To my Mom, You were my inspiration as a child, my hero as a young adult and my friend now that we are bestowed the time to sit down and talk. To my Sister Friends, who looked after me and continue to do so. Much love for listening to my banter even when you didn't want to. A special thanks to Judy Colella without your help and knowledge of all things this story would not have been possible. Thank you.
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I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can't make it through one door, I'll go through another door - or I'll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present.
The door slammed so hard the pictures wobbled on the walls where I sat paralyzed on the narrow bed with the pretty duvet designed in pink daffodils. The sound of him leaving vibrated in the small room, similar to a sonic boom. I sighed, staring at the yellow flower drapes, holding the damp tissues in my closed fists, as the now-- deafening silence shook me from within my heavy soul.
The intense argument still resonated in my mind-- shouting harsh words that caused hurt feelings. Paul's words accused, while mine denied, but I saw the pain in his eyes. He knew I had lied.
I would have gone after him, begged Paul to stay, but my limbs didn't allow me to move from that spot surrounded by the quiet peace of those pink daffodils.
Even if I did manage to stop him, my words would fail me. I had already confessed my sins. How could I possibly convince Paul in minutes, of my profound remorse, when I had been unable to do so in the past few years?
Nevertheless, hearing the sound of his car pulling out of the driveway pushed me to run to the door. I yanked it open, shouted his name out in anguish, while running toward the street. I got there just as his taillights disappeared around the corner.
I cried one last time before falling to my knees sobbing.“Please forgive me!”
The excessive heat beating down on this late summer afternoon wasn't the ideal weather condition for our Annual Franklin Family Reunion. My mother, Ruth Watson, had gladly offed to host the reunion at her home in Tennessee, and as predicted, the first day of the three-day event was sweltering.
Every member of my extended family attended this year’s welcoming party, delighted to mark the start of the reunion. Yet just thinking about being around these people and their happy smiling faces, only heighten my lackluster enthusiasm.
The variety of cars, trucks and vans along this stretch of the narrow two-lane highway, which ran in front of my childhood home, cluttered the road. It took me a while, but I managed to find a spot between a truck, and minivan to park my Ford Explorer. I didn’t get out, instead just gazed out of the passenger's window, debating whether to just keep driving.
Despair covered me in a blanket while I stared at the carefree faces of my family enjoying this late summer day. They gathered in large and small clusters around my mother’s home. Small knots of children ran around playing. Teenagers talked among themselves or were engrossed in their cell phones, while groups of adults speckled the acre large yard.
Several of the adults were busy at the BBQ pit while still others laughed and lied, under the shade of huge trees. They played backgammon and dominoes and drank beer or brown liquor from jelly jars. All were happy and pleasant on this hot day, taking pleasure in each other's company. However, I couldn't avoid a deepening sense of despondence at seeing them.
Those who attended this year came out of respect for Ruth, a senior member of this large family. I, however, came out of duty.
It’s my responsibility as Ruth’s youngest daughter to help her host this event, but in fact, I’m here simply as the family’s novelty. Ruth had me while well into her menopausal years, my siblings had either already left for college or were on their own by the time I arrived.
Since I was an unexpected birth, she never got the chance to experience the so-called empty-nest syndrome so many women talked about. Ruth said it wasn't a big deal, but she stood up to the family ridicule better than me.
The reunion wasn't complete without the butt of family jokes and sarcastic banter. That’s one of the reasons why I hadn't attended the family reunions in years. Perhaps, it’s the sole reason for Ruth’s persistence in forcing my hand.
Ruth called a few months ago to tell me she would be hosting this year's reunion.
"I want you there, Michele," she announced, delight echoing through the receiver.
I thought Ruth understood my reasons for not attending. Even without all the personal problems I've had in the past few years, I wouldn’t be in the mood for family gaiety. I thought Ruth understood, but she’s always been very persuasive and dismissed my objection with calm and patience, horned, over many years. I protested, but few got the last word with my mother.
I was resolute in my decision and thought she couldn’t change my mind. However, I’m inherently stubborn. "Mom, I said I'm not coming.”
Ruth replied with a calm that chilled the receiver, "I'll expect you there, Michele." She hung up before I could utter another word. I was left staring at the phone in my hand, with no choice.
I came, but hearing all the jovial banter and seeing the excited merriment, burdened me more than I first realized.
"I'm not ready for this," I said, turning away from my smiling relatives. "No way I'm ready to face them."
I turned the steering wheel to pull away, with freedom within my grasp. That’s when I heard the high pitched voice of my eldest sister Janis, calling out to me.
"Michele, come say hello to everyone!" She demanded.
I sighed, in defeat. With more than twenty years between us; Janis is more a mother figure than a sister should be which is why we don't get along. I parked, noticing her call had signaled every single person in the large yard. They turned towards me smiling, waving, or making their way down to greet me.