Hidden Tears

March 19, 2009
By Anonymous

This is a story I've never told before. My grandma was diagnosed with leukemia in the middle of my fourth grade year. I had no prior experience to cancer and as a ten year old I couldn't even grasp what it was or the severity of the effects it could induce into my life. The first time I walked into that hospital the first thing that hit me was its smell. It had the normal scent of antibacterial products but overpowering that was the smell of an elderly woman's perfume, the powdery flower scent that always welcomed me when I would go running into my grandma's arms. The scent comforted me as I walked into this unfamiliar place, during this unfamiliar situation, but really I was walking into an unfamiliar relationship with Grammy too.
She lay in her hospital bed and right when I walked in she sat up and lifted me up onto the bed. She had the nurse bring me a cookie as she cradled me in her lap. I didn't understand the deep concern on everyone face, how all the smiles seemed less genuine, and the deep creases on my grandfathers face from loss of sleep and constant worrying. We visited constantly, coming to see her almost every other day. Even though I loved seeing Grammy, it was fall and my warm summer days were starting to diminish. I would constantly have to leave play dates with my friends to go sit in a cold, plain, white room and most of the time Grammy was sleeping. I got frustrated with this limit on my social life and my parents understood so they didn't make me go as often.
I walked into the hospital room and heard a pitiful sobbing coupled with the words, 'It's going to fall out, it's all going to fall out' being choked out between sobs. I walked in to find my grandma's face in her hands. She was shuddering as my grandpa put his arm around her in an effort to comfort her. 'All my hair is going to fall out,' she stated bluntly. I didn't understand and looked up at my mom questioningly but her face was soft with sympathy and she rushed over to my grandma to comfort her as well. I still didn't know what was going on, but I had never seen my grandma cry so hard before so I was starting to see that she was in the hospital for a reason. I never complained about going to too many visits again.
As time went on, the times my dad would visit were increasingly awkward and late so he could get there before tests and doctor visits. I remember the day I walked in to see her bald head. My stomach sunk and I tried not to change my expression so she wouldn't feel any worse than she already did. Her image was always important to her and I knew a slight twitch in the corner of my mouth could easily send her into another crying fit. The next time I visited my grandma, the hair that she used to get died every two weeks in the same beauty shop across from the Dominick's on Friday mornings was gone. She was scrawny and only gave me a weak smile when I walked into her room before she drifted off to sleep. Her smiles weakened every time I visited and I restrained all emotion for her.
I soon started restraining all emotion for myself. Days in my house were quiet, and every once in a while I would hear my mom crying quietly in her room and my dad would spend most of his time sitting stone faced at the kitchen table. I too followed in my parents example and occupied myself with what little homework a fourth grader gets or trying to escape the silence by going over to my friend's house. It was early March now and my grandma got moved into the intensive care unit. She called it the dungeon. During these times I rarely saw her because all that was going on her room was consultations with the doctor that meant nothing to me while she laid there in coma. I spent countless hours in the waiting room, saw uncles I hadn't seen since I was a toddler, and mastered the game of dominoes.
I still didn't ask to go visit my grandma because I didn't like seeing her so weak and fragile so unlike my Grammy, but I never complained when we did. On the way to my hospital one day my mom started crying and yelling at me. 'You never asked once to go see Grammy! You never asked how Grammy was! You said nothing! I don't know how I raised such a heartless child, such a spoiled brat!' I was stunned, then the tears came. They were unfamiliar to me. I hadn't cried once during this whole process, because as I saw it there wasn't much to cry about. She was sick, yes, but she would get better. I was sobbing and repeating over and over again that I was sorry but it didn't help. We sat in silence the rest of the way to the hospital.
Later that week, my parents told me that my grandma was not going to make it out of the hospital, that she was going to die. I still didn't cry when they told me even though they repeated it over and over again that it was alright to cry, hoping I would show some emotion. Instead I went home and cried while I was in the shower, not seen behind closed doors, not heard when the rush of the water was loud enough to cover up my heavy breathing, and the tears not felt as water streaming down my face engulfed them before they even left my eyes. Collapsed on the floor of the shower I pleaded with God to let Grammy come back and visit me, but he never gave in to my requests.
My parents were appalled at my lack of emotion. They thought I didn't care and still couldn't fathom how they had raised such cold child. I never told them what I did every day in the shower. I didn't want to deal with their sympathy, they could save it for someone else that needed it. I still didn't cry at my grandma's funeral, but I spent twice as long in shower.

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