“As soon as I’m old enough, I’ll leave this town. I’ll leave it so fast, people wouldn’t even know I’m already left.”
I remembered you told me so when you were 14. I remembered you saying that while cleaning your dad’s truck. He was so strong, so healthy back then. He was the typical ranch dad that you both loved and hated. He was tought but he loved you. You knew that. But him loving you wasn’t enough to keep you from wanting to leave. Because living with him was a pain. Trust me, I knew! I was your neighbor anyway.
I remembered you were so excited for you 18th birthday. It was in June right? School just ended. You had your high school diploma in your hand. You waved it at me while riding on the back of you buddy’s truck. You told me you were leaving this town next week. You were going to a big city. I forgot which one now, but I guessed it didn’t matter anymore. You never got to go.
That day when that tree branch dropped on your dad and hit his head, it killed both your dreams and lives. A man who used to be tough, strong was then paralyzed from the waist down. What were you going to do? Leave him alone in this goddamn town while you left to go somewhere for yourself? You couldn’t do that.
He loved you. You were everything he had. And you knew you were everything he had. All the money you saved up to get away was then used to pay for his hospital bills in the city. Thanks to that, he was only paralyzed from the waist down. Our local “hospital” said he wouldn’t make it. But you were there and made sure he would make it. You always loved him more than you gave yourself credit for.
You never got a chance to go to college in the big city like you wanted. You never lived the life you deserved and I wondered how that felt. Every time I visited home, seeing you smoking your good old Camel alone next to the fence, my heart always ached a little. Knowing you could have so much more but life was hard on you.
You were good at what you do. You made good money. Your dad taught you well. Everyone in town was jealous. But they didn’t know the dream you left behind. What’s money for if you never can leave this town? Not until you still have your dad anyway.
But when you dad passed, will you still able to go? Are you still brave enough to leave everything behind and leave? When you were 18 and had nothing to your name, things weren’t so scary wasn’t it?
My oh my, I will never forget you that day on your 18th birthday. Young, brave with your blond hair shinning under the sunset waving your diploma at me, telling me you were leaving for forever. That was the happiest I have ever seen you.