When you are on your second night at the hospital trying but failing to catch an hour of sleep, you sometimes wish that the annoying beeping of the machines would just stop, so you can have a moment of peace. That’s until you remember that the beeping heart monitor is the only thing proving that your grandmother is still alive.
They say that you have two parents, so when you lose one, you still have another. Unfortunately, since my father was never in the picture, and my mother had to go to jail when I was just five years old, losing Grams will mean that I will not only be losing both parents at one time, but my best friend as well.
I always respected Grams for taking me in. She was older when my mother went to jail, and could’ve let me go to an orphanage.
The doctors say “It’ll be any day now,” but I know she’ll make it. She’s a fighter, my Grams, and she made sure I was one too.
“You can’t let him keep picking on you, Robin,” Grams repeated as she
sprayed WD-40 into a chunk of my hair. I was in third grade, and it was the second time that week that Billy Hammond had stuck his gum in my ponytail. “Boys pick on girls that they like, to get their attention. You’re a pretty girl, Sweetpea, but you need to stick up for yourself.”
The next day, Grams was called to the principal’s office because I had jumped on Billy in the playground and rubbed his face in the dirt. Billy never picked on me again, and Grams brought me a large ice-cream cone on the way home from school.
It has been three days now, and she still hasn’t moved. Grams always hated hospitals. It wasn’t the smell of the antiseptic, or the thought that nearly everyone in a hospital is sick. It was the florescent lighting. She said it made everyone look harsh and waxy.
“When I die, Sweetpea,” she said at some point after we got our third doctor’s opinion, “I want to be under halogen lights. Much more flattering.” I laughed. My Grams can always make me laugh during the hardest of times.
I grew up in a modest one bedroom apartment. My Grandfather died a
few years before I was born, so it was up to Grams to support us. I always respected her for stepping up and taking care of me.
“Do you know what the key is to being a successful woman? Believing in yourself. You can take on any task as long as you are comfortable with yourself. Right?”
“Yes, Grams!” I answer enthusiastically. “I can laugh because I have felt sadness. I am strong because I know weakness. I am wise because I learn from my mistakes.I can live because I’ve seen death.”
Grams always made me repeat that phrase when I was feeling low. She got most of it from her favorite writer, Tupac Shakur, but added to it so I can chant more lessons in one phrase. When I was younger, I didn’t really understand what it meant, but as I grew up, I began to appreciate it more and eventually began living by it.
“Robin,” Grams would often say sternly, “If there would be only one thing in the world you would remember from me, I want it to be this.”
Its the fourth day, and I’m getting desperate for some company. It’s depressing to be sitting in a hospital room all by yourself for hours on end. Normally a person would have a parent to help them through this, but I’m already used to the fact that my parents are not part of my family.
When I was eleven, I started asking Grams why my parents did not raise me like most children. She said, “Sweetpea, your parents made a mistake. There are two types of people in the world. Some are an inspiration, and some are examples
of what not to do.” That was enough to keep me quiet for a while, but when I asked her again in my teens, she handed me a poem written by K.M. Walton.
Many children know pain
At the hands
Of those meant to love them
Many children lie in the darkness
Longing for whispers
That everything will be ok
Just a little peace
Children want to be loved
A Child’s spirit is a fragile thing
A hollow egg
Delicate and easy to shatter
Some wait to be filled
Some wait for no one
As time passes, I begin to appreciate the beeping machine. Sleep-snatcher or not, it meant that Grams was still with me.
It’s now day seven. Grams still hasn’t moved. She looks a lot less like herself: more pale, less vibrant- kind of like a wax doll. It must be the florescent lighting because she’s still here, at least according to the kind beeping machine. I had always heard stories when I was growing up of how when people are in a comas, they can hear what others are saying around them. Maybe if Grams hears something familiar, she will respond.
When I was in sixth grade, groups began to develop in my class, and I was not in any of them. It was in middle of the year when Stephanie Blake, the most popular girl in my grade, came over to compliment my outfit. “Oh my God, Robin, I love what you’re wearing! You look like a real dolt!” I took it as a compliment, since I didn’t know any better.
A few weeks later, when I overheard Stephanie teasing Edna Morton, and calling her a dolt, I learned that dolt meant “loser who wears stuff that was rejected by Goodwill.”
I ran crying to Grams. She said that we should just make a codename for Stephanie. We settled on “Dumbion.” It meant “someone or something that seems really awesome, until you spend time with them.” “Dumbion” became our private joke over the years- anyone that ticked us off was instantly referred to as a “Dumbion.” The word never failed to crack Grams up.
“Dumbion!” I shout. “Come on, Grams, dumbion, dumbion, dumbion!” I shake her shoulder, but it just falls back pitifully when I let go. I broke down, and this time I dont have Grams to comfort me. A nurse hears my sobs, and tries to console me.
“You’d be surprised what a change of scenery can do for you, hun,” she says.
“Not hun,” I whispered, “Sweetpea.” But she was right. Grams was still beeping, so I leave the room.
The hospital has a garden, but I really don’t see the point in it. Who are they trying to impress? People don’t come to hospitals because they want to; they come because they have to. Flowers aren’t going to entice them. But Grams favorite flowers are red roses, and I picked a couple anyway. I head back to the room.
Dropping the flowers I run over to Grams lifeless body. Fuzzy background noises begin to ask me what I assume are questions, but I can’t focus. I’m not crying, I’m numb with guilt. How can I not be with Grams for her last moments of life? After all she has done for me? She’s gone now, but I will show her that I will always remember her.
“Grams,” I whispered into her ear. “I can laugh because I have felt sadness. I am strong because I know weakness. I am wise because I learn from my mistakes. I can live because I’ve seen death.”
Chani Weber, Age 16, Grade 11, Congregation Bnos Yaakov, Gold Key