Left Behind

Some childhood memories just won’t go away. This is one I can’t forget:

My brother had his first car at 15, and when he was old enough to drive, he had his second, a Chevy Bel Air, blue and white. He drove to school, out on dates, and on Sundays he drove his car to church.

One summer Sunday, I asked my mother if I could ride home from church with my brother, and she said yes. At a traffic light, we pulled up behind her car and saw that she was alone. Dad wasn’t in either car. I knew this was not good.

At home, Mom sent my brother back out to pick up our father, retracing the way he had driven home. A short time later, my brother returned. He said Dad refused to get in the car, and just kept walking.

I went to the bedroom I shared with my brother and stood facing the corner, as close to the wall as I could, with one hand on the wall and one hand on my dresser, trembling.

I waited for the sound of the side door, the sound of my father coming up the hall stairs.

My mother met him at the door and said, “Keith…”

My brother stood in our bedroom doorway and said, “Dad…”

And my father screamed, “You son of a bitch!” I felt his voice pass through my body and I shook harder and harder, my hands and feet moving all by themselves, jumping right off the floor at the slam of his bedroom door. I could hear my father crying. My mother went in, closed the door behind her, and we heard Dad shout, “Always asking for something. You see if he ever gets anything again!”

Mom came back out, closed the door behind her, and we all listened to him sobbing for another five minutes. I didn’t move from the corner.

Mom went back in. “Everybody saw me,” he cried. “Everybody at church saw you left me there.” I heard my mother whispering. The sobbing grew softer.

No one spoke at dinner.

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