I watched her thin, wrinkled lips and hands move as she reminisces. My grandfather sat next to her, verifying her stories, as he faded in and out of the conversation. He does that sometimes, now that he is older.
"Oh, how I loved going shopping for my mother!" Gram exclaimed, her voice youthful and alive. In her new schoolgirl voice, she told of her adventures to Southern Boulevard, her favorite place to shop. She journeyed almost completely across the busy city to her destination when she could barely see over the counter to pay the cashier.
As she entered the battered, worn yellow cab, she often would hear her favorite song, "I'll Never Smile Again" by Frank Sinatra. The bumpy ride sometimes made her sick, but she found that if she sang she always felt better. Singing was her favorite thing to do. She sang in happy times, sad times, when she was grieving over the loss of her father, and when she was rejoicing about the birth of her sister.
In the ride to Southern Boulevard, she would often think of the obstacles she would face at the store. The store owners often found it hard to believe that such a young girl would travel all that way for bread. Sometimes she would have rather been out with her friends than shopping for her mother, but she knew she had to take care of her. Her father had told her so. She recalled visiting him at the hospital, just after he was told he had two months to live. She sat holding his hand, with teary eyes. He lay weak in his bed and said in almost a whisper, "Rosalyn, take care of Momma," and, although she was merely ten years old, she knew that she must take care of her.
Shopping for her mother was one of her responsibilities. Since her mother was home with her sister most of the time, her mother never really got to go out shopping. Her sister, Julia,was five years younger than and was very ill with Parkinson's Disease. Her severe illness made the relationship with her sister difficult, but she never loved her any less. Not for one minute, even though the doctors' bills drained the bank account, even though her mother often cried alone at night about how horrible it was for her, losing her husband and having to take care of her sick daughter, she never loved her less. My grandmother was always out helping her mother which made it hard for them to spend time together. She thinks that is what made her love her so much. It made their relationship stronger.
Sitting in the musty, run-down cab, she recalls hard times and how they made her that much tougher. Her strong, beautiful singing fills the cab, accompanying Frank Sinatra, "That's life, that's life, that's what all the people say, you're flying high in April, shot down in May ..." c
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.