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Mom used to tell me about my little brother. She never met him either, but she’d heard a lot about him. She showed me pictures of him and he’s real cute. What I can’t get over is his white hair. He looks a lot like Dad.
I don’t remember my dad too well to tell the truth. He disappeared when Mom died. I remember that he always called her his sweet Kee. I always thought it was lame and stupid, but most people just called my mom Kay. She had a real sweet voice.
Something I do remember about my dad is that he had a nice voice too. I always wonder what Seth sounds like and if Mara can sing because I can’t even though Mom and Dad could real well.
Mara is my dad’s wife. He never married my mom. Sometimes, though, I have these recurring dreams in which my dad loves me more than Seth and Mara. I know that it’s bad to wish for something like that, but truthfully I don’t mean it. I don’t like the dreams that much.
It is nice to believe he didn’t abandon me. Even now I don’t think he did. I haven’t seen the man in four years since I was ten. He didn’t know who I was. I just stopped by with Ms. Janine to visit him at the hospital.
She had kept asking me if I’m sure I want to visit him. Of course I did. I was a little girl who missed her mom and dad.
Questions like those are among the reasons I tend to gravitate in whatever direction is opposite her. Not to mention: who has such an obvious first name for a last name: Carly Janine? To be fair, I should call her “Mom”, but that seems disrespectful to my real mom. Though, to not disrespect Ms. Janine I do call her my mom in front of company.
I appreciate Jan for all she’s done for me. Her husband, Ronnie, is a nice guy too. I just wish Ms. Janine had taken his last name, not that I remember it. That’s how I know it’s a real last name. Janine is the type of last name you remember.
Anyway, I think about my little brother too often. I plan to meet him some day. I want to love that kid. He should be about seven or eight now, I think. I know he was just about to turn four when Dad was hospitalized. I ought to know my own brother’s age. I wonder if he knows more than I do. Honestly, I just wonder what he knows at all. I wonder if Mara tells him about me, and if so, I wonder if he thinks of me like I think of him.
Jan probably knows more than she tells me. I know Mara is completely informed.
Something that really gets at me is that while I think Ronnie hates Dad, Jan definitely hates both Dad and Mara. What can be said about Jan, however, is that she loves me, despite the fact I can’t bring myself to return the feeling. It’s not that I don’t want to love her. I just don’t. I still don’t know why I don’t, and I also can’t think of a fair reason for Jan to hate my dad and his wife.
I never met Mara, but Mom did.
They used to be friends. Mom always said Mara was sad and troubled, but a very kindhearted woman. Dad didn’t leave Mom for Mara right away.
You could always tell Dad adored Mom. He was always smiling and laughing around her.
That’s why when he left I was so confused. He didn’t love Mara. On the other hand, I do think Mara always loved Dad. She knew Dad long before Mom met him. In fact, Mom met Dad through Mara.
Dad and Mom probably fell in love at first sight. That’s how Mom told it anyway. What happened was Mara got a new job at some karaoke bar. She invited her two good friends, my mom and dad, to check the place out during her night shift. Mom got up on stage and sang “He’s a Tramp”. In good humor, and on break, Mara decided to persuade Dad to join her in going up on stage too.
They all sang that song and at the end of the night they all went over to Mom’s house and watched Lady of the Tramp with Mara’s first child: a daughter, Maisie. Maisie really loved my dad because he was always around. That’s what Mom always told me.
I have a theory, though, that makes things less sweet.
I really believe Maisie was Dad’s daughter. The sad part is Maisie died with my mom. My mom had been babysitting Maisie while Mara was at work. I suppose I met Maisie but I was only six and every time I try to remember her I can’t. She was only a year and a half older than me.
I’m not sure of where I was the night Mom and Maisie died. I remember the day after when Dad told me about it. He wasn’t the same man anymore. Dad had been home with Seth the night it happened. Seth was only two at the time. I know this is unfair of me, but I always used to want my baby brother to meet my mom and think of us as his real family.
Mom would have loved him. I used to have nightmares that Mara had died instead and all by herself so that Mom, Dad, Maisie, Seth, and I could all be happy together. I regret that. I hate myself for thinking that way. Mara is a sweet woman according to Mom. I don’t resent her or anything.
Furthermore, I don’t think Dad knew Maisie was his daughter, but I think Mara eventually told him and that’s how she convinced him to leave Mom for her. I think Dad felt bad he broke Mara’s heart. Only, after Maisie died it became more than that. Leaving somebody all alone when they need you is worse than breaking their heart, I think. I think Dad thought so too, and so he stayed by Mara’s side.
Admittedly, I sometimes wonder why he never decided to take custody of me. Although, thinking about it scares me. There’s always the suspicion that maybe Mara doesn’t like me. Dad used to visit and call when Mom was still alive. Afterwards, he disappeared.
Then again, what do I know? Everything I know is mostly theoretical. I wish people would tell me more. Maybe I’m young, but how else do they expect me to stop coming up with wild theories and move on? If anything, they keep me naïve.
It’s especially tiresome because Ms. Janine always tell me how she wants me to feel like I have a family. She can’t seem to understand that I used to. What I have now doesn’t feel like what I had before.
I know I should consider Jan and Ronnie to be my new family, but the pressure to feel something I don’t weighs heavily on me. I wish I wasn’t so typical in that way. It isn’t like I don’t try my best to be reasonable and fair. I just struggle with forcing myself to feel things I don’t, and when I don’t feel the things I know that I should, I feel worse for being ungrateful.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think losing my mom and dad puts me at any more of a disadvantage than anyone else. I just feel like I should be allowed to handle it my own way, and if people would tell me more I could get over some of these nagging questions. I’m probably right, anyway. I have a good sense for these things.
Regardless, it’s all meaningless in the end. Mom and Maisie are dead. Dad is nowhere around these days. Seth has Mara, and I have Ronnie and Jan. For all I know, maybe Mara will never tell Seth any of it. If that’s the case it will all be forgotten soon enough. Maybe I’ll just always have to remember it so Mom isn’t completely forgotten.
A big part of remembering Mom is how her death has affected Dad. When I went to see my dad those four years ago he looked old. I never remember him as looking old except for when I remember him from that day.
Initially, when I entered his room he was asleep and I kind of just watched him. His hair was noticeably grey and he had crow’s feet at his eyes that were especially prominent when he had them closed like he did. Most striking about his appearance was this very intense scowl he wore, even in his sleep, but I thought, maybe, it would go away when he saw me.
Then he woke up, and it didn’t. When he opened his eyes and saw me he said something that made my heart skip a beat. “I have a daughter named Ariza,” he said.
It startled me because that isn’t my name. My name is Olivia. It took me until after we left the hospital to remember Dad had always called me Ariza. Mom once said that Ariza would have been my name, except she had a strict Irish mother who demanded I be named after her sister. She really thought Olivia is a beautiful name. I’m less partial to it, but I don’t hate it as much as my middle name.
Olivia Charlotte Keely. Keely is only the kind of last name you remember when it’s your first name too, like my mom. That’s okay, though, because Keely Keely is still a better name than Carly Janine.
Ever since that day I prefer to go by Ariza Keely, and it’s taken since then. Even Jan and Ronnie sometimes remember to call me by that name.
Had I remembered the whole deal about the name situation that day I would have probably said, “Well, Dad it’s me.” However, I hadn’t, and so at the time I had figured he’d gone nuts. I said, “That’s a pretty name,” to which he nodded in solemn agreement.
He stared blankly at me for a while, while I stood at the foot of his bed, fidgeting with my hands. At one point I coughed and he finally said, “You’re boing, nothing like Ariza.”
I suppose that’s how I know he still thinks of me. The only thing is, why didn’t he mention Seth? That bothers me. He should love Seth how he loves Ariza. I’d say how he loves me, but I don’t think he really knows me the same way anymore. I’m sure he would love me if circumstances were different. I can’t blame him for holding on to the past. I do too.
By now though, I guess it’s time I broke the news to Jan and Ronnie. It can’t be too hard to believe that I decided I wanted to meet Seth. I’ve saved up enough money after all these years to purchase a bus ticket to go see him. They’re going to give me a big deal about it, but how can they refuse me?
As I see it, I’m owed this. They’ve given me more than I deserve in many facets of life. The only thing they’ve never given me is the ability to hold on to some piece of the family I lost. Anybody would deserve that. I’m sure anybody would deserve at least that much. Besides, even if that isn’t the case, it’s only natural to, at the very least, want as much as that. What is so wrong with me having a little half brother in my life? I’ll tell you there’s nothing wrong with it, and I will meet that boy no matter what it costs me.