No longer a scared, little girl

Father’s deployment helps senior build strength


submitted photo.

Story by Taylor Bayonne, Staff writer

The time in a child’s life that feels pure and unchanged is considered the age of innocence. Unbeknownst to me, my vulnerable 10-year-old self wasn’t ready for the shocking revelation that would shatter my childhood. 

Waking up on that warm, sunny Sunday felt like all the rest: blissful sleep while wiping the crust from my eye, the smell of bacon wafting through my nose, the annoying sound of the family dog barking away. I allowed my eyes to adjust to the light of the morning sun as I swung my legs over the side of my bed to slowly pad my way to the bathroom. 

After finishing my business in the bathroom, I made my way into the kitchen where my father had served the same basic breakfast throughout my short life. I slumped into my spot at the wooden table as my dad made my plate of scrambled eggs, grits and bacon. Little did I know that a day that started off like any other would be a day that would change the course of my life. 

I was a 10-year-old loud, outspoken little girl that was currently in the fourth grade. Everything was as simple as it could be for a 10-year-old: the sun came up everyday as the birds outside my window sang good morning to me. 

The worse thing I had to face in life was if I was going to be able to go on my school’s annual six weeks field trip. Life was simple and nothing bothered me until the day came that I would soon have to say goodbye to my father for six months that quickly led to eight years. That’s when my life went from simple and peaceful to having real-life struggles.

As my dad left, he told me: “I’m not always going to be here, so you need to start looking out for yourself, but most importantly, watch over your mama and your sister for me.” 

That night as I lay in bed staring at the ceiling fan go around and around with salty tears burning the rims of my eyes, I pulled ringed my fingers to keep the tears at bay as the sorrow and the darkness of my room consumed me. Thinking about my father stepping off of a plane in the world’s scariest sandbox, bullets whizzing past him, and the winds of the helicopter flying above him almost knocking him over, I couldn’t help but not sleep. 

I constantly replayed all the little memories I had shared with my dad throughout my life –– him picking me up off of the ground when I had fallen off my bike and skinned my knee, being taught how to change the oil and tires in a car for the first time, and all the conversations we had about how time was never going to stand still for me, or anyone for that matter. It was only then that I realized the memories would change my life forever. 

All the times he picked me up when I cried prepared me for that moment when he was not going to be around anymore. All those moments taught me that the only person I need to rely on should always be myself because people come and go. He taught me that in life there is no crying, because life is cruel, unfair and sometimes deals you the worst hand.

He taught me to stand as tall as a soldier in formation with my shoulders squared, head held at its highest, and exterior harder than a brick wall. I was to never show any emotion because emotions show vulnerability, and vulnerability makes you weak. 

Yet when the clouds in the sky turn dark with thunder and lightning, and the trees of your emotional and mental stability seem they are about to come crashing down upon you and crush your spirit, it is acceptable to share the weight of the world weighing down on your shoulders with someone who can help carry the load and allow you to breathe. I learned these lessons along with many others at the young age of 10-years-old.

I’m now 18, and currently, my father is still in Iraq. I’m no longer a scared 10-year-old little girl who rings and pulls at her fingers to keep from crying out of fear because that’s just the thing I no longer let consume me. I’m stronger and wiser than I ever could’ve been. All the life lessons I have learned throughout these eight years without my dad by my side have shaped me into the independent, wise and fearless person my father always dreamed and hoped for since the day I was born.