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Pancakes. I watched myself pour the thick, golden syrup onto the plate stacked high with homemade pancakes. I sliced through them with my fork like butter, which also was dripping and swirling about my plate. It was a perfect start to a lazy Sunday. My friend and I sat with our plates laughing and recapping the night before as we waited for my mom to pick me up. I heard my friend’s dog start barking and howling like he always does when there’s a car, so I grabbed my bags, thanked them, and hurried out to my car. My mom greeted me as usual and then told me she had some bad news.
“You’re grandfather isn’t doing so well.” She paused a long moment as I stared forward, unable to react. “We are all going to visit him today, alright?” I saw a tear fall gently from her face.
“Of course,” I said, trying my hardest not to break down. I loved my Pap more than anything, and he had always seemed invincible. I couldn’t bring myself to believe how sick he really was, until then.
“So, how was your Saturday?” she asked, trying to change the subject. And so went the rest of the car ride, small talk interrupted by deafening silent spells. I kept playing back the previous day in my mind, wondering if it differed or faltered in any way. I couldn’t think of a thing. My life went on typically with my usual routine of volleyball and friends and school, unaware of the breaking halt about to pause my life indefinitely. How could something like this slip past the radar. I was unsure how I should react at that point, but I could feel all the stress in the pit of my stomach.
We arrived at my grandfather’s house, dimly lit and full of my aunts, uncles and no cousins. I walked into his bedroom. I stayed for about ten minutes talking to him as he lay listening, but not responding, not moving, just breathing? a slow, steady, closed-eyed breath that made my heart ache. As I got up I tried hard to re-enter the living room with composure, but crying silently was difficult enough, composure was out of the question.
“Where are Abbie and Matt?” I asked my Aunt Mary.
“Their Dad won’t bring them down,” she sighed from fatigue as much as sadness. “I’m going to leave to get them soon.” She looked more tired than I had ever seen her, and in the same condition as I was.
“How about I come along?” I asked. “Keep you awake,” I forced a small laugh. Her face was lit with a smile I had yet to see that day. We got in the car and turned on the radio trying to shake ourselves out of the fog, but it was hard. I could only think of that small, dark little house full of my family, all together, but each feeling desperately alone, and the pit in my stomach grew larger. “Aunt Mary,” I said quietly “I don’t feel well, but I think it’s just from the stress and all that is going on.” She told me we were close, it was only 45 minutes away from their father’s house. An hour and a half later we arrived and I felt like I had been hit by a bus. My cousins, teary eyed, crowded into the car and my cousin, Matt took the wheel. I drifted in and out of sleep for the next two hours. It began to snow about an hour in and everybody fussed and screamed for my cousin to slow down, and once we reached 20 mph in a 50 zon,e my aunt was satisfied and Matt annoyed. My other cousin, Abbie, and I laughed about it and she held my hand as I fell back asleep trying to escape the pain.
The next time I woke up it was chaos. Abbie cried, screaming in the back as Matt and Aunt Mary lunged at each other for reasons I didn’t understand. He pulled into a parking lot and got out. “You have to go see your grandfather!” my Aunt shouted after him. He kept walking until we couldn’t see him anymore. Abbie and my aunt cried and I sat motionless, shocked. We arrived at the house and I realized it was seven o’clock and my stomach was worse than before. I had to get home. I felt awful dragging my mother away from my dad when he needed us most, but I knew neither of them felt angry about it.
When we got home I tried hard to just sleep, so the pain would go away. It didn’t. I went upstairs and told my mom, she gave me some medicine and told me to sleep. I couldn’t. I hadn’t been able to drink water since four that day and it was 11:30. “Do we have to go to the hospital?” my mom asked. I nodded. I could tell I was dehydrated. She called my dad and he said he would meet us at the hospital down the road.
Whoever decided cobblestone streets were a good idea was dead wrong. The car tossed and turned my stomach in horrible new ways. I felt sicker than I ever had in my life. It took way too long to get admitted through the ER, but finally I was in a bed with an IV in my arm, hiding in a pillow as they drew blood from my arm. They came back later and said I had to get a CAT scan, so I was rolled down the hall into the room and felt so scared, praying to God nothing was wrong with me. When the results came back, they told me blatantly that I had appendicitis and needed emergency surgery. I couldn’t believe it until I was being strapped to a stretcher, on my way to the ambulance. We sat in the back making small talk as I watched my neighborhood fall away through the tiny window in the back, wondering how I got to this place. It had been such a normal day.
I got to Children’s Hospital and all I can remember were so many people pushing my stomach where it hurt, yet again confirming my condition, each doctor seemed to be pressing harder and harder. They took me down to the Operating Room and introduced me to the doctors taking care of me, each seemed nice, but I was still scared out of my mind. They took me in as my parents said goodbye and they laid me down on a slim white table under big lights. It was just like how I imagined it. They told me to hold still as they hooked me up to various wires. Then came the mask, which they said would give me oxygen but only blurred my vision. “Why can’t I see?” I asked. But they only told me to hush and everything started to fade. I remember thinking about that past morning, how pleasant and perfect it was. I thought of the pancakes and felt sick all over again. That’s the last thing I remember before I heard voices again.
“Hi, Emma, how are you felling?” I heard, I tried to sit up and look but I couldn’t function well enough to open my eyes. My hand shot up and grabbed someone’s sleeve.
“Who are you?” I demanded. She explained that she was my nurse and to just lie flat. Then I heard my parents’ voices. “How’s Pap?” I asked groggily. They said he was fine so I assumed this was true. “Where am I?” they told me, and I was satisfied, until a moment later when I had forgotten and asked again. For the second time, they patiently answered. This happened six more times.
I woke up later that day to see my uncle and one of my Mom’s friends in my room. I was glad there were people to help distract my parents and me. For the next day and a half people came and visited me, and I was asked to tell the story over and over, but I didn’t mind. I discovered the three little holes in my stomach, thinking about how I’d have them to remember this time forever. When I was finally allowed to go home, I was so excited.
As I got up, I felt an intense pain in my stomach, but I was used to that by now. I got dressed and sat down until they came to bring me downstairs. On the car ride home we all joked and were happy. I was finally going home, but something seemed strange. When we arrived home, I was told that my Grandfather had passed away while I was in the OR. I started to cry as they told me it would be okay and explained the funeral arrangements. They all said he came to help me wake up. I like to think of it that way when I get upset.
It was the toughest weekend I’d ever had, I think. But we all seemed to get through it, despite all the obstacles. It gives me hope and reminds me that my family is unbreakable, and together, we seem to handle just about anything.