“When my father cried”

The last time I saw my mother was when I said goodbye to her before my father drove me to school. I was young. Younger than any boy should be when they lose their mother.

I had been up the night before listening to my parents and their friends. I could hear them from my bedroom as I tried to sleep. The sounds of them entertaining guests had kept me up.

It was normal in our house, and I had gotten used to falling asleep to the sounds of people talking and laughing.

This night something was different, I knew even at that age my parents didn’t get along well. All the shouting was hard to hide, even from a child.

I snuck out of my room and walked down the hallway so I could see them better down there in the living room. My parents were standing facing each other in front of the fireplace. The fire had long gone out.

I couldn’t hear what they were saying, or I was too young to understand. Whatever it was it didn’t sound good. This fight was different from the others. They had never been this loud before; they were always afraid that I was going to wake up. Or they were scared that I was going to say something to my teachers and they would be getting a call from a guidance counselor. Of course, I, at that time, didn’t think about any of those things. In my mind, this was how marriage worked.

I laid there for a while. Just watching, trying to figure out what my parents were saying and thinking this was somehow because of me.

My father stormed out of the room, and I could hear out front door slam, as my mother sat down in one of the chairs. I could see her putting her head in her hands and soon I could hear little sniffles coming from her. I couldn’t lay there any longer without doing anything. So, I ran down the stairs and crawled up in her lap. She looked up and smiled at me, before hugging me telling me that she was sorry. I didn’t know what she was sorry for, but I didn’t say anything.

She put me to bed later that night after we had been sitting together in that chair for quite some time. I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.

The next morning, I woke to the smell of bacon. It was my father cooking. He never turned on the fan. I went down to the kitchen and saw my father but not my mother. I asked him about her, and he told me that she needed to sleep for a while. I was sad about this because she was always there to say goodbye to me before dad drove me to school.

I finished my breakfast and went into my parent’s room to say goodbye to her. She sat up and hugged me and told me she loved me. I didn’t say it back.

Dad drove me to school and told me he would be picking me up a little early today and that I should tell my teacher. I said goodbye without asking him why.

The school day was like any other that I could remember. Nothing out of the ordinary until my father came and picked me up two hours before we were supposed to finish. My friends were so jealous of me for going home early.

Dad took me downtown and bought us both ice cream before sitting down next to me on a park bench. He had something to tell me. I was still too young to understand the meaning behind the change in his tone as he began speaking.

He told me that he would be leaving for a while and that I would be living with my mother only. He would still be in town; he just wouldn’t be living with us anymore. I don’t remember what I said after he told me this. It was a long time ago. I do remember being sad and crying once it sunk in that dad wouldn’t be there in the morning when I woke up anymore.

I asked if this was my fault. Father told me it wasn’t and that I should never think that this has anything to do with me.

He drove me home, and I was expecting my mother to greet me at the door since this was her day off. But she wasn’t home when we got back. Dad said that she must be out with friends. I remember being sad because of this; she was always there to greet me.

I ran up the stairs to my room and sat down in my chair with one of my books. The room wasn’t cleaned, which was odd since my mother always made sure to leave it in perfect order for when I came home. She must still be sleeping I thought and walked down towards my parent’s bedroom.

My father stopped me as I came down the hallway, he picked me up and told me to wait in the living room. I asked why and he just looked me in the eyes and told me to do what he said. Dad had never used that tone of voice with me before. It was the same one used with my mother when they were arguing.

I remember sitting in the living room as people in uniforms came running in and shouting things at each other. Soon they came out with something in a black bag, carried between them on a stretcher. A few other men in uniforms came and talked to my father then the house was empty.

Dad sat down next to me without saying anything. He put his head in his hands as my mother had done the night before and began crying.

That was the first time I saw my father cry.

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