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Piece By Piece
I do not understand. Why me? I get it. Teenagers are always busy. But, of all teenagers in Ohio, I am chosen to be the busy body. I have the crazy life with barely any time to sleep. I have a large friend group. I have 24/7 softball. I have the sweet, caring boyfriend. I have a college bound deminer. I have a life that is just thrown at me, and it is not always easy to juggle.
My name is Paisleigh Grace Miller. I am a sixteen year old girl from a small town in Ohio. Yes, I said Ohio. I don’t blame you if you’re completely unaware of why anyone would want to live here. If I lived in a huge city in California, a small town in Ohio would not be my first choice either.
Ohio is a state that is full of little change. Especially in little town Tiffin. A place where everyone knows everyone. A place where the people in charge refuse to build a new high school year after year because we HAVE to maintain the same football field, Heaven forbid! A city where if something as simple as a fight happens between two people, the whole town is aware. A city where we have more pizza places and bars than stores in our mall. Most of the world doesn’t even know it exists, but to me, Tiffin is and always will be, home.
Today is just a typical day. It’s 6:15 in the morning. I’m dragging around, trying to avoid actually getting ready. I try to avoid breakfast- I know, most important meal of the day- blah, blah, blah. I walk downstairs and the first person I see is my mom.
“Good morning, sunshine!” My mom’s face is lit up and perky. She embraces me and kisses me on the cheek. Typical morning with my mother.
“Ughhhhhh. Morning,” My blanket still dragging across the floor. I don’t know why she’s always so happy in the morning.
She explains that there is lunch money on the counter. She reminds me that I have softball practice after school, and that she will be there to pick me up. Although I am only half listening, I know what she’s saying is important; it always is.
I come to the realization that it’s time to get ready. I can smell the greasy, fatty, sizzling, burnt, crispy, deliciousness in the oven. My mouth starts watering. I walk over to the stove and see there are only 2 pieces left. My brother, standing with his plate full, runs over and takes the last piece from the plate.
“Beat ya!” I hear him squeal. Food is falling from his mouth with every word. Although I am starving, I let him eat it. His happiness is more important than my full belly.
“Yes, you did. Good job, bub. But tomorrow, I would like to eat.” I think he comes to the realization that I’m hungry. He stops eating and puts out his plate. His eyes get huge. His bottom lip starts to quiver as if he is going to cry. It’s almost if he feels bad for his actions. That is the little brother I know and love.
My brother was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer last month. Life has been pretty rough for my family. Jacob, my brother, hasn’t been himself. Normally he barely eats and has little energy. He has been getting treatment- chemo and radiation- for the past three weeks. It has sucked the life out of him. When he was eating and moving around this morning, I was genuinely shocked.
It's time for softball. Finally, my favorite part of the day. I'm so excited to see my teammates and coaches. I haven’t been to practice since the diagnosis. Trying to get back in the swing of things is really hard.
“PAISLEIGH!” I’ve never heard such loudness in my life. I wasn’t ready for the impending jumps, squeals, and yells. I hugged Madelyn so tight I thought I was going to rip her shirt with my nails.
“Let’s hit the cages.” I started running with my bat bag dragging behind me. It’s my turn to hit. Dinger. Homerun. Dinger. Triple. I’m on fire. I feel good. Finally, it’s my time. This is the first time I have had a clear head in a while. Softball is always my safe place.
“Wow, Pais! Let’s take that energy to the field. I’m impressed.” I smiled as I heard my coach yell this. I feel confident.
Coach puts me at shortstop. A ball is hit by Madelyn. Line drive right over my head. I jump as high as a can. BOOM. Snagged it. Madelyn grunts. My teammates are laughing, yet not even in shock at all that I just caught that. Coach moves me to pitch. Ainsley gets up to the plate. I throw a drop ball the first pitch. She swings. I threw a nice curve to the outside. She fell for it. Strike two. Here comes strike three, I can feel it. I threw my 79 mph fastball at her ankles. Strike three! I’m so genuinely happy for once in this whole month.
Practice is over and it’s time to go home. It’s 5:15. The day is basically over. I walk in and go to my room. My brother is passed out on my bed. He’s so gentle and sweet. He looks so peaceful.
I quickly eat dinner. Tonight is taco night with a side of salad. It’s my favorite. I don’t have much time, so I start my homework while I eat. Two hours later, my homework is finally done. Algebra, English, history, and biology. It’s 8:25 and it’s time to shower. Showers are the best feeling after a long day of school work and softball. I feel tired. I can barely keep my eyes open. I feel like I should call my boyfriend or friends to talk to hangout, but there’s just not enough hours in a day. I can feel my friendships fading. It hurts me a lot.
I wake up and it’s thankfully Saturday. Jacob hasn’t moved from bed today. I’ve decided to stay home to take care of him today. I am going to skip softball practice, Jacob is going to lay in bed, and my parents are going to work all day.
My phone starts vibrating and I see a text from Amber that reads “Wow. Too good for your friends now? Can’t even answer calls? Barely going to practice? Not turning in assignments? Who even are you anymore?” I felt my heart break. My friends are mad at me.
The mail comes around noon. I look at my grade card. My G.P.A is only a 3.7, and nothing makes me angrier. I get my grade card and I hate myself. I feel subtle disappointment. What about Penn State? Kent State? Michigan? Xavier? My heart drops. They’re top schools. I see water hit my paper. What a let down. I hate algebra. I’ve never been so disgusted. My life is over.
I feel my life completely falling apart before my eyes. The only thing I have had time for is my sweet, baby brother whom I love so dearly. I’m trying to keep my family together. Pain is not genuinely understood until you see tears running down your mother’s face, or when you can look at your dying little sibling and tell him everything is going to be alright. Nothing is worse. Do not try to tell me anything is, because this life sucks, and it is full of pain. My life went from busy with my happy life choices, to busy with excruciating pain, sadness, heartbreak, and weakness.
Today marks two months since Jacob was diagnosed. I’ve always been told that day by day everything is supposed to get easier, but that’s false. Day by day, Jacob continues to get sicker. The pain continues to grow for our family, and more importantly, Jacob. He’s on a ventilator now. He can’t breathe on his own without an oxygen mask. He’s in the hospital and isn’t allowed to leave.
The doctors finally come back in. They ask to speak with my parents in the hall away from Jacob and I. “I’m afraid we have some terrible news.” I hear the doctor tell my mother. Her eyes fill with tears. My dad wraps his arms around my mom. His mouth drops. I can tell he is trying to keep himself together for my mom, but I know it hurts him. My mom’s hands are covering her mouth. She begins to cry but nothing comes out. Not a sound. She’s quiet, but her face screams loudly. I can see them through the window, although that is not apparent to them.
“Jacob’s lungs are collapsing. We can take him back for surgery, although I am afraid that may not help. It is a high risk surgery. We can try to bring his lungs back. If it is successful, he may have two more weeks, tops. But, if we don’t do the surgery, he will die within the next 24 hours. He will be put on life support. I will give you time to think this over. The decision is yours. I am terribly sorry for these circumstances. We have done all we can do.”
“He’s in so much pain. I can’t stand seeing my poor baby suffer any longer.” My mother sobs to my father. Her heart is just so damaged. At this point, I lose it. Tears are streaming down my face. Jacob’s eyes begin to open. This poor baby. He is 6 years old. No 6 year old deserves this. He has so much life left to live. This can’t be happening.
“Sissy,” Jacob tries to speak.
“Shhh. Be careful baby.” I try to quiet him down.
“No. Sissy. I love you. Tell mommy and daddy I love them. I’m going to sleep now.”
“NO. JACOB! BABY PLEASE HOLD ON!” The monitor flat lines. By this time Mom and Dad rush in. A swarm of nurses and doctors try to bring him back. My poor baby brother. So young and fragile. Such a precious life is gone. My parents no longer have to make such a heartbreaking decision, and that is the only positive thing about this. I can’t even begin to speak.
We’re all around his bed- devastated. Of course, this being Tiffin, everyone is aware. Madelyn, Amber, and James walk in. I see them and my brother. No pain will ever top how I’m feeling right now. I am utterly and completely done. I have my friends back, but my brother is gone. At least I have support.
I have learned that life is what you make it. People are important. Not everyone always understands a situation someone is going through, but if they matter, they will come back and support you. I may not have my brother, but I have softball. I have friends. I have my other family. I got accepted to college. Life is hard, but pick yourself back up, and life goes on.