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lemon bars, lullabies, and The Light
I remember that night distinctly, that night you told me about The Light.
You were in the kitchen making lemon bars, just the same way you always did after he left.
I didn’t like them and you didn’t like them, but he liked them and that was all that mattered. Maybe you thought it would bring him back home without a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a balled fist in the other.
Maybe, but I think you and I both knew those lemon bars were going to be thrown out just like all the rest.
I remember sitting in the living room that night, watching a blank television screen with a blank stare in a blank world.
I used to cry every time he came, huddled in the corner of my room while glass shattered in the kitchen and hearts shattered in our chests. I used to scream until I heard the car door of his gray Chevrolet slam shut. I used to creep into the living room and lay my head on your weary soul until you promised me you were okay.
I don’t know when I stopped crying. I don’t know when I stopped caring.
Maybe it was when I realized you had stopped caring too.
I remember hearing your clatter in the kitchen come to a stop that night, and suddenly you were in the living room.
You said come on, get in the car, I’m taking you for a drive.
I said why are we leaving?
You said come on, get in the car, I’m taking you for a drive.
And I listened.
I remember pulling out of the driveway that night and wandering the lonely streets with the windows rolled down and your hair whipping my face.
That night, you told me things.
You told me about him, how he used to come home every day and spend hours taking care of me. You told me about lemon bars, how you would put them on the dinner table at night and never eat them, but somehow the whole plate was gone by the end of the meal. You told me about the living room couch, how we would fall asleep together watching black and white movies every weekend. You told me about broken glass, television sets, gray Chevrolets, and everything in between.
But what I remember the most is The Light. You said The Light was a strong, internal connection with someone you love. It’s special, you said. And it’s beautiful.
I asked if you had The Light.
You smiled. It was a small, sad smile, but it was the kind of smile that speaks a thousand words.
In that smile, I understood why you allowed him to come home, even though it left scars on your already hurting heart. In that smile, I understood why you still made lemon bars whenever he left, even though it was only to throw them away. In that smile, I understood why you had never allowed me to turn the television set on, even though you knew it was my only escape from the pain.
In that smile, I understood that you loved him. I understood why you loved him. And I understood The Light.
We drove home in silence, the void between us closing with every mile.
I remember feeling your arms that night, pulling my aching body into yours and healing my silenced wounds.
I remember hearing your voice that night, whispering a lullaby into my broken ears. It’s okay, it’s going to be okay, it’s always been okay, shhh. It’s okay, it’s going to be okay, it’s always been okay, shhh. It’s okay, it’s going...
I remember you carrying me into bed that night, your arms straining against the weight that a thousand years of hardship added to my young body.
I remember you kissing my head that night, your lips brushing my hairline and soothing the wrinkles that lined my exhausted visage.
I remember feeling my face that night, wet and raw like the emotions that had been packed away for so long.
I remember going to sleep that night, my mind giddy like an endless maze of happily ever afters.
That night, I didn’t dream the dreams of before, when he was slamming doors and you were screaming and I was huddled in a corner crying. That night, that night, I dreamed the dreams of early days, when he was dad and you were mom and we were family.
That night, I felt The Light. And The Light was you.
I don’t remember where I found you the next morning. I don’t remember how long I hovered over your motionless body before I realized you weren’t just sleeping. I don’t remember when I showed up on the doorstep of his house and told him. I don’t remember when I realized he was sober for the first time in a long time. I don’t remember how I got into his arms. I don’t remember when he started crying. I don’t remember when I started crying.
But I do remember burying you. Because when I buried you, I buried The Light too.
It’s been 32 years, 7 months, and 159 days. 32 years, 7 months, 159 days and I still miss you. I don’t think I’ll ever stop.
I’m married now. I have three beautiful daughters. I think you would have liked them. I know they would have loved you.
He visits sometimes. After you left, he buried the whiskey with his pain. Although he never says it, I know he’s sorry. I just don’t believe I can forgive him.
I think of you often. I think of your lemon bars. I think of your forehead kisses. I think of your strong arms holding me tight.
But most of all, I think of The Light. Your Light. Because I miss that just as much as I miss you.
My youngest daughter reminds me of you the most. Her smile, her laugh. Her unwavering strength.
Yesterday, she crawled into my arms and sat without saying anything for a moment, a moment that seemed to stretch into eternity. But when she finally looked up into my eyes, I didn’t just see her.
I saw your lemon bars.
I saw your forehead kisses.
I saw your strong arms holding me tight.
I saw you.
I saw The Light.
And now, I no longer miss you.