Family Matters

by Paul Kittredge

Everything in my life was perfect, and to make it all better I was at my favorite place on earth. Attending a game at historic Fenway Park is every nine-year old baseball fan’s dream. To put the cherry on top of it all, I got the chance of a lifetime, to sit right behind home plate in the very first row.

It was always a tradition for my family to attend at least one Red Sox game every year together. I would always have a countdown to game day that started as soon as my parents came home with the tickets. That day, on the way to the game, I was a ball of excitement, and when my mom, dad, brother and I got up the ramp and finally saw the field I could vividly smell the mixed aroma of freshly groomed grass and the popcorn, hot dogs, and pretzels the vendors were selling. I quickly rushed to grab the seat that was directly behind the plate. This would give me the best view to see my favorite players that I looked up to, like David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Jon Lester. The game felt like a rush as I took in the action from the best view in the park, and before I knew it the game had ended and we were on our way home. I thought nothing could ruin the moments I had experienced that day, but the next night I would endure something that would damage my family life forever. 

The next morning was like any usual Saturday morning that a nine-year old would go through. Get up and eat breakfast while watching your favorite cartoons, maybe do some homework and even have a friend over to play with – if your parents would be willing to put up with the noise and mess. But this Saturday took a turn when my parents sent my friend home early and sat me down to “have a talk.” We all walked into the living room and sat down as I prepared for the punishment to come (because when I hear those words it usually means I’m in trouble), but what I was about to be told was far worse than any punishment I could receive. The words “Me and mom aren’t going to be living together anymore” created a deafening silence in the room. At first, I was confused, as was my brother, who was only five years old at the time. It took me a few moments to fully understand what was going on. What really made me think was the fact that the day before had been so perfect, with my family together, enjoying our day, and all the other days, months, and years that we had been so happy together. The only question I asked was “Will you guys still love each other?”  My mom responded, “We tried really hard, but we will still love you both.”  That was all I wanted to know. I just hugged them both and cried for what seemed like hours. There were so many more questions in my head, but for some reason I never had the courage to ask them. Questions like, Was this my fault? Who will I live with now? Will people make fun of me because of my parents splitting up? It was all too much for me at such a young age. Because I had no answers, my emotions ran wild, and as a nine-year old this is one of the worst things that can happen. 

About two weeks passed and the packing of our house had begun. The days seemed longer than normal in school, and the nights at home felt lonely too, even though we were still having family dinner and movie nights. (The only thing different was that mom and dad would sit on opposite sides of the table or the couch, and they always had me and my brother in between them.) Every night was a “sleep over,” as they called it. Every other night we would have either my mom or dad sleep with us in the room. I quickly picked up on what was going on, and the reality of things were setting in for me. I started to make assumptions as to why everything was happening to my family.  When I found out I would be staying with my mom and brother I started blaming my dad for the whole thing. I thought that he was the one who created the whole mess and our final days together in the house, I refused to talk to him. I didn’t want to share any more memories or moments with the man that was ruining my life. 

I moved into my grandmother’s house with my mother and brother, and my dad moved in with his best friend from high school. It was a few weeks before I got to see my dad again and I wasn’t looking forward to it. He planned a dinner for himself, my brother and I at our favorite restaurant. I was excited for the meal, but not to see his face. When we got to our seats, he tried striking up a conversation again and again, but I refused to talk to a man who had brought me so much sadness. On the way home to drop us off was the first time in my life I ever saw my dad cry. He didn’t just cry either, he completely lost it. His face turned bright red from hyperventilating and the constant flow of tears running down his face. At the time I didn’t feel bad at all, until I talked to my grandmother that night. She explained to me that sometimes the things you cherish in the world don’t always last. She explained that my dad would always love me, even though he may not live with me or my brother anymore. Most importantly she told me that what had happened had nothing to do with anything that I had ever done. This was the best thing she could have told me because she knows I’m the kind of person to blame everything on myself, even when it really had nothing to do with me. 

The following day I asked my mother to bring me to see my dad. I had thought about what I was going to say to him the whole night leading up to the meeting, but I didn’t know this was going to be one of the most important conversations of my life. We pulled into my father’s driveway and I instantly got this feeling that I couldn’t really explain. It was a mix of fear, sadness, and anger that was almost too much for me to handle, but I held back my tears as I walked up the steps to the front door. My dad answered the door after I rang the doorbell four times. I told him I wanted to talk to him about something important, and as we walked past his bedroom, I saw packed suitcases on his bed. I asked him why he was packing, and he told me he was planning to move to Maine up with his sisters. Instantly I started crying, an uncontrollable cry just like him. I explained I had come to apologize for the way I had been treating him. I told him that it wasn’t fair to put my emotions in front of his when I knew what I wanted was never going to happen. Then I had to explain that I wanted to see him more often, but that it would be so hard with him moving to Maine. I tried my best to talk him out of it, and he finally agreed to stay. I couldn’t have been happier, and I soon forgot every sad moment I had had in the past few weeks. That was when I really understood that everything does happen for a reason, and that family will always be family no matter what happens.   

That conversation happened almost ten years ago. Since then my relationship with my father has improved greatly. I still visit him every weekend, and enjoy vacations and trips with him and his new girlfriend. At the time I thought he had ruined my entire childhood, but our new relationship has made up for the years we lost.

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