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My Awakening This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   "Nevertake what you have for granted" are wise words Grandfather Ling once toldme. I never gave much thought to these words until he was caught in an experiencethat opened my mind to their importance.

I was already living up to thematerialistic part of this maxim, and was grateful for all my possessions. But, Iforgot the most essential aspect: acknowledging the value of those who love andcare for you. It was only after almost losing my grandfather that I came to fullycherish my family.

A lover of food, my mother's father has always had anenormous appetite. He especially craves meat, but his body does not seem to agreewith his appetite since he also has a lot of heartburn. Comparing his gluttony toa child who cannot keep his hands off candy, the whole family teased him.Grandmother and my mother encouraged him to eat in moderation, but theirsuggestions were never taken seriously since Grandfather's heartburn usuallysurfaced only after large feasts.

Thus, when my mother told me thatGrandfather Ling had not been feeling well and was having heart pains, Idismissed it as another case of heartburn and assumed he would be better soon. Iwas wrong.

Grandfather Ling's heart aches did not vanish; instead, hesuffered more. When I was told he had been taken to the hospital, I did not feeltoo concerned. I don't know what was wrong with me. Maybe I believed that nothingcould possibly be wrong with Grandfather Ling. Maybe I couldn't grasp the ideathat someone I was close to might actually have a critical heathcondition.

Although Grandfather Ling is in his mid-70s, he is one of thefittest people I know. His entire early life centered on playing sports and otheractive recreations. Even in his old age, he would play basketball with me and mybrother. Furthermore, he was constantly helping out around the house with choresthat required strength and stamina. For this reason, I never even consideredGrandfather Ling as old. He was my sturdy and agile grandfather. Perhaps themistake I made was that I thought him invincible.

Catching me off guard,reality slapped me across the face. Arriving home the day after Grandfather Linghad been taken to the hospital, I was in an unusually good mood; I had just takenthree tests and thought I had done pretty well. With a smile from ear to ear, Ibegan to skip as I made my way to my bedroom. Passing the dimly lit living roomwith a few shafts of pale sunlight filtering through lacy curtains, I caught aglimpse of myself in the mirror. I noticed I looked like my former six-year-oldself, and rather childish hopping around.

In my room, the floral-scentedcandles greeted me, encompassing me with their fragrance. I breathed in andplopped backwards on my bed. Immediately, I entered another world. Sinking intomy baby-pink wool blanket, I felt as though I were lying on top of a mass ofcotton candy. The blanket was worn, yet possessed such comfort and had grown morecozy and snug with the years.

Interrupted by loud music blasting throughmy walls, I found my brother in his bedroom dancing and singing in a screeching,off-tune voice. I jokingly asked, "Norman, who's dying inhere?"

The nine-year-old boy, apparently not understanding, replied,"Karen, I'm hungry. Go make me something to eat. Mom says you have to takecare of me."

"But Mom's home. Why don't you go ask her to makeyou something?" I was irritated she always expected me to treat him asthough he were physically incapable.

"Mom's busy. Come on,Karen," Norman said in a voice that seemed to leave me nochoice.

"Fine, fine. Gosh, are you lazy."

While eatingour grilled-cheese sandwiches, Norman and I began an argue. We were so caught upin throwing insults and mocking each other that the reason for the quarrel waslost. The house was bombarded with our boisterous voices that sometimesoverlapped and increased in volume.

Suddenly, the phone rang. Once. Threetimes. Five times. Norman and I did not stop our skirmish to answer. Six rings.It was only in the middle of the seventh ring that my mother, by then in thekitchen, picked it up. Looking at her, Norman and I were both ready to snatch thetelephone if it were for us. My mother, whose face was always composed, turnedghastly pale as she opened her mouth in shock. In the flash of a second, shescampered in a half-walking, half-running gait. She shoved the phone in front ofme with a wavering hand.

"It your grandfather," my mother saidin fast, broken English. "Nurse is on telephone. I don't understand what shesay. Help translate."

Hearing the two words, "grandfather"and "nurse," my head suddenly felt light as panic conquered it.Something must be wrong with Grandfather Ling. I lost all consciousness of mysurroundings. Several minutes seemed to pass until I found the courage to put thephone to my ear.

"Hello," I said, my voice quivering.

"Hi, this is Anne. I am calling from the County Hospital in regardsto Ling Lin. Who am I speaking to?"

"I'm Karen, Ling Lin'sgranddaughter. My mother is not very good at English, so I will translate forher."

"Hi, Karen. Okay, that's fine. How old are you,Karen?"

"I'm fifteen ." Then I asked, "The CountyHospital? He was at the Medical Center." Why was this other hospitalcalling? What was wrong? As afraid of the answers as I was, I was more frightenednot knowing.

"Yes, I was getting to that," Anne replied."This morning, your grandfather was at the Medical Center. When they checkedhim to see if he could go home, they discovered his heart was beating very fast,far above the normal rate." A notch tightened in my throat. "He's allright at the moment, but an increased heart rate is really dangerous. That's whythe Medical Center transferred him here. We need to find out what is causing thefast heart beat, and we are the only hospital close by that has the medicaldevice to perform this."

"But he's okay right now?" Iasked bluntly. The piece of my grilled-cheese sandwich that was in the back of mymouth had become cold and soggy.

"Yes, he is going to be all right.We need to perform the check up to find out what is wrong and get his heart rateback down. He is in his room right now. He does not understand about the checkup. I need you to translate to him what is going to happen. I'm going to transferyou to the nurse who is taking care of him. She'll give you moreinformation."

I thanked her, and turned back to my mother, who hadseemed to disappear from my world. Speaking in Chinese, I translated everythingthe nurse had told me. In her faded blue apron, my mother nodded as I talked.Stiff and a little slouched, she held her right elbow with her left hand, keepingher eyes fixed on me, waiting for more information.

Suddenly, GrandfatherLing's voice came on the telephone. "Hello, Ming?"

Quickly, Iresponded in Chinese, "No, it's not Mommy. It's me, Karen. The nurse isasking me to help her translate. How are you, Grandfather?" It was so goodto hear his voice.

"I'm fine. I was told that they are going to giveme my check up soon. Would you ask the nurse how long it willtake?"

"Yes, Grandfather." After asking the nurse, Iexplained, "It can take from one to three hours, depending on what iscausing your increased heart rate." Although I gave this information toGrandfather Ling in a calm voice, I was alarmed. Three hours? Why would it takethat long? I felt cool tears begin to stream down my cheeks. One tear swept pastmy lip, and its bitter taste stung.

After talking to Grandfather Ling andthe nurse so he understood the procedure, I let Mother talk to him.

Whenthey finished, I spoke to him again. "Grandfather," I began. I stopped.I didn't know what to say. All I knew was that I didn't want to say"good-bye" as if I was somehow letting him go. No, good-bye was toofinal.

"Thank you for your help," my grandfather replied. Heseemed far away.

"Feel better, Grandfather," I said. Everythingwill be all right."

"Don't worry, Karen. I'll see you soon. I'lltalk to you tomorrow. If everything goes well, I'll be coming home the nextday."

Hearing the dial tone, I put the phone down.

Afterwards,I went up to my room. Lying on my wool blanket, I thought about all theopportunities I'd had to talk to Grandfather Ling in the past, but hadn't. Ihated myself for that and promised myself that I would spend as much time withhim as I could. I could lose him, or any of my loved ones, in the swiftness of amoment.

When I finally left my room and again faced my image in the hallmirror, I no longer saw that six-year-old girl. A young woman had replacedher.

I am thankful to say that Grandfather Ling was all right. The doctortold us that his condition can get better, but we would have to help him watchhis diet. The next time I saw Grandfather Ling, I did not take his presence forgranted. Instead, I spent time with him, talking and asking questions abouteverything from his childhood to sports.

I no longer see my grandfatheras the "superman" I thought he was. For the first time, I saw hiswrinkles and the white in his hair, and realized that he was indeed marked bysigns of age. From this experience, I have learned not to take people, especiallyfamily, for granted, but to always cherish their presence.



   


By Ashlee R., Plano, TX

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Copyright 2006 by Teen Ink, The 21st Century and The Young Authors Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.
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This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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you_are_awesome said...
Jun. 6, 2010 at 9:19 am
WOW. that was very very well written!
 
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