Monday, October 06, 2008

Tears from the past... Part 2

Part 1 is here...


The mobile home that my grandparents lived in wasn't very big. But to me and my sisters, it had hiding spots and hidden nooks. That day, that awful day after Grandma passed away, we spent it in hushed voices, in that tiny mobile home.

Grandma's room was at the back of the house. She and Papa had separate rooms as he, apparently, snored. His room was plain and masculine. Hers had plastic flowers in vases from vacations to Reno and Vegas. She had a big bin of shiny beads and sequins with which she crafted Christmas ornaments. My sisters, cousin and I would spend hours sorting through the "jewels" and dividing up the booty... The day of her wake, I drew a picture of an angel, my grandma, flying up to heaven and placed it in her dresser drawer. I thought that somehow, she would find it there. That maybe it would change God's mind and she could come back...

Grandma had a small statue upon her dresser from a long-ago visit to Boys Town in Nebraska. I had always admired the man with long robes, holding a baby. Never allowed to touch it, I had thought of it as a valuable treasure. After Grandma died, I gathered up the courage to ask to have it. It still sits upon my dresser in my room... Nothing more than a trinket, really. But it is a constant reminder of her love, and I feel closer to a grandmother I never really got to know.

Life continued on. A much sadder Christmas came and went. And each birthday was a bit grim, knowing that she wasn't there, and that Papa had to attend alone. He always seemed to be missing an important appendage after that...

And then? When spring had warmed the air and life was beginning to look up?

My dad began to feel... off.

I can't say that I remember the tests he went through. I was, after all, only in 3rd grade. How much did an 8 year old need to know about blood tests and strange symptoms?

But I will forever remember the phone call that changed it all.

I can place almost everyone in exactly the right spots:

Papa was visiting. He was sitting at the kitchen table. I was standing in the long galley section of our 1980's orange and yellow plaid kitchen. My mom stood at the wall, holding the mustard yellow phone with the excessively lengthy cord.

And the words. Oh the words that she sobbed when she heard the news...

"Oh my God, Dad... Dave's got Cancer!"

She crumpled.

Papa sobbed.

I ran to my room and knew, just knew, that my daddy was going to die...

Just months after losing our grandmother, my father was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease. 3 young girls. A stay at home wife. Responsibilities that must have terrified him. As an adult, I can only imagine the fear they both must have felt. But as a child? A child who just lost her grandma to the same word that her daddy now had? Terror. Sheer and utter terror.

That year was... difficult. To be honest, I have very few memories. In fourth grade, you would have thought that the memories would come flooding back to me. My younger sister was in second grade and she has piles of memories from that year. She recalls having stomachaches every other day and spending more time in the nurse's office than the classroom. But my own brain's coping mechanism seems to have blocked out most of my fourth grade year. I do have some memories, though...

I can recall my cousin's wedding. My dad's hair was frightfully thin from the chemo, making him appear decades older than his 30-odd years. I remember focusing my attention on my new pink and white polka-dotted dress that stood straight out when I spun around...

I remember my dad's cathedar in his chest for medications. I have visions of the iodine, brown and blood-like, smeared all over his chest by my mom. The boxes of medical supplies in the closet that I would sneak peeks at when no one was looking. Syringes, prescription bottles, alcohol preps... Scary stuff. Everything I equated with hospitals and death, right there in my linen closet...

I remember Dad being tired, and unable to play with us. More and more time was spent in our basement playroom so that he could rest.

I remember vividly, feeling no joy at the special privilege we "got to" have by spending a school night at my neighbor's house. No joy, as it meant my dad must have been in the hospital, or too sick for us to be around. We watched Labrynth and slept on their family room floor. We were allowed to have special caramels and played past bedtime...

A general feeling of unrest and desperate hope hung over the house...
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