Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Breaking the Rules (08/16/04)
TITLE: A Lifetime of Broken Rules
By Marina Rojas
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As soon as all the strangers were gone, her father began herding her motherís friends and the remnant of family that had gathered together out of the little apartment. In a good imitation of a New York policeman, he began making sweeping motions with his arms, yelling, ďNothing more to see here! Everyone go home!Ē
Theresa watched his antics in silence. This ordeal had not been easy for anyone. Just seven months ago, the doctor had told her mother she was the fittest 77 year old he had ever seen. The doctor had gone so far as to say she was healthier than he was. That, of course, was before he ordered the lung x-rays.
Now here less than a year later, her father was a widower. She and her brother were motherless children. Theresa watched as her father began to break the unwritten rules of grieving etiquette.
As he scurried throughout the silent house, she wanted to yell at him, HEY! Whatís wrong with you? My mother just died! Give me a break! Take it easy! But she didnít say anything. He hadnít ordered her to leave. So she just sat there watching, waiting.
Shuffling papers, her father would occasionally throw something small into different corners of the house. She wondered what he would do if she said something out loud right now.
Not that she really cared about what he would do. He had always kept himself outside of her, away from her affections, away from her understanding. Theresa felt as if her father had participated in their family life solely as an uninterested onlooker. As children, it was very clear to Theresa and her brother that their father did not need them; their father had expected them not to need him, either.
Her father had always been a rule breaker. Her mother would laugh, saying that he would have been happy to live in a cave somewhere, without contact from the outside world.
But there had been times they could all tell he had made an effort to play life by the rules. He would move them all into a nice home, in a nice neighborhood and he would work a 9-5 job for a while. But soon, he would come home and order them all to pack up and leaveÖagain. The rules would have just become too much for himÖagain.
Theresa sat there as he piled her motherís clothes and shoes into the middle of the little bed they had slept in for most of their years together. He folded the four corners of the bedspread into the middle of the pile, tied them together, and threw the bundle out the front door.
He began taking everything that had been her motherís, throwing it all into large green garbage bags. He silently pulled things off the wall, tossing them into the bags as nonchalantly as if he were throwing away days-old molded bread.
Theresa realized the rule of death had become too much for him this time. He was trying to wipe her motherís memory off of the face of the earth.
He worked with the fervor that only an old man on a mission can have. Within a few hours, every trace of her motherís existence was gone. Everything she had ever touched, was hidden in a big plastic bag headed for the trash.
Theresaís father was breaking the rules all over again. He did not notice that everyone else was playing by the unwritten rules of how to act when someone you love dies. Once again, he had written his own rule, facing the death of his 50 year companion by showing us that all the rules still didnít matter to him.
Exhausted, he finally sat down in his rocking chair. She walked over to him, kissing him on the cheek. ďIíll see ya later, Daddy,Ē she whispered as she walked out the front door.
Picking up the garbage bags and packing them into her car, Theresa did all she could do. Bending her head in prayer, she decided to break all the rules of this world by forgiving her father for breaking her heart...again.