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   Mygrandmother lost all her children to atheism. My aunt because the church is asexist institution. My father never needed a god. My uncle because God neversaved him.

Her grandchildren are slipping through her fingers. She'sworried that my sister is too promiscuous and may become a teenage mother. Mycousin could be a replica of my uncle - godless and divorced. She's afraid she'lllose me the same way God lost my father.

Her husband, my grandfather, issinking further into the depths of his study and his stock quotes and moneyestimates. To him, they, as a couple, will never make it through retirement; theymight have to become burger flippers at age 92.

She spends most of hertime trying to save us. My cousin Bradley sits through an hour of catechism eachtime she comes to babysit. Grandma donates newspaper clippings about teen mothersand STDs to my sister. My treatment is nothing in comparison - just the normal,grandmotherly birthday cakes and cookies kind of love. If God can't save me, shecan.

I have always gone on camping trips with my father's parents,Charlotte and Bill and the Sinbin (the appropriately named trailer) amidstcampgrounds and outhouses. My sister came on one of the first trips but cried theentire time. My grandfather excused her from accompanying us until she wasolder.

We went to the Dells when I was seven.

I waited for thesharp perfume from Marshall Fields to permeate the screen door. Through my pinkwire frames, I peered up at my grandma's eyes, hidden behind purple-rimmedglasses that seemed gigantic. Plump in that loving grandmotherly way, she huggedme and led me into the kitchen, still warm from the bread stone cooling in theoven. After eating the home-made pizza, I was sent off to the bedroom decoratedwith the picture of a girl feeding a horde of rabbits. I lay in bed with the moonsliding through the slats in the window, lacing and unlacing my fingers, watchingthe minutes fall away, watching as the moon set in its kingdom of the west as theblood-red sun rose over suburbia.

At seven o'clock the next morning, Ishifted the covers to the side and slipped onto the carpet. Dressing quietly, Ipeered into the kitchen. Without turning from the counter, Grandma asked,"What would you like for breakfast, dear?"

Within the hour wewere in the Sinbin, shoes off, Grandpa driving, my head in Grandma's lap. Shepulled out a book, brown and worn, with a cover picture of gnome-like fairies ina carriage pulled by grasshoppers. She brushed the hair away from my face."The Pancake Brownies, by Eloise Byington," she said. Licking herfinger and turning the page, she read.

"The Brownie People ofPancake Town are jolly little folks. You hardly ever see them frown, and harmlessare their jokes. For Grandpa Brownie years ago, learned 'tis no use to sigh orgrumble over each hard task, just go ahead and try ..."

* * *

The other grandma used to tell us stories at bedtime before shedied. Her lungs were shattered - frail and filled with liquid. She carried abreathing machine with a tube going up her nose. My sister and I thought it wasdisgusting how old people got, how they shriveled away, deteriorating into livingskeletons like the pictures that TV always shows of people in poor countrieswithout food. In the hospital, the last day I saw her alive, the sun beat throughthe windows, and I couldn't tell my breathing from hers.

Her only sin wasovercooking vegetables. When my Sunday-school teacher asked if I prayed for hersoul, I burst out laughing. The only one who needs praying for is my grandfather.After a mourning period of a few weeks, he started dating and married Cathy fivemonths later. Enough said.

* * *

We'd come overto Grandma Charlotte's house for five-day weekends, Marshmallow Fluff, and cable.The last time I remember most. It was the summer before fourth grade, the lastsummer we had. My sister had begun tutoring me about the Great Lakes inpreparation for social studies. She had always seen her importance in myeducation. Besides our noontime lesson, we gaped in excitement at the wonders ofdaytime television, prowled the streets searching for stray cats, and played inthe yard. But it was at night when my grandparents broke from their ritual ofchurch and exercising at the fitness center. They'd be home to make sure welooked decent, which almost always concluded with my sister being sent backupstairs to brush her hair. We'd take the Buick out and drive downtown, talkingto Grandpa about whether he'd ever get a motorcycle. He said when he was 90, he'dindulge.

We chose Ron of Japan for dinner. During dessert, my sister and Itried to read our fortunes in the green-tea leaves. "You," she said,waving her hands majestically over my cup, "you will be bitter like thisdisgusting tea. Yet, I see - wait! What is that? Do I see a rabbit?" Sheloses her mysterious gypsy persona, pulling out of it like a snake sliding fromits skin. "Do you see it? See its ears?"

* * *

Sometimes my grandmother comes to me in my dreams. Everything is brightand soft like water. I seem to swim in it, gasping for breath, and she justsmiles. Every time she asks, "Some people get nothing, and I got everything.Why is that? Why?"

I say, "Grandpa got married so quickly. Didhe really love you? Most of your kids screwed up, and Grandpa blamed you for it.You did nothing. You got nothing."

She just shakes her head and says,"No, I got everything. Some people get nothing. Why is that? No, I waslucky. You understand, don't you?"

Every time I say, "Yes,yes," squeezing her hand with my fingers. "I do."

But Idon't. I never have.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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Imaginedangerous This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 21, 2011 at 9:04 am

That sounded beautiful. The characters were all so real- and I loved how you could tell the narrator's feelings on religion without him telling you outright. There was one problem, though: It was hard to tell when you switched back from 'the other grandma' to the one who 'lost her children to atheism'. Which one is Grandma Charlotte?

 

Overall, though, it was great.

 
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