“We’re staying for the whole week?” Felicity exclaimed. “But Mom, if we stay for that long, then Hayden and I will only have one day left for break.”
“Felicity,” her mom chided, “we are long overdue for a visit at Grandma’s. We’re staying for a week, and that’s final.” Felicity sucked in another breath, planning one last attempt at persuading her mom.
“Hey, now,” her dad interjected. He peered over his book to meet Felicity’s eyes. “I know that you’re bursting with excitement, but try to keep it contained. Save your enthusiasm for Grandma’s.” He winked and gave a classic dad grin as he tried to diffuse the situation with humor. The only response Felicity gave was an angry huff before she stormed away without saying goodnight to her parents.
“I hate it when he does that.” Felicity tossed and turned in her bed, still fuming. “Why does he feel like he has to make everything better? Can’t he see that I’m upset? It’s so annoying when he smiles and tries to act like everything is okay. I don’t understand why he tries to be so positive all the time. I wish he would give it a rest.” With that last thought Felicity buried her head in her pillow and fell asleep.
“Wake up, Felicity!” Hayden said. “It’s time to start the day! We’re going to Grandma’s today!” Satisfied with his job accomplished, Hayden raced out of the room. Felicity threw off her covers, sat up, and swung her legs around to hang over the edge of the bed. Chills went through her body as her bare feet touched the cool floor.
“Ugh,” she thought, “if this is any indication of how the rest of the day is going to go, I should’ve stayed in bed.” A soft knock interrupted Felicity’s thought. She looked across her room to see her dad standing in the doorway.
“Can I come in?” her dad asked. “I wouldn’t want to interrupt your morning routine. Brushing your teeth, doing your hair, plotting revenge on Mom and me.” His tone contained levity as he tried to test the waters of his teenage daughter’s mood.
“Dad.” Felicity breathed out an exasperated sigh.
“Look,” he started, “I know it’s not every teenager’s dream to spend their whole break at their grandma’s house, but Grandma is over the moon about having us this year.” His tone was softer now. “So could we maybe leave the doom and gloom act here?” Felicity let out a long sigh.
“I can try,” Felicity said. “I just know that it’ll be boring. Grandma’s idea of fun is deep cleaning followed by a thorough polishing job.”
Her dad chuckled. “I know, but I have full faith that you’ll be able to survive it. Now get packing so we can hit the road.”
About three hours later, the Clemmons family arrived at Grandma Lois’s house. And after greetings and hugs had gone around, each person was assigned a task. Grandma Lois always went on a big cleaning spree before Thanksgiving each year, and this year Felicity and her family were there to participate in the tradition. Felicity had been assigned to moving the storage boxes up to the attic.
Felicity climbed up the rickety stairs while balancing cardboard boxes in her arms. After the third trip up the stairs, she plopped down next to her stack of boxes on the attic floor. As she took her break, her eyes scanned the rest of the attic. She could practically see the dust molecules polluting the air.
A small skylight allowed in a sliver of sunlight. Covered pieces of furniture that were crowded against each other lined the room. With cobwebs hanging in each corner, the place looked like it had been abandoned since colonial times.
“I hope no one asks me what I did over break,” Felicity thought as she tugged a cardboard box toward her. Her interest was piqued when she heard something clang against metal in the last box. She pulled out a trophy, a few school notebooks, and a small metal box. She used her sleeve to brush away the grime that covered the recipient’s name on the trophy.
“Scott Clemmons,” she read aloud, “varsity football team, most-improved player. This must be Dad’s old stuff.” Felicity continued rummaging through the box. After several minutes, all she had found were old class notes that were mostly doodles.
Now, she turned her attention toward the metal box. She picked it up and examined it from all sides. It seemed as if it was meant to be locked like some sort of security box. After several more minutes, Felicity discovered that jiggling the lock just right caused it to release.
The hinges let out a small squeak as she lifted the lid. Folded notes, a few photo strips, and a small notebook lay in the box. Once she finished leafing through the notes and pictures, Felicity picked up the notebook. She recognized her dad’s handwriting as she read the title on the front: “Scott Clemmons, junior year, 1979.”
“Wow,” she thought, “I would have never thought that Dad would have kept a journal.” Felicity laughed to herself. She flipped through the first few pages, reading about how her dad described his days. He wrote about pretty mundane things like staying after school for sports practices and running late for school. But her breath caught in her throat when she turned a page to see a dark stain of blood on the page. Her eyes flicked to the date at the top of the page.
It happened again today. I was working on homework in my room when they started shouting. I tried to block it out, but the yelling just kept getting louder. Then I heard something crash on the ground. Next, Mom’s screams of anger turned into screams of fear. I ran out of my room and found them in the kitchen. He was holding her by her hair. Her hands pounded against his arm in a futile effort to get him to release her. I charged toward him, my fist aiming for his stomach. The impact of my blow caused him to stumble back and let go of Mom. But then, he turned toward me, eyes blazing with fury. Something inside of me screamed at me to run. Mom was yelling, begging Dad to stop, but he was already charging toward me. He caught me by the back of the shirt. Now I need to come up with an excuse that explains how I got a black eye and broke my nose.
Felicity let the notebook drop from her hands. Hot tears slid down her cheeks as her chest rose and fell with each sob. A thousand questions raced through her mind as she tried to understand what she had read. After a few moments, she picked the notebook back up. She scanned each page. The following pages held multiple accounts of entries similar to the entry she just read.
“How could Dad suffer this?” Felicity thought. “How could Grandma endure this? Why didn’t they say anything? Why didn’t they get help?” The wave of reality fully washed over Felicity in this moment.
“My dad? My loving dad? My dad bought me stuffed animals every time I was sick. My dad sneaks chocolate chip cookies into my school lunch when Mom isn’t looking. My dad pretends not to cry at Hallmark movies. How could this happen to my dad?”
A new set of tears made their way down Felicity’s cheeks, and she wiped them away with the back of her hand. Although the gravity of what her dad had endured broke her heart, it also brought about a revelation.
“My dad loves me,” Felicity thought. “My dad is nothing like his father. My dad promises to provide for me and protect me. My dad had the worst example of a father, but he is the best dad to me!” Still wiping away tears, Felicity sprung to her feet and raced down the creaky attic stairs. She turned the corner in a full sprint and collided with someone.
“Whoa,” her dad said, “probably not a good idea to run in Grandma’s house full of—” Felicity did not let him finish before enveloping him in a hug. Taken aback at first, it took him a moment to return his daughter’s embrace.
“Dad,” Felicity said, “I love you! Thank you for being the best dad I could ever ask for!”
“Well, I love you too, but what’s got you in such a mood that you would—” His voice trailed off as his eyes landed on the notebook Felicity was gripping. His eyes went wide as he looked from the book back to Felicity’s face.
“Dad,” Felicity choked. Her eyes were filling with tears, but her lips spread into a smile. “I love you. I love that you always try to joke and make the best out of every situation. You’re the best dad that I could ask for.” Her dad’s shocked face settled into a soft look. His eyes began collecting tears too.
They hugged once more. Felicity squeezed her dad a little tighter as he rubbed her back and placed a kiss on the top of her head. There in her dad’s arms, Felicity felt the love of her father, something she would be grateful for until the end of her days.