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US Navy Izzi Tetterton – U.S. Navy Veteran Family Member

I can still feel the horror I felt that night. A nightmare that felt so real, I believed for many years that it really took place. If I close my eyes, I can practically embody my six-year-old self, in one of my first-ever nightmares where I truly believed my dad was dead.

In the middle of the night, my room was consumed in grayness with help from the light shining in through the window from the moon. It was a cabin house with a slanted wall, that had a small floral window in the center directly under the ceiling, and a shelf directly below running across from wall to wall, where my sister’s and my stuffed animals lived. The little blue dog’s sad eyes would watch down on us as we slept in our shared queen bed, wrapped in a quilt that reminded me of our parent’s Amish wedding quilt, which they bought in Pennsylvania.

I awoke to the sound of my dad’s voice, saying “Schätze!” (A German term of endearment meaning sweethearts). Thinking he had come home, I jolted up out of bed and leaped into the hallway, where a new voice called out, the voice of my sister, who sounded eerily similar to me in our childhood. She screamed for our dad, and I thought she was downstairs with him, but chills soon came over me. I started to creep my way down the beige-carpeted stairs, running my hand along the wall, to not lose balance.
I stopped halfway, where the stairs were no longer lined with the wall, but rather dark-green wooden beams. Between these beams, one could look into the living room or up the stairs, like my parents often would. I leaned over peering into the living room where I was greeted by emptiness. Confused, I scanned the room landing on the pitch-blackness that concentrated in the corner, right where the glass sliding door leading to the outside stayed.

If I didn’t know any better now, my hands could still feel as if they were there clutching to the wooden beam, my body, still frozen in terror, and my eyes, still locked on the corner of the room staring at the black abyss calling out, over and over, “Papa, where are you?! Papa! Where are you, papa!” as if a representation of his absence I felt.

I knew the shadow was inching closer to me and so I ran upstairs jumping over my sister in the process, an afterthought that would make me realize the voice had never been hers; it had always been mine, and I had been alone. I covered my head with the quilt and laid as close as I could to her. When I awoke, my dad had not returned but the sun shone through the glass door as if nothing ever happened. As if life was normal.

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