I woke up from a nap bleary eyed. I emerged from my bedroom, rubbing my eyes, still groggy, expecting Mum’s “Hello! Did you have a nice sleep?”
But the house was quiet—no footsteps, no clacking of dishes, no water running, nothing. Perhaps it was just a lull in the usual household noise. I waited a couple of seconds, a couple more, but no, nothing. The silence muffled everything, inside and out.
I forced the lump forming in my throat down, willing it to dissipate.
They must be reading in the living room or resting in their bedroom. Maybe they were murmuring too softly for me to hear. Perhaps Dad was in the garden. But then where was Mum? With him?
I took a deep shaky breath and made an unsuccessful attempt to square my shoulders.
I peeked towards their bedroom—the door was open. I walked into the living room—it was empty. I ventured onto the balcony and leaned over the railings to investigate the garden below—no one.
I was alone.
I tried to take another deep breath, but my lungs didn’t cooperate.
My imagination ran amok. Something really bad must have happened and they had to leave quickly without saying goodbye. Were they called away for an emergency? One of my brothers? Jonathan? Simon? Great Uncle Itzik? Or Mum’s great Uncle Harris? Or worse, Bubbe or Zeide? Was there an accident? Maybe they had to rush to hospital. Could someone have died? Maybe Mum or Dad… Maybe both… I couldn’t bring myself to say it.
Partially formed thoughts darted around in my mind.
And… I heard the front door lock turn, the muffled voices of my parents in earnest conversation.
They’d been at the next door neighbors. I forget why.
Was Mum puzzled by my fierce hug?
How old was I? Seven? Eight?
As an adult, I’ve always taken the time to say goodbye, to my kids even when they were babies, even to the dog, no matter what.