A Good Pair of Shoes

May 13, 2008
My sparkly little tennis shoes squeaked against the floor as I walked behind my uncle. I couldn’t keep myself from studying its checkerboard pattern. What would be basic linoleum floors to any normal person, seemed to mesmerize me. Its glossy reflection of the overhead lighting drew me in. Every where I turned simple unimportant objects became overwhelmingly hypnotizing. Staring into space kept a title wave of emotions from bubbling up and surprising me.

The hospital was busy with nurses in white smocks wheeling around oxygen tanks and dinner trays. They swooshed through the hallways disappearing behind different doors. I began to notice that hospital smell. The scent of disinfectant mixed with a hint of grief that hangs in the air. I was used to the smell, and by now it was almost comforting. My uncle seemed more emotional today. Usually he would put on a forced smile but today was different. Richard Woolie was his full name, but I only knew him as “Rara”. In fact, when I was younger I thought that was his real name. The same way little kids think their parents real names are Mom and Dad. His hair was thick and dark. I had always looked up to him an adored him. But he wasn’t himself anymore. All the happiness and fun I use to delight in was drained away. Before my mom got sick, his yearly visit from New York was exciting, but now his visits signaled that something had gone wrong.

We were going to visit her today. My once beautiful amazing mom had been in and out of hospitals for a year now. My uncle and Aunt Betty had been taking care of me. I could still hear Rara’s solemn voice telling me that she had been moved to Hospice Care. As a nine year old, I didn’t know that Hospice Care pretty much means that there’s no hope for recovery. No one told me it’s just basically the rooms where they put you if they’re waiting for you to die. No one ever just came clean and flat out said something. All the adults stared at me with those big sad puppy-dog eyes filled with pity; as if they were expecting me to cry. Everything I was told was subtle and sugar coated. I was trapped in a Charlie Brown episode where the adults babble so you can’t understand them at all. Words like operation, treatment, tumor, and cancer confused me. I didn’t realize what was happening.
Glancing down at my little tennis shoes, they struggled to keep up.
The doctor led us briskly ahead down the hallways until we came to a room. Fabric was strung to the ceiling as a divider for privacy like a shower curtain. I looked around at the room. There was a soft guitar playing in the background. There she was lying on the hospital bed propped up with pillows. The wires attached to steadily beeping machines seemed to strangle her. Alarming clear tubes were connected to her nose and mouth. The few strands of light blond hair she had left were pushed away from her face. Chemotherapy had changed her outer appearance so much. She always had a big red lipstick smile and mascara laced eyes. She would smell of coffee and perfume. Her wavy honey blond hair would rest on her business suit. That was my mom. Not this reduced fragile woman in front of me.

“Can she hear us?” whimpered my uncle. It must’ve been hard for him to see his sister in this condition. Memories of his big sister taking care of him as a kid were almost visible across his face. How painful it must’ve been for him to be powerless to take care of her now.

“Not coherently. But she can sense you if you try to say a few words,” The doctor informed him. My uncle knelt down beside her and touched her hand. My sparkly little tennis shoes and I followed mindlessly. Tears began to well up in his eyes, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. The whole room started spinning. My uncle’s voice, the robotic beeping, and the stupid background music became blurry and faded away. Before this moment I had been in denial. It was just easier to hold on to the idea that she was going to get better. She was going to get better. The two of us would go back to our everyday routine which I had taken for granted. Suddenly, it became painfully obvious that she wasn’t getting better. She lied. Everyone lied. It was all going to change. Why didn’t anyone tell me she was dying?

Immediately, I became infuriated! This wasn’t supposed to happen! This happens on cheesy T.V soap operas and in tragic sob stories on the news. I wanted to scream! My head felt like someone just put it in a vice and tightened. A giant eight ball kept working its way up my throat despite my best attempts to swallow it down. I could now feel a wet tear drop running down my cheek. This was the end of the road, and I was terrified. A million questions and uncertainties sent a chill down my spine. Who would take care of me? My aunts and uncles and extended family who had flown in from other states would soon forget. They’d go back to their everyday lives after the funeral, but what about me? I barley knew my dad. At this point in my life he was the loud short tempered man who I had to spend every other weekend with. This was the end of everything I’d ever known. I knelt next to her sobbing, with my little shoes tucked underneath me. The moment stretched on for hours. I don’t remember leaving the hospital, but the sickening twisting stomachache lingered no matter where I was.

Although it was the end of the road for my mother, I soon found out that it was not the end for me. As time went on, my sparkly little tennis shoes and I walked along a new path. They took me to a new school, a new house, new friends and most of all a new relationship with my dad. I never know where my little sparkly tennis shoes will take me next, but I do know that where one road ends another begins as long as you have a good pair of shoes to help you walk across the bumps and cracks along the way.

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Ms.Barry said...
Sept. 2, 2008 at 3:38 pm
Wow! Incredible, Kendall!
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