Start writing here…“I’m so sorry for your loss, dear.”
A woman I don’t recognize pats me sympathetically on the shoulder, giving her condolences. I don’t want them though. Nothing anyone says can make me feel better about losing my father. Clutching my rosary beads, I roll them between my fingers, praying in silence. My father was a religious man. He raised me to be a devout Catholic and believe in God’s ways. A kind and merciful God who loves all his children, but He took my father from me. What kind of love is that?
The funeral was lovely and full of people who knew my dad. He always helped people no matter what. His kindness didn’t stop him from getting cancer and dying. It was a yearlong downfall, but he didn’t explain the extent of his illness until 3 months before he passed. By then it was too late to even suggest any other form of treatment.
He knew long before that the cancer was aggressive, but didn’t want me or the church worrying. After watching him die in a hospital bed, I became numb. The whole process was a blur all the way up until now. I wish all of these people would get out of my father’s home. They didn’t know him like I did. No one knew him like I did. I was his best friend and he was mine despite his heavy religious teachings. I never held that against him though. He was just raising me the best that he could with what he had.
My father raised me to believe in Jesus and I spent my childhood thinking that nothing bad could happen as long as I believed in Him. I was naive to think such a thing. Looking around at all the strangers standing around, eating store bought food on little flower paper plates, either talking about the memories or the cancer. From the way they were looking at me, I knew which one. They pity me. A 22 year old without parents. My mama died while having me so I know what pity looks like from a mile away.
I don’t have much family other than my dad. Apparently, my father’s parents disowned him when he broke his vow to God and got my mama pregnant at 16. My mama’s family disowned her for being a whore. Then there’s me. The “Blessing” that came from all the darkness. I know deep down neither of my parents really wanted me. Abortion is the ultimate no no in the eyes of God, or at least the eyes of a Catholic church, so of course they had to have me. I killed my mother and became a burden on my father.
Once when I was twelve, some kids at school called me a bastard. When I came home and asked my dad what it meant, he slapped me. I cried and ran to my room. I didn’t understand why the word made him so mad. Later that night, I heard him in his room, crying and praying to God to shield me from the evil in the world. Too bad the evil was knocking at my front door.
Clutching my father’s beads tighter, I roll them between my fingers, mumbling Roman 14:8 as I stare down at my black heels. My father made me read the bible every day. I did it all for him. Went to church when he said to. Prayed when he ordered me to. The younger me thought that’s what life was supposed to be, but after a while, my mindset changed. I didn’t want this religious lifestyle once I was old enough to see it for what society had made it out to be. I just wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted to go to parties and drink my first beer. The closest I ever got to alcohol was the little cup of wine at communion.
I suppose I could consider myself free from my father’s high handed attitude, but it doesn’t take the hurt away. He was my life and now i’m all alone. A few days after he died, my father’s attorney came to me and told me that my father had left me a sizable amount of money that I never knew about. $130,000 is what my father had put aside for me over the years. We weren’t super rich people so I guess he wanted me to have something to fall back on if he ever died.
When I got it, I wanted to take some of it and pay for the funeral, but I found out that my father had a life insurance policy that I didn’t know about either so it covered everything. I never thought about things like death so of course I never in a million years thought he had all these things taken care of. It made me feel guilty that I didn’t notice him getting sicker. He was younger than most of the dads, so when I noticed his lack of energy I should have known.
I stupidly assumed that he was just working too hard. He had managed to start chemo without me even knowing. Another sign that should have gave it away was that he was giving me more work at the church. I usually handle paperwork and little accounting tasks, but he started asking me to do most of the things he usually did. There were so many signs, but I guess I shouldn’t dwell on it anymore.
After my father’s passing, I wanted to continue to live here, but a part of me couldn’t stand the thought of going on without his presence. Also, I didn’t want to go on living this way. My devotion isn’t to the church or the congregation. I know they all expect me to stay and carry on my father’s legacy as his God fearing, pure virgin, daughter, but that just isn’t me. Don’t get me wrong, i’m not trying to be some ex Catholic. I love God, but over the years, I’ve found myself being less critical of it all. Everything we do is a sin so why not just do it and ask for forgiveness later.
Later in the evening when the food and people are gone, I slowly clean up, wanting the house spotless before leaving it for good. When the kitchen is cleaned and the foggy cloud of death has been cleared, I go upstairs to finish getting my things together. I’m going to hate leaving this house. All good memories happened here. Now it’s nothing. I gave all my father’s clothes to charity and the rest was divided among friends. I don’t know how I’ve remained so together through all of this. I should be on my knees crying all day and night, but i’ve only cried once. I feel like that’s all I needed.
When I get upstairs, I step around all the boxes I’ve packed for charity along with my luggage. I booked my flight to Florida for in the morning. I could have stayed here for a few more days, but those would have just been days of people trying to convince me not to go. Nothing is going to stop me from changing my life.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, I kick my shoes off and sigh. Today was so overwhelming that I barely had time to think straight. I flex my aching toes as I pull my hair tie off my wrist, taming my long brown hair. It would be longer had I not cut it a few months ago. It used to touch the top of my butt, a length that took my whole life to achieve. Then I woke up one day and wanted something different so I cut it to my mid back. My father was livid and didn’t look at or address it for almost week. You’d think 22 was old enough to make decisions as simple as a haircut, but that didn’t apply to me. At 18, I brought up going away to college, but my father said no and refused to pay for it. Loans and financial aid wouldn’t have covered everything so I ended up taking a few classes at the local community college.
There are so many more reasons why I want to break this mold, but those are the main ones still charred into my memory.
After a few moments in my own thoughts, I go to my bathroom and start the shower. Stripping from knee length black skirt and black shirt, I kick them aside. I glance at myself in the morning like I do every night and realize that now I can finally dress my age. I can show off my shape with sexy clothes…. maybe. After 22 years of dressing modestly, it’s going to be hard to shake my knee length skirts that flood my closet. All my shirts have some sort of sleeve because straps and strapless were forbidden.
Stepping into the shower, the hot water cascades down on me and I wash quickly, ready to get some sleep before my flight in the morning. Once i’m clean and dry, I pull on a long shirt and climb into bed. Checking my phone, I set my alarm before putting it on the charger and cutting off the light. Tomorrow is going to be a big day. I’m both nervous and excited to start a new phase in my life. However, I hate that my father’s death had to be the event that brought on this revelation. Staring at the ceiling for a moment, I close my eyes and lock my fingers together.
“Dear, God, Thank you for getting me through this day. Keep me under your wings during my travels tomorrow. I know some of the things I will be doing from now on won’t necessarily be in your divine plan, but stick with me. I’m just trying to find my way. Tell Daddy that I love him. Amen.”
The next morning, at 3am, I awake to the blaring alarm letting me know to get my butt up or I’ll miss my flight. Rolling over, I switch on the bedside light and look at the picture of my dad and me at a church picnic.
“Morning, Dad. Today is the big day” I whisper, feeling the nerves take over as well as extreme tiredness from only getting a few hours of sleep due to tossing and turning.
Getting up, I tip toe around the boxes to get ready.
Showering and dressing in a skirt and a shirt along with a pair of slip on Vans I got for Christmas, I bounce downstairs to grab a granola bar, which is the only food left in the kitchen. Just as the cab pulls up, I’m still chewing the first bite. I flick off the kitchen lights and walk into the living room. Looking around, I stare at the bare walls that used to hold tons of pictures. Nothing now. The furniture is out of place from yesterday and I didn’t see the point of straightening them back. Everything looks cold and empty now. A single tear comes to my eye, but I quickly wipe it away before grabbing my bags and heading out the door. Jesus be with me.
During the flight, I stare out the window for a while, trying to push my thoughts out to welcome the new change. I don’t have the slightest clue what my new life is going to be like or who I will meet, but I have my guard up. I want to be cautious while I’m exploring my new limits or lack thereof. Growing up, I never actually made friends on my own. I was friends with whoever my father introduced me to.
Of course when I was little I had school friends, but once I got older I became the Jesus freak. Finally having the ability to interact with whoever I want is liberating and scary. I’m not good with conversation. I usually people watch more than anything. My observations of people are sharp, but you don’t make friends just by being able to read emotions. This new life is going to be harder than I imagined.
When I land in Florida, it’s 6 in the morning and I’m exhausted. However I can’t take a nap because as soon as I collect my bags, I have to catch a cab to my new apartment to sign the lease. I managed to handle all my apartment business through emails and faxes along with one video chat so that I can get a real time view of the place. It is a spacious 2 bedroom 1 bathroom, enough room if I wanted to rent the room to someone, but I doubt I will want a stranger with me. The extra room will most like be turned into an office for my laptop and things.
When I arrive, I meet the woman that handled everything and she has my lease and keys ready. After signing and shaking hands, I make a few calls to find the nearest furniture store. I wish I could have handled all of this over email too.