I won’t forget

I write him a tear-stained letter. I’m so sorry.
I sit on my bed legs crossed, shoulders slumped, crying with my mom when the revelation of I can’t live without him hit me.
Grabbing old notebook paper and whatever pen I could find, I start to write the most vulnerable letter of my life.
My understanding, my love, my sympathy are all at zero. I’ve forgotten all the things he sacrifices day to day to allow me to grow. To allow me to have the best opportunities he can.
I don’t like living with him, and I hate the arguments of “I don’t get it!” as we battle over math homework.
I don’t like accepting his rules. . .or his reasons.
I feel like he doesn’t trust me. I’ve never been the rebellious one.
But have I earned his trust? Or am I just not the rebellious one because he never gives me the chance?
T     Thoughts rush through my mind as I hear the news of his deployment.
Thoughts of worry, unease – and even relief.
His character, his heart, his desire to do the best by me…
Why did I forget…? How did I forget…?
Will I ever forget again?
***
He. Is. Gone…
I miss him. I love him. I want him here. I can’t stand living without a dad. I’m supposed to pick up the slack? When is there time?
I hear the kids at school say stupid things as I pass through the hall. Saying that their sacrifices mean nothing, that they amount to nothing. Saying the American flag is a joke.
Why would they say those things? They just don’t get it.
I cry to my mom. She’s the only one close who gets it.
A few try, but they fail.
***
It’s my brother’s turn.
One loved one gone. Another?
I’m alone at my house. The phone rings.
“Douglas!”
“I’m calling to let you know I’m not dead.”
“Whaaaat?” I. Am. Dazed. “Is someone?”
“Yes,” in a you-should-have-known type of way. But I hear the agony in his voice.
Someone close.
“Are you hurt?”
“No. Just tell Mom.”
I hear him swallowing the lump in his throat as he says it.
***
I sit in my room. Light off.
Maybe when I wake up life will be better…
It could have been him. Either of them.
What if my brother was in the crash? What if he never comes home? What if my dad never comes home?
***
It’s today! I. Am. Nervous.
The buses come at 12. I want to see him! To wrap him in my arms!
We wait the longest hour of my life.
Finally! My heart skips every other beat.
I see him through the window. He comes off the bus, I’m the first to break down, first to cry.
I shove my face in his chest. And cry.
“I love you, Dad!”
I won’t forget.