Sacrifice: A Man and His Daughter

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
"Dad, what was Mom like?"

My daughter asked me this simple--yet crucial--question, and I had absolutely no idea how to answer it. I had to dig deep within my memories, back when I was young, happy, and in love. I sat down with my daughter, and I began to tell her of the adventures I had with her mother, and of the tragic ending that ripped my entire life in half.

This is my story, our story, her story.

Submitted: March 14, 2012

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Submitted: March 14, 2012

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“Dad, what was Mom like?”

I knew the day would come eventually when she would ask me this question. I knew I would have to go through the pain again, to relive those painful memories that I pushed so far out of my mind. I never thought the day would actually come, though. I mean, I knew she would want to know, but I always assumed she would just keep her questions to herself. Five seconds before she walked into the living room I was simply sitting on the couch reading the Sunday paper, not a thought in my mind that she would come waltzing in to ask me this incredibly infuriating question.

The truth is, I had absolutely no idea how to answer her question. It was such a complex subject, such an intense and excruciating chunk of my past that I wished desperately to erase. Not the chunk where I was with her; no, that was the greatest period of my entire life. The memory that I wished to remove completely from my memory was the last. That very last moment, when her breathe slowed and the life was stripped away completely from my one and only.

“She was beautiful,” was all I could manage. My daughter rolled her eyes at me.

“I know she was. I've seen photographs.” She looked down at the mahogany coffee table and slid her hand softly around the golden frame that held my wife as a memory. “I want to know what her personality was like. You've never really talked about her.”

“She was beautiful,” I repeated. As my daughter stared at me questioningly, I continued. “I don't mean her appearance. I mean that she was completely beautiful from the outside all the way to her core.” I wasn't looking at my daughter, as I wasn't really talking to her. I was staring at the wall, lost in my thoughts, remembering her smile, her laugh, the way she always skipped down the steps in an unusual rhythm, or the way she chewed on the straw in her drink, or how she could recite every line in Bonnie and Clyde, or even the way that she articulated her words with a slight Michigan accent that she picked up from her father.

I shook myself back into reality as I realized that my daughter was still staring at me, waiting for me to continue explaining my wife. I knew I was going to have to go into detail, and that I would have to put up with the pain and give my daughter a full description of her mother. I took a deep breath to brace myself, told her to sit down next to me, and began to tell her about an amazing woman who changed my life forever . . .

 

 

“Excuse me, do you know if you have anything by Rush?” I was completely caught off guard when the short brown-haired girl asked me this question. I was just an eighteen year old boy browsing in this dingy old record store, minding my own business. I looked at her with a raised eyebrow. Then she caught on and laughed to herself, blushing.

“Oh,” she began with a small grin on her face, “you don't work here, do you?” I couldn't help but smile.

“No, I don't. But I do know that there are a few Rush albums over there,” I pointed to a bin in the corner that was filled with records.

“Thanks,” she said with a friendly smile as she turned and walked in the direction that I was pointing. I couldn't help but follow her there.

“So,” I began, not really sure what I was doing, “you like Rush?”

“Yes, I love them!” she replied excitedly. “I would really like to try and go to their show in two weeks, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to.” She had a slight frown on her face.

“I was actually thinking about going to that myself,” I said. An idea began to percolate in my head, but I couldn't get myself to go through with it.

As I watched the brown-haired girl fumble through the records, I picked the old, peeling paint off of the crate that held the records as I considered my thoughts. Quite reluctantly, I finally decided to go for it, which was completely out of the ordinary for me.

“Would you, um,” I began, picking the paint off even more furiously, “would you maybe want to go to the show with me?” She looked up at me. “I mean, you don't have to, I just thought, actually, never mind, you probably—”

“I would love to,” she interrupted, smiling. My heart jumped.

“Are you sure? I mean, only if you want to,” I trailed off as I looked down at the floor, terrified.

“Definitely.” I looked back at her. “I don't normally go on random dates with strangers, but something is telling me that I should do this.” The fact that she used the word “date” was surprising to me, but I was glad that she did.

We then exchanged numbers and planned our date. Two weeks later, I met her at her New York apartment, drove her to the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan Center, and had one of the greatest nights of my life.

 

Several weeks later, I was standing in the kitchen of her parents' fifth floor apartment; we had spent nearly every day together since the concert. This was the day we had our first fight.

“I saw you looking at her!” I dodged the shoe that was viciously thrown at my head.

“Why would I want to look at any other girl but you?”

“Don't pull that shit on me,” she said as she walked away angrily, scrubbing the dishes to distract her from throwing more shoes.

“I don't understand why you'd even think that I would do that! Who would I even be looking at?!” I was getting a little aggravated that she didn't trust me.

“You know exactly who I'm talking about.”

“I have no idea who you're talking about, actually.” She always assumed she knew what I was thinking. She always put words in my mouth. Typical woman.

“That slut you were talking to at the mall today!”
“Okay, first of all, she's not a slut.” She scoffed. “Second, just because I was talking to her you think I was checking her out?”

“I know you were checking her out,” she said. “Along with her little slut posse.”

“I was not!” I was almost screaming at this point.

“How do I know? What if you go and do something behind my back? I'm going to be in D.C. all day tomorrow for the March for Life, how do I know you're not going to go and mess around with her? Or with anyone else?”

“Because I wouldn't do that!”
“How do I know?”

I paused, trying to calm myself down.

“Why can't you just trust me?” I asked, in a softer voice. She took a breath.

“It's not that I don't trust you,” she said. “I just, I don't trust anyone else.”

“Well I'm not looking for anyone else, okay?” I stepped closer to her, trying to make lighten the atmosphere. “I don't want anybody else.”

That wasn't the last time we had an argument like that. She was always so afraid that I was going to leave her for someone else. I couldn't blame her, as it had happened to her in the past, but I always wished that I could prove it to her somehow. I wished that I could prove to her that I would never want anybody else in my entire life except her.

 

One weekend, about a year after we met, we decided to go someplace we had never been but always wanted to go to. Since we didn't have a car, or much money, we concluded that we would take a bus to Niagara Falls. Even though it was relatively close to New York City, compared to most vacation spots, neither of us had ever been there; we thought it would be a great first experience together, and it was.

“This is incredible,” she said to me as we looked down into the forever falling rushing water, mist surrounding us in a glorious fog.

“What's that down there?” I asked, pointing downward into the river where a tiny boat was chugging along, about to enter a massively thick cloud of mist.

“Oh,” she gasped, “I think that's the Maid of the Mist!”

“The what?”

“It's a boat that takes you as close as possible to the Falls so you can get a really good look at everything. It looks amazing, I've always wanted to go on it.”
“Well why don't we?” I asked.

“Are you kidding me? We barely afforded the trip here, we can't get on that boat.”

I stood against the railing, staring down at the boat that was disappearing behind the water. As I was about to change the subject, I noticed that she had a menacing grin on her face. After considering her thoughts for a bit longer, she turned to me with a giant smile on her face.
“What is it?” I asked, a little afraid of what she was thinking.

“Let's sneak on!” She was incredibly excited. I was baffled

“Are you serious? We'll totally get caught!”

“C'mon, it'll be exciting!” I could see in her eyes that she wasn't kidding at all; she had so much life in her. At first I thought her idea was crazy, but then I thought it was okay to be a little bit crazy.

“Alright,” I said.

“Alright?” she asked, her blue eyes widening.

“Yeah. Let's do it.” I grinned, and right then I was just as excited as she was. She began walking towards the path that led down to the dock. A man in a blue hat was sitting in a chair that was blocking the path, collecting money from various visitors who wanted to ride on the Maid.

“How are we gonna get past him?” I asked, skeptically.

“Let's make a run for it.” Her expression was confident.

“I'm pretty sure he's gonna notice if we run right past him.”
“Only one way to find out,” she said as she sprinted towards the pathway.

“Wait!” I shouted, and shortly realized that if I didn't run right after her, I would get caught. I began running, quickly reaching her, and we bounded down the pathway as fast as our feet could take us. The Maid was just leaving the docks, so we managed to pick up speed and jump onto the back, barely making it. As we hit the deck, we fell onto each other, gasping for air. The man had been following close behind us, but by the time he reached the docks there wasn't enough space for him to jump across. He threw up is arms, defeated, and then scurried back up the steps angrily.

We were laying on our backs, laughing.

“That was awesome!” I shouted.

“I know!” she exclaimed. “It was such a rush.” As we laid there, still panting, we realized that our vision was beginning to get cloudy. We both sat up, hand in hand, and we saw the magic that surrounded us. Our skin was slightly wet, as clouds of mist were sprinkling over us, shimmering lights reflecting off of them. We walked to the railing and she put her arm out into the open air, waving it around to feel all of the mist.

“Let's go up top,” she said, squeezing my hand and pulling me up the steps.

As we reached the top, the beauty of the Falls was revealed to us. We were surrounded by cliffs, water pouring into every surrounding, like a tornado of rivers. As I was admiring the scene, I noticed that she wasn't doing the same as I was. I followed her gaze and my eyes fell upon an old couple, holding hands firmly and looking out into the falling waters. They must have been in their seventies or eighties, and they looked so in love. Then they both turned, almost simultaneously, towards each other. The man's eyes fell down upon the woman's, and the woman's upon the man's. They never blinked once, nor did their eyes stray from each others'. I then turned back to my girl, and she had a sweet smile on her face. She squeezed my hand, and I kissed her on the side of her head. Her brown hair smelled like strawberries and it was as soft as silk.

“I want to have a love like that,” she said, still staring at the couple. “One that lasts forever.”

I squeezed her hand and looked back at the couple. I wanted to tell her that maybe she and I could have a love like that some day, that maybe we would be just as lucky. But I kept that thought to myself.

I should have told her right then and there.

 

Another year passed, and we were both still figuring each other out, as well as ourselves. I was becoming to realize that I wanted to do something with my hands, like construction or plumbing; she, on the other hand, was learning more and more about her own creativity and soon came to the conclusion that she wanted to be a writer. She wasn't entirely sure what kind of writer, so she tried journalism, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and so on.

One evening, I was sitting next to her on the couch while she worked on a new story. Her bear-like Rottweiler was laying next to me, his head resting on my right knee. Drool was slobbering out of the sides of his mouth, and I could feel the warmth of his breath through my jeans. I began to pet him softly on the head before I was interrupted by a groan of defeat and frustration.

“What?” I asked, turning to face the brown-haired girl to my left.

“I can't think of anything!”

“For the plot, you mean?”

“Yeah. I mean, I had something, but I don't think it's good enough. Do you have any ideas?”

I pondered for a moment. How the hell was I supposed to come up with a storyline? I was completely uncreative in all aspects, I always had been.

“Well, what exactly are you trying to write?” I asked, hoping she could give me something to lead with.

“Well,” she began, “I want it to be...deep. Y'know?”

I just stared at her.

“Like,” she continued, “something poetic, and meaningful, but still an entertaining story.” She paused, and I could see the thoughts forming, painfully, in her head. “I want it to make sense, but then not make sense at the same time. Everything should be all twisted and out of the ordinary, like,” she stopped, struggling to find the right words. I cut in.

“Like Alice in Wonderland?”

“Yes!” She outstretched her arm with a pointed finger, almost stabbing me in the eye. “Just like that! Except not, y'know?” I didn't know. “Like, every genre molded into one, but in a way that fits, but doesn't really fit, but still fits, somehow, someway, everything fits.” She then turned back to her notebook and began writing furiously, continuously scratching out words and replacing them with new ones, almost scraping a hole right through the pages. She looked up at me.

“That sounds good, right? It makes sense?” She looked hopeful.

“Definitely,” I said. “It's going to be great.” She was pleased, so she returned to her work. I actually had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. Half the time that she was ranting I wasn't even following what she was saying, it was nearly on the brink of insanity. But within all of that insanity, I did notice one thing: passion. She was so incredibly, ridiculously, unimaginably passionate about what she was saying that it sounded right. I knew she would succeed, somehow, in writing a masterpiece. Well, at least to my eyes. Anything she wrote would be amazing to me, someone who had no creative abilities at all. I was almost envious of how lost she became in her own mind.

As I watched her scribble some form of messy cursive onto the paper, I realized right then that she was the most incredible girl I'd ever met; that was the day I truly fell in love with her.

 

A third year passed, and we were both twenty-one years old. We reached our three year anniversary, celebrated, and passed out on the floor of my parents' apartment, a typical ending to a typical party.

Except this was no typical party.

I won't go into details, as that won't be necessary, but several weeks later I heard the most terrifying words that could ever come out of any woman's mouth.

“I'm pregnant.”

I couldn't move. My mouth was stuck in this awkward position that was almost closed, but not completely. My eyes were glued to the last thing that I happened to be looking at, a painting of a daisy on the wall. Only the colors in the painting were beginning to swirl, I was getting dizzy, and eventually the entire room was a spinning image of blurred colors. I could faintly make out the shape of her, confessing the worst to me, but by that point I couldn't say a word. I felt like I was going to be sick.

She walked towards me, resting her hand on my shoulder.

“Here, sit down.” She gently pushed me onto a nearby chair at the dining table. “I know this is a lot to take in, and I still can't really believe it, either.” I could tell that she was trying to sound confident, like everything was going to be okay. She was rather convincing, too, if it weren't for the quavering in her voice every time she ended a sentence. I tried to convince myself that maybe she was joking, that maybe she just wanted to play a mean prank and that she would eventually tell me that it was all just for fun.

Except I knew she wouldn't.

“Say something,” she said, sounding a bit more worried than she already did. “Please.”

I was then staring at the wooden table in front of me, the swirls of wood dancing around in distorted circles. I then realized that I had to say something. Reality smacked me in the face and I turned my gaze up to her wet, blue eyes.

“How long have you known?” I managed to spit out. My voice sounded harsher than I intended, as I was trying to hold back. I didn't want to sound angry, but I was furious. I could tell that she sensed the anger in my voice.

“Um,” she began, a bit reluctant, “well, I've been a bit concerned for about a week and a half, now. I didn't want to worry you, and I didn't really want to worry myself either, so I sort of ignored it.” She looked at me, as if she expected some sort of response. I didn't move.

“This morning is when I found out though,” she continued. “I took seven tests. They were all positive.”

There was a lump in my throat that was preventing me from speaking. It was similar to the lump you get when you feel like crying, but not the same. It was more rough. It felt like someone had shoved a crinkled ball of sandpaper down my throat.

“Well,” I choked out, “what should we do?”

She looked at me in disbelief, as if she was expecting me to say a lot more than that. She was expecting me to throw a fit, but my body was in so much shock that I could barely show any emotion at all. Then she collected her thoughts and began to tell me what she thought.

“I don't really think we have much of a choice,” she said. “I'm pregnant. I'm going to have a baby. We're going to have a baby.”

“The hell we're not!” I spurted. This was what she was waiting for. She knew it would come sooner or later, and so did I. I didn't want it to happen, but it was only a matter of time. It wasn't in my control. The ball of sandpaper had retreated, my consciousness had returned, and it was furious. I stomped my foot so hard that it pushed me out of my chair and I was then peering down upon her. “You really think we can afford that? You think we can support a child?” I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks, my temples throbbing.

“Now, wait a minute,” she said, resting her hand upon my arm, “what were you expecting me to do? Get an abortion? You know how I feel about that.”

“Well do you know how I feel about having a child? I don't want that at all! And have you even thought about our parents?! They'll never even let us see each other again if they find out about this!”

“You know what?” she interjected. “Let's just stop. We're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's just go to the hospital, okay? We need to hear a doctor's opinion on this.”

 

The next few weeks were a blur. The only thing I can remember from most of it was that I was completely emotionless. That wore off after a while, but not completely. It was all so much to take in, and neither of us had any idea what to do. One day when we were visiting the doctor for a normal visit, something was off. I could feel it in the air.

“Are you alright?” she asked me as I was driving us to the doctor's. She must have seen the sweat running down my face.

“I don't feel so well,” I managed.

“Do you want me to drive?”

“No, I'll be fine. It's probably just the weather.” I continued to drive, ignoring her skeptical expression. No words could have explained how I felt, anyway. I just didn't feel right.

We pulled into the parking lot, walked to the waiting room, sat, and eventually were called in to see the doctor.

“Alright, I'm just going to run some precautionary tests today,” he said with a clipboard in hand. I sat in a chair in the corner of the room, pushing my hands into my sleeves. The fluorescent lit room felt colder than usual.

After many minutes passed, he told us the results. They weren't good.

He explained everything in technical terms, as if to make it sound less severe or maybe so that we would not understand completely. It was as if his professional words were a euphemism for the true issues at hand, for the fact that the love of my life had something wrong with her. Her body wasn't like most girls. Something was broken, and it couldn't be fixed.

The doctor went on to explain that she had a severe heart condition, one that was most likely hereditary, passed down through her family to her. He diagnosed her with cardiovascular disease, describing it in more depth with technical terms that I didn't entirely understand. And maybe I would have understood if I wasn't completely freaking out internally. I then realized that I wasn't the one who should be freaking out; I turned to look at her, and saw her lips trembling as the doctor's words poured into her ears. Her eyes were wide, staring right through the doctor and a thousand miles further, shining desperately. I squeezed her hand as tightly as I could, but there was no response. Her cheeks were slowly becoming wet, but not a sound came from her mouth.

I turned back to the doctor. He was explaining that there was little that they could do and that the only thing he can suggest is to not go through with the pregnancy and get an abortion. As soon as he said this, I felt her flinch. If there was one thing I knew more than anything, it's that she was completely against abortion; she attended the March For Life every year since she was a little girl, her allegiance never fading from that ridiculous cause.

“No,” she said through clenched teeth, her head shaking back and forth, “no, I can't do that. I won't.”

The doctor looked down at her, and then turned to me with a desperate expression on his face. I shook my head, and he turned back to her.

“If you have this baby, your chances of survival are,” he paused, “well, not very high.”

“I don't care.”

“Even if you do go through with it, the chances of the baby surviving are slim as well.”

“I don't care,” she repeated. “I will do whatever I can to have a healthy baby.”

I finally pulled myself back into the cold room. “Babe, you can't honestly think this is a good idea, right?” She turned to me with a cold expression. “If you do this, I'll lose you. I'll lose the baby. You can't put me through that, you don't—”

“I have no choice,” she interrupted. “This is what I have to do. Can't you understand that?”

“I'll give you two a moment,” the doctor said sadly as he exited the room, wafting cold air onto my face as he swiftly stepped past us. I then turned directly towards her, grabbing both of her hands in my fists.

“Please,” I begged, “you can't do this to me. To us. We've worked too hard.”

“And we can't do this to our baby, either,” she said. I could see in her eyes that she was nowhere near changing her mind. She was always so stubborn.

“Just, think about what you're doing for a second,” I tried. “You have your whole life ahead of you. You're brilliant, talented, beautiful, and so much more. You've been given a chance to live, and you're throwing it away.”

“This baby has a chance to live! I can't deny our child the right to a happy life! Can't you see that?”

“You don't even know if it's going to live! It's barely even a baby right now! We won't even be ending a life, it's life hasn't even started yet!” I could feel myself trembling.

“Stop calling our child an 'it'!” Her voice was getting more harsh. She then pointed to her stomach. “This is a human being. A human being that we created. It's our responsibility to take care of him, or her, under any circumstances necessary. I can't just sit here and let our baby die.”

I didn't say anything for a while. I tried to understand where she was coming from, I tried to somehow reason with what she was saying, but I just couldn't. I couldn't watch her end her own life just like that. It was too much.

“Look at me,” she said, more calmly. “I'm having this baby.”

I couldn't take it. I raised my arms, threw my hands onto my head and pulled my own hair as hard as I could. I turned, hot air hissing from my mouth, and punched the clean white wall with all of the strength that I had. I was expecting her to say something, but all I could hear were uneven breaths that she was spitting out of her mouth. At the sight of her despair, I began to do the same. I could taste the salt on my lips, feel the cold wetness on my cheeks, and we both sat down next to each other on the crinkly paper that rested on the hospital chair. She turned to look at me, but I placed my head into my hands. I couldn't look at her.

 

I spent the following months leading my love to her deathbed.

We fought more than ever, mostly about silly little things that didn't matter, and occasionally about the baby. I knew that nothing I said would ever change her mind. I knew that telling her how much I loved her, how much I wanted to be with her forever, or even how much I wanted to fight with her rather than watch her die wouldn't change a thing. Her mind was set. On March twenty-third, the baby's due date, I would let the life walk right out of her forever.

To this day, I still wish that I would have been more understanding. I wish that I could have enjoyed those months together, that I could have set aside our petty arguments and loved her like she deserved.

Of course, she was always hopeful, reassuring me that there was still a chance of her surviving, still a chance of us living the happy life that we both wanted so desperately. I could never understand her, how she held on to hope so strongly that nothing could take it away from her. Even though she knew, deep down, that she was probably going to die, that everything she had worked for would be gone. She knew death was approaching, and she was okay with it.

Selfish. That's what she was. No, that's what I was.

 

The day came sooner than expected. March nineteenth.

I paced back and forth, running my hands violently through my hair, praying to God for some sort of miracle. I never even believed in God, but I had to try everything. She was in labor, her body was sweating and cringing and her face told me that she was in unbearable pain. I head lots of beeping and commotion and I had no idea if what was going on was normal or not. I sat next to her and squeezed her hand with all of my might. Her head was shaking, but she managed to turn it towards me. Although she was a complete mess, she was still the most beautiful sight I'd ever seen, with her blue eyes glistening like never before. I squeezed her hand, and she squeezed back weakly. Then, before I could even say anything at all, I was swooped away by firm hands. I was roughly thrown to the other end of the room, our hands slipping apart, and a white curtain was whipped between us, tearing through everything and ripping my world in two.

I was able to squeeze her hand once more after the day had ended. She didn't squeeze back.

 

 

I didn't even realize that my daughter was still there, perched next to me on the couch, listening to my every word. I noticed that my face was wet, and I quickly dried myself off on my sleeve. Turning towards my daughter, I could see wetness in her eyes, about to topple over and pour onto the carpet. I placed my hand gently under her chin and turned her head towards me. Her lips were trembling, blue eyes glistening.

“You look just like her, you know,” I said softly. Her breath became uneven. “It's hard sometimes. But it's also a lovely reminder. Better than a photograph.” Her eyes were still on me. I could tell that she had taken in too much information to say a word, so I continued, trying to calm her down. I think I was calming myself down, as well.

“She sacrificed herself,” she whispered, “for me.” I could tell that she had taken in too much information to say anything more, so I continued, trying to calm her down. I think I was calming myself down, as well.

“I'm sorry I couldn't do the same. I was selfish and weak, and I want to apologize. To you, and to your mother. I never should have doubted her. At the time, I was a mess, but I've been blessed with a miraculous daughter who could never be replaced.” I kissed her on the forehead and she squeezed her eyes tight. “Your mother was an incredible woman and I miss her more than I can say, but I would never in a million years want to change what happened.” I looked into her bright blue eyes, remembering the adventurous brown-haired girl I met at a record store in New York City. “You were the miracle I was praying for.”


© Copyright 2018 SM Cozza. All rights reserved.

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