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April 14, 2014
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A distinguished smile begins to on my face as I stared at the card. It was the final attack I had been patiently saving the whole entire night. The colorful draw four wild card meant victory. I look across the table at my closest family members laughing, shouting, and honestly glowing with pure joy. In this moment I too feel untouchable. This was an extremely rare moment in the Wallace household. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like every single minute is unbearable but none compare to the careless bliss I felt in that hour alone. My siblings, aunt, and mother all lay down their paper cards unaware that this move would be their last.

I scream a simple “I win!” with pure delight in my voice.

After a few minutes of jolting, speractic moves and boisterous comments on my victory we all decide to start a new game. My mother stares to deal out the Uno cards, shooting them like bullets out of her bright red polished hands in each direction.

The Home phone shakes and to this day I can distinctly remember the ringing echoing in my ears. I watch as my mother’s silhouette makes its way to the kitchen and as she brings the speaker to her ear. I watch the laugh wrinkles in the corner of her mouth as they go from being extremely evident to disappearing from her face all together.

An abrupt “oh my god”, slips from her lips.

The chaos of laughter continues around the table but I can’t take my eyes away from my mom. I watch as she cups her hand around her face and leans her head on the frame that separates the dining room from the kitchen. My eyes move slightly down and I see the phone lying on the floor. Whatever news was provided through its speaker must have been awful. My mother walks towards the table with a serious expression covering her once ecstatic face.

“Um…Vava’s passed away.” She mumbles, as a single tear escapes from her eye and rolls down her cheek.

In that moment I knew what people say is true, ignorance is bliss. She had been gone for a complete 3 hours, 180 minutes, a whole 10,800 seconds and yet we were completely oblivious. The once loud and humor stricken room is overcome with silence. I swear those three minutes seemed as if they would never end. Who knew that three little words could change everything in an instant?

In that moment I just sit there on the bench at the table. I wished with my entire mite that a tear would form or a sob would seek its way out of my mouth. If only some type of emotion would reveal itself on my face, just to let me this was real. Nothing. I am numb. This must be a dream the voice inside my head mutters over and over like a broken record. Where I went in those few minutes I’m not quite sure, but all that I know is that it seemed as if I were a million miles away. My eyes were wide as I stared at everyone else around me, as if this were a scene inside a movie theatre and I'm in the audience watching a story unfold on the screen. I am completely silent. I do not move, talk or even blink. All I can see is the way my aunt sobs frantically, rubbing her tears away for only a split second before more come flooding from her eyes. I turn to see my brother remove himself from the table quickly and walk down the hall. Only twelve and yet Denali is so mature and strong. His eyes meet mine for only a split second before he looks away and walks briskly into the bedroom. His actions tell me that he is fine but the look we shared tells me that he is so incredibly fragile inside. I am pulled right out of thought as I feel my sisters arms wrap around me so tight and quick she almost knocks me of balance. I run my fingers through her dark brown hair as she fills my Abercrombie sweatshirt with a fit of moist tears. The door opens and my smaller six year old brother traipses through the door to the dining room. His face was completely untouched by the horror that has seemed to consume the rest of us. Well, at least for a brief minute. I had to see the grief devour him like it had to the rest of the victims in the room. The cute smile in need of three newly missing teeth he wore was ripped right off and replaced by a new expression. Daelen looked as though the life had literally been sucked right out of him. he then runs over to my other side and embraces me.

A half hour later everyone hasn’t seemed to compose themselves.

“That’s it. We’re going to finish this game and stop moping around in sadness.” My mother says storming into the room. “Vava would never want us to be this way, she would’ve wanted us to keep playing.” She adds in a somewhat softer tone a couple seconds later.

We all continue to pick up and lay down the cards. At this point I could care less about this meaningless game. My mind runs a million miles an hour. In each break between turns my brain takes me to a different place. I recall the time when I was only ten and begged to stay with her when it was time to go back home from Washington. I remember the excitement I felt when my mother had actually said yes to staying for a few weeks that summer. I see my fragile little body leap into Vavas arms. Then, I found myself thinking about all the times during those weeks that I had gotten homesick. Each time she had stayed up with me and told me the endless stories of all the trouble my mom had gotten into each time she had visited. Next I was brought to the time back in fourth grade during heritage week when I insisted on teaching my class Portuguese just like she could speak. When spending two hours asking how to say anything from "cheese" to "I love you" in her language from home. Her patience was simply admiring as I am sure I butchered the pronunciation of each phrase that she was trying to teach me. I was beaming the next day at school as I shared my new found knowledge with the other students In Mrs. Culvers classroom. Then I jumped to middle school sewing class. I remember the way I felt so confident with each stitch woven into the fabric because someone extremely close to me taught me at the age of seven. I remember the way I disapproved of all the easy projects like a pillow or gym bag, insisting I needed to make a quilt just like the one my vava had made me. The same hand stitched and embroidered quilt that lays on my bed even to this day. No words could describe the smile she gave me that summer when I brought her the quilt and letter thanking her for all she had ever done for me. Lastly, I relived my favorite memory with My Vava . It was a rainy day in Elk Washington where she lived, my home away from home I like to call it. There wasn't much to do so while every other family member of mine was playing games I asked her to tell me all about her life. I was thirteen. She told me of how curious she was as a child, how terrified she was to go on her own, all of her small adventures and even about the day she had met my great grandfather. All the vintage and black and white photos she showed me are still burned into my memory. I remember blinking and being placed right back into that Uno game. It's truly amazing that memories can take someone anywhere without having to move a muscle.

I visit those days a lot. Now, I truly know why I never shed a tear that day. It was my job to care about those around me and help them cope. As the oldest sibling I felt that I needed to wear a strong facade and when writing this I was forced to face a painful memory all over again. Looking back on the gloominess and depression of that day I realize that it wasn't of any importance. My Vava has taught me so many lessons and that is what I remember of that day four months ago. She allowed me to come to the understanding that what you do in this life doesn't truly matter, but the lives that you touch along the way is what is really momentous. Even after she passed away she managed to leave me with a life changing perspective. If I am able to influence someone as much as my grandmother; Marcincia Tallwater influenced me, I will consider my life a complete success.

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