Absent-mindedly, I walked through the door. I had grown up there, and came back two years ago, so I could give my mom her daily medication. I had to give up having my own place. It didn’t matter. I had broken up with Arthur, my boyfriend, and I needed a change. My mother and I, we completed each other. Together we were stronger. I gave her all my love, and I tried to share all the positive energy I had in my heart. She had that special healing effect on me. All my sorrows were easier to bear when she was by my side. She was like that magic kiss one gave a child to make a bobo disappear in a heart’s beat. This huge house seemed so lonely, like lost in time. My mother had made sure that everything was taken care of, before embarking on her last journey. Nothing had been left unattended, even when she was living her last moments. I knew why she had done it, before she passed away. She was worried for me, and she wanted to protect me, her only child. She had time to plan the aftermath of her illness, during those long months when she was not feeling well. Every administrative and logistic detail had been taken care of. One last time, she had protected me, as the loving and devoted mother she always had been. I choked. In the living room, I headed for the big blue sofa, and I collapsed on it, completely exhausted. I threw the pile of documents, including the envelope that the executor had given me, on the pillow next to me. Why did she bother writing a letter to me ? Was it another farewell ? We had already talked about everything and even more. Why would she do that, especially when she always told me we would see each other again ? I swallowed hard. Suddenly, my curiosity became too strong to resist, even stronger than the overwhelming fear and pain that were torturing me. This envelope was sending me a silent message like a merciless mermaid song that I couldn’t ignore any longer. I grumbled.
I looked around the room. There was always that dead silence that reminded me, every damned second, she wasn’t coming back. It was like an old tune played by a vicious fate, a reality that I was still not ready to accept. My head was throbbing, and this unpleasant sensation finally consumed every part of my body. I could feel its presence in every part of the house, and it was upsetting.
I knew perfectly every stage of the grieving process. It was basic knowledge for a person working in a hospital’s psychological department. Undoubtedly, I was going through the denial stage. It was the first one of them, just after the one we called “aftershock”. Soon rage would follow. I could almost feel it. At that moment, I felt like I was drowning, and the light coming from the surface was gradually disappearing. All parents must die someday, but nothing can prepare us for this tragedy. I doubted that one could get over it.
In the house, time seemed to be frozen. I could almost hear the ghosts of my childhood and their happy laughter, like a memory of the past. Hesitantly, I turned my attention to the envelope.
I gave in.
“What couldn’t you tell me ?”
I was talking to myself. I felt like I was losing my mind. I laughed bitterly. Then, I had a meltdown. Holding my breath, I grabbed this thing that was tormenting me, and I tore it open. With the utmost care, I unfolded the piece of paper filled with a feminine and elegant handwriting. Just imagining its content gave me the chills. As I was reading the first words, tears flooded down my cheeks. Through each word I was reading, I could hear the voice of my mom speaking to me.
My sweet little Joe,
I know you well enough to imagine the pain you are going through, while you are reading these words. Yet, I can assure you that everything is alright.
Time has come for me to go to heaven. You, my sweetheart, need to move on and hold your head up high to face what life has in store for you.
Your heart is so bigIt needs to be filled with love. And this is the reason why I feel it’s time for me to confess. The void left by my departure needs to be filled by someone else. Loneliness is not for you. You are full of love, and it is crucial that you share it with someone. You can’t stay alone for the rest of your life.
Here I am, twenty-seven years after life granted me the most beautiful gift I could hope for. You. You never dared asking the most important question of all, probably because you thought it would hurt my feelings, or maybe because you were afraid to be disappointed. Now the time has come. If you decide to ignore this, I’ll respect your choice. Still I am convinced it will help you heal. If you trust me, please read on, Joe, my sweet girl.
Your father’s name is Jerry Welsh.
I paused to wipe down the flow of tears that prevented me from seeing distinctly, and I tried to regulate my erratic breathing. I had to rest for a few moments to deal with all these words that had never been said. Then, I started to read again.
The last I heard of him, he had a small shop in Monty Valley, in California. He is not aware of your existence, Sweetheart, and I will forever bear the burden of this secret. I don’t feel sorry for myself or even for him, but for you. It was too late when I realized that I had made the wrong choice, and that his absence would create a void in your life. I’m the only person who should be held responsible. I acted as a mother who needed to protect her child. But I failed. Today, I hope there is still time to patch things up, and to make up for the biggest mistake of my life. I know it’s a bit late, but I’ve never found the strength to stir up the past.
I know you have this strength, Joe. You have the courage I miss. You must admit that you are a hothead. You got it from him.
Go and find your father, Sweetheart. If you must, give him this letter. He might be surprised at first. He will probably be shocked or even get angry. Then he might feel overwhelmed, but it doesn’t matter. The truth can no longer be denied. You have his eyes, Joe, his determination and his temper too. Time will help you heal. I am sure of it. Please, trust me one last time, Sweetheart. The future is yours.
It’s almost time to go. Take care of yourself, and don’t push away those who will try to help you. The strong young woman you have become is the biggest pride of my life. I love you to the moon and back. Someday, we will meet again, in heaven. Until then, live your life to its fullest. Enjoy every second of it, and show everyone what you are made of. Keep on moving on, fight for everything you believe in. It will help you achieve your dreams.
I love you.
For a moment, I held my breath, torn between shock and sadness. These last few words made me feel like she was abandoning me one more time. A wave of unidentifiable emotions overcame me. My eyes filled with tears, for these words were too difficult to accept. Some of them were still echoing in my sore head. Two of them, especially. A name and a surname: Jerry Welsh. My father.
Completely lost, I flinched. I was a shadow of myself. The shadow of a little girl facing tough choices she would have to make soon.