Day 1 – Enough for Now
Sam looked around the room. A studio apartment, sparse and dusty. She’d never seen it before, and hoped to never see it again. They said that she should take anything with her that she wanted, keepsakes or memories. There were no pictures on the wall, no books on the shelves. She wouldn’t have wanted them anyways. She turned around and walked out. There were no memories here that she wanted.
When she got the call that her father had died, she was at work. She hung up the phone, and stared ahead in shock. Suddenly, she started sobbing. A coworker came over to see what was wrong, and when she told him, he told her to go home, he would tell her boss that she was out for the day. She couldn’t tell him why she was crying. She was so happy. It was all over.
She felt obligated to wear a mask over the next few days as they blurred together. She looked sad, she accepted condolences. A few well-meaning friends told her he was still watching over her, but she ignored them. They didn’t know. She hadn’t told anyone.
She didn’t go to the funeral.
Her father had raised her alone, and hated her for every second of it. He made sure that she knew it, telling Sam that she had killed her mother. She heard so many times how her parents had wanted a child for so long. They married young, and were in love. But for years after they were married, nothing happened. Four years into their marriage, she had a miscarriage. Another one at five years. He began resenting her, he had wanted a son by now. Her mother would have been happy with a healthy child, and cried herself to sleep most nights, feeling as though she had failed her husband. Six years after they married, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. She was so happy as she held her child in her arms, but his eyes darkened and he left the room. She said her daughter’s name was Michelle. She closed her eyes to rest, but never woke up.
She was supposed to be a boy. She heard that every day. He had mocked her since the day she was born, starting with the moment he named her. He ignored what his wife had said. She was Samantha. She was supposed to be Samuel, he said, never forgetting to remind her that he had only wanted his wife to give him a son. Something he could never have, so he was stuck with her.
Even if he had wanted to be a good father, he didn’t know how. His father had beaten him, and he thought he was better since he only yelled at her. He didn’t know how to comfort her. Any time she cried, he told her to toughen up, since she couldn’t feel any worse than he did, having to take care of his child like he was a woman. It was degrading, he said.
He never hugged her, never said he loved her. As soon as she was old enough she became his housecleaner, his cook, his caretaker. He said that she owed him that. She tried so hard, she wanted him to love her, but he never would, because she would never become a man.
She left when she was 21 and never talked to him again. She built up a life, hiding her past. Her father was dead to her, but she knew he was still out there. It still haunted her. She was strong, she became who she wanted to be, she became everything he said she never could be. She vowed to never let anyone go through what she did.
Fifteen years later, she got a call from her aunt, the call that told her he was dead. He was sixty years old. He was found in the apartment he moved to once Sam had left.
She had gone home after getting the call, and told her husband that her father was dead. This was only the second time she had mentioned her father to him, the first being simply that she doesn’t talk to him any more. He had never pried, and she had never told. When she told him her father had died, he came over to console her, but she pushed him away.
She told him everything. She was smiling as she said he had died alone, and cried as she told the story of her childhood. A few hours later, she had run out of things to say, and sat silently on the couch. Her husband came over to sit next to her. He looked at her face as she looked like stone. He had no idea what her father had taken from her.
He did the thing her father never could do. He wrapped his arms around her, and she broke into tears. He whispered that he loved her, and held her tight as she let out everything she had held inside for thirty-six years.
A year passed. Her husband was speeding down the highway as she was screaming in the pain. They rushed her inside, it was almost too late. She gave birth to a beautiful daughter, but there was no time to celebrate as they fought to keep her alive.
That was twenty-three years ago, the day I almost lost my mother. She was unconscious for three days, but fought her way back. When she woke up, my father was sitting in a chair next to the hospital bed, praying as he had been for the entire time. Her eyes opened, and seeing him, she weakly smiled.
The first thing she said was, “Her name is Michelle.”