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The octagonal window at the top of the triangle house refused to reflect the sunny day. White marshmallow clouds lingered in the bright blue sky; even they didn’t want to leave. I used to lie on the lawn on days like this and unconsciously memorize the order of the leaves in the high up branches of the trees. This house, the one that once flooded childhood memories back to my adolescent brain was suddenly unfamiliar, and the woman who inhabited it- a stranger. The curb that was once home to my entrepreneur lemonade stands was now home to my 2007 Toyota Corolla. On the sidewalk now, I hear children laughing, bike bells ringing, sprinklers chugging in circles, and dogs barking. Suddenly this house and I are worlds apart. I zero in on the shell of a house before me: chipped siding, overgrown crab grass, and flooding gutters. All are virtually abandoned. Stepping up the three narrow stairs to the porch, my mind rushed back to my childhood.
“Joshua Daniel! Just what do you think you’re doing with those bed sheets?” Grandma jokingly scolded me as she carefully placed a plate of steaming cookies on the bedside table.
“Grandma, look at my fort! Do you see it? Do you like it Grandma?” Childhood me emerged from the bed-sheet fort, head first.
The corners of her lips peaked, and she handed me a cookie, “There’s only one thing that can make this fort better.” Her grin grew, eyes glowing, as she rose from the floor. Grandma walked to the long dresser’s farthest drawer and took out a flashlight.
“BOO!” she laughed as she flipped the switch on the light and held it just below her chin. Her face glowed with light as mine glowed with innocence. That night, Grandma and I ate chocolate chip cookies and slept in my bed-sheet fort.
Today is inevitable. I take a deep breath and briskly cross to the front door. As I open the door, I fall into it. It’s much lighter now than I remember. I suppose I’m just stronger now, but not strong enough. I walk through the foyer into the living room, and I don’t recognize anything. The house no longer smells like Grandma’s bittersweet perfume; it’s been replaced with the smell of plastic couch covers and must. My heart begins to race. She got sick, and I got too busy or too tired to come visit; I could never admit this to anyone, but really I was just too scared. Today is the day I will conquer my fear.
My legs began to work on their own, walking to the kitchen. I run my fingertips over the orange countertops. When I was younger, my grandma would pick me up and sit me on the counters. She would set me right next to the mixer so I could watch the beater spin in circles, picking up the gooey dough on it’s way around the bowl. She pretended she didn’t see when I stuck my fingers in the mixer and pulled them out covered in dough.
I clenched my toes over the vinyl floor. With each step I took I could feel the air pockets in the floor give below my feet. The sun shone in through the bay window to the West. Setting, the sun cast rays toward the center of the kitchen. I filled the sunlit center of the kitchen as it shone on me like a spotlight, warming my bare feet. Left, right, left, right.
I made my way to the dining room where my grandma sat at the head of the long wooden table, a seat that used to be reserved for grandpa. Her gray eyes didn’t even acknowledge my entrance.
“Hi Grandma,” I uttered.
Her face remained cold. I felt my eyes turn to glass as she looked right through me.
“H- how are you feeling today?”
What a stupid question. Too bad I couldn’t think of anything else to say. There was a long, awkward pause after that, but I was the only one who knew it. She didn’t even know what awkward was anymore. The nurses say she can still feel things, that the disease is trapping her within herself, but she’s there somewhere.
I don’t want to think about that. It puts this awful visual in my head of her trapped in a shrinking glass box inside her head where she can see me, but she can’t acknowledge me. She screams and pounds on the glass, but no one can hear. The disease closes in on her and she witnesses everyone she loves turn away from her. Including me. Ahlztimers is cruel.
It is at that moment that I decide I will acknowledge her in her glass box. Maybe then the shrinking will stop.
I begin telling Grandma about my day. And all the days since I have seen her last.