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Tough Times make us stronger
In order to understand the world, we must first go through sadness that scars our heart. I don’t think we have to come out of the conflict in any certain way; we just have the experience added to our series of events. To me, everyone comes out wiser; some just prefer not to show it. Not only you come out wiser, but people around you do also- like your family and friends. You grow up not knowing what to expect from your future. You’re not sure if something will hit you in the face, or if the clock will just slowly tick by. As things get rough, and you are learning how to cope, you learn to take pride in yourself, and others. You just have to live each day, and take the things that come with a smile.
A picture sits next to my bed, of a man with broad shoulders, one knee on the ground, and a smile on his face. He is facing two of his granddaughters as they grin widely showing him loose teeth. Now eight years later, the young girls stand over him, holding his hands, coaxing him to talk, while he stares blankly as he sits in his wheelchair. This transformation is the result of a brain tumor. The first week after his diagnostic seemed so tough, my father hardly ever showed his face at home, and the phone constantly rang giving updates as the surgery went along. Being young, I had no idea what everything surrounding me meant.
I’ve never really heard, or asked, for all the details of the surgery and what that week appeared to be like. I can’t really remember anything, or even recall how I felt about it all. There are a few things that stand out, like words that I can remember hearing a lot, like, “Intensive Care Unit”, and “paralyzed.” I had none of these words in my ten year old mind but I could feel the strain on my families’ hearts that these words caused. All my life, I had seen the strength of my family shine through their faces, and now, I could see the fear in their eyes, or even the more obvious emotion- tears running down their faces. No one ever really told me what exactly happened, but I’ve heard that some blood leaked into his brain, victimizing him with a stroke.
My grandfather stayed in ICU until he gained strength to be in a nursing home. This time obviously hurt my cousins more then my sisters and I. We had grown up with our great Grandma in a nursing home, so we had already become accustomed to the feeling nursing homes give you. We knew what it felt like to be in the same building as death. I can’t recall how long my grandpa dwelled in the nursing home, though I know that everytime we visited, we added a picture to his wall. And by the time his health seemed acceptable to leave, the wall contained no empty space and everyone at the nursing home knew us. When we left, we didn’t leave the memory of the nursing home completely behind- we brought along a nurse who had fallen for my grandfather. From my point of view, it is impossible for someone to not like my grandfather. All I ever hear are good stories about him, and concern with how he is doing. When in the nursing home, and for awhile when he came back home, he had a tracheain, so he could not talk. I’m not sure how the young nurse fell for him... perhaps he became smitten with the smile you could still see in his eyes, or the love his family had come in and created for him. So we took the young man home and added his name to our family. And five years later, Ryan, the nurse, still remains a part of our family.
When my grandfather came home, so many things needed to be adjusted. We needed to remodel the house, make it handicap accessible, and we needed to take time to think about the future. What would happen without my grandpa there to run the farm? And would he ever fully recover? Those questions weren’t for us to know the answers; we could only be patient and wait. My grandpa’s conditioned required full attention. It required one of my uncles to stay the night and help rotate my grandpa’s body about three times a night. Often one of us grandchildren would also stay the night. And so began our attempts to relive the times we had and include an “apple party” with grandma and grandpa. Apple parties were simple; they kept us healthy and gave us time to catch up with our grandparents.
I don’t know if we just easily adjusted to the change in our grandfather, and in our life, but there is a chance that we just accepted it, or maybe just ignored it. I can recall myself feeling as if God was upset with me. I didn’t understand how He could do this to my family. I kept up an appearance for my grandmother, trying to stay strong, but in time, I just quit coming out of the house. Eventually I quit smiling. I slept most of the time away, for in my dreams Grandpa Ed still remained as he had been before the surgery, or he had recovered. It took a long time for me to come out of my imagination, and finally face reality, perhaps two or three years. I saw doctor after doctor, and I eventually quit showing up to school. I couldn’t perform the way I used to with school, so I would just break down and give up. In losing my grandpa, I lost myself. I wasn’t strong enough to keep going. Or so I thought.
My family stood by me through it all, and my best friend, Roree, would always be with me. One of the most important people at that time was my sister, Tessa, though my youngest sister, Remy, also helped a lot. Tessa acted as though only she could help me, she became my second mother- and she is younger than me. She would wake me up, stand up for me, listen to me cry, and I hardly ever saw a single tear fall from her eyes. I learned to write down my feelings when I was upset, and that it felt better to be outside than locked up in my room. It took me a long few years to step out of my bedroom, and the war with God quietly became solved. I went through phases of different medicine, which there caused different moods, as well as other side effects. Every side effect possible, I got, and being in my body felt like hell. It seemed as though I watched my life happen with me outside my body.
Looking at me then, I’m sure that even some doctors didn’t think they could get me out of my depression. I hated everything, and sleeping became difficult for me to do. I looked like a zombie, teenage girl, getting up early for doctor appointments, with eyeliner thrown on my eyelids to keep up an appearance of strength. I fought with the doctors, and my parents. Verbally, I yelled angry things at them, and threatened to hurt myself. Mentally, I blocked them all out, and pretended like they could not change me. Then physically, I would get angry and fight with my parents, or my sisters. Watching from outside my body, it seemed to be a reenactment of the Exorcist. Some demon took over my body and mind, and controlled me for a few years. I don’t know how my family and friends stayed beside me. The way I acted defined horrible. And the way they saw me sometimes, well, it has probably scarred them for life.
It took a lot of courage, but the first step for me technically appeared to be getting myself back into school. Of course the first thing I wanted to do, was learn how to forgive God, and pray for his forgiveness to me, but I failed at that task. It was difficult for me to process, though school was tricky also. I was scared to death of what other people thought of me. I hadn’t been around in a year or so, and to people in this town it must have seemed like I just disappeared off the side of the earth. My parents were supportive and they helped me through all the anxiety I had about going back. There for me every step of the way, Roree helped me stand back up and be myself. I wanted to be at school, so nothing could stop be but my anxiety. And I was determined to overcome that. The teachers understood, and I, so far, could manage my anxiety- though I felt disconnected from myself.
Asking God back into my life was very emotional for me, but I did it. And my happiness has only increased since! It’s been a year since I went back to school, and with Roree still by my side in most classes, I’m still there. My grades have improved, and my confidence has sky rocketed. I know that if I believe in myself, others will too. Now, I thank God for all the rough times I went through, I know who I am, and I am not ashamed of staying that person. My grandfather has not fully recovered, in fact, its rare that you ever get a big reaction out of him. I still hug him, and tell him I love him. And I still try to coax him to talk back to me, so of course I miss the man he was tremendously, but I know that I’m proud of who he is now. When he raises an eyebrow, or squeezes my hand, or maybe throws a ball a little ways, I light up. He is my grandpa, and seeing him do that makes me know everything will be okay. Seeing my grandmother stay strong throughout all that has happened, has proved to me that love does exist, and I am so proud of her strength and faith. She can sit there and tell her husband on their anniversary that she loves him, and stay strong when his response is a tear rolling down his cheek. I can only hope to be as great as people as they are.
My family went through difficult times, and it was very hard to stay composed for each other. It hurts to see someone who once carried you around over his shoulder, and smiled hugely sit there and not respond back to you. There are some things I don’t think I’ll be able to do in life, like I’ll never be able to be as strong as my grandmother. I know my grandfather is still alive in himself, and day by day, even as it gets worse, I get stronger, and our bond as a family gets stronger. I have witnessed so many miracles through what seems like a tragedy, and have gained so much even though I sometimes feel like I lost the most important person in my life, even though he is still alive. Tragedies make us stronger, they make us more of a person, they give us more character.