The Empty Plate

Me Too by Mikayla Patton of the Institute of American Indian Arts
Me Too by Mikayla Patton of the Institute of American Indian Arts

My father was draped over the shoulders of my oldest brother. I wondered where they were going. I could see bright lights flashing outside our house but did not understand. later on my mother called me and my two older brothers into the bedroom to tell us our father went to heaven. My seven-year-old mind was not able to process this information.

“Quiet, Quiet, Quiet so very quiet!” My mother went somewhere and I was left with my older brothers’ grief and silence. I went outside and sat on the front porch believing that inhaling the fresh air would help me understand but I felt even quieter. My little heart said do not hurt your mother or brothers with questions. My little heart said quiet, behave, and do your chores without being asked and do them quietly!

My chore was to set the table and I did it extra carefully. I joined my mother and brothers to eat dinner. My brothers were visibly upset with me because I set a place for my dead father. My mother defended me and told them to leave me alone. I once again learned to be quiet about my father so I would not upset my siblings or mother. I decided though that I would keep his plate at the table just in case he came back.

Seven days later and I am preparing to set the table. I have a stack of five plates and when I go to put my father’s plate down, instead, I put it back in the cupboard where it is very quiet. I need to be quiet so I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

My mother passed away 46 years ago. My older brothers are seventy-six and seventy-eight years old and we are all still quiet. My prayer is that we will learn to share before it is too late to fill the empty plate.

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