The light streaming through the curtains told me that morning had arrived as I sat up in bed and then slipped out from my blankets, ever so carefully, so as not to wake up my brothers. It was January first – 2006 had arrived, and soon, in only twenty-six days, I would be turning seven. It was an ordinary cold winter morning, but it was warm inside. Like usual, I was the first one up. I dragged on the clothes that were waiting for me at the foot of my bed and walked out of the room (quietly, so as not to wake my siblings) in search of my mother. I found her in the office/guest bedroom, just sitting on the floor, doing nothing (a very rare occurrence), and looking upset.
Before I could ask her what the matter was, she told me, her tired eyes looking into mine. “Last night, Grandma fell down the stairs, and she’s in the hospital now.”
Being young, the full impact of her words had yet to affect me, but I was confused and a little scared. “But – how?” My mouth spoke, trying to put to words the confusion in my mind.
“She was going to the bathroom, and, in the dark, walked past the bedroom and fell down the stairs instead. She’s broken a few bones, and who knows what else.”
“Well then I’ll make her a card!” My young mind felt that a card could cure any malady, and soon (after getting my card), my grandmother would be well again. I sat down with markers and a piece of paper, and began drawing a picture of Grandma on a walk holding my hand. It was a beautiful day in the card and Grandma was smiling and strong, like always.
When my siblings woke up, my sister, being four years older than me, and a great authority on these things, took over. She knew how bad the situation was, but she also knew that, though a card may not heal my grandmother’s broken bones, it would certainly heal any bit of her spirit that may have gotten chipped during the fall down the stairs. Soon all four of us had produced cards, and my mother promised to deliver them at the first opportunity.
The matter being, in my mind, settled, I relaxed, and though I still worried for my grandmother, and still prayed for her, I let myself slip back into the routine pattern of my life and calmed down, going through life while ignoring the problems that loomed around me.
On a cold, gray, winter day several weeks later I saw my grandmother for the first time after her injury. The whole family drove up to her rehabilitation center in Westchester to pay her a visit, and I was looking forward to it. I hadn’t understood why my grandmother couldn’t come home. I just knew she wanted too. Later, I would learn that she hadn’t wanted to see us children until she was looking better.
After a long, boring, car ride, we had arrived. I stepped out of the car, taking in the cold, wintery, air, the dark grey sky, and the gloomy, squat, red-brick building that was holding my grandmother prisoner. After one glance, I had made up my mind: I didn’t like it one bit. The family walked forward, into the “cheery” reception hall (that I didn’t find very cheery), and then through a maze of too-clean looking hallways with ugly plastic floors and cheap wallpaper, an elevator that smelled like cleaning fluids, and rooms on the sides that looked like they had been decorated by my younger brother, being led on the whole way by a falsely-smiling nurse who maintained a cheery attitude that I thoroughly detested.
Finally, we came to my grandmother’s room. The room was divided in half by a large white curtain, and, in the half that we had entered, on a bed with thin white sheets, was a woman who loosely resembled my grandmother.
This woman who was like my grandmother was very pale, and seemed half the size. She was quiet; Grandma was lively. She was weak; Grandma was strong. In addition, I was told that this woman had a blood clot – I didn’t know what a blood clot was, but it didn’t sound like something my grandmother would have.
I tried to smile, she tried to smile. I picked up one of the rehab toys, talked to my siblings, and, occasionally, talked to the woman in the bed, who was supposed to be my grandmother.
I tried to smile and laugh, but for the whole time, I wasn’t comfortable – I knew that something was wrong. Now I realize that somewhere inside I knew that my grandmother, the woman who had, in many ways, been a second mother to me, who babysat when my parents were out, who told me stories of fleeing from Hitler as a teenager, who knew all my friends by name, who kept some spare toys in her house for when I visited – that woman – my grandmother – wouldn’t last forever. And neither would my grandfather, nor my mother, nor my father, nor anyone else who was close to me – none of them would last forever. Those pillars that hold up my life would, eventually, crumble, and they would come down.
Joshua Moriarty, Age 13, Grade 8, Hunter College High School, Gold Key