Blank. That is the feeling I felt when I heard the heart wrenching news. How could this have happened? I had just spoken to her. I had just held her fragile body. I paused. It seemed like I never really came to my senses that night. With immense effort, my body gently hugged the nearest person. Suddenly, the early January frost bit my toes and face. It didn’t matter, really… nothing mattered. But, I was told to go inside to warm up, so I did.
10 days earlier, I couldn’t stop smiling. It was the first day of the winter holidays.
“This break is gonna be fun.” I stated to no one in particular as I munched on a Christmas decorated cookie.
“Well it’s not going to be fun if you don’t finish packing! Kayleigh’s coming to pick you up in a half hour!” My little sister, Hannah, exclaimed as she tucked the gifts she had received under her bed.
Eventually, I finished packing my heavy, over-stuffed suitcases. Not too long after that, I arrived at my grandparents’ house. The smell of tobacco smoke and elderly woman’s perfume invaded my senses.
“I’m busy! No!” a girly voice barked.
“It’s your turn!” Kayleigh yelled back.
“Then you fold the towels!” The girly voice snapped as she threw the once folded wash cloths on the ground. No surprise here, the girly voice was my cousin, Amber.
“Shhh!” My grandmother hushed. “Your grandfather doesn’t want to hear all that hollerin’!” Nobody listened, so she lit a cigarette. The fighting continued, but that was the way it always was; that was the way it always would be.
The constant bickering went on forever, but I was used to it. It was always too quiet without the fighting. Christmas was coming up soon, so everybody rushed to the stores to get last minute gifts and decorations. Because of the stress in the air, tensions built. The kids would fight, my grandma would try to keep the peace, nobody would listen to her, she’d light another cigarette, she’d cry because she was trying to quit, my grandfather would get angry and take it out on her, and she’d cry even harder. Eventually though, we’d all sit down and talk our problems out. We’d all cry together.
Christmas dinner was always awkward. Family members we hardly ever saw swore us kids grew at least a foot since the last holiday. Someone always burned something. The warm grey house never seemed big enough. Everybody tried, usually unsuccessfully, to make small talk. It’d pass the time, but no one really enjoyed it. With recent traditions, there weren’t as many people. My grandparents’ daughters, my mother and aunt, weren’t around anymore. My grandpa’s siblings all passed on. Everybody else moved away. It was just the immediate family at holidays. The twelve of us; Grandma Sue, Grandpa Charlie, Great Aunt Shirley & Uncle Bobby, and the rest of us cousins; Kayleigh, Dylan, Amber, Jonathan, David, Hannah, Noah( Kayleigh’s 1 year old son), and I. Oh, and I guess the little baby in Kayleigh’s stomach counts too. So that’s 12 and 8/9 of us.
As the warm, loving smells of pumpkin spice and apple pie faded into the hype atmosphere of loud music and drinking games, I thought I had all that I wanted. Nobody really knew what was coming. . It was slight, so I didn’t suspect it. It was virtually unnoticeable. It was like a sudden snow storm at the end of February. Possible, but it wasn’t expected. Maybe if we had paid closer attention, the events to come wouldn’t have happened. Maybe if I wasn’t so naïve, I would have realized my thin, wrinkled grandmother was sick. Even though the hospital was basically her second home, nobody really handled her illnesses well. In those 2 days, I worried, I cried, and prayed often. Luckily, she got better, and she came home.
With the return of my sickly grandmother, a whole new set of problems arose. My cousin, who looked like she was ready to pop, had been feeling ill. She was already a mother, so she knew what labor felt like, and this was not it. She cried and cried. I, again, worried and prayed. One day, magically, she felt better. Her baby was healthy, and so was she. She was instructed to rest for a while, though. She followed her orders without hesitation. She turned her phone off, and sat in bed watching America’s Next Top Model reruns. Everything went back to normal, and relief clouded my mind.
When New Year’s Eve rolled around, I beamed with excitement. I was invited to a party! I dressed myself in appropriate clothes, did my makeup up, curled my hair, and headed out.
“Grandma, I’m going to a party with Dylan and Ashley, see ya’ later.”
“Whose party is it?” She questioned.
“I don’t know, some of their friends…” I rolled my eyes.
“They are 6 years older than you. What do you think you’re doing going to a party like that? I’m sorry honey, but you’re not going.” She said in a matter-of-fact tone. We bickered back and forth for a while, and like her usual stubborn self, refused to let me leave. I huffed and puffed and considered blowing the house down, but instead, I sat on the couch with my arms crossed and angrily watched Wheel of Fortune with her for a while.
“Your papa is going to be home soon,” she started, “do those dishes.”
“Do the dishes?” I laughed. “You don’t let me go out, ON NEW YEAR’S EVE, and then you expect me to do your dishes?!”
“Honey, you know I can’t do them. I’m sick. I would if I could. I can’t stand up that long…” she explained.
“No. I’m leaving. I’m going to Kayleigh’s. Bye!” I slammed the door on my way out.
At around 11 o’clock, when everyone got home, the dishes were done. I looked down in disappointment at myself. I knew I shouldn’t have acted the way I did, but I didn’t say anything. That night we drank sparkling apple cider in wine glasses and everybody had a good time, but I anger still clouded my mind.
“I’m 13 years old! Basically a grown adult! Why is she treating me like a child?” I thought.
The next day I didn’t speak to her. I felt like the average teenager when she’s mad at her parents. It would all blow over. BOOM! I jumped. I heard my grandpa curse before I galloped to his bedroom to see what the chaos was. A huge purple bruise covered his shoulder. I gasped. Apparently, he tripped over a vacuum that was sitting inside of his bedroom.
“Who put that there?! In the middle of the darn floor!” Steam was blowing from his ears.
“Charles! Who are you yelling at like that! That vacuum always falls. You probably accidentally touched it when you were walking past! The slightest pressure knocks it over! It’s not her fault!” They argued and argued and argued until eventually, he left to go get it checked out.
During his absence, my grandmother, Amber, and I, all had a long, meaningful talk. Calm, serenity flooded over me. And although we talked for hours, nothing really was discussed. The clock stroke midnight, and I yawned.
“I’m tired, goodnight guys.” I sighed.
“I’m tired too, goodnight grandma, love you.” Amber headed to her room.
I woke up the next morning to my grandmother throwing up and all of her waste emptying. She was crying, shaking, twitching, and yelling all at the same time. I panicked. All I could think of doing was to call 911, but she refused to let me. I did the next best thing I could possibly manage; I woke up Dylan, Ashley, and Amber thinking they might know what to do. They successfully got her into the bathroom, but everything was happening so fast, and I couldn’t keep up. We tried to get ahold of Kayleigh, because, since she was the oldest, she had all the answers. Unfortunately, the calls kept going straight to voicemail.. She lives 12 blocks away and, too our discontent, we didn’t have a car. Waiting around obviously wasn’t a possibility, so Dylan put on his shoes and zoomed to Kayleigh’s house.
While he was gone, I was the only one taking care of my grandmother. My heart was skipping while my mind was going woozy. She begged me to hold her tight, and like the selfish girl I was, I refused, complained, and let her go.
“I’m only 13 years old. What am I doing? I don’t know how to handle this. What’s going on? Am I hurting her…? Oh no. What am I touching? Where is everybody? I can’t do this. Oh my god. I think I’m going to throw up.” My head couldn’t focus on the goal: keeping my grandmother calm, secure, and safe.
Suddenly, she began violently twitching.
“Is she having a seizure?” I whispered as if my thoughts were too loud and heavy for my mind to contain. “What’s happening?” Confusion burned my chest.
From that moment on I knew that my young, naive eyes would be scarred forever. The sight was appalling. I couldn’t wait any longer; I knew I had to call for help. The mere 5 minutes that the ambulance took to arrive, seemed like years.
“Hold on to me Alix,” her voice cracked. “Don’t let me fall!”
The lump in my throat prevented me from responding.
“Don’t let me go!”
“Guys! I need help!” I blurted out. No one came. “I’m sorry…” I let go of her boney shoulders. I had to find help.
“No!” she shouted after me. I didn’t want to leave her, but I had no choice.
Seconds later, Amber and Ashley rushed in to help.
“Put clothes on her!” Amber barked at me. As I took put her fresh sweat pants on, I went dizzy. “Go sit down! Ashley, help me!” Amber redirected. “Call the ambulance, Alix!” She finally decided.
When the ambulance arrived, I just watched. It would all be okay, because it was always okay. “No need to worry, right?” I thought. Nothing much happened after that. Kayleigh finally found out what was going on and drove to the hospital; Dylan and Ashley sat in their bedroom and watched movies; Amber went back to sleep, and I left with my brother to support him in his Youth Hoops Basketball championship game. I had so much fun that afternoon; I cheered him on, ate popcorn, and was ecstatic that we won the game! Something didn’t feel right though. “Ugh.” I shrugged it off. Maybe I was catching a cold?
We drove back to my grandparents’ house to see the family standing outside in the cold weather wrapped in blankets. They all started walking towards us.
“We won!” I exclaim!
“Alix, grandma’s dead.” Amber says rather blunt.
Blank. That is the feeling that washed over me when I found out my solid grandmother had passed away. How could this have happened? I had just spoken to her. I had just held her fragile body. I paused. I never really came to my senses that night. It didn’t feel like she was gone. It didn’t feel like anything. With immense effort, my body gently hugged the nearest person. Suddenly, the early January frost bit my toes and face. It didn’t matter, really… nothing mattered.
“Let’s go inside.” Amber softly said. So I did what I was told, and warmed my cold heart.