“Mommy, where is daddy going?”
"Away." My mother didn't turn away from the sink as she washed dishes. The sun streamed in through the kitchen window making her hair shine as if made from gold.
I ran to the door. "Daddy!"
Daddy stopped, put down his suitcase, turned to me. "Come here." He knelt down on one knee, opening his arms.
I rushed to him and threw my chubby little arms around his neck. Patting the blond curls atop my head, he kissed my face and told me to be a good girl. I kissed him back and begged him not to go. I held his hand tight between my two small ones as he walked to the door.
"Good-bye, baby." Daddy didn't look at me.
"Bye, daddy." I followed him out the door and watched from my seat on the stoop as he put his suitcase in the trunk of the car then climbed behind the wheel.
The car engine roared with anger. I winced at how loud it sounded.
Daddy waved back. Then he was gone.
"Please don't go, daddy." I whispered.
A dark evening, twenty-eight years later, my son said, "Mommy, where is daddy going?"
I heard the question but didn't know how to answer. I cuddled my little boy close. I breathed deep of his special baby smell trying to commit it to memory. I wanted to block out the rest of the day and only remember this one single moment holding my son close to my heart.
I looked up to see my husband with a suitcase in his hand and a garment bag over his shoulder.
I nodded, afraid to use my voice.
"Daddy, please don't go."
My husband knelt down to absently brush away a wisp of golden hair from my son's forehead. "I have to, son." He patted his arm. "You be a big boy and take care of mommy."
Such a large load of responsibility for a tiny boy. I pulled him back into the safety of my arms. I whispered into his ear, "We'll take care of each other."
He snuggled closer. “You promise you won’t leave?” He asked with his child-like innocence.
“Never. Ever.” I crossed my heart. “We’ll be together forever.”
He turned in my arms and buried his face in my bosom. I held him tight as his father walked out the door. In the tiniest whisper, I heard him say, “Daddy, please don’t go.”
One day, thirty years later, I couldn’t stop myself from crying out, "Oh, mama, please don't go!" I held her fragile hand tightly in mine. The sun shone through the bedroom window and created a soft halo of light around her head. Her pale, white hair luminescent against the pillow.
"Hush, darling. It's my time." My mama whispered the words as I leaned closer to hear her.
"I'm going to miss you so much. Don't leave me."
"I'll never leave you." She ran her fingers through my hair like she did when I was a child. "I'll always be with you." Her bony fingers shook as she touched my chest, above my left breast. "Right here." Mama drew a shallow breath and sighed. "Always."
Tears swam in my eyes as I watched my mother take her last breath.
"Oh, mama, please don't go." I whispered.
For as long as I could, I breathed in and out, hoping to never hear my son cry out those lonely words. I lost the battle seventeen years later.
“Mama, please don’t go!”
My son had grown into a tall, handsome man. I loved him so much. My heart, heavy in my chest, ached for him. “Don’t cry, baby.”
“Mama, you can’t leave. You promised to be with me forever.” His face, although lined with age, still held a boyish glow in the afternoon sun that streamed in from the window across from my bed.
“Darling, How could I ever leave my baby boy?” I touched his beautiful face. I held tight to my delicate grasp on life. I pulled him close to my chest and lay his head on a bosom long dried and useless. I gently brushed at the lock of sandy hair that continued to fall over his brow. His tears pierced through my thin cotton gown, straight into my heart.
“I love you, mama.” My son sobbed has he held me tighter than I could ever hold him again.
“I’m sorry, son.”
“For what, mama?” He hiccupped then took a deep breath.
As I closed my eyes, I gently touched his strong hand with mine. “For breaking my promise.”