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Family Reunion MAG
Ring around the Rosie ...
We left the housemoments ago, leaving five smoking candles on my cake. Now we stand in a brightroom, my parents and I. I can see the backs of my uncles and aunts; they surroundsomething I can't see. They hear us and turn around. Stony faces stare at us. Ilook up at my parents, and their news-hungry faces fall. Everyone is silent; allthat can be heard are the clicks and beeps of machines. The silence of myrelatives is frightening. I have never seen them so quiet before. Curiosity andalarm surge through my mind. Curiosity quashes the shock of seeing my silentrelatives.
"Why are we here?" I question my parents. They don'tanswer, and keep walking forward. I tug on the sleeve of Mom's jacket. She looksdown at me and pats my head.
"In a minute," shewhispers.
Uncles and aunts separate, like the Red Sea parting for Moses,and the three of us fill the gap. A bed smelling of chemicals fills my field ofvision. I tiptoe, and strain to glance over the edge. I see a frail, old manlying there under a sea of blankets and looking like a withered leaf. His face isunder a mask and bandages, but I finally recognize the man.
"Why isGrandpa in bed?" I ask.
A pocket full of posies...
Hands dart to pockets and handkerchiefs appear in the hands of thegrown-ups. They look at me with tears in their eyes. I don't understand what isgoing on.
"Grandpa is just sleeping, isn't he?" I lookquestioningly at Dad. He just shakes his head and turns back toward the bed. Hiseyes search Grandpa's wrinkled face.
Footsteps echo down the hallwayoutside, and everyone tenses. A white-coated doctor enters the room. Worriedfaces turn toward him, and everything suddenly becomes still. Then, all thegrown-ups explode with questions. The jumbled noise produced from many voicesincreases, until the doctor holds up his hands. Silence fills the room.
Mom takes my hand and squeezes it.
Ashes, ashes ...
Thedoctor looks at Grandpa, then shakes his head. Worried faces suddenly change tofaces of horror and shock. But nothing happened! I did not see anything change inthe room. A dry, choking sound rends the air as Uncle Ted turns and sinks intoone of the chairs by the window. Red lights from a white van speeding by suddenlyflash through, turning his face red. Rivulets of water stream from his eyes,soaking his beard. Another relative walks out of the room as though she can't seewhere she is going. Dad stares dumbly at the doctor, not twitching a muscle.Confusion reigns in my mind. What is going on?
"What happened toGrandpa?" I ask my mom.
She looks at me through tear-filled eyes.There is pity in her eyes as she studies my face.
"He is going tosleep. For a very long time. You might never see himagain."
"Why not?" I look at her, still notunderstanding.
She suddenly kneels and hugs me, crying on my shoulder. Istand there, not knowing what to do. Something scary must have just happened. Aprickling sensation spreads up my arms. I have never seen Mom cry before. I takea closer look around the small room, searching for the source of her troubles.All I see are white walls and the many machines near my grandpa's bed. Onemachine catches my attention. It has a green screen with wires coming from it.The wires connect to disks that are attached to Grandpa's arm. Some disappearunder the colored gown he is wearing. I study the gown. It is something thatdoesn't belong. That gown isn't something Grandpa usually wears.
I glanceback at the green screen attached to Grandpa. There is a line that jumps everyfew seconds. Each time it does, a blipping sound comes from the machine. I watchthe line with great interest. It has a hypnotizing quality that keeps me riveted,unable to tear my gaze away. Blip ... blip ... blip ... blip ... the blippingstops.
We all fall down.