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I hold myself steady and cool as a rock. I breathe evenly and keep my facial expressions calm and controlled. I run my hands over the rectangles that hold my future. I flip up the corners of the cards again and look down at the odd, mismatched cards. Smiling gently, my adversary stares at me quietly and lights a cigarette, and as it catches, she inhales and props her feet up on the chair beside me. I see her eyes through the smoke and notice the wrinkles that appear every time I glance at her. Some of them are due to her age, the others to smoking, the rest to her life, but no matter the origin, I see the young driven woman she used to be.

She used to be beautiful. She was tall and thin with long hair. She loved to primp and dress up just because she felt like it. She lived to be her daddy’s little girl. She dreamt about being in the Navy. She also used to have all of her teeth until a drunkard knocked them out. She also lived to take care of her father as he died of cancer. She was also devastated when her mother refused to let her join the Navy, but then she didn’t. She rebelled against society itself, drank, partied, loved and married a man that drank and abused drugs, and had three children, a boy and two girls. She used to decide between herself and her kids, the kids didn’t often win. She used to be a single mom after her divorce. She and her family used to scrape by on anything they could get their hands on. She would instantly come running when her son would drunk call her and threaten to kill himself. She put everything aside to help out the family. She would bury herself to help others. She used to work her life away to help fix everything. The importance of all of this is that she used to do it.

Now, she is not only beautiful but wise. She is no longer tall and thin, but why should she be? She lives in gowns and t-shirts and cotton shorts. She keeps a picture of her father on her dresser. She has not had a drink since the year I was born. Her kids are now adults, but she treats them as if they’re still in need of guidance. She is still single and in love with a man that died years ago from cancer, and she always will be. She no longer scrapes, however she doesn’t have the frivolity to splurge. She still answers the phone calls and puts everything she can aside to help family, but her life is hers now. She lives in Florida. She moved away from here because that was her backup dream, to retire in Florida. She still works but lives the one dream she could get her hands on, and she worked hard for it.

She has taught me more about myself and life than any person I’ve ever known. She has cried, struggled, fought herself, her family and others, but she never got an education. She has said over the years, “Education not only comes from school but from people, but a little school never hurt.” I have learned by my own experience that life is hard, confusing, frustrating, that responsibility and instincts don’t kick in until you need them, and that you can never go wrong going all in because you’ll experience and learn something unexpected even if you lose. She puts out her cigarette and asks, “Are you going to bet?” I nod and feel the plastic disks lying on the table. I throw in two and announce, “All in.” My grandmother flips her cards, smirks, and says, “Always.”





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Chuckyy said...
Nov. 8, 2011 at 5:29 pm
This was so beautiful. I especially loved the ending. [;
 
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