at a mcdonalds during the summer i was sixteen, my uncle accidentally let it slip that my grandpa had been diagnosed with cancer. i don’t know how long they were planning to keep it from me, but i doubt it would’ve been even weeks before i noticed the frequent hospital visits or the exponentially growing number of pills he took each morning.
through the years, i’ve watched his health fail and succeed, up and down and up and down and this is just how things were, we all grew used to his long afternoon naps and how thin he became even when he ate big, hearty meals.
when i was little, my grandparents took care of me during the half of the week i was supposed to be with my mom while she was busy doing far more important things like getting drunk at bars or kissing neat-haired men. there are so many pictures of me sitting on my grandpa’s lap, smiling so wide, or the two of us in the ocean, him lifting me beneath my arms so i could fly with the birds. that’s how i always think of him, tall with strong hands, not frail and tired and always in so much pain.
recently, he’s gotten so much worse. now, we all hover around him as he loses his breath after no more than two steps. now, i watch as his eyes become so calm and resolved, as if he’s just waiting for the pain to end. but that’s just it- the pain won’t end with him. it will live on in me and my grandma and my younger brother. we’ll carry it with us everywhere, even if it’s just subconsciously reduced to a dull ache someday. grief sticks to people and it’s hard to ever really shake it all off.
i have these memories from my childhood, so crystal clear, of sitting in the backseat on long drives and listening to my grandparents sing to each other over the soft, slow tune of the radio. fly the ocean in a silver plane, see the jungle when it’s wet with rain. just remember till you’re home again, you belong to me. i try to think of that, of the two of them so in love and smiling so wide, not the grief-stricken look glued onto my grandma’s face or the guilt in my grandpa’s eyes for putting her through this.
sometimes i hear her whispering the tune under her breath. i’ll be so alone without you. i feel a heaviness in my chest. i want to take him by the shoulders and collapse into him, beg him not to go. please, please don’t go. we need you here.
• 2 October 2013
here’s the thing
you drove me to the emergency room
and even when the pain stopped, my
tears didn’t. i will never be worthy of
your endless love, this i realize.
everything around us is dying. autumn
tricks us into thinking it’s beautiful, but
those colored leaves are deceitful. fall is a
subtle reminder that everything ends,
and here’s the thing: we won’t. i’m so
here’s the moment you kissed me for
the first time, clumsy and awkward
and so, so sweet. here’s your knuckles
grazing the small of my back. here’s
our first slow dance, my arms around
your neck, soft swaying to a tacky radio
tune. here are my teary green eyes,
offered like a sacrifice, fingers gripping
at your collared shirt. here are my
memories, spread across the dining room
i read that a hummingbird can remember
every flower it’s ever been to. my memory is
weak and human, i can’t recall every second
by your side, but i do remember the way you
looked at me in the hospital bed and how i
had never been so sure of anything in my life.
• 26 September 2013
in the beginning, i loved you strictly for myself. my heart swelled to twice the size when you uncovered bouquets from behind your back and i thought, ‘yes, this is how i want to feel always. i am happy.’ then the little things crept up on me and i couldn’t stop smiling when you sang along softly to the radio in the car or when your eyes lit up like christmas lights. when you came to me and proposed something more than our friendship, i was in a dark, scary place, much darker and scarier than i’d ever been before, but you took my hands and pulled me out. i soon realized that i didn’t just love you, i was (and am still) hopelessly in love with you. my loving became a thing not just for to get me through the day, but for you. i loved you so thoroughly because you deserved someone to see you the way i see you, like a superhero in disguise, always doing so much good with little to no credit. you’re so gentle with me, you handle me with careful fingers and i’ve forgotten how cruel the world is without you by my side. i still love you selfishly because you make my life a million times happier and more wonderful with each passing day, but i also love you with everything i have, hoping one day i might be able to give you just a fraction of the constant beauty you’ve given to me.
• 24 August 2013
I’ve been missing lately- not just here, but in my own waking life, disappearing behind closed doors when I hear anyone calling my name. This summer was a bit harder than it was soft, but I’m still learning to be strong, to take the good with the bad. I’m coming out of hibernation now. I’m ready to face the world again, beautiful or ugly or both. Usually both.
• 23 August 2013