I Believe in Flowers for my Birthday

“I love you pumpkin. Have a very special day for the most special daughter in the world, love Daddy.” Cupping the note in my palm, I closed my eyes and prayed that when I re-opened them, my dad would be waiting to take me to my favorite restaurant to celebrate my birthday. Keeping them shut just a moment longer, I attempted to avoid what I already knew; he was away on another business trip. My only wish was to sit on my Dad’s lap while ripping off the wrapping paper that hid the presents underneath. But being the daughter of a successful attorney taught me to expect that same bouquet of flowers and the only pasta dinner my mother knew how to cook instead.

As the number of bouquets delivered on May 11th hit fourteen, I became aware that my mother sister and I were living amongst a stranger. This stranger, obsessed with the stacks of endless paperwork scattered across the glass table in his office, was married to his job. The routine of waking up before the sun and working until the moon’s yellow glow illuminated the dark night sky could not be interrupted by school talent shows or volleyball matches.

The stranger’s status as head partner of his law firm plagued him with endless stress and a time bomb temper waiting to explode. Any bad day at work waited to become a world war until I forgot to set the table for dinner or my sister brought home a bad test grade. As these wars continued showing no signs of future peace, I avoided my family’s undeniable tensions by picking up my best friend, pressing the ignore button on my blackberry and lighting my little pink pipe. Somewhere in my downward spiral of bitterness and frustration, I lost myself to the escape that doing drugs and partying provided me.

With one week left to survive the battlefield before I escaped to my new life in college, I stumbled upon redemption. As I tiptoed into my family room at 3:30 am carrying the stench of booze on my breath and cigarette smoke in my long brown hair, I found the stranger perched on our brown leather couch staring aimlessly at the blank TV screen. I stood in my dimly lit hallway staring the stranger in the eye and slurred something along the lines of “what’s your problem?” He looked up at me with his bright blue eyes floating in what looked like a puddle of water and replied, “Everything I do is for you, your mom and your sister”.

I now believe in second chances. Although it’s impossible to reverse eighteen years of neglect and unbearable pain, I find solitude in pushing towards a better future. The saying “Rome wasn’t built in one day” reassures me that while forgiving my dad for his absence during my childhood was a giant step to take, our relationship is a work in progress and grows stronger with every new day.

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