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I was in 3rd grade. I forget what we were doing but I remember hearing kids next to me whispering, “Zoe your dads here.” Which was a little weird, even though hes the P.E teacher he never came into my classrooms. I spun around in my chair to see my dad standing by the door, looking completely out of it. As if he had just woken from a terrible dream, but it seemed he hadn’t came to the realization that the imagination that takes over in dreams was not a true reality. His eyes were sunken ships, struggling to stay above water, but the fight was almost to much. Even now I clearly remember the look on his face.
“Um I need to take Zoe for the rest of the day,” He told Marcia who had just turned to see him as well. He quickly glanced at me then Marcia but didn’t hold eye contact. It was like if we looked in to his eyes long enough everything may start to unravel. All the concerns might unfold and the pain he held could overflow. Like a glass filled to the brim, like a tree swaying in the harsh rain, just barely managing.
“Okay well make sure to grab all of your stuff and we’ll see you tomorrow Zoe.” She said to me but kept glancing at my dad, probably thinking the same thing that I was, ‘what’s going on?’
A chorus of “Bye Zoe!” filled the room as I walked toward the door. I waved half-heartedly, but didn’t say anything in return. My brother was waiting outside the door, backpack over his shoulder. My dad led the way down the hall with Max and I following closely behind.
“Dad…?” I said cautiously, “What are we doing? Why’d you take us out of class?” I stared up at him, as I struggled to keep his increasing pace.
“Something came up with grandpa…” He struggled to say, he still avoided my eye contact. Neither Max or I asked for any more details. I was scared to ask anything more. Judging from my dads expressions it was less painful to be naive then knowing the whole truth of the occasion. So for the moment I reluctantly let myself be shielded by what I didn’t yet know. The three of us walked quickly through the school and got into the car. It was an uncomfortable silence. Like a black cloud of grief and confusion was quickly expanding though-out our van, darkening any of the possible clearings. Whispering through our ears and sweeping across our skin.
“Grandpas not doing good, hes in the hospital.” My dad managed to say after a little while. Clearing away some of the smoke that had formed so darkly around him.
“What happened?” I asked quietly. I shivered at the freezing blood that had just pulsed through my veins.
“He’s really sick, I’ll explain it later, but I’m going to drop you two off at home then i’m going to go see him,” He explained.
“ Why cant we come?” Max asked.
“Right now just isn’t the best time okay,” The rest of the car ride home felt like we were restricted to talk. No matter what we might have been feeling, or how badly we wanted to voice any of it, we were unable to. The smoke too returned, darker this time, harder to escape.
Once we got home my dad set down his back pack and hung his jacket over the back of a chair. “Mom will be home in just a bit okay,” he turned around and stared at us, his eyebrows furrowed.
“Okay... love you.” Me and max said in sync. He kneelled over and hugged us each, kissing us on our heads before he stepped out the door and locked it behind him. Leaving Max and I staring at each other, I knew Max wanted some sort of an explanation, but I didn’t know any better then he did. I looked away, unable to attain staring back without wanting to cry. I didn’t come to the conclusion of the sickness being so severe it could possibly lead to death. Because death was permanent. Death was forever, and I wasnt able to accept that anything could be so permanent at my age.
I sat at the table trying to finish homework when I heard the familiar click of the door being unlocked. My mom pushed open the door with her hip holding a box of art supplies in her other arm. Max and I ran over and hugged her, she put on a smile and asked how our day had been. Wearily we replied with the usual “good,” although she knew it was just a mask she didn’t pursue the topic. The mood fell rapidly, it had seemed like there may be some sort of familiarity to our afternoon but she sat around gravely. None of us spoke much. I was so worried, I had no idea what was really going on, and I had a feeling it was worse then what my dad tried to make it seem. But I couldn’t bring myself to ask. We did homework and watched some cartoons, but it didn’t change the mood in the house. It felt like dreams I’ve had, where no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t find my voice, where I was in a burning house, trying to scream but no one could hear. No one saved me in those dreams. Then the phone rang, we all jumped at the sudden break in the silence. My mom grabbed the phone and excused herself to her bedroom to answer it.
She returned with a similar expression to my dads just hours earlier. She gathered me and my brother on the couch and announced, “Grandpa just died.” She hugged us and muttered “I’m so sorry,” but even the warmth of her hug couldn’t keep me warm inside.
Max and I sat in complete shock and disbelief. I didn’t cry because I couldn’t believe it had actually happened. I bit my tongue and kept my eyes fixed on the wall ahead of me. It had become blurry from the tears building up in my eyes. It was all so hard to take in though.
“I’m gonna go check on dad alright, I’ll be back soon.” My mom said as she pulled on a sweater. I knew it had to have been much harder on my dad but I still wished someone would stay to comfort Max and I. Once my mom left to the hospital I went into my room and despite my complete disbelief I started crying. Not full out bawling, but quiet confused tears. And it was like all the memories I had ever shared with my grandpa were on replay in my mind, espically my favorite ones like when me and max slept over at there house and would have sweet chocolate cereal, with chocolate milk and strawberries. Grandpa had always been the one Max and I went to hang out with when we went to their house. He had a shed out in there huge backyard he always worked in. We would always go outside and help him feed their animals or just sit in the shed and drink all the sodas we wanted because he had a whole refrigerator full of them. I remembered the times my grandpa and I would go outside to collect chicken eggs and I had always feared they would try and bite me. He always assured me they wouldn’t and they actually liked me better then anyone who’s seen them. I believed him. And after that I never feared them. My moms dad had never been around, I hadn’t even met him. So my dad’s dad was the only grandpa I had ever had. I didn’t mind though. I wasn’t used to anything else. And as long as he was around, I was content. It was like all those memories were being solidified in smoke. Getting more blurry the more I tried to remember them, but I knew they would always be there. I couldn’t believe that the last time I had saw him was officially the last, that I no longer had a grandpa.