Poison Disguised As Family: Part IV

Part IV: Carolina

I know my kids blame me for many things and probably think I am the worst mom. But what they do not know is what I dealt with in my own childhood and why I am so emotionally disconnected from the world.

I watched my mother get abused up until the very last beating my mother accepted, when she finally kicked my father out of the house. None of my siblings wanted to maintain contact him, but I was the only one to send him handwritten letters. They thought I was all foolish and maybe I was. I guess that is my issue. I have a big heart and I am too forgiving. I expect everyone to have the same temperament as me. I always wanted things to change. I wanted a normal family and I wanted to find healthy ways to process my emotions.

I hope I did not mess up my kids. I really tried my best. I always searched for a healthy relationship in everyone I have dated. I knew that I wanted something different than what I grew up watching, but history repeated itself.


I met him at a party. It was a set up by mutual friends and they swore he was a good guy. They told me to give him a chance and so I did. What a mistake that was. He promised me the world. But don’t they all? They appear to be pleasant, kind, and want everyone to believe the absolute best of them. Behind closed doors, they are a monster.

When I found out I was pregnant with my son, I thought he would change. It started off with a push or shove here and there. He would never apologize either. He would just carry on with conversation like he did not do anything. I would let it go because I was taught to forgive people even when they hurt you. He would yell and I could not handle it. It would make me flash back to when my dad would come home drunk and hit my mother. My mom went through a crippling depression I did not think she would overcome. We all helped her to put food on the table since my dad left. I started working at a young age to make sure my family was cared for.


When we got together and spoke about marriage, everyone thought I was insane. The smart people saw right through his act, but most did not. He would never hit me for real. He did not want to give people a reason to assume what was happening.

He did not even propose. We kind of just stumbled into marriage. We were together for 2 years and then one day we just both found ourselves in the courthouse. Nothing extravagant. I thought my life would go a completely different route. Now you are probably asking, why would you get married if you were miserable? When kids are involved, you just feel stuck, like there is no way out. I had so many expectations for what I wanted, and I feel disappointed in myself that nothing went as planned.

We did not plan for children. We stumbled into that too. He lived a double life. He would come off as the kindest person in public when we would go out which was rare. He would put his arm around me, or make me laugh, or show his affection. As soon as we stepped foot into the house again, it was downhill fast. He would yell about everything. His food being cold, how the house was dirty, how the kids left their toys everywhere, how the puppy was not potty trained. Even the dog feared him and would run underneath the bed. I do not know what caused his switch to flip. I wanted so badly for him to be good. Therefore, I stayed because I kept thinking he would change, and I stood for so long and now my kids are messed up because of my selfish decision.

I blame myself because I should have left a long time ago. When my mom died, he came with me to the funeral. But even when my mother was dying, he had the audacity to say that it would be much better that she passed away so I would not need to take care of her. He said that as I hovered over her casket. He was selfish, he wanted all my time. I could not even care for my own mother. I should have left then.

My son entered the world healthy and well and that is all I could ask for, even though his father was not even in the delivery room. He never hit the kids, but he found a way to torture us. My son, Cam, was a good kid. He did not do drugs, he got into sports to stay busy and put off time from coming home, he took care of his little sister Brooke, had excellent grades, and had a promising career in basketball. But he always found something wrong to start fights with him.


My family did not know what it meant to have a normal holiday dinner. I wanted my kids to enjoy the holidays, but it was impossible. Each year they just expected chaos or no one to show up which happened often. My sister, Lori, refuses to come visit. She comes to pick up my kids here and there, but she refuses to walk in the house. She told me countless times she does not want to be around my husband or bring my nieces and nephews around him.

“I refuse to subject my kids to that type of toxicity like you choose to do. That man will never see my kids.” She would say.

Those words she expressed to me one day over coffee are embedded in my brain. When our mother died, she did not take it well either. We were both really close to her and when she finally passed, we both lost a piece of ourselves. Our mom did not like him either. She knew the red flags were there, but I did not listen. I wanted to see the good in him, but as time went on that would slim down to nearly nothing.

When he lost his job, the home life went awry. He would drink every day, at the bar, at home, at his buddy’s house. He would blame us for everything. When Brooke was born, I thought maybe having a daughter would bring some light back into his life, give him a reason to change. Silly me.


I wanted my kids to have a shot at a normal life and I know I could not undo everything I let happen in the past. But if I take that step forward, hopefully they would see how I was trying to make a change.

Every year Lori would make an excuse as to why she could not attend our Thanksgiving dinner. She did not plainly say she would not come, but she would make these excuses because she never knew when he was lurking over my shoulder. I appreciated her doing this, but it would not stop his yelling anyway.

This year she said my niece Chelsea had the flu. My kids would always want to go over to Lori’s house, and I could understand why. My sister and I found a way to speak in code about these things.


After I took the last set of verbal abuse from him, I felt a fire form in my belly. Like I had had enough, and I was going to make the change my kids needed me to make. After all, mothers put their children first and I did not want to keep overlooking their cry for help.

This year I would go to Lori’s house. I would drive with my kids and we would finally have the family dinner we so desperately wanted. I packed all 3 of our bags, Chopper’s belongings, and I waited for them to get home. Luckily for us their father was at the bar, so it was the perfect time to leave. Today Cam had picked Brooke up from school and they would be taking the bus home together. They came through the door and saw the bags waiting in the front hall.

“Mom, what’s happening?” Cam asked worriedly.

“No time to explain, I want to make sure we leave before he gets back. Please grab your things and Brooke’s. I will explain in the car.”

I had two bags slung over my shoulder and I held Chopper’s leash in my left hand. I packed as much as I could, the essentials anyway. I did not bother to lock the door. He would not care, or he would be too drunk to realize.

“Buckle up,” I told the kids.

“Mom, please tell me what is going on. Why are we leaving and where are we going?” Cam asked again.

“We are going to stay with your Aunt Lori. We are going to spend Thanksgiving there and until I save enough money for our own place, we will be living there. Your dad will not be joining us.”

There was silence, but through the rearview mirror, I could see my kids looking at each other anxiously, wondering what we were getting ourselves into.

There was silence for most of the drive. I turned on the radio and we just drove along to the sound of The Beatles roaring through the speakers. Cam held Brooke’s hand in his. Chopper was sleeping soundly in the middle seat.

I gripped the steering wheel tightly and drove into the unknown. But this, this was the first step I needed to take moving forward and it felt so damn good.  

Poison Disguised As Family: Part III

Part III: Aunt Lori

My sister always had a horrendous track record with men. Not saying I am perfect, but my sister just knows how to pick them.

When we were younger, she would pick out the worst of the worst. The men who walked around like the whole world needed to bow before them and that women should be submissive. I always found this strange because we both grew up in a household where we were subjected to abuse. Our mother wanted better for us. But it’s crazy how history can repeat itself for several generations unless someone puts a stop to it. I am much stronger than my sister because I do not accept anything less than I deserve. My husband knows not to cross me. I do not play around. I refuse to make the same mistakes my mother did. But it is hard ya know when kids are involved? You feel stuck. Like you must stay. My sister never left the situation she was in and let it fester. The day that man yelled at my kids, like he had the right, was the same day I said I would never subject my children to that level of toxicity.

I told my sister directly that I would not go visit her unless her husband was not home. That man starts fights with everyone. I could walk through the door and he will have something to say. I am not the type to surround myself with negativity. My whole childhood was surrounded by it. The day my father left, there was a shift in the house. My oldest brother became the man of the house. My mother did the best she could considering the circumstances she was in. But I was thankful for the courage she was able to muster up to kick him out of the house. We made it out. Although the physical and emotional trauma we endured will always be there with us, weighing us down, we have no other choice but to keep moving forward. Our pasts would try to hold us back, always lingering in the darkness, waiting to make another appearance. I can say I have made progress. I wish I could say the same about my sister, Carolina.

Like the saying goes, the red flags are always there. How can you tell that someone will mistreat you and turn into the biggest piece of crap when you first meet them? He gave her attention and he made her feel loved, or so my sister says. I remember when they first met. Something was off, but I could not place what it was. It was the way he carried himself like the world owed him something. He was hard to please, but my sister fell for that type. I do not understand the attraction. The day I found out she was pregnant with my nephew; I knew she would never be able to leave now even if she wanted to. Do not get me wrong, I love my niece and nephew, but she really messed up there. She gave him another reason to have control over her.

I allow Cam and Brooke to come over whenever they want. Cam has me on speed dial and he calls me up whenever he needs a break from his life. I’ll drive the 4 hours to go pick them up on weekends. I did not want to live close enough to my sister and that man. I needed to be a good distance away. He was drunk all the time so he would not be able to drive anyway, or at least I would hope not. Carolina, was always tied to that house.

Thanksgiving was approaching. This was the toughest time of year for my family. Our mother has been gone about 5 years and the pain of her not being present still eats away at us. Most of my family members, including our 3 brothers have moved away. They did their best protecting Carolina from herself, but they got tired of that too. They had their own families to care for now and once Mom passed, they could not stay in town. Our city carried too much baggage and they wanted to start over. I stood behind because I knew without me, Carolina would go downhill fast.


I was in my living room, just wrapping up dinner with my family, when Carolina called.

“Hey Lor, how are things?” She asked.

I knew where the convo was headed before she even had to ask. My sister knew the deal. She was always welcome with her family over at my house for the holiday, but she refused to leave that house. She refused to leave him behind.

“I wanted to see what your plans for Thanksgiving were.” She continued.

“Car, I’m sorry to give you the news, but Chelsea has the flu, so we are staying over here. But you can come with the kids, you are always welcome. You know that.”

Silence. A sigh. A long pause.

“I hope she feels better.” My sister said.

I always knew when my sister was about to cry. And she always knew when I was lying. She did not dispute the matter.

“Well, I am making all this food, so if you change your mind, just let me know.”

“I will,” I responded. “I love you and give the kids hugs and kisses for me.”

I hung up.

I knew Cam would not leave his mom or sister behind. He was the best big brother. Even at 15, he took the responsibility of caring for them. I admired him for this. He had to grow up fast. Poor kid, barely had a childhood.

I know for certain, wherever our mother is right now, she is terribly disappointed in my sister for making the same mistake she did and for letting it go on this long.

Poison Disguised As Family: Part II

Part II: Cameron

I was rarely home anymore. I spent most of time at Jon’s house.

“Hey bro, are you coming over to my house for Thanksgiving?” Jon asked excitedly.

“Not sure yet, I know my mom is going to make lots of food. Not like anyone would come. No one comes over our house anymore. Shit is sad.” I said.

“You’re always welcome in my house, Cam.” Jon responded.

“Have to make sure my mom is okay. I also can’t leave my sister behind.”

“Bring little Brooke too, she’s also welcome. So is your mom. You’re my family.” Jon said as he jokingly punched me in my arm.


Jonathan lived a few blocks away from me, that’s why I was always over his house. I dreaded the walks back home. My thoughts would flood my brain, my body would tense up as I would walk up the steps through the front door. My mom would always be in the kitchen cooking, my sister on the living room carpet usually with her dolls or playing with our dog Chopper. That was her best friend when I was not home. I just turned 15 last year, so my mom lets me walk to and from Jon’s house. We also live in a good neighborhood, so she trusts that I will be okay. I want to bring my sister with me most of the time, but she must stay with my mom. She is only 5, so my mom worries.

Jon’s mom would always have a plate set for me when we would walk home from school. I would rush home, drop off my bag, change my clothes, grab my basketball, check on my sister and mom, and leave again.

“Where are you going?” My mom would say worriedly.

“Same place I always go, Ma.”

“Will you be eating over there?” She would ask.

“Is that even a question?” I responded.


I would put off coming home for as long as I could. My dad would often pick fights with me as soon as I would walk through the door. He would be on beer who knows what number and he would be fumbling through the house.

“Where have you been, you little shit?”

I would often try to walk past him, heading up the stairs to my room.

“Don’t you hear me talking to you? I asked you a question.”

“My friend’s house.”

“Well, your mother made dinner. So go show her some respect and eat. She didn’t slave away all day for you to go eat at your dumb-ass friend’s house.”

“Not hungry.” I muttered.

That is when it would go bad. He would fumble towards me, grab me by my hair, and throw me towards the kitchen. My mom would be standing in the doorway, tears swelling up in her eyes, but she would remain silent. She would never stand up to my dad even when he did this to her kids. She was frightened.

My sister would cry. She would run in between my dad and me and put her hands up and yell, “STOP.” My sister should not have had to defend me, her older brother, when our own mother should have. My dad was smart. He would never blatantly hit us, he would push or shove, slap us. But he never left a mark. This was the trick. My dad would never hit my sister, only me. He would push my mom around too. Often put his hands in the air, resembling a fist and threaten to hit her. She would cover her face.

I would take my sister out of that house as often as I could. I would ride bikes with Jon and his little sister and Brooke would come along too. I always asked my mom if she wanted to come over and hang with Jon’s parents, who were the coolest people I knew, but she always shook her head no. It was like she knew if she left the house and dinner was not ready by the time Dad got home from the bar, she would hear his wrath. I felt bad that I could not do anything.

I did my best to take care of my mom. I would talk to her here and there. Hang in the kitchen with her. Tell her about my days at school and how I was two points away from having a GPA that would get me honors. I had made the J.V. basketball team at school too.

My mom would drive us to school every morning and drop Brooke off at Kindergarten. Our schools were on the same campus, but two different buildings. Dad never came to our schools. I don’t even think he knew what they looked like. My mom would come to parent-teacher conferences, her body drained, and her mind foggy with other thoughts.

My teacher would talk to her and she would sit there and nod with a blank face. I’m not sure she even knew what was being said. I always had good reports from my teachers. But the feedback was always the same.

“Cameron has good grades, but I wish he would participate a little more in class or talk more with other students. He tends to gravitate towards his friend Jonathan.”

“Yeah well, they are best friends.” That would be the only response my mom would make the whole conference.

We would leave and go back home fearing the next occurrence.


Thanksgiving was a week away. My mom would cry the most during this time. She knew no one would come and she would be left with all this food. I came home from school and she was sitting at the dining room table. Brooke was by her side. My mom held her head in her hands. Brooke was consoling her.

“Ma, what’s a matter?” I asked.

“Aunt Lori cannot come over for Thanksgiving. Your cousin Chelsea has the flu.” She said as her voice cracked.

As young as my sister was, Brooke even knew that was an excuse to not hurt mom’s feelings.

“You and Brooke can come with me to Jon’s house, Ma. It will be okay.” I tried to reassure her.

Ever since our grandma died, my mom has been out of it. Not like her life was easy anyway. But at least grandma helped her stay sane. Our grandpa left years ago. My grandma stood married, never giving him a divorce, but she kicked him out of the house after his last drunken bender.

Funny how history repeats itself, I thought to myself.

Poison Disguised As Family: Part I

Part I: Brooke

I was 5 years old when I first heard Mommy and Daddy fight.

I was in the living room playing with my barbie dolls when I heard something shatter in the kitchen. Daddy was angry again as I sat there and waited for Mommy to make me my macaroni and cheese. He was yelling incessantly, and Mommy seemed sad. I ran over.

“Daddy, don’t yell at Mommy!” I yelled at the top of my lungs.

“Get out of here!” Daddy responded, as his face turned red like a tomato.

“Do not speak to her that way,” mommy croaked.

“I’ll do damn well as I please.”

I knew daddy got angry a lot and it would scare me. But I would cover my ears and try to shut him out by remembering all those times he let me stand on his feet as we moved across the dance floor at family parties. Mommy always seemed sad while she cooked which she did every day because daddy didn’t know how. Cameron, my big brother was barely home because he was always with his friends playing baseball. He had lots of friends who would never come over to the house because they always heard daddy yelling. I would ask Cameron to take me with him, but Mommy always kept me home. He would stay out past dinner and when Mommy would ask where he was, he would always say he stood late at Jonathan’s house.

“Did you eat?” Mommy would ask.

“Yeah, his family is normal, remember? I wouldn’t know what that’s like.”

She would return to what she was doing in the kitchen. She always turned her back when she was ready to cry. I wanted so badly to fix it. I wanted to show mommy she was loved. Cameron just seemed angry at the world all the time, but I didn’t blame him. We feared daddy’s anger, but it seemed like we were both inheriting the anger trait without us even knowing it. We were angry we could not fix things for mommy. Whenever daddy got angry, he would break things. He would break tables, lamps, computers, TVs, and my toys when they were laying around.

“Why don’t you ever pick up your flipping toys!” He would yell across the room to me.

“Daddy, I’m sorry.”

“If you keep leaving your damn barbie dolls lying around, I will throw them in the garbage.”

“No Daddy, please, no!”


Mommy got tired of cleaning when he would break things. She would leave the shattered glass on the floor, but then no one would clean it. Our dog, Chopper, would run to his den, with his tail hidden away between his hind legs when daddy would yell too. We were all scared of him. I don’t remember the last time we had family over. Everyone would make some excuse to Mommy on the phone about why they could not attend Thanksgiving Dinner or spend Christmas day in our home.

“I’m sorry Carolina, we can’t make it. Chelsea has the flu and we do not want the babysitter to get sick. We are staying home.”

Mommy’s face changed from happy to sad. She had a little sense of hope in her eyes when she would call and as soon as the person on the other line would tell her they could not attend, she would respond with an ‘okay,’ and hang up.

“Mommy, why are you so sad?”

“Nothing honey, Aunt Lori cannot make it to Thanksgiving Dinner.”

Thanksgiving was usually mommy’s favorite holiday because she would cook lots of yummy things.

Daddy ruined it for her.

“Now I have all this food that I made, and no one is coming,” Mommy said in a low tone.

Silence At The Dinner Table

The imperious sound of forks clinking against the china plates is what she hated most as a child.

They would have family dinners and not speak to one another. Her siblings spent most of their time at their friends’ houses, and her parents always fought. It was rare eye contact was made and silence would loom over the table. Everyone would part ways and go to their own rooms when the silence would become too overbearing. Her mother was unhappy often so that meant being locked away in her room when she was not cooking or cleaning. Their father was mad at the world and took his personal failures out on the family.

Isabelle, Izzy for short, dreamed for a normal environment. Her life had been like looking through a window. She would observe others and their family dynamic wondering what she did wrong that she could not have that. She fenced herself in for all these years. She had built her walls so high due to all the emotional abuse she had to endure. She wanted to be free, but she was frightened. For so long, she did not know what it meant to live.

Her brother turned to drugs when he realized their home life was complete shit. Izzy thought he would be the most successful. Justin had it all together. Athlete, girlfriend after girlfriend, straight A’s, he had the world at his fingertips. The switch flipped. Something in him changed. He did not have the motivation or the courage anymore, letting life get the best of him. Things took a turn when she thought her brother had taken it too far. She knew something was up with him when he would come home, barely able to stand up straight, eyes bloodshot red and hardly open, he had no clue where he was or how he got home.

Justin would fumble towards his room, but he would find himself in the bathroom passing out on the floor. Their mother was sealed away from the rest of the world. She never checked on them or their younger sister, Morgan. Izzy would talk to Justin often and explain how if he got a scholarship for college, he could leave this place for good and chase his dreams. Justin wanted so badly for their mother to give a shit. He wanted to feel a connection with her, and he never did. Their mom was lost, a mere body with no soul.

Justin would hang out with the wrong crowd. It started with weed and Izzy always knew when he walked through the front door because she thought a skunk had found its way into the backyard again. The drugs offered Justin feelings he could not get at home. Izzy wanted so badly to help him, but she was struggling too. Their mother refused to see that the kids were a mess. The toxicity in the house was a stench that would never go away.

Izzy was at school in her English class, which kept her the sanest. Her phone buzzed. She slipped her hand into her jean pocket, taking her phone out carefully as her teacher would not see. She held her phone under her desk reading the name that popped up on her screen: Nathan. He was Justin’s best friend. The message read, “You need to get over here now.” She immediately gathered her belongings and slipped out the back door. She drove her mom’s old Honda the 20 minutes to Nathan’s house. He lived on a crowded suburban block. Families there always seemed to have it together, children playing out in the yards and riding their bicycles. Must be nice to have a normal family, Izzy would think to herself. She worried about her older brother and she had to care for her younger sister. She became the mom when she so badly wanted to live her life too, but she had no other choice.


Nathan was the one who introduced her brother to weed. He was a good kid, but he did not come from a stable home life either. He had started a a huge fight in the courtyard of their high school one day with Justin. Anger was common among the two of them. Izzy did not remember the story well, just from bits and pieces she heard from Justin. Her brother had been in the parking lot walking to his car, and in the process, he ran into Nathan and his band of misfits who were known for causing trouble. They hung out in the back lot by the dumpsters getting high and causing chaos for anyone who passed by.

“Hey man, you know you’re not supposed to walk through here.” Nathan yelled.

Justin kept walking to his car with his head down and his hands in his pockets. Nathan approached him and said it again grabbing his arm this time. Justin broke out of his grip and said, “Listen, don’t touch me.”

“You got the wrong dude.” Nathan responded with a smirk.

That was it, downhill from there. They fought and somehow from that fight they ended up becoming the best of buddies. Weird what brings two people together, Izzy thought, but it worked.


When Izzy got to Nathan’s house, the stench was overwhelming. The mix of weed and Tostito pizza rolls was one she knew all too well. Nathan lived in the basement. Not sure how because the chill was unbearable, she always wore a hoodie when she knew she was going there. It was always 15 degrees colder down there than the rest of the house. He slept on a beat-up couch with a lousy pillow and flimsy blanket. His TV was situated on the floor with a few DVD’s. There was one large window which sunlight seeped through. Pills were sprawled across the coffee table. Nathan was in the back-corner hovering off Justin. Izzy ran over.

“I, I, I don’t know what happen. He was fine, then started acting strange, and then fainted.” Nate said.

The bags under Justin’s eyes were dark and consuming his face. His hair was disheveled, and his body felt cold. Izzy lowered her face to his checking to see if he was breathing. He was, but the breaths were low and sporadic.

“I’m so sorry Izz, I didn’t know what was going on until I saw the pill bottles.” Nathan said as anxiety overcame him.

“I don’t want to hear it, Nate. You don’t think I know what you guys are doing?” Izzy responded as the fear made her voice crack.

They both managed to pick up Justin struggling to bring him to the bathroom.

“Nate turn the shower on,” Izzy croaked.  As the ice-cold water dripped from the shower head, Justin was sitting upright against the wall, as Izzy proceeded to stick her finger down his throat. It took 2 times, but he managed to vomit. Justin slowly came to consciousness after coughing uncontrollably, as his pale face regained its color.  

“Damn it, Justin, you could have died.” Izzy muttered as her voice raised another octave.

Nathan brought Justin some crackers to settle his stomach.


Once Justin started to come back to reality, Izzy drove the Nissan home. She parked the car in the driveway lopsidedly, left the key in the ignition, and just sat there in silence with her brother. Their mom was home locked away in her room again because the light was dim but seen through the curtain. Luckily their dad’s truck was not there.

“I’ve never done that before. I didn’t know my limit.” Justin managed to say breaking the silence.

“You scared the hell out of me.” Izzy responded as the tears began to form in her hazel eyes.

Another long pause of silence.  

“You’re the only one I have besides Morgan. I can’t afford to lose you too. Mom is completely lost, and I need my brother to help me through all of this.”

“I know Izz, I’m sorry. I’m just trying to work through my own shit. I know I lost myself for a while and this has been taking a toll on you.” Justin said as he looked towards the floor, fidgeting with his hands.

Izzy stared out the window of the Nissan focusing on the dim light coming from their mother’s bedroom. The light that somehow foreshadowed her mother’s cry for help.

“We have each other and we will figure all this crap out. I want to get mom and us out of here and work towards a better life. Just give me a chance to make the changes and do just that.”

Izzy looked at her brother. Justin looked drained, like this life had taken all the color from his face.

Okay,” Izzy mumbled.

Ongoing Battle With Loss

You were rotting away in the hospital, and what were we doing?

Celebrating Christmas Eve.

What type of people were we?

He stood with you as the ventilators breathed for you. He was bone tired. You could see it in his face. The lack of food and sleep had gotten to him. He refused to leave the hospital as much as we begged him to. He did not want to leave your side. He wanted to be there when you finally took your last gasp. You did not look like you.

I remember my mom asking me if I wanted to go into the hospital room to see you. I do not like hospitals. It’s the same aura of sadness in each one. The same overwhelming smell of Clorox. I had seen the insides of too many during my childhood, as I had to sit there helpless watching certain family members wither away. You were one of my favorite people on this planet and I did not want to see you in that state. My mom took my hand and led me toward the room. Before we entered, she said, “This may be the last time you see her, so say your goodbyes.”

How many times did I need to go through this? How many people did I need to lose?

I did not even know what to say at that point because I felt like I was talking to a stranger. That was not you.


How could a family even celebrate a holiday when someone was in the hospital fighting for their life?

I was angry. Everyone went on about their evening like nothing was happening. It was like two different worlds. Everyone gathered around the tree to exchange gifts. Every fiber in my body wanted to scream. I did not want to be there. It was like we were pretending. Pretending to be this happy family when we were all in fact broken.

The tree was situated in the living room and surrounded by the sofas you all sat on. The dining room table was full of food. I thought to myself how can anyone even eat right now? People were laughing. Telling jokes.

Are you all mad?

I would have traded all those gifts under the tree for your recovery. But that isn’t how it works right? People are taken from us when God thinks it’s their time and we must accept it? For someone who grew up in a Catholic family and attended Catholic school, I always felt like I could not decide for myself what I wanted to believe in. It was kind of forced upon me. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in God. But I’ve been angry. I’ve wanted to yell and ask why he had to take my loved ones from me. One of the people who showered me in love since the day I was born.


People went in for second and third plates of food. Kids ran around the house playing hide and seek. The adults were on glass number 5 of wine. Christmas music played in the background. I felt like my body was there, but my mind was not. I was floating around this house. I wanted to yell and break something.

How could you celebrate and drink and laugh? Was I the only one who loved her?

My head was spinning; my mind cloudy. My disappointment was boiling to the surface. My legs managed to carry me to and from, but I did not feel like myself. I felt like my soul was back in that hospital room with you.

The host of the party gathered everyone around the table, asked everyone to raise a glass, and made a toast. I thought, this is insanity.

Then the phone rang.

I stood there by the foot of the mahogany table and watched the expression on her face shift from a smile to something serious.

She did not even have to say anything. I knew it.

You had passed away.

I was mad at the world. Mad at all of you. You all stood here pretending to care. I had spent most of my childhood days with her. Where were you guys then? You gathered around at this god forsaken party to celebrate a holiday without her here. If you loved her, you would not have indulged yourself in alcohol and plates of food.

Why didn’t you spend time with her when she was still herself? Why didn’t you call or come visit? Life is hard enough already, don’t make it harder by being phony. I was angry. I felt like no one cared. Not one single person.

That’s how it works right? People do not care about you when you are alive and well but will gather around your casket at the funeral and speak about how loved you were.

Bullshit.

Where was the time to grieve? Where were the tears? The sadness?

This was supposed to be family?

I went outside. I needed air and to rid myself of all of you.