“I’m home,” I called, shutting the door of our house. I threw my backpack down on the floor and kicked off my shoes.
“Peter! How nice to see you again!”
I whirled around, and when I saw who had called to me, I almost groaned. Instead of my mother waiting to give me a snack after school, I saw my grandmother. In a wheelchair.
She wheeled over to me and asked, “How are you, Pete? I haven’t seen you in a while!”
“Where’s Mom?” I asked, ignoring her question.
My grandmother smiled brightly at me, her eyes dancing with joy. “She went to the grocery store to pick up some things for dinner,” she said and took my hands. I wanted to pull away, but I didn’t, and she continued. “so right now it’s just you and me, sonny, whether you like it or not.”
Whether I liked it or not. I didn’t like it. I tried to hide my glare by flopping my chocolate-brown hair over my eyes, but I nodded.
After freshening up, I slowly made myself a sandwich, as Mom would have done.
“You think you could make me one, too, Peter?” my grandmother asked. “I’m starving.”
My scowl darkened. I hated the fact that my grandmother was in a wheelchair, but not because I was sad. It was supposed to be the other way around. When I came home, my grandmother should have been in the kitchen, baking cookies for me, and asking me how my day was. I reluctantly made her a sandwich as well, and plopped down on the sofa and turned on the TV to my favorite show, The Office. Literally everyone in school watched it, and if you wanted to be in, you had to do what everyone did. I sat as far away as I could from my grandmother, but she wheeled over anyway, eating her sandwich awkwardly. Her right arm had been fractured badly during a fall when she was young, and the doctors could only do so much to repair it. At least that’s what I assumed. She never really told me. She ate her sandwich messily, and bits of cheese stuck to her face. I turned my face away, disgusted.
“Ha, ha!” my grandmother whooped. “That was funny, wasn’t it Pete? My favorite character is Jim Halpert, who’s yours?”
“Toby Flenderson,” I mumbled. I couldn’t believe I was watching TV with my grandmother, and that she enjoyed it. The reminder of her disability and that she could do nothing but sit down all day took all the fun out of the best show in the world. Where was Mom? Why wasn’t she home yet?
The show wasn’t over yet, and I still wanted to watch, but I still clicked the remote to switch off the TV. I hastily stood up to go to my room, but my grandmother stopped me before I could ignore her.
“Hey! Where are you going? The show wasn’t even over yet!” she croaked. She was still finishing her sandwich, and her face was covered in bits of tomato and cheese. She continued, “Anyway, do you want to go outside for a bit? I need to stretch my legs.” She waved to her paralyzed legs and laughed at her own joke.
“I can’t,” I told her quickly. “I have homework to finish.” Actually, we had taken a test today in class, so we didn’t have homework. I was just looking for an excuse to not be with my grandmother. She would bore me with her life lessons anyway. There was no real way to do anything memorable with a grandmother who couldn’t walk. Plus, I had the guitar to practice for the upcoming Talent Show at school.
“Really? Oh, well, then we could always go later,” she admitted. Just as I was about to close the door to my room, she stopped me again. “Wait, Pete, I want to give you something.”
I raised my eyebrows. What could my disabled grandmother possibly give me?
She wheeled into the next room, my parents’ room, and came back a few minutes later clutching a red and blue scarf, three hand-knit skyscrapers that were about a foot tall, and an embroidered picture of me. She smiled brightly as she handed me the pieces, and patted her wrinkled hand over mine.
“These are for you,” she said. No duh. But I let her continue. “I was in your room –”
“What?! You know not even my parents are allowed in there without my permission –” I raged.
“Pete, I’m your grandmother, I don’t need your permission. Anyway, I saw that you loved action figurines, so I decided I’d make a scene out of yarn for you to play with,” she gestured to the skyscrapers. She pointed to the embroidery. “That is a special gift for you so that you’ll always remember me and my embroidery and how much I love you.”
It took all of my willpower not to roll my eyes and shut the door at that last part.
Suddenly, her hands started shaking as she stroked the scarf, and tears welled in her eyes. Thick beads of water fell and stained the scarf. I stood there, stunned, and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t need to, because a minute later, my grandmother dried her eyes with the back of her hand and took a few deep breaths.
“Sorry, Pete, this is the hardest part,” she gasped. She managed to give me a small smile, but her eyes were still watery and the shine that was usually there in her eyes had dimmed. “This–this is the scarf I gave to your grandfather after we got married. And it’s not just any sc-scarf. You know what he said to me when I gave it to him?” she looked up at me intensely. When I shook my head blandly, she said, “‘Now I’ll be warm from head to toe, and not just from the heat’. Then he grabbed my hands and whispered, ‘from your love. I won’t ever let you down’. Your grandfather used to play the guitar, just like you do, Pete, and he asked me for a scarf to keep him warm so his fingers wouldn’t get cold and stop playing. He would play well into the night, but we never got sleepy. He would play, and I would sing.
“This is the same scarf I gave him. He promised me to keep it forever, but then he had to go and get himself blown up in that car crash,” she said bitterly, but then her face softened. “Those were great memories. And he never complained that I couldn’t walk or run or do anything that couples could do. He believed in memories, and he told me once that if he and I couldn’t go out and spend time, we could make better memories inside. He was an angel, he was. He did everything for me.”
Most people would tear up at this story, but not me. Sure, it was cool that my grandfather used to play the guitar too, but I still think that he was crazy. Why would anyone in their right mind want to marry a crippled woman? I’m not being insensitive, it’s called being practical.
Once I placed the rest of the gifts on my desk, I took the scarf from her trembling hands and wrapped it around my neck. I awkwardly patted her hand and said, “See? It’s really comfy and warm,” I commented vaguely. Any scarf could be comfy and warm.
The shine in her eye returned. My grandmother smiled and said, “I know, Pete. Your grandfather used to say that, too.”
Cool. Like I cared.
“Um, Grandma, I have to do some work.” I slipped behind the door and closed it softly. I let out a long, slow breath, finally free of my grandmother and her ‘emotional’ stories, and unwrapped the scarf and stuffed it at the back of my closet along with the other knitted objects, where I would never have to see it again. We, as in my parents and me, needed to have a serious talk. Grandma just popped in out of the blue, and I had no idea when she was going to go back. I wasn’t expecting much fun with her around and with my parents gone most of the time, so I would have to work something out, some way to avoid her. Maybe go to my friend’s house every day after school and play soccer to practice for the school game, and then either Mom or Dad could pick me up. I wouldn’t have to be with the old woman and bear the stench of old socks coming from her, or the boring stories about my grandfather. It sounded like a brilliant plan, all I had to do now was put it into action.
We had spaghetti for dinner that night. At least Dad was feeding my grandmother this time. She was chattering away between bites about how her day had gone and other stuff. I kept shooting my parents looks that hopefully meant we-need-to-talk-SOON.
“…and Pete and I had such a great time watching The Office together. I love the fact that my grandson has some of my genes!” I heard Grandma say.
“That’s wonderful!” my mom said, genuinely happy. She gave the side-eye, as if to ask, what-are-you-complaining-about?, and continued, “I hope you two can continue grandmother-grandson bonding like this. You should even go outside! It’s wonderful in California this time of the year.”
My grandmother sighed. “What can I tell you, Sarah, this boy’s a busy one. I asked him if he wanted to go to the park, but he said he had too much homework. Kids today! When I was a little girl and I could run and jump and play, I would always play games like hopscotch and jump rope with my friends. Teachers are drowning these poor kids with homework. In my day…”
And there we go again.
I twisted my fork around my spaghetti, not bothering to eat. I stared at my plate, listening to Mom and Dad, who were happy to hear how we spent our time together. A realization crossed my mind. My parents didn’t know that I didn’t like Grandma. They didn’t know that I didn’t want to bond with her. And if I told them…how would they take it? Would they be mad? Confused? Understanding? I don’t know. But I could tell they definitely wouldn’t like it.
Finally, finally, after what seemed like an hour, Grandma said, “I’m stuffed, dears. I would like to go to bed. Are you sure you don’t want me to help with anything?”
Dad got to his feet and picked up Grandma and placed her in the wheelchair. “No, Mom, we’re sure. We don’t want you risking anything in this condition. Just go to bed.”
I watched Dad as he carried her to her bedroom. Once I made sure Grandma was out of earshot, I quickly turned to Mom and dropped my fork on my plate, which still had cold spaghetti. “Mom,” I whispered. “We need to talk. About Grandma.”
She raised an eyebrow but smirked amusingly. “Okaaaaay. Do you want your father in this conversation?”
I bit my lip. Dad would probably be affected the most, but I still needed him to know. I looked over my shoulder and saw that Dad was closing the door to Grandma’s room. I gave Mom a quick nod before turning back around and waiting until Dad sat back down at the table.
“Mom was out like a light,” he whistled. “Anyway, I still have some work to do.” He took Mom’s plate, then reached for mine, then stopped when he saw it was half full. “You still eating?” he asked.
I continued to stare at my dad. He looked at Mom, who was also staring at him.
“What? Why are you both staring at me like that?” he asked, his hand still hovering next to my plate.
Mom glanced at me before saying, “Peter, um, has something to say. About your mother. I don’t know what,” she hastily added after Dad’s eyebrows shot up too.
He crossed his arms and leaned back against his chair, staring at me. “Spill,” he said.
I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. I just couldn’t get myself to tell Dad that I didn’t like Grandma. I knew it would be hard for him. I sucked in a breath and tried again. Still nothing.
“Well?” Dad said. He looked at mom again, who shrugged her shoulders.
I opened my mouth, and I decided to come right out with it. “I don’t want to be with Grandma. I wish she would go back to the countryside, where she came from.”
More, agonizing silence.
I looked nervously at both of them, hoping one of them would say something. Mom was speechless. Dad’s face was blank.
A few minutes later, Dad let out a long breath. “Well,” he began. “This is…interesting.”
“Why?” The question came from Mom.
I gulped. “Because…because…because she’s crippled!”
“Don’t-” Dad started to yell, but Mom held up a hand to stop him. “Let him speak,” she said.
There was an angry and hurt look in Dad’s eyes. I couldn’t decide which was more painful to see. But I went on.
“We can’t do anything together, grandmas are supposed to do…I don’t know, what grandmas do, like bake cookies, pick me up from school, tell me stories, and you know…” I said. “But instead I’m the one making food, I’m the one who’s supposed to take Grandma on walks. It doesn’t work that way!”
Dad closed his eyes and rubbed his face with his hand. “Do you know why Grandma is crippled?” he asked without looking at me. He said the last word like it was something disgusting.
I shook my head, then realized he couldn’t see, so I said, “Not really. Didn’t an accident happen when she was young?”
He looked up at me, and I saw his eyes were tired and his face looked pained as if he didn’t want to relive the memory. He took in a deep breath and exhaled the longest sigh in the history of sighs. His sigh was the only sound in the house. Even the clock’s ticking in our living room had gone silent.
“That’s…not what happened,” he said quietly. “It happened just before you were born, even when your grandfather was alive. Believe it or not, Peter, your grandmother was once a tough woman. Her legs weren’t strong even then because she was affected by polio, and she could barely walk for a few minutes or stand for over ten minutes. But she was always happy. She fought through her difficulties and tried her best to do everything she could to make us feel comfortable after I married your mother. Everyone loved her. Her presence alone brought joy into a room. And then…” Dad paused for a moment and squeezed his eyes shut. I glanced at Mom, and even she looked like she was fighting back tears.
“And then came the day when you were going to be born,” he continued, collecting himself. “It was time to go to the hospital, and your mother was screaming for help. Mom and Dad rushed her to the hospital, while I was still asleep. They came back to get me and on the way…the accident changed everything.”
“Accident?” I asked, astonished.
Dad said no more, so Mom pitched in.
“Yes, honey, an accident. Both Grandma and Grandpa had several injuries, and at their age, it was very difficult for them to survive. And Grandpa didn’t,” Mom finished.
My mouth fell open. That’s why I never knew my grandfather. And why Grandma can’t walk at all.
“An accident,” I mouthed.
“It was the happiest and saddest day of our lives,” Mom continued. “You were born, and Grandpa died.”
“Why does Grandma seem so happy all the time, if she lost Grandpa?” I asked.
“Everyone has to go at some point, honey,” Mom said, glancing briefly at Dad. “You can’t keep clinging on to a person forever. And as much it hurts to remember them, that’s the best we can do. Remember Grandpa and all the happy moments we shared with him. And your grandmother knows that, probably.”
Something was starting to make sense to me, but I couldn’t quite understand it. It was like I knew something had changed. It was hazy and not quite formed, but it was there.
“Do you understand now?” my dad asked, collecting himself together. “I hope from now on, you’ll be more compassionate.” He glared at me so intensely, I had to look away.
“I have an idea,” Mom piped up. “Why don’t you take Grandma to the park tomorrow, like she wanted?”
Instinctively, I opened my mouth to refuse, but stopped before I could say no. I paused for a moment before slowly nodding my head yes.
Mom smiled brightly, and Dad exhaled a slow, long breath.
“Where do you want to go, Grandma?” I asked as I pushed her on her wheelchair through the large field in the park.
“Anywhere you want, sonny. This place is beautiful! Pink, blue, purple flowers, the sun is shining, birds are singing –”
I looked in the direction of the voice, and saw my friend Marc running towards me. He moved to California from France two years ago and I met him in school. He’s a pretty funny guy, and a little eccentric, so to speak. He walks around wearing a long-sleeved collar shirt and a vest and wears a stereotypical French beret with his blond hair flopping out on the side. And he speaks in French sometimes, forgetting that literally no one around him understands what he’s saying.
“Hey, man!” We high-fived each other like we were arm wrestling.
He grinned at me, and then noticed my grandma. “Your grandmère?”
“Yeah,” I said awkwardly. I wasn’t used to being seen with my grandma. I would die of embarrassment at school if my friends saw me with her. Before.
“Salut, Madame,” he said politely in his French accent.
“Ooooh, a Frenchie! Bonjour!” she replied in her terrible American accent.
Marc laughed out loud and winked at her. “Nice one!” he complimented. He didn’t say anything about her being in a wheelchair.
I grinned too. I guess Grandma could be funny sometimes, too.
“Whatcha doin’?” I asked.
Marc looked at me quizzically. “What did you say? That definitely wasn’t French or English, ami.”
I rolled my eyes and sighed. Sometimes Marc didn’t understand American slang. “I said, what are you doing?”
“Ohhh, I see. Nothing, I’m just here with my grandpère,” he shrugged nonchalantly, but his smile faded as he looked back toward where his grandpa was sitting.
I noticed the sudden shift in his mood, so I asked, “Are you okay?”
He turned his attention back to me and smiled half-heartedly. “Yeah. Just not him. My grandpère. He has Parkinson’s disease and dementia.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“He has difficulty moving, speaking, and blinking, and he’s very rigid and off-balance. He can’t keep track of time and he gets lost easily, even in our house! We have to take care of him, but he’s starting to forget his own grandson, too,” he replied quietly, speaking more to himself than me. “Mais il a voulu être dehors, alors… nous sommes venus au parc.”
For a while no one said anything. Marc just kept staring sadly at his grandfather, while I stared at Grandma, and she stared at Marc.
As I watched Grandma, that feeling came back to me, the one I couldn’t understand before. Except this time, it was a little clearer. Marc’s grandfather had it worse than Grandma. At least it was only her legs that were affected. It was amazing that despite her situation, she still had the same cheerful spirit and she never missed the chance to laugh out loud, all while keeping her memories of Grandpa. And then there was Marc’s grandfather, who couldn’t even remember his grandson. And yet, Marc was trying to make the most of the situation by bringing him outside. He was trying to make and remember happy memories with his grandfather, even if his grandpa wouldn’t remember anything.
It was truly an enlightening thought.
I gently placed a hand on Marc’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, dude. Seriously. I didn’t know he had it that bad. If there’s anything you want me to do, just ask.”
Marc turned around and smiled gently. “Merci, mon ami.” He held his hands up in the air. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make this trip depressing for you.”
“Oh, it’s fine, sonny, that’s what we’re here for,” Grandma pitched in. “Would you like to come with us for a short walk?”
“No, it’s fine, Madame, I must stay with my grandpère.”
“I see. Merci beaucoup!” Grandma said in her American accent again.
Marc looked at Grandma, confused, but then laughed. He walked away from us and we waved as he left.
“Poor kid,” Grandma sighed. “Anyway, it’s really hot, the sun is scorching! You wanna go back home?”
I thought for a moment, then grinned. “I have a better idea,” I said.
I swerved the wheelchair back onto the sidewalk and ran as I pushed her. I ran faster and faster, and the wheelchair rolled with such speed that Grandma whooped out in shock and glee.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa there, sonny! What’s with the rollercoaster?!” she cried.
I just laughed and kept running and pushing. The road zig-zagged and there were times when Grandma almost fell off the wheelchair because we were going so fast. But neither of us cared. We laughed hard in joy.
When we reached the end of the park, I stopped suddenly and tilted Grandma in her wheelchair backward.
“I bet you could do a wheelie with this thing!” I snickered, tilting it higher up until the wheelchair was almost parallel to the ground.
“Ahhh, stop, stop!” Grandma screamed, but she laughed at the same time.
I gently set the wheelchair back down and kneeled next to Grandma. We were both laughing so hard, tears were running from our eyes. It was pure joy from that short but exciting ride in the park. Believe it or not, I had fun with my grandmother!
When we were able to control ourselves, Grandma placed a hand on my head and asked, “Well, that was fun, Pete. Where to next?”
I had more plans up my sleeve. “Well, I was thinking of this ice cream shop that’s about a block away. We should go there. They have, like, the best ice cream ever.”
“I’m all for it. Oooh, do they have birthday cake flavored ice cream? That’s the best one. I also like mint chocolate chip, and…”
All the way to the ice cream store, we debated on which flavors were the best. It was a friendly argument. I found out that we both love birthday cake ice cream, but Grandma hated strawberry, and I loved it. She even told me about a toffee flavored ice cream, and yogurt parfait one. We talked about how many scoops we took at a time. When she was young, Grandma said, she had taken five scoops of five different flavors at once. She teased me about being unadventurous when I told her about my three-scoop record. We had so much fun we didn’t realize when we actually reached the ice cream shop.
“Five scoops of chocolate, coffee, rocky road, birthday cake, and orange pineapple ice cream for my grandmother, please. And two scoops of birthday cake for me,” I told the ice cream vendor.
He raised his eyebrows a mile high in disbelief. “Five for grandma, and two for you? Oookay, coming right up.”
Grandma and I grinned at each other. “You know, sonny,” she said to the vendor. “It’s no biggie to have five scoops. You think just because I’m old I can’t eat that much? Well, you’re wrong, wrong, wrong, sonny!”
The vendor said nothing, but chuckled to himself, and I high-fived Grandma.
As we sat down to lick our treats, Grandma said, “These days people underestimate old people. They think all we can do is sit around watching TV and play bingo at the club with the other oldies like us. Sure, I might be in a wheelchair, but I still like to have fun!” she said as she licked her ice cream. Grandma looked directly at me when she said that last part. Her eyes were sad, but her mouth was curved up in a smile. She quickly looked away, though, and said nothing after.
I cleared my throat, breaking the long silence that followed. “Well, if you really think so, you think you’ll be up for another ride?” I grinned mischievously.
Grandma sighed and patted her stomach. “Hmmm, maybe!” I helped her back into the wheelchair as she finished her ice cream. She gripped the armrests tightly and looked up at me. “Just go a little slow.”
I looked back and smiled again. “Slow is not in my vocabulary.”
And off we went, laughing all the way back home.
For the next few days, Grandma and I followed a schedule: I would come from school, finish my homework in the next hour, and then take Grandma to the park. Sometimes I would even bring my guitar and play for Grandma under a tree that we had picked out as our spot.
I couldn’t wait to do it again. Seriously! I realized how much I enjoyed Grandma’s company and wanted to play more games, tell more stories, and talk more about her life. I never wanted these moments to end.
One day I planned to go to the annual spring carnival, and instead of going with my parents, I decided to take Grandma instead. That day, I ran home from school and pushed open the door, yelling, “GRANDMA! YOU READY? WE HAVE TO LEAVE FOR THE CARNIVAL NOW!”
I shrugged off my backpack and didn’t bother to take off my shoes as I sat down on the couch. I decided to watch TV while I waited for Grandma to come. It did take her a while in the bathroom. I clicked on the TV and watched The Office to pass the time. I figured I had a little time before we could leave.
“GRANDMA, COME ON!” I yelled again just to make sure she heard me come home.
I finished an entire episode of the show, and still Grandma hadn’t come. I was starting to get frustrated. Sure, it might take some time in the bathroom, but not a whole hour!
“GRANDMA!” I yelled louder.
Silence. Where was she? What was Grandma doing?
Still no reply.
I hurriedly stood up, ran past the kitchen, narrowly missing the corner of the dining table, and checked all of the bedrooms, but she wasn’t in any of them. All of the bathrooms were vacant as well. Something was very wrong.
I ran back toward the living room and stopped short when I found her wheelchair propped up against one of the kitchen counters. Empty.
Afraid of what I would find, I tiptoed into the kitchen and almost slipped. I grabbed the edge of the counter to regain balance, and when my eyes finally focused again, I almost slipped again.
There she was.
Grandma was lying on the kitchen floor.
I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. I was frozen, and I didn’t know what to do. I kneeled down beside Grandma and checked for a pulse on her wrist. I couldn’t feel one. I quickly moved my fingers across her wrist and…there was a faint beat. I scrambled away from Grandma, whispering, “It will be okay, she’ll be fine,” the whole time. I searched the whole house for a phone, slipping on the hardwood floor the whole time, then realized I had one myself in my bag. I ripped open my bag, and dumped everything out on the floor. I rummaged through the sea of papers, notebooks, loose pencils, erasers, sticky notes, and folders until I found my phone. I looked back at Grandma, hoping she was still alive.
Punching in the numbers 911, I breathed heavily. I waited.
“911, what’s the emergency?”
“My grandma…she…just come!”
“What’s the emergency, dear?”
“She fell! Please, please come to 3522 Florentine Place, please, we need help! PLEASE!”
“Alright, calm down, help is on the way, dear.”
How could she be so calm?
“Please come, please!” But the line was already dead by then.
I ran a hand through my hair, which was drenched in sweat. I sat on the mess of school supplies, dumbfounded. I prayed to the gods that Grandma would be okay. I sat there with my head between my knees for fifteen minutes before I realized I should have called Mom and Dad.
“Hey, sweetie, what’s up?” Mom said when I called her. “Enjoying the carnival? What have you won so far?”
“MOM, STOP! SOMETHING–”
“Excuse me, young man–” she started to yell.
“GRANDMA’S NOT OKAY!”
Silence. “What?” Mom gasped.
“She fell I don’t know how but please come we need to go to a hospital please please come now, now, now, NOW!”
“Okay, honey, I’m on my way, and I’ll bring Dad too. Hang tight, sweetie, we’ll be right there,” she said.
I put down the phone and moved to Grandma’s side. I held her hand tightly, making sure every so often that there was a pulse. She looked so peaceful, as if she was in a deep sleep, as if she was…
I shoved that thought away immediately. “You’ll be fine, Grandma.”
I sniffed, trying to hold back tears. I suddenly smelled something burning, and it was a strong scent. I looked around in bewilderment trying to see where the smell was coming from. My gaze fell on the oven next to Grandma, and it was on, running for half and hour, according to the timer. I carefully stepped over Grandma and peeked inside. A huge cloud of smoke blew in my face, and I drew back, coughing loudly. When the smoke cleared, I leaned back in and saw chocolate chip cookies, burnt to the point where they looked like charcoal. Why were there cookies in the oven? Who made them?
There was a loud bang on the door, and I whipped my head around so quickly that I almost cracked it. My fear returned as my attention turned back to Grandma’s precarious condition. I opened the door as the paramedics were in mid-knock.
“Over there,” I squeaked, pointing to the kitchen.
The paramedics barged in, two of them carrying a stretcher, two of them rushing to Grandma’s side and carrying her. The fifth one stayed by my side and wrapped a shock blanket around me. I felt a little childish, standing there, a ten-year-old, shaking and wrapped in a blanket. I tried to insist I was fine, but my traumatized face said otherwise. The woman spoke softly to me, and led me out of the house, where I bumped into Mom. The woman smiled at Mom and left me with my parents. Both Mom and Dad were in tears, and Mom strangled me in a hug. We stood back, out of the paramedics way as they gingerly carried Grandma out. We watched as they put Grandma in and drove away, not knowing whether we’d see her smiling face ever again.
The next few hours passed by slowly, anxiously waiting for the doctor’s update. Dad sat with his face in his hands the whole time, and I silently sat, pale-faced. Mom was torn between rubbing Dad’s back and hugging me from time to time.
Three hours later, the doctor came by. Dad immediately stood up and peppered him with questions. The doctor kindly put his hands on Dad’s shoulders and quietly said, “Your mother is fine. It looks like she tried to stand up, but her legs gave way, causing her to fall. She hit her head and has a minor concussion, but other than that, she is okay. Make sure she gets as much rest as possible, not too much activity. Fresh air is good from time to time. If you want, you may visit her. Room 348.” He smiled at us and continued on his way.
Dad started walking quickly toward the room, and Mom held my hand as we caught up. My parents immediately rushed to either side of Grandma’s bed where she was resting, but I lingered in the doorway. All of sudden, tears streamed down my eyes and let out a sob. I turned away from Grandma lying in bed.
Mom turned around and her face sympathetically relaxed. “Oh, sweetie,” she said as she came over to me. She held me tight in a hug and stroked my hair.
“I don’t want Grandma to die!” I burst out.
“Oh, Peter, she’s not going to die–”
“It’s all my fault! I should have checked on her right after school! I shouldn’t have treated her the way I did! I should have done more with her! And now she’s gone!” I repented.
“No, honey, no, Grandma’s going to be absolutely fine,” Mom said as she pulled away and looked at me directly. She wiped away my tears from my face. I could see tears forming in her own eyes. “You will get to spend more time with her, I-I promise. And you know what?” She paused and continued only when I nodded. “It doesn’t matter what you should or shouldn’t have done in the past. What matters is what you do now, when Grandma feels better.” She smiled.
I turned away from Mom and shuffled over to Grandma’s side. I took her hand in mine. I thought about how I kept avoiding Grandma before. I thought about our time in the park. I thought about how we were going to go to the carnival. I thought of Dad’s hurt face when I told him my true feelings. I thought about how I should have been there with Grandma from the start. All of those thoughts, the guilt, the repentance built up inside of me and I hid my face in my hands, preventing tears from falling. One sneaky drop fell on Grandma’s hand, and I felt her hand flinch. I looked up. Grandma stirred, and managed to give me a weak smile. She reached for my cheek and I leaned forward, letting her stroke it.
“Don’t cry,” she whispered. “Why are you crying, sonny?”
“Why? Why did you get out of your wheelchair? You can’t walk!” I countered.
Grandma exhaled and turned her face away from me. “I heard you.”
Even Dad looked up at Grandma. I stared quizzically. “What did you hear me say?”
“At the spaghetti dinner. How you wanted me to do things normal grandmothers did.”
All the color drained from my face. “But-But you were asleep!”
“Sonny, look. I’ve known all along how you’ve felt about me.” She coughed loudly for an entire minute before continuing. “I know that you don’t like me because I couldn’t bake cookies, tell stories, or take you on walks like the perfect grandma. That’s why I tried baking cookies for you. But I want you to know that–”
“No, Grandma. You’re the perfect grandma. I couldn’t ask for a better grandma.” I wiped away remaining tears and hugged her.
She stroked my hair as I lay still and closed my eyes. “You’re the best grandson I could ever have,” she said softly in my ear. “And I’ll always be happy with you, your mother, and your father, even without your grandfather. You know why?”
I slowly shook my head, but I knew why.
“I will remember all of the good times we spent together. Oh, those days with your grandfather, such amazing times. They make me smile just by remembering them. And that’s exactly what we should do, Peter. We should make good memories while we have the chance so we have something to remember when that person is gone. You’ll end up regretting it later, sonny.”
I pulled away and looked at Grandma and smiled. “I think I get what you’re trying to tell me, Grandma.”
“I’m glad to hear that, sonny.” Grandma sounded tired, and she went back to sleep. Or so I thought.
Dad jerked up and grabbed the edge of the bed. “Yes, Mom? What do you need? Are you okay?”
Grandma tried to laugh, but it ended up turning into a cough. After a minute, she croaked, “Why are you getting so worked up? Don’t worry, all I need is that book over there.” She coughed again and moaned in pain.
Dad glared at Grandma, as if to say, Obviously not to worry, HACKING IS NORMAL.
Still, he trudged over to the desk where Grandma was pointing and returned with a classic, brown leather notebook, placing it in Grandma’s hand. She relayed it over to me, sandwiching the book between our hands.
“I want you to keep this, Pete,” she said.
“Why?” I asked.
“To record every memory in your life, with me, with your friends, with your family, when you grow up, everything. Memories are the only things that stay with you forever, support you every step of the way, and remind you of the good in this world. Those are the real souvenirs in life, hanging proudly in your mind, something to be shared and spread. These souvenirs will make you smile, reminding you of the great things in life. Start collecting those souvenirs today,” she gestured to the notebook.
“I will.” I caressed the smooth leather, breathed in the smell of the pages, and imagined the ink of the pens sinking into the paper, immortalizing the people and places I loved. “Thank you. I love you, Grandma.”
“I love you, too, sonny.” And she drifted off into a deep, deep sleep.
❋ ❋ ❋
It’s been exactly 15 years since that day in the hospital, when Grandma gave me this diary. And I’m still writing! Not only for myself, but others, too. That’s right. You guessed it. I’m an author now. I write stories that other people can remember, something they will store in their memory. After a long time, I’ve finally come to realize that memories, the good ones, are what spread the most joy, to so many people. And I didn’t want to keep all these memories to myself. There’s magic in memories, and what good would those memories be if I didn’t share them? So, I just finished a story called The Perfect Grandmother. It’s about that time 15 years ago when Grandma came over. And guess what? My readers absolutely LOVED it. An unforgettable journey with my perfect Grandma.
To celebrate another success, I went out with Angela and our two kids, Izzy and Luc. Boy, was it crazy today! When we went to the beach, Izzy snuck up on Luc and pushed him into the sea. He got so mad, he pushed Izzy in too. They put wet sand in each other’s hair. They swallowed salt water. And then both were laughing like crazy. The nuttiest pair of siblings I have ever seen. We had to stop at home to get them cleaned up, and then at the restaurant, as Izzy was drinking her soda, Luc tipped her glass too far so it spilled all over her shirt! Angela and I reprimanded Luc and Izzy, but if Grandma had been there, I’m sure she would have laughed along. “This is what is called creating new memories to share later on in life,” she would have said.
Both were grounded when we came back home, but I could hear them giggling in their rooms. Crazy.
Next week I have to deliver a speech about my work so far, and I am excited to go! It would be a pleasure to inspire new authors, or memory-creators, as I call it now. I’m sure when I look back at all the stories I’ve written, I’ll smile as I remember the great times with Grandma and my other characters as well, all immortal through the power of memory. When I look back at these stories I’ve collected in my diary, I’ll laugh with sheer joy and nostalgia as I remember what fun I had with my family, and the not-so-good times as well. I’ll especially make fun of the crazy things my kids did, but for now, they’re grounded until next year.
To more memories!