Author's Note: These events are based off of a true story.
"Wha-? Why?" I managed to stutter out. My jaw dropped. A twinkle of a tear showed in my eye. Why? Why did they have to make him go? He had already been through enough in Iraq. Why had they found it necessary for him to go to Afghanistan? "I'm sorry," Dad managed to say, "I couldn't tell you over the phone, in the car, nor on Christmas Day." I saw that he had a hard time talking as well. I looked over to Tammy to see how she took my reaction. I saw tears trickle from her eyes, all the way to her chin. "I know it stinks, for him to leave again," she said. I just sat on the lawn chair, utterly speechless. I couldn't look at their faces; I always hated watching people tear up or cry. I looked down to the cement floor of the patio. I acted like a cry baby two years ago when Dad told me he was going to Iraq. It was two years ago. I didn't say anything at all the second time. It was too shocking for me. I hated it. I hated that he had to go back to an awful place.
Then I realized that it was for his country, the United States of America. I realized that it was even worse for Dad. He was the one who had to go to the desert. He was the one who was going to be put in danger. He was the one who would have nobody except his roommates. As for me, I would still get to see my friends. I would still get to see my family. I would still get to do things. The thought made me feel selfish. "He will be safe," Tammy said. "Yeah, there hasn't been a shooting at the base for a long time," Dad added. "That makes me feel better," I replied sarcastically, "There was still a shooting at the base 'a long time' ago. You know how the news has been. It's just been getting worse and worse over there." "I can't help what the Afghan people do in their country," Dad said, "I can't control who gets deployed and who doesn't." "I'm sorry," I replied, "I just can't believe that you have to go to the desert again."
We waited there for a little bit, in silence. After our faces weren't blotchy and had no signs of tears, we silently migrated back to the living room. We sat down on the couches as if nothing happened, but that conversation scared me. "I'm going to Afghanistan" rang through my head over and over, until I could bear no more. I got up and went down the hall. I went straight to the bathroom. I shut the door quietly, looked in the mirror, and just stared. I stared at what Dad made me. I stared at what his sentence had done to me. Then I looked away. I didn't want to stare at such a failure. A failure who did nothing but lament about what would have become of myself and not of Dad.
I leaned on the wall and slowly sank to the floor. I stared at the adjacent wall. I stared at the beautiful painting of the beach. Oh, what I would have done to be able to just run away to such a beautiful, secluded beach. My reverie was interrupted when Tammy knocked on the door. "Are you okay?" she asked. "Yeah, I'm fine," I replied hesitantly. "Okay, I was just making sure." I got up and brushed myself off. I looked back in the mirror and saw that my face was blotchy, yet again. I washed my face in hopes of getting the red out of my face. It worked well enough for me to be able to return to the living room. I sat on the couch and watched some "Family Feud" with everyone else.
It seemed everyone knew what I was doing in the bathroom; they were a little "too" quiet for my taste. I watched the show, trying to answer the questions as reasonably as possible. "What are we having for dinner?" Gramps asked, finally breaking the silence. "Well I forgot to set out the roast, so I was thinking about chicken parmesan," Tammy replied. "Okay," Gramps replied with a pleasing smile.
"Family Feud" ended at noon. We had all decided to have some pizza for lunch and ordered our food from Pizza Hut. We munched on a few slices and talked about what we were doing that night. "Well, I was thinking about making a few homemade ornaments to put on the Christmas tree. We could do that for a while. Then while everything dries out, we could all help make a gingerbread house." Tammy said. "You can't forget about the cookies for Ole' Santa Clause," Dad said with a wink. We all shared laughs. It was 1:00 p.m. when we finished our discussion. We watched some more television for a while. At 3:00 we decided to get started on the ornaments. Tammy and I got everything to do the ornaments from upstairs. She explained the variety of things we could do. I decided to make a frame from popsicle sticks and some sort of fabric. I took a stamp of a mistletoe and painted the plant part red and the leaf part green. Then I stamped it on the fabric. It turned out beautifully. Then, with a small, gold sharpie, I carefully wrote "Christmas 2011" in the corner.
After that, I carefully flipped the ornament and wrote down my name. I set it to the side to see how everyone else was doing. I saw that Gramps had hot-glued random decorations on a plain red ornament. Grandma had made a frame with random decorations glued on; she ended up naming it "Pop Tart" which is funny because it looks similar to a Pop Tart. Uncle Steven decorated an ornament out of a frame and fabric, like I did. He colored the fabric red and waited for it to dry. He saw that I was looking at it. "After it dries, I'm going to write 2011 on it and add some more decorations," he said. "I bet that it'll turn out beautifully," I replied with a bright smile. I looked at Dad to see that he had decorated a red ornament. He had drawn a wrap around it in silver, like a present. I saw the splendid bow on the other side. I was enthralled by the magnificent piece. He wrote '11 in the middle piece of the bow. It was the best ornament I had ever seen. I looked over at Tammy to see she had made a simple frame with a Santa hat. She made even the simplest things look the best.
We all had finished at 4:00. We then decided to go ahead and glue the gingerbread house with the scrumptious icing. Then we decided to get decorative and work on the house even more. We threw sugar balls on the roof in a symmetrical appearance. Then we doodled doors, windows, and snow on the house; we spared no icing. By the time we had stuffed the house with as much candy as we could, it was 5:30. By that time, I had forgotten all about Dad's dreadful news. Tammy exchanged the house in the refrigerator for the thawed chicken. She got the chicken parmesan ready with the ingredients and the rest of us left her with her work. We sat in the living room, and I turned on the television. News about Afghanistan was on. I immediately flipped the channel to "America's Funniest Home Videos", not wanting to hear anything. After the show was over, dinner was ready, and we all sat in the dining room to eat. Dinner was pretty silent since the food was so good. When I finished, it was 6:45. I offered to clean the kitchen. I cleaned everything and did the dishes. It was 7:15 and everyone was lounging in the living room. I plopped on the only available seat on the couch. We watched "Christmas Vacation" for a little bit.
At 9:00 we all had decided to get going with the cookies. We made the dough and preheated the oven. We got out the white icing and put in food coloring for decorations. We sat the dough in the oven when it was heated. We all waited in the living room. The television was off and Grandma said, "Why don't we say what we're all thankful for?" "Well, isn't that for Thanksgiving?" Gramps replied. "It doesn't have to be. We can say what we're all thankful for, can't we?" Grandma stated. "That's a wonderful idea," Tammy said. Dad was first. "I'm thankful for for family. I'm thankful for having a bright son," Dad looked at me. I smiled. "I'm glad that you didn't leave me when I did that to you," Dad said. He turned to Tammy, "I'm so sorry what I did to you." I saw him swell up and tears streaked his face. I remembered the horrible fight that they had last summer. We had visited Gramps and the others in Alabama. Tammy found something and asked Dad to go to the guest room and they fought for hours. I don't know what he did, and I never want to. If I ever thought about it, I shoved it away from my head. I wanted my memories with my dad to be pure. "It's okay," Tammy replied, "I'm glad I stayed too. I could never live with myself if I had left," They shared tears, and I held mine back. Tammy said that she was thankful for her family and friends. It seemed like everyone said the same things.
Then, without even knowing, it was my turn. I didn't know what to say. Finally, I choked out, "I am thankful for everything; the good and the bad. The good makes me happy, and the bad makes me stronger. My imperfections make me unique. My features make me who I am." I believed that everyone knew what I meant. Nobody argued the slightest bit. They appreciated what I had said. The bell had rung for the cookies. Tammy got up and took them out of the oven. She had made sure they were done, and then she had let them cool off. After a while, we all returned to the kitchen to decorate the plethora of cookies. We were finished by 10:30. We were all pooped. We ate a few ourselves, and then we migrated to the living room. "Trent, I think it's time for you to go to bed," Dad said, "Don't you want Santa to come?" "Well of course I do!" I exclaimed, "Why would I not?" I ran upstairs and bathed. I brushed my teeth and changed into my pajamas. Everyone wished me goodnight. Dad was the very last of them. By 11:15, he had turned my light off and wished me goodnight. I thanked him and turned the sleep timer on the television on for 45 minutes. It took me forty minutes to finally fall asleep, considering the circumstances. But when I did fall asleep, I fell hard . . .