I never met my father. He died the day I was born. Although my family never revealed the cause of his death, they only told me he had been a hero.
As years passed and I grew older, that was the only way I saw him, the hero. Although, somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I doubted it. If he was such a hero, why were they hesitant to tell me how he died?
On my sixteen birthday, while the whole family was preparing for the celebration, my mother took me aside. She was slim and her hair was white with age. But still she was beautiful.
"Hello birthday boy" she smiled at me.
" Hi mama, I saw the cake, its beautiful" I told her
"That won't stop you from eating it."
"No" I agreed with a smile, "I'll still get the biggest share"
"We need to go for a walk" her tone became firm and the smile left her face. "Come on"
"Mama?" I muttered, wondering what was going on. "Is something wrong?"
She didn't reply as we walked through the house, dodging the party planners. We stopped outside, on the stairs leading to the main entrance.
"Look at the floor" she told me, "what do you see?"
I obeyed and I saw what I've always seen since I was born. A marble cross carved into the tiles. I told her so.
"Correct. Do you know why it's there?" When I shook my head in negation, she went on. " it was on this spot your father gave his life for all of us."
I stilled then, not moving an inch. Suddenly, the marble crib had taken a whole new meaning, she went on.
"Our family had always been at war with the Lorenzos. A feud that has been passed down through generations, your grandfather tried to stop it, he failed. Your father vowed he would not pass it to his child, to you.
The hate between our family and theirs was just too great, they couldn't shop in the same mall at the same time, no matter how big the mall was. An encounter usually ended in violence, and loss of life. That's what your father desperately wanted to stop. My mother paused, looking away at the sky. I had the feeling she was no longer with me, but far down memory lane.
"One day, one of Lorenzo's kids got killed in an accident. They thought our family had done it. At that time I was pregnant with you, ready to deliver you, it was just as my labor began that they attacked. They blocked the road so we couldn't escape, therefore blocking our path to the hospital. Thank God for my mother, she was the one that helped me birth you. I gave birth to you in the house."
She turned, then, looking at the house still with that far away look in her eyes. "You came into this world, while bullets were flying about and tension was high. We were not prepared for the attack. So they were winning. When your father saw that if the battle went on, everyone would die. He locked us all in and offered himself. He told them he had nothing to do with their child's Death and he also made them promise not to harm his any of us. They killed him anyways."
She stopped. Listening to the birds and the wind.
"He died on this spot." She went on as if I had not spoken.
"But they didn't attack the rest of us. Weeks later, tests revealed that the child's death had been an accident afterall. So the Lorenzos came to apologize for killing an innocent man. Our families swore there and then that the war was over. And we've had peace ever since. Just as your father wished."
As she concluded, silence fell as I thought of it all, now I knew what had really happened. I had so many questions, I knew the Lorenzos, they lived in the mansion a few miles away. I was in the same class with one of their daughters in school.
"Mama, why are you telling me now?" I asked
"I couldn't have you grow up to hate the people that took your father from you, that would have been continuing the cycle he gave his life for. What happened to your father wasn't his fault or even the fault of the particular Lorenzo generation that killed him. The war has been going on for so long, even before your great grandpa was born. Now your father achieved something really great and it would be a stain on his memory if you try to rekindle the war."
Finally she looked at me, I could see she was back from memory lane
"Now you know what happened to your father, whenever you remember this story, remember the son of whom you're"
She turned and walked into the house.
I stood there, my mind at jumble of thoughts as I looked at the marble cross. On the spot my father had given his life. As a hero.
Not just to my family, but to the Lorenzo's as well.