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Shoes, newspaper, and blanket, okay, I have everything I need (which is also everything I own).
“Lillian Jaime Jones, you have one minute to get over here or I am leaving without you!” Grandma hollered, even though I knew she would never leave without me. We went through this routine probably once a week, me taking to long to collect my things and say good-bye to everyone and her yelling at me for it. That is because we are homeless. Yes, homeless. We move from shelter to shelter all the time and I never want to leave any of my belongings behind because I have such few of them.
“Okay, see if I care,” I responded back, giggling to myself.
We have been doing this for as long as I can remember, moving around. I have neither a mother nor a father, just my grandmother and me. My father died at war while my mother was pregnant with me. I was born 3 months later and at 8:01 p.m. on November 5th and my mother happier then she was in a long time. That is, until 11:28 p.m. That is when my mother died. She was having some abnormal trouble breathing right after my birth but the doctors didn’t really think anything of it. She then died of heart failure. That left just my grandmother and me. My mother never got the chance to name me while she was still alive so when my grandmother had to make to decision she named me Lillian (after my mother) Jaime (after my father). That is everything of them that I have with me now, their names in spirits.
Anyways, Grandma took over a part time job at the local Stop & Shop going fine. We had a cute little yellow cottage that we surrounded with gardens and enough food to live off of. I attended school at Roosevelt Preschool Elementary School and I was having an amazing time meeting all new friends. That is when Stop & Shop closed down. A week after that we couldn’t come up with the rent and we were out on the streets. It has been extremely hard since then but as grandmothers come, mine is definitely one of the best and we love each other and always stick together. We are best friends and always have been.
“You are my hero,” she always tells me in her grandmotherly voice. “You are the bravest 9-year-old I have ever met and I love you to the moon and back.” I always try and say the same thing back to her but by that time she has pulled me into a tight bear hug and she is usually crying. But I think she knows.
“Ready to go?” she asked as I ran up to her.
“Ready Freddy,” I quickly responded, clutching my things close.
“We are going to try to get back into the shelter we were in last week because there are no other openings in any other shelter in town,” she explained, worry hiding behind her voice.
The walk there was very quiet, which made it feel like it took forever. All you could hear was the sound of our feet patting against the ground. Heel, toe, heel, toe. We were both just praying that there would be room at the shelter.
“I am sorry, we are full,” were the words I knew I would hear, but they felt worse when I actual heard the lady say them out loud. It was like someone spat in my face and then walked away screeching with laughter. I put on my best puppy dog frown and stared at her. Sherri, her name tag read. Ew, Sherri. From that moment on I officially hated Sherri for what she is putting us through. She had crazy fire truck-red hair that looked like she had not run a brush through it in 10 years. Her mouth curled down at the sides so it was like she always had a permanent frown on and her beady brown eyes were as cold as ice. Grandma took me hand and we turned around, anger soaring through my body like a strike of lightning.
“Well,” Grandma walked out of the shelter and walked over to a small chunk of dead, prickly grass on the side of the road. “I guess this is our home for the night,” she sighed, her whole body hunching over.
I laid down, squirming to find a comfortable position, and pulled my thin ratted blanket over me. Seconds later Grandma came down and joined me too.
“Good-night Grandma,” I whispered, “I love you.”
“I love you too, my hero,” she whispered back as she brushed my hair with her fingers, her way of putting me to sleep.
Sleep isn’t something I got a lot of that night, though. It was utterly freezing and I didn’t get a wink of sleep because Grandma kept moaning and complaining that she wasn’t feeling good, probably due to the fact that we had no dinner, or lunch for that matter.
The next day, after I finally got to sleep, was no better. Actually, it was a lot worse. Grandma only felt worse so we couldn’t even walk to a shelter. She described it as feeling lightheaded and as though she could pass out at any moment. I tried to lay her down and get some food in her but all I could scrape up was a measly chocolate chip cookie.
“Grandma, are you going to be okay?” I kept asking her, concerned about what her answer would be.
But, all she would respond with was, “I love you, my hero.”
We spent the next spine chilling nights on the grass until 3 nights later.
I decided to go by myself (since Grandma could barely move) to the nearest shelter to see if they could get us some help. When I got there, I was shocked to actually hear good news. They told me that they could help Grandma and that they would send an ambulance right over. I was so happy; I basically glided back over to our “home” on the grass.
“Grandma, I have found you some help!” I gleefully exclaimed when I got back. But, those were the final words that I ever said to her. She just responded by heaving one last breath and then it was dead silent, it felt as though the whole world stopped right before my eyes.
At first I just stood there in complete shock. I didn’t what was going on or what was happening. Then it hit me. I dropped down on my knees, my whole body feeling like one giant lead weight. Then I crawled over next to Grandma and took her limp hand.
I sat there next to her for the next 3 hours sobbing and stroking her hair whispering, “You are my hero.”