I heard my name twice in a voice I recognized. I sat in the passenger seat of the green Nissan Xterra. I looked over, there is my dad looking right at me, just how I remember him now, short blonde hair and light blue eyes. He had that concerned look on his face, the one I pictured whenever I thought of him. “I want you to get into a good high school,” he said, as we passed by Council Rock high school, where he went, “It doesn’t have to be down there.”
“Down there” as in Philly, where I lived, with my mom and sisters. A court ruled that my mom had custody of my sisters and I, which meant that I see my dad every other weekend. Obviously, he had always wanted us to live with him permanently, and this high school talk was one of his strategies.
“Yeah, maybe,” was all I really ever replied, being in the seventh grade and not so much caring about high school at the time. I always knew that moving to Bucks County and living with him and attending high school there was one of my options, but I always sort of knew I wasn’t going to go with that option.
Little did I know, that about 6 months later, I would no longer even have that option.
It was a Friday morning, I was getting ready for school, excited that this was the last day of the school week and that the weekend was approaching. I felt that way until my mom burst through the door sobbing like she had just heard the worst news she could ever hear, right after getting off the phone with my stepmom. “Your dad died last night,” was the only sentence she could get out.
It felt like the words pierced right through me one by one. I realized that it happened before she even finished the sentence, and it didn't take a while for me to realize, which was weird because it was extremely unexpected. I felt numb, my stomach in knots and my mind overflowing with thoughts, the craziest it had ever been and the worst I had ever felt.
I don’t remember much after that; I just remember crying, everyone in my house crying. The day itself taught me a lot about myself. Among my sisters, I was always known as the “rock” because I was the one that had it all together and was always weirdly emotionless, which isn’t even how I really am, just how I let myself be on the outside. I hold most of my emotions in.
The rest of that day was a long one. My mom, siblings, and I went over to my dad’s house, which then became known as my stepmom’s house. As soon as I walked in, the house had felt different. Or, the house didn’t feel different, I did.
After a long time of just talking and crying, I went up to the room I stayed in when I was there, just walking around it and examining things. My stepmom came in at one point.
“Sweet pea,” this was a nickname she gave me when I was really young. “You okay?”
“I’m doing okay,” I said in reply. “I think it’s Kelsey you should be worrying about, she’s been crying a lot.”
I regretted saying that immediately after. I always feel the need to make sure everyone is happy, I put myself last, and seeing my entire family in that state just added to the emotional wreckage I was already experiencing.
This caused my mind to race the entire day, focused on one question: what can I do to make everything better? But there was nothing I could do. An entire person, my dad, who we all loved was gone and there was nothing we could do.
“No, I’m worried about you.” She said, in a soft worried tone she never usually had.
I usually liked being alone with my emotions. I didn’t want to put my burdens on anyone. But when someone notices or show they care, I appreciate it. So her individual attention made me happy. After losing my dad, all the support I got from people made me realize that I can’t really face problems like these alone.
The adjustments I had to make was to live without my dad. Losing a person leaves a giant space in your life that is impossible to fill. There was no person or thing that could fill that space. You just have to get used to that space, accept the fact that it’s there and that there’s nothing you can do about it.
Being thirteen, and not having any experience with losing anyone that close to me, those adjustments were hard. It was hard not going up to his house every other weekend; not getting any calls of him yelling at me about not calling him; not hearing his voice, seeing him, or anything.
Eventually, I did get used to that lifestyle, but never fully. I still think of my dad every single day, usually when I see something that reminds me of him, like hearing a song that he used to play or just a random thought or memory relating to him that pops up in my head.
Sometimes my mom or one of my sisters would bring up something about him, and after he is mentioned, there is always a short silence. “He’s really gone?” is the question that always comes up in my head during that silence, and I assume it’s in their mind too. Then there’s that realization, that yes he is really gone, and we go on with what we were saying.
I don’t feel all that different from before that situation, but then again I feel like a completely different person. I know that now I’m much more appreciative of the people around me, and much more aware that they could go any second. I was always aware of death and that it happened, but it just never occurred to me that it could also happen to me or to someone close to me. With that situation, it made me realize it could happen to anyone.
Reading “The Yellow Birds”, a book about a man named Bartle that goes to war, I felt like I connected with him emotionally in a way that I couldn’t if I had read that book before the situation. Bartle was best friends with a guy named Murph, and being in the war, he knew that at any time he could die or that Murph could die. Before I lost my dad, I wasn’t prepared for all of that. But now I’m aware that I could die or that anyone close to me could die at any moment.There was good and bad that came out of this situation. Good and bad comes out of every situation. I learned many important lessons about death and also about life. I would never say that I’m thankful that all of this happened, but I’m thankful for these lessons that came out of it.