December 31st, 2005:
“I love you.”

He slurred the words, dragging them, as if his tongue were too heavy to carry the load of those three words. Later that night, he left. For good.

May 22nd, 2012:
I am waiting to hear back from my piano teacher, eager to meet with her so that we can put the finishing touches on my audition video for CCY (Center for Creative Youth). Then my mom calls; she has just received an email from my teacher explaining that she will no longer be offering private lessons, to be put into effect immediately. Just like that. After nearly nine years together.

January 1st, 2006:
He looked nervous as he walked through the door of his own apartment; he had dark circles under his eyes, as if he had aged ten years in twelve hours. The smell of alcohol followed him wherever he went, like a cloud. My mind was reeling as he and my mother explained to me that he was going to stay with his parents for a “little while.” I had heard those words before- I wasn’t worried. He had left for a “little while” many times before. Then he started packing his things- all of them.

May 22nd, 2012:
First comes the anger- how could she do this to me? I think of all the times I have been over at her house, feeling as if I were part of her family. After all of the birthdays and Christmases celebrated together… it is inexplicable to me that she would end our relationship as if it were only business- and in an email nonetheless.

January 1st, 2006:
I was determined to make the most of what little time we had left. I went with the first thing that I could think of:

“Can we play Legos first?”

Over the years, building fortresses, castles, and cities out of the multi-colored blocks had become our favorite pastime. Frantically, I pulled out the box, my hands trembling as I tried to stay focused; I was desperate to make him stay in any way that I could. I carried the box over to where he was standing, audibly sighing with relief when he agreed to play for “a few minutes.” Those few minutes turned into ten, and then twenty minutes as we built and re-built, creating a utopia for the tiny Lego people until we were completely out of blocks.

The familiar sense of accomplishment didn’t come as I gazed at our creation.

“I have to go now. I love you.”

He said it without falter that time. I couldn’t help but think:

“Why is it that he only got it right when it was too late? Where was my father when it mattered?”

I kept the Lego city intact weeks after he moved out.

June 2012:
I haven’t played the piano in a month- I just can’t bring myself to accept that my piano teacher, who I have aspired to measure up to since I first bounced into her apartment as an over-excited eight year old demanding to learn Für Elise (to which she responded with a warm smile on her lips that I might want to learn the notes before I got ahead of myself), has abandoned me.

Though painful, separation from the things and people that I love has allowed me to understand them and therefore love them more deeply. I ended up attending CCY over the summer, and I cannot emphasize enough how much it meant to me. The time I spent away from the piano made my rediscovery of my love for music all the more powerful; I realized how much I had missed immersing myself in the piano, letting my heart fill with the emotion the music conveyed until it felt as if my heart would burst from the thrill. I felt that I could continue to pursue piano even without my teacher, who I realized has given me the greatest gift of all: music.

I haven’t seen my father in a while. The last time I saw him he was sober, and he was a completely different person: loving, gentle, understanding… It was a beautiful time spent together. He may not have given up his addiction, but my separation from him has allowed me to look at the situation objectively; he hasn’t changed because he can’t. But he loves me with all his heart- I can tell in the way he says,

“I love you.”

And I love him too.

Gabrielle Hernaiz, Age 17, Grade 12, Convent of the Sacred Heart, Silver Key

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