The other daughter

I sat on the cold wooden bench, in the first row of the humble church, trying to stuff the salted water back into its place. I wanted to be nonchalant about this, about them.

As family and friends spoke of the great accomplishments, sincerity and love that Lily, my grandmother, held I lost the will to compose myself. The tears that were brimming finally fell. The loss of a loved one is usually the most life altering experience a person can go through. What I felt, I imagined, was different from what everyone else was feeling. I was not crying for the woman who, by blood was related to me. I was crying for me and my loss. I didn't get the memories of laugher and love; I wasn't able to feel the loneliness and heartbreak of losing a grandmother. My tears forcefully spewed an avalanche of bitterness and self-pity. I felt a hand lightly pat my shoulder in condolence. I didn't need to turn in order to know whose limb made contact with my body. It was my estranged father; Ezra. Ezra's dark coffee orbs held pools of unshed tears as he uttered, "are you alright?" I nodded. He gave my shoulder a squeeze and turned his attention back towards the stage.

I peered around the sanctuary not wanting to continue my absurd display of emotions. It was a vast church; the pews were filled with black clothed mourners and well-wishers. I recognized the battered faces of Ezra's siblings, my cousins, my youngest sister; Mila and eldest brother Adam. My eyes continued to roam and capture the emotion that filled the church. The bare cream walls and brightly stained glass created a rainbow of colors, which illuminated the faces of relatives and strangers. My eyes stopped their wandering when they landed on the elderly woman sitting to my left. Looking at her brought a bitter taste to my mouth. Earlier, before the ceremony had started, Ezra had introduced me to her as his, "other daughter." She had smiled, shook my hand and promptly cast her eyes away from me. My sister; Lea and I had proceeded to sit down when we were suddenly stopped by the elderly woman. She focused her attention on Lea and said, "Lea! Sit here next to your father." Without a word she gently pulled Lea away from my side and made a space in-between Ezra and herself. I had stood there a little dumbfounded at first and then expectant. I soon realized she was giving me my not-so-subtle hint. Honestly, I couldn't blame her. Could I? When you're the 'other daughter' that's just how things are. The soft shuffles of ruffling clothes and scattering feet propelled my head out from the clouds and into that of the ending ceremony. It was time to send Lily off.

We were greeted by a soft, sunburst sky. It oversaw the ebony clouds of tear stricken people descending upon the parking lot. My sisters and I made our way towards Ezra's sleek, raven Mercedes. I ended up in the plush, sun heated front seat. The drive to the cemetery was not as tedious as I had imagined. The string of mourners followed the hearse and tried to stay together. This was an interesting site to be seen. The soft purr of the car, coupled with the pulsating sun, made enticing music that lulled my emotions into a stupor. Eventually, Ezra broke its spell. "I am sorry," he said. "I haven't been the greatest father; I haven't been there for you as much as I should have and I am sorry." I could feel my sister's eyes glued to my back. I could especially feel the intensity of Lea's eyes pleading with me to accept his apology and forgive him. I could sense that if I didn't respond to Ezra's comment the tension would be too much for them to bear. However, at that very moment, I had nothing to say. Ezra was trying to ease his guilt and I wasn't going to support it. We drove for a while in a suffocating silence. The amber light ahead warned drivers to stop while also advising me to proceed with caution. Suddenly, he blurted, "With the death of your grandmother, my prospective has changed." His baritone voice had little effect on me. With every word Ezra spoke, unpleasant but all too familiar flashbacks flooded my head. Perhaps Ezra knew I would no longer concur to his exhausted pleas and self-satisfying apologies.

However, my sisters devoured the bait.

"Forgive me?" He pleaded. Apparently, his speech needed an answer.

"Sure," this was all I could muster.

"I love you," he spoke.

I nodded my head, acknowledging his statement.

The rest of the day was an interesting and exhausting blur of meaningless introductions to people I would never see again. If by some chance I did re-encounter them, I would just be reintroduced as 'the other daughter'. Thus repeating the cycle of how unimportant my existence is to this side of the family.

As the day ended, I enjoyed the vision of the sleepy sun descending into slumber and the rising of the energetic moon. My sister asked me to drive her home. I could sense an impending conversation in light of recent events. We drove in silence, until I parked the car in the asphalt driveway awaiting her words.

"You said you forgive him. Does this mean things will change?" Lea eagerly awaited my answer.

I couldn't help the small smile that lifted the corners of my mouth. She was 18 and a dreamer, as I was at her age. I turned to my sister and remarked, "What you have to understand is that Ezra's apologies are nothing new to me. I have been hearing them for the past 22 years of my life."

"Things could change if you really wanted them too. You have to be the bigger person is all."

"Sometimes being the bigger person just means walking away. You won't ever know how it feels to know that your father doesn't love you."

"Daddy said he loved you!" She proclaimed.

She was an idealist to the end. I knew, however, that no matter how many words I spoke, or examples I produced she would never understand. I knew that there was no point in arguing with her and I suppose she sensed my reluctance to further explain my feelings. We agreed to disagree. We talked a bit more about mundane factors going on within our lives and then Lea headed inside the house.

As I drove home, I knew that the events of this day and that man's selfish desire to squash his self-reproach, was going to be the downfall of Lea and myself. That's when it hit me I was partially to blame. Lily was dead. I didn't give a damn, yet I went to her funeral. Why? This 'family' knew nothing about me, judged me and had forgotten me. I wasn't mourning her and I didn't care to console those who did. From the moment I had gotten the call from a sorrowful Ezra stating that his mother had died, I had felt nothing. I had no memories of her to cry over. I had felt bad for a son losing a mother, but that's all I could feel. I tried to cry for her loss of life, but how many people cry tears for a stranger? I went to her funeral because I wanted to see what she had meant to others. To see what she was supposed to mean to me. If I hadn't of gone nothing would have changed. Those people; my 'family' still would have looked at me the same. Instead, I had placed myself in a position where I had ignored my intuition. From the moment I had agreed to go to the funeral, to my final steps within the church I had helped this situation ignite into a spark. One of which I knew I couldn't defuse and I didn't want to defuse. I could feel it in my bones, the preliminaries were over. I just hoped I was ready for the main event.

3

Amber Chambers