To Childhood

January 10, 2010
There is a turning point in a child’s life when one has to grow up. No one truly wants it, but eventually childhood has to be pushed back as maturity takes over. I changed, I grew, I cried. Then, I picked myself up and moved on. It sounds sad, but all of life is made up of ups and downs.

Like all stories start, it was a day I would never forget. It was probably sunny out, with a chance of rain or some other cliché that comes along with days that our mind can’t seem to forget. What was I wearing? A t-shirt and jeans, maybe a hoodie, the smaller details don’t really seem very important I guess. It was the third day of my junior year of high school. I was still young then. For that brief early part of my day, I thought nothing would go wrong. Every year I have a love/hate relationship with the first few weeks of high school because it is either prep time for auditions, or audition week.
Each period seemed to pass rather quickly. First period Spanish turned into last period physics in the blink of an eye. All I could think of was blah, blah, blah, constant velocity, blah, some more acceleration, blah. So physics wasn’t my forte. My grandma gave me the failure of physics gene; she was so bad at science. I twiddled my thumbs through that class as the clock finally struck two forty-five.
Like any teenager, the first thing I did once the bell rang was retrieve my cell phone, aka my number one best friend. As soon as my phone turned on, information jumped out at me. One new voice message, three new texts messages, a few missed calls. Who knew I was so popular. I started sifting through the data and the happiness of popularity vanished. My dad had left that message, the missed calls and the text message. I started to panic. The words “call me immediately” were plastered on every text message and the words rang through my ears as I heard them from his voice message. The first thought that went through my head was, she died.
Normally I would be accustomed to the random urgent messages that my phone received. My family has a history of visiting hospitals like they are five star hotels. I don’t know why but something attracts the Fox family to them. So getting an urgent phone message usually meant that someone was in the hospital, no biggie right? Not this time. This time was different.
My grandma had been dying for about a year by this time. She had smoked cigarettes since she was in her twenties, at the time she was in her eighties, you do the math. She was dying of lung cancer. There is no less cool thing to do than to smoke. If you don’t believe me, talk to the thousands of people that are now six feet under. Obviously lung cancer wasn’t really something we were shocked about. I mean a lifetime of smoking didn’t really lead to rainbows and butterflies unless you consider the random colors of your insides rotting a rainbow. As soon as she found out she had cancer, she quit and started treatment. At eighty-eight, there isn’t much they can do except help you be as pain free as possible. Like all fun loving diseases like cancer, it got worse. Her living on her own turned into her living with a nurse. Her being able to breathe ended up her having to carry around an oxygen mask until she always had to have it on. The days passed, the weeks became months, and eventually the person I knew as “Nonie” just wasn’t there anymore. Her body was there but who she was had already died.
After I evaluated all of the data my phone had thrown at me, I called my dad.
“Dad, what’s wrong. Is Nonie okay? I am freaking out here. Please stop me at any time.” I screamed at him.
“Hannah, calm down. Breathe. I think today is her last day. If you want to, I can pick you and your sister up and you can come say goodbye.” His voice trailed off as I took it all in. Say goodbye? Say goodbye. Could I even do this, I wasn’t ready. I thought I had time, I thought it’d be different. But the thing about death is that it doesn’t matter if you are ready or if it gets in the way of your dinner plans, it just happens.
“Yeah Dad, I will tell Stephanie that you will pick us up and I will meet you at home in ten minutes.” The conversation ended and the full impact really hadn’t set in yet. I hurt but I didn’t cry. I was strong, but I was still so weak.
I left school right away and went home. I thought that I would be able to drive but apparently my grandma was in such bad shape that my mom thought that my driving would be hazardous. We all drove to my grandma’s house, not really sure what to expect. My grandma had this goal of living until my uncle’s birthday and that was the day it was.
We arrived at her apartment and walked in. I could feel the emotion in the room, it hurt. My grandma had been moved from her bedroom to a hospital bed in the middle of her living room. I saw her. The image is still burned into my memory. She looked like someone who had been released from a Holocaust camp, frail, purely skin and bones, but still breathing. I had never seen a dead person before but if I were to imagine what one looked like, the image of her would come to mind.
I remember the way my eyes burned every time I held her hand because of how fragile it felt. The tears were harder to hold back then I thought they would be. I tried to mentally imprint the way it felt when I held her hand, when my thumb rubbed against her thumb. Yet it seems that I didn’t try hard enough for I can no longer remember.
It was my turn to say any parting words to my grandma. I didn’t know if what I was saying made any impact on her or even if she could hear me but I told her how I felt anyway.
“Hi Nonie, it is Hannah. I just wanted to tell you how much I loved you and that you being in my life meant so much to me. Thank you for everything: for buying us random knick knacks, for bringing my dad into this world, for always being there, for always loving me, and most of all, for just being you. I cannot imagine what my life would have been like if you had not been in it. You have taught me so much. Who you are is now a part of whom I am and I am going to miss you so much. Nonie, I love you and I will never forget you, never. I am sorry that our time is over, but at least I had time with you. When my kids ask about you, there will be nothing but jealousy. They will wish they had a grandma like you. Thanks Nonie, thanks for loving me. Bye, I love you, and will love you. Forever.” I cried. Of course the words were probably hard to hear between sobs, but I spoke my heart out. As I said goodbye to her, I said goodbye to my childhood.
What happens next was all up to fate. Each one of my family members said goodbye and we all left her apartment. I remember thinking how one day; this apartment will just be another building I pass that has no significant meaning to me anymore. That the next day I walk through these doors, she will probably be gone.
All who was left with my grandma was my mom and her nurse.
“Maggie, everyone has gone now and it is just me, Andrea and Caroline.” My mom told my grandma. By this time my Dad, sister, and I had already driven to Photos and started to eat when we received a call. Right after my mom told my grandma this, an amazing thing happened. After being non-responsive for at least two days, my grandma took a giant breath, shrugged her shoulders with all the strength that was left in her, smiled, and let out her last breath. My mom had to make sure that the nurse saw the same thing or else she would have thought she was crazy.
My grandma made it to my uncle’s birthday and just let go. I don’t know why she chose that day or what made her hold on so long but I guess after we said our goodbyes, she knew we were ready to let go too. There are a lot of things in my life that I regret, but going to see her that day will never be one of those things.
Someone once asked me what was the hardest thing I ever did in my life. My answer, “I said goodbye:” to apart of myself, to a person that was apart of me, to childhood.

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