Young Writers: Family Lessons
Each week, Young Writers Project receives several hundred submissions from students in Vermont and New Hampshire in response to writing prompts and selects the best for publication here and in 20 other newspapers and on VPR.net. This week, we publish responses to the prompt, Family: Write about a moment or experience with a family member that changed you. Read more at youngwritersproject.org.
There she lay, in her bed with her curly brown hair, her sweet, soft and sensitive face, and her frail body. She always knew how to brighten up my day and how to make me happy. She helped mold me into the person I am today, but most of all, she was a fighter and a good role model who never gave up on any of her life goals.
Her name is Caroline Moore Brock and she is my grandmother who was suddenly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about six years ago.
Prior to the disease, she was able to do just about anything that a woman 20 years younger than her could do. She fished with my grandfather, traveled anywhere she wanted, visited my family and me almost every day, played the organ, and cooked big meals every night.
One amazing quality that she had was that she was always able to sense what everyone else was thinking. She knew when I was sad, when I was mad, and when I was happy. She was that one thing you get excited for during the day. Whenever I knew she was coming to our house, I would wait by the window until she pulled in, and then I would run outside to her before the car could even stop. She knew everything about me and always gave the best advice.
She knew that cutting little shapes in my toast would always cheer me up, no matter what the situation. It didn’t really matter what she did; it always made my day and gave me something to look forward to. A ray of sunshine followed her everywhere she went, whether she was in a depressing old store or it was a dark and cloudy winter day; it automatically became much more interesting in her presence.
When Grandma Caroline was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it took her and everyone else by surprise. How could someone so great, so bright, and so influential be diagnosed with such a disease? It hit our entire family hard and no one, especially Grandma Caroline herself, could believe it. She was only 64 years old and had so much more to give to the world, so much more to offer, and so many more people to change.
As far as I’m concerned, she was still the same person on the inside and still had a major effect on our lives.
As the disease progressed, so did the changes in her. She became weaker; her memory started to fade, and she wasn’t able to leave the house as much. Soon, she couldn’t eat any regular food on her own; breathing tubes had to be used, and constant supervision was needed. I was only in the seventh grade and didn’t fully comprehend what was happening to her.
All of the experiences and memories I shared with her would be gone, I thought. However, I now know that those memories will forever be engraved in not only my life, but in the lives of everyone else who knew her and was affected by her.
The day was January 16, 2009, just over two years since she had been diagnosed, and I was in the middle of art class when I was pulled out of the room by my dad who then proceeded to tell me that she had passed. I didn’t know what to do or what to think. I couldn’t cry nor could I smile. I couldn’t really do anything but try to accept the fact that she was gone.
My mom told me that after her mother had passed, and she was on her way home, she looked up into the sky and saw a shooting star through her teary eyes. That shooting star was Grandma Caroline who was flying up into a new world of peace, and although she changed so much in such a short amount of time, she will, in my eyes, always be the flawless woman.
She sits in her bright purple re cliner surrounded by framed pictures of my great-grandfather, my grandpa, my mother as a little girl, and recent school pictures of my brothers and me. With white curly hair, purple nails, red lipstick, big clip-on earrings, and a friendly smile, my Great-grandma Lois will always ask me how school is going. I reply with my usual response that things were going well. She always smiles and hangs on every word of mine for details about the lives of her family that she doesn’t see often.
I sometimes feel sorry for my great grandmother. She lives in a small apartment at a nursing home in Burlington. She has met friendly acquaintances in her new home and talks to my grandpa every night, but I can’t help but feel like she is alone. She has suffered a great loss in her life, and her blank eyes and silence seem to voice her hurt. Four years ago, my great-grandfather passed away on their sixty-third wedding anniversary. He was sick for a long time, and she nursed and loved him to the end.
Last year, she lost her home to the devastating storm Irene. When my mother and I helped her sift through her possessions and old pictures, stories of her life poured forth. She had spent 60 years living on the same street in Waterbury, Vermont. As she relived the wonderful life she had there, she had to also prepare herself to take a lifetime of memories and possessions and somehow compact them into a one-room apartment thirty miles away. I admire her for her strength. That day could have been crushing to her soul, and yet she kept going back to telling us how blessed and fortunate she is to have lived such a wonderful life.
Every time I visit my great-grandmother in her new apartment she tells me the story of how she and my great-grandfather met. Although I know the story by heart, I allow her to tell it over and over again because it is a story that has such a strong effect. She says, “He was a senior and I was a freshman. Kenneth played baseball and he was a very handsome pitcher. He was very quiet and didn’t date much, but all of the girls had a crush on him. One day, I went to one of the ball games with some of my girlfriends, and he suddenly stopped pitching during his warm-up. He walked over to the bleachers, took the yellow bow that I had in my hair, smiled, and then put it into his pocket. He certainly got my attention.” I could tell that this story took her back because she would say it with a smile that seemed much younger than her eighty-seven years.
When she talks of these memories, her eyes brighten up and her smile doesn’t leave her face. I envy her happiness and deep love that she still has for my great-grandfather. I feel very blessed to have my great-grandmother and have her tell me, in her own words, the story of my family’s beginning. It is very comforting to know that my great-grandmother is happy because she is content with the way that her life has turned out and that she is not alone. In the end, I wonder if it is possible for me to ever be as fortunate as she.
My aunt is a woman who has a lot of self-confidence and has no care for what others think of her. One day we were driving through the congested streets of Montpelier, and I was venting to her. My 13-year-old self was venting about the hardships of my life, and how I felt betrayed by one of my best friends because she ditched me to go hang out with some other girls. I was frustrated because this happened often and I felt used. One minute she was there, then the next, she was gone. At this point of our drive, we were on the highway, and it was easier for my aunt to pay attention to me. When I had finished ranting and had taken a deep breath, she turned to me and said, “Stop being such a freaking doormat.” It took a second or two to let the words sink in because I’m pretty sure she replaced “freaking” with a much higher-rated word than the PG one I have used. When I finally realized what she was saying, I was a little confused.
I asked, “What do you mean, a ‘doormat’? I’m not a doormat!” She replied with something along the lines of, “You let people walk all over you. You need to grow a backbone and stop letting this friend use you. You are a smart and beautiful girl and you need to stick up for yourself.” I had never heard anyone say something like this to me before, and so bluntly, but it changed the way I saw things. Because of what my aunt said to me that day, now I’m not that soft, small doormat that I used to be; I am the door. If someone wants to come in and walk through, they have to confront me first, almost like one of those old doors where you have to work the knob a little before it will open for you.
I will never forget what my aunt said to me; she is still someone I look up to and admire, and I am grateful I have such a role model. I rarely let people walk all over me anymore, and I’m no longer a “freaking doormat.”
get blown away
in the bitter
the only memory
of lost love
A Favorite Place
My favorite place is Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. I love baseball so much, and the Red Sox are my favorite team. What other place could I call the best?
The sight of the Green Monster just amazes me. I love how they made it so high with seats on the top. With seats on the top of the monster, you might even get lucky enough and catch a home run.
The smell of the food reminds me of a cheap restaurant with greasy smells. Hot dogs, French fries, wings, you name it. It may make me sick afterwards, but I love it still. When I just look at the field, it makes me feel alive.
Seeing a Red Sox player get a home run is a sight I could never forget. I can hear the swish as the crushed ball flies past me and into the waiting hands of a lucky fan.
Here in the place of greats, the place of victors, I just want to play some day.
The variety of different kinds of people is just fabulous. I love watching people who just came because they were forced to, people who probably don’t understand baseball at all. Then, there are fans like me, die-hard, hate to see your team lose, yell at the umps if they make a bad call fans. Those are the most special type of fans I love.
Someday I want to be the hero at Fenway, hitting the home run to go to the World Series, maybe even being the MVP. Someday I can see myself doing the impossible — making it to the MLB. It is most likely impossible, but childhood dreams are meant to come true.