights spent under the stars, my father’s smile, the way he laughed with me. The razor clattered to the tub floor. I couldn’t do it. I could never do it. I could never leave my father like that. Never. I was not my mother.
I stood up, legs shaking at what I had almost done. As I got out of the tub, I realized something. We all have scars. We all have pain and suffering. But we can’t keep quiet about it; otherwise, it will slowly drive us insane. So I promised myself, I would get through this, my scars would heal. They would never disappear, but they would fade. Slowly, but surely, my broken family of two would get through this. Our scars would heal. Of that I am sure.