Don't Forget to Remember | Teen Ink

Don't Forget to Remember

October 9, 2019
By afisher23 BRONZE, Ottawa Lake, Michigan
afisher23 BRONZE, Ottawa Lake, Michigan
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

July 23rd, 2019. I walked downstairs on what I thought was a normal Tuesday morning. The sun was out, and summer was in full swing. Sitting at the kitchen table was both of my parents, my brother, and my grandmother. As soon as I saw them, the room became about 10 degrees cooler. It was 9:00 a.m. on a Tuesday, and my parents rarely ever took random days off of work. All of a sudden I could hear my heartbeat, and it felt like even the wind stopped. I wanted to run back up the stairs, but I forced myself to continue, not knowing I was about to receive the news that changed everyone's world upside down. 

His name was Michael Stambaugh, he was only 69 years old, he told many stories that were too outrageous to be true, and he always had an opinion. They were the kind of stories where the only thing you could do was nod your head and say “Yes… of course…” He loved to play cards, go fishing, and talk about the latest story on the news. When I was a kid, we watched Green Acres together. Most Saturdays, he watched me while everyone else worked. We always caught the reruns and game shows, then he got the mail, and then I fell asleep on his lap. To the end, he kept up his joking personality. The sickness became part of him, but he didn’t let it beat him down.

It was early spring. I was sitting in the bathroom at my grandma's house, the door shut and locked. I was in the middle of brushing my hair when he had one of his bursts of pain. The walls there are thin, and I could hear the distressed calls coming from his bedroom. My grandma rushed in, throwing question after question. He said that it was his back again and that he needed help rolling onto his side. I could hear it in his voice, the pain was unimaginable. After a few attempts to get onto his side, he finally gave up and asked her to leave the room. The words that came out of his mouth were pained, and they are forever ingrained in my memory. “This isn’t how I want the kids to remember me.” They still hurt every time I recall that day. I started to cry, and I finally realized how sick he was. I’m trying to remember him in a better way than the picture of him that the last few months had painted.

We are told to remember the good, but for some reason, that isn't always what happens. The good ones are a hallucination, but the bad ones are nightmares that play over and over, a broken record that you can't turn off. I will not forget this one particular day. My dad and I were test driving potential starter cars for me. We get halfway around the block and my dad gets a call from my mom, saying that we need to come home as soon as possible. I repark the car and we rush home to find my grandpa laying outside, with my grandma, mom, and brother trying to figure out what to do. He was trying to get up the steps when his leg gave out and he fell. It started to rain, and we knew that we had to think fast. We were all soaked, and my grandma called 911. The smell of rain was suffocating, and I felt the tears in my eyes. My dad and brother lifted him into the wheelchair, and then lifted the whole chair up the steps and into the house. It felt like it was one bad thing after another. Father’s Day weekend, and he was rushed to the hospital. Not the first time, and unfortunately not the last.

Rehab centers are exactly what everyone pictures them to be. They are mostly seniors, and they have a peculiar smell. They are also one of the saddest places I have ever been to. Some people are sick, some people don’t remember, and some people are all alone. My grandpa was in and out of three different rehab centers in around six months. Each one is the same story, just as miserable as the last. In the six short months after diagnosis, his health was on a steady decline. The prescriptions got higher, his memory got shorter, and his spirit fluctuated. He started to give up, but then things started to look better. He was finally approved for immunotherapy, he was allowed to stay in Kingston’s rehab facility, and he had multiple successful surgeries. The very last day we saw him he was tired, but still laughing and joking about some political debate on the television. My mom, grandma, brother, and I were all there with him. Sometimes I wonder if he knew, and I wonder if he laughed because it would make us happy.

I wish that we could go back to January at my brother’s birthday party, blissfully unaware of the nightmare that would overtake the upcoming months. The party went similar to every other one, with cake, singing, and having fun. Our family had already grieved over my great uncle, not knowing that the tip of the iceberg can be so deceiving. One month after the party, he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, treatable, but no cure. We all still had hope, because sometimes the numbers lie, and sometimes the impossible happens. Two months after the party, a second great uncle passed away. The family was devastated, but we had to stay strong and have hope. It felt like a test, just to see how much one family can handle. Seven months after the party, July 23rd rolled around. At midnight, my mom and grandma rushed over to the rehab center. There was an emergency. Soon after, we heard the words that I would never wish upon anyone: “I’m sorry, we did everything we could.” 

We are still trying to pull ourselves together. Only six months, but it will hold a heavy place in my heart. We will forever remember the good. Eventually, we won't be sad when we think about the tough times. Grief will fade, but love will not. I promise.

The author's comments:

My name is Alexis, I am 16 years old, and I am a junior in high school. I wrote this because I was always close to my grandpa, and I wanted to share the story of his battle with lung cancer.

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This article has 2 comments.

on Oct. 20 2019 at 6:50 pm
SageSpice BRONZE, Houston, Texas
3 articles 0 photos 3 comments
I'm very sorry. your writing is excellent. a similar event happened in my family about 3 years ago. it will get better. its okay to cry.

dmgrabel said...
on Oct. 19 2019 at 6:59 am
dmgrabel, Saline, Michigan
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
Excellent writing!