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The Final Performance
“Are you Bridgette?” the Doctor asked the fourteen year old girl, sitting in the cold waiting room of the hospital. Her wavy brown hair framed her round, depressed face and large pleading blue eyes.
“Yes, sir, I am. Why?” Bridgette asked, looking up immediately for signs of good news.
“Your grandmother, she wants you to come into her room. She would like to spend time with you,” said the Doctor. He looked sorry for the girl, all by herself, waiting for her grandmother to die.
“Okay. Thank you,” Bridgette solemnly replied.
Bridgette slowly made her way up the dank stairwell to room 345, where her grandmother’s final hospital room was. She’s dreaded this day for months, ever since they told her. Since that day when she was told that her grandmother only has one month to live, she has spent every spare moment at this hospital with her grandmother. It wasn’t fair that she had to go this way and this young. She was only sixty-four. It was cancer that was taking this once healthy lady’s life away.
“Hi Grandma,” Bridgette quietly walked into the dim room. Her Grandma is sitting up in her bed attached to machines monitoring her heartbeat. It looks so wrong to see her once incredibly stunning grandmother, shrunken and bald in the sterile hospital bed. In her hands are her pictures from her childhood dance recitals. She has a remorseful frown on her face and looks lost in her memories. This pings Bridgette in the heart because her own recital is just weeks away, she’ll be getting her ten year award and she knows her Grandma won’t be there to see it. In fact, her Grandma has been to every dance recital that she has ever had. Bridgette was absolutely terrified. Her Grandma was her guardian growing up. Her parents both died in a plane crash when she was only 5 years old. This one woman is everything to her. After she passes, Bridgette will have to go live with her Godparents, who were her parent’s best friends. They are friendly, but Bridgette is afraid she won’t have courage after her only Grandmother is gone.
Her Grandmother was once a grand dancer, she was a Rockette for five years starting when she was only twenty years old. But, before that she had danced her whole life. She started out in her small hometown in Eastern Connecticut, where Bridgette lives and dances now. When her grandmother was fourteen she even did a summer intensive program with the Rockettes. It was destiny that now, Bridgette was just weeks away from sending in her audition video for the same intensive, to train with the Rockettes for a week at Radio City. It’s all she’s ever wanted; to be just like her grandmother. But she was scared- what if she’s not good enough?
“Hello Bridgette, How are you today?” The woman asked Bridgette as she stepped into view.
“Grandma, I’m just fine, today is about you, and only you...” whispered Bridgette. She was worried because her grandmother was so calm about the situation. “Gran can you tell me a story about your dancing days?”
“Of course sweetie,” she says. “My young days or my rockette days?” she asks.
“Your young days, about how you would all get ready in a fluster,” says Bridgette.
Grandma got a glazed look in her eyes and starts describing it as if she’s there in the moment, and not here in her deathbed. “ I look around and there are young girls everywhere, some are solitary and sitting stretching in a corner. Some other girls are flitting around giggling and telling secrets to each other. That wasn’t me. I was focused. I stood in my area while the music coursed through my brain. I went through the motions, marking the dance. It was strategy. I knew that if I did anything else I would panic. I had to make sure I was stretched out and ready to dance. Before every performance my brain was out of control. I always thought of the worst. ‘What if I break my ankle? What if I forget the moves? What if I fall?’ These were always a possibility. I was always worried. But every time I performed I forgot everything. I threw myself in the dance. I felt the music rushing through my bones. My worries were gone and the only thing that brought me back to the real world was the standing ovation we got. It was bliss.” Grandma sighed as she came back into the real world. She was disappointed.
“I love that story!!,” Bridgette grinned with excitement.
“Well I’m glad I could share it with you. I’m sure you’ll have a lot more to tell your children and grandchildren someday” says Grandma.
“Tell me another story, this time I want to hear about your first Rockette performance” Bridgette says excitedly.
“The lights are dim. Im backstage with all the other girls waiting patiently in formation. I can barely see around me because all the lights are off. We can hear the crowd’s whispers. The thick velvet curtain ruffles in the wind. I was freaking out. This was my first ever Rockette Christmas Spectacular. The veteran dancers returning for the season were cool and collected, telling me not to freak out. They said the only reaction they had ever gotten from the audience was happiness, they had never had a displeased watcher, and that the best part of performing was seeing the smiles on the awestruck children watching from the front row. I remembered seeing this as a child with my parents and knowing from that moment on that I would one day be dancing on that stage.I knew that I would one day wear the famed toy soldier costume and dawn the cherry red lipstick. But most of all, I knew I would kick in the most famous kick-line in the world. It was magic. And there I was. I was actually a Rockette, dancing at Radio City Music hall. It was unreal and unimaginable. But it was as real as it could get,” Grandma finished her story and looked around as if she was realizing she wasn’t there anymore.
“That story is really inspiring, Grandma. I want to be just like you. I too, will one day dance on that stage. I will be the inspiration for a little girl in that audience, just like you are to me.” Bridgette looks around at the cold hospital room. She sees serious faces passing by in the doorway knowing that soon one of them will be coming to her, helping her cope with the situation. She wishes it wouldn’t happen like this. Its numbing. Knowing theres nothing she, or any doctor could do to help her beloved Grandmother.
“Bridgette, there is absolutely no doubt in the world that you won’t be on that stage kicking away to the high heavens. I am almost positive you will get into the intensive and then become a Radio City Rockette. Its there in you. You are determined. You train everyday and never stop practising. At your performances your presence takes up the whole stage. You are amazing. You are just like I was as a young girl. Happy, ambitious, and ready. I can see it in you, that you are ready for anything that life throws at you. This situation we’re in is a test. If you can handle me passing away than you can handle anything. I believe in you. Now all you need is to believe in yourself. You can do it Bridgette. I love you.” Grandma chokes out these words and her breathing slows. Bridgette can sense everything is coming to an end.
“I love you Grandma. Thank you for being everything I’ve ever needed. I love you.’’ Bridgette inhales deeply and wipes away the tears pouring down her face.
Bridgette chokes as the final beep rings out around her. Her Grandmothers stage lights go out. The curtain closes with a flourish one last time. Her final show is over. This time there is no encore.