That Word This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   It was Monday - spaghetti night. It wasn't something ourfamily looked forward to, but had come to expect. It was a rule not to answer thephone during dinner, but that night my mom took a call in another room and wasgone for a very long time. When she hung up we were done eating. My sisters and Iwere watching TV in the other room while my dad waited at the table for my mom. Icould hear the low murmur of voices and their footsteps as they approached. Myparents turned off the TV and told us to listen. My dad sat next to my mom, hisarm resting on her leg. His face seemed unnaturally sad and lost. My sisters satnext to me on the floor. They knew something was wrong and weren't talking oryelling as they usually do when we're all in the same room.

Lindsay, whois three years younger, sat with her legs tucked under her body. Her hands wereoccupied with a piece of blue Silly Putty and her face was twisted in confusion.She leaned over to me and whispered, "What's going on?" I justshrugged. I didn't know what was going on anymore than she did. Tori, my youngestsister, sat on my other side. My mom looked at Tori, then at Lindsay, and finallyat me.

"Girls," she said. She always called us that when we weretogether. "I have cancer."

Cancer. That word was so familiar. Iwatched my grandma die from that word. We called her Big Gram. I don't think sheliked that name very much, but she got used to it, I suppose. She had thesmallest feet I've ever seen and had shoes to match every outfit. She hadmatching pocketbooks, too, that were always filled with candy: mints, Milky Ways,butterscotch hard candies, and her favorite (and mine), Rolos. There were 20grandchildren, and we all looked forward to her reaching her freckled, manicuredhand into her bag.

When my cousins and I went out with Big Gram, wealways had so much fun. She would take us to lunch or to the beach for the day.In the car we would play the games where you found things along the road. Whoeverwon would get a piece of candy from her purse. At the hospital I'd seen her pinkpurse hanging from a hook on the back of the door and knew there were Rolos init, and wondered if she wanted one.

Now my mom spoke with tears in hereyes. "I'm going to be okay. There is a lot the doctors are doing for me,but I'm going to need your help, too."

What kind of help, Iwondered. I looked at my dad, whose face was red, his eyes holding back tears. Ilooked at my mom again; she was so pale. The sweater she had often worn that fallwas buttoned to her neck. I felt a rush of guilt. My mom and I don't get along atall and constantly argue over the smallest things. My grandma always used to sayit was because we're so alike. Just the other day we were fighting over mygrades. I think they're fine, but my mom wants me to do better and apply myselfcompletely. I'm just not that type; I know I can't be like my sisters and getstraight A's. Mom just wouldn't understand and ended up yelling, and I ended upyelling, and we both were angry in the end.

Sometimes I have lain in bedat night and hoped she would die. What if she really did? What if this were allmy fault? What if she ends up in the hospital, her sweater hanging from a hook onthe back of the door? My legs had fallen asleep from sitting on them for so long.They were numb and the hard floor didn't feel like it was there anymore. I knewmy mom was talking but I only heard some words: Chemo; very sick; I'll be okay. Iknew she must be lying about that last one. How could someone be okay whensomeone like my grandma died?

I didn't cry like my sisters or my dad. Ijust sat there - my legs numb, my heart beating at a steady slow beat - thinking,just thinking. It seemed like a long time before no more sound echoed in my ears.Without realizing what I was doing, I got up and hugged my mom. I didn't knowwhat was going to happen, but it felt right at the moment, something I had wantedto do for a while.

It's been five months since we found out about my mom'scancer. I did cry that night, and it wasn't the last time, either. Thechemotherapy has been successful so far, but it makes her feel sick a lot. Shehas her good days and her bad. My mom's hair is almost gone except for a fewstrands we all call peach fuzz. She wears a wig to hide her bare head in publicso people won't stare. Her eyebrows are gone too, and she uses a brown pencil todraw them on. Her face is usually really pale, ghostly almost, but she coversthat up, too. It's so strange to think so many things aren't real, including hersmile sometimes. I know she's going to be okay, though, that she wasn't lyingthat night. Grandma didn't make it, but my mom, I know, will.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback