I ran home from school, stomped up the worn wooden steps, slammed open the front door and yelled, “Mum! Mum, I’m home!”
“Michael, I’m right here!” Mum appeared around the corner. “Stop yelling. What if your father had been sleeping? You know he works nights.”
“Sorry, Mum.” I mumbled and hung my head in shame. “I didn’t mean to yell.”
“If you had woken him, you know how mad he would have been.”
“I just wanted to show you my spelling test.” I handed her my test. “I got a gold star.”
“You got another one?” She smiled. “Good for you! You always study so hard, but you have to remember not to yell when you come in the house …”
“I know, Mum, but I was exited and wanted to show you.” I lied. Dad drank a lot.
If he had too much, he’d argue with Mum. I was afraid she’d leave. My two older brothers and I would be alone with him. What if I came home and she was gone? It was a fear I lived with most of my childhood. I needed to know she was there.
Years later, I moved away for my first job. Each evening, I’d open the door to a lonely, empty room. I didn’t callout for Mum. I knew she wasn’t there. I spent evenings alone. There were no computers, only books and a television.
It was a temporary situation. Three months later, I was home again. Mum and I sat at the kitchen table, played cards, and talked. It was nice to have someone to share my day with – someone who loved me.
A year later, I sat in my car. The back seat and trunk were full of my belongings. My mattress was tied to my roof. Mum stood beside the car. “Well, you’re off on your own again.”
“This is it.” I smiled up at her. “I can’t believe I have my own house.”
“You’ll do fine, Michael.” Her eyes glistened. Tears threatened to spill down her cheeks.
“Thanks for everything, Mum. Without your support, I wouldn’t be going where I’m going today.” I pulled away and wiped my own tears from my eyes. I’d miss coming home to her, but there was another woman I’d be coming home to soon.
A few hours later, Georgia and I sat in the living room of my new home. I knelt on one knee and asked her to marry me.
For many years, I came home from work to my wife. We had two children—a boy and a girl. Georgia and I shared our days and love. My home—my life—was full. I was happy.
My manager announced major layoffs. Fifteen years of seniority were not enough to save me. A new job took me to another city. Georgia and our kids stayed behind to sell the house. I opened the door to a rented room. There were no hugs, no children yelling.
“Daddy,” and no one to share my day with. I was alone.
A year later they joined me. I opened a door to love and family again. The pattern continued: a new job, a move, a lonely room, and a family that followed later.
I came home one night to another empty room. My daughter didn’t move with us this time. She was on her own. My son was home, but he didn’t greet me. He wanted to be alone to deal with his feelings. Georgia died the week before. I faced an empty room.
I never understood what empty was. There were many empty rooms I cried in, but not one compared to the room Georgia never filled again.
A year later, I opened the door, and there was Ginny. Her arms reached out and pulled me close. Her lips met mine. Her loved soothed me.
Ginny and I have been apart for a month or more a few times. She’s had to help her children in other states. I’d enter an empty room when I came home from work and hear my footsteps echo off the walls—the sound of alone. I was sad she wasn’t there, but I knew she’d be back.
Ginny knows an empty room. Her husband, Harvey, passed on and left her in one too. We keep those rooms behind closed doors. They remain empty. Like a photo album, we only go there when we want to remember the past. Ginny and I live in the present room—the room filled.