Coming around

Where I was Mom answered easily, I was in the recovery room. Why?

"Your appendix ruptured about four this morning. The doctor had to come in and do surgury to get all the pieces out of you. They had to cut you open and used ether to keep you asleep so that's why you don't remember it happened."

Wonderful! Due to the wise decision to wait and see the nurses got to see me fly awake about four a.m. with a bursting appendix. I'll bet that was some noise!

I felt terrible. I had to go to the bathroom. My throat was sore, my chest hurt, my stomach still hurt, something stank and I felt pretty quesy. Come to find out, ether has several side effects including potent emetic effects with an unpleasant pungent odour, irritant to the respiratory tract and explosive nausea.

"I need to pee.' I whispered to her. Mom called the nurse and they got me on the bed pan, nasty thing. It hurt to move but I had no choice - it was move or mess the bed like a baby. But the moving made me dizzy and then, before I was done at one end the other end went off. I managed to turn my face to the side but I still got some on the bed.

I started to whimper then, I hadn't made a mess like that since I was just little. I felt terrible and now I was getting sleepy again. That was the LAST thing I wanted - to wake up all strange again, I was going to stay awake and keep an eye on things!

The problem they had now was a very infected apendix had blown loose in my abdominal cavity. I had poison everywhere. They had opened me up bigger than a C-section, clear from my belly button to my pelvic bone. They picked pieces of apendix out for a long time. Then, instead of stitching me up neatly, they put in a drainage tube, it was about half and inch round made of blue rubber with a big safety pin through it and then stapled me together.

staple.jpgThis really sucked for many reasons. These were not like the staples you use at the office. First, the staples seemed huge and held me in just spots. Being afraid of having to go back in they wanted to be able to do it easily and these seemed to be the right way to go for them. Second, the little tips caught in the gauze of my bandages and when they changed my dressings they got yanked around. This hurt. Third, there was only a staple about every two inchs. They didn't hold the skin or the muscles under it together right. And everything under the bandaid itched!

They got me cleaned up and Doc came in. He fixed my bandages, I had messed them up pretty good. He thumped me gently on the chest and listened to my heart and lungs, then told Nurse to take me back to a regular room.


Roll the dice

Dad had only been there a few minutes when Mom and our doctor came back in. The results were that they didn't know for sure what was wrong with me and wanted to keep me overnight for obsevation.

Now things get hazy here. I think they must have given me something for the pain. If they did it was a Micky Finn because I don't remember it. I was NOT thrilled about not going home. With 4 more kids there at least one of the folks had to go and with both of them working to make ends meet they were both tired. I believe what went down was that they both left and Mom would be back later after dinner and to get some books and things to bring me.

That would leave me lying on the cold table alone with the nurse and still not sure what was going to happen. I know they moved me to a regular bed but it wasn't a regular room, it was an observation room. There was a big window anyone could look in. They didn't have all the fancy remote computer attachments yet so the nurses would be in and out.

And they wouldn't let me EAT! And no drinking! Now that put me in a fit! I could only suck on ice. They did give me popsicles. It wasn't mashed potatoes and gravy. I know Mom made it back because I remember her telling me she would stay, that the latest sitter would come by in the morning to get the kids off to school. I was wondering if they would have popsicles for breakfast. So I must have been drugged a little.

The pains continued to hit and get worse but they still stopped, too. Later I found out that the doctors had had a boy with the same symtoms I had come in about a week earlier. They diagnosed and did surgury for appendicitis and it wasn't. There was a law suit. So they wanted to make sure that was what I had.

What are chances of two kids in two weeks presenting the same symtoms with different problems? It was strictly bad luck that he got there first. The result of this little snag was the observation part. They would wait and see if I had what he had (stomach infection) or if it was my apendix. Stalling.

And after all their diddling around I get to wake up in the recovery room very early the next morning not remembering a thing with a hundred pound weight on my tummy. I was groggy and something tasted terrible in my mouth, my chest hurt and I could hardly breathe with the pressure on my stomach.

The first thing I did was try to get whatever it was off me. My hands didn't work very well but I finally caught what felt like an edge and started to try to slide it off. It was stuck. My foggy brain finally figured out that meant I had to pull up on it and tip it off. When I pulled it hurt and I must have made a noise because the nurse came rushing over crying, "No, no honey! Don't pull your bandage off!" She grabbed my hands and started to tie them to the side of the bed (in the old days all beds had restraints, I guess) and I went off like a fire siren!

"Let me GO! Let me GO! Get these ropes off me NOW!" I may have been groggy but I was still claustrophobic and not going to be tied down. People stared in from the hall and she relented quickly, unhooking whatever the things were on my wrists but making me swear to leave the stuff on my tummy alone.

Well for cying out loud! I didn't know they were bandages! I didn't even know I was hurt. I didn't know where I was, how I got there or why I was there. I groped after memories but all I got was Mom tucking me in and leaving me a book to read myself to sleep with. It was a brand new Bobbsie Twins my Grama S had sent for me. Mom - THAT was what I wanted! She would fix this!

"Where's my Mom," I inquired?

"No one can see you yet, we have to make sure you are ok first." She spoke as if it was written in stone, no appeal.

Well I might be only 12 but that dog wasn't going to hunt. I KNEW how to get my Mom from anywhere. Drugs or no drugs, "I want my MOMMY!" screeched at the top of a healthy, young voice with lungs developed over years of getting the little kids to listen to you over their fights will travel through walls, floors and ceilings.

I put it at emergency volumn, auto repeat and added tears. Mom was there in under two minutes. Stupid nurses. Ignorant doctors. She should have been there when I woke up and we could have skipped all the confusion.

She carefully slid an arm under my shoulders and brought her face down beside mine lovingly. "Stop that screaming right now, young lady!" she snapped in a whisper. Then she gave me a hug. I snorted to a quick stop and asked her, "Where am I?"


Wha'd he say?

Now I knew about hospital gowns, I was going to learn about consulting doctors and the English language.

Dr. Unus did not keep us waiting long. When he burst into the room he resembled a caveman in a white jacket. He was short, bulky, thick and strong looking. Every where his skin showed there was black, stiff hair sticking out. His arms were coated, his neck even had hair on it. He had a thick beard and mustache but a big bald spot on top of his head. Even his eyebrows were stiff and bushy looking.

He spoke quietly with my doctor for a moment over by the door then came striding up to the table where I watched aprehensivly. He was big and a little scary looking. Then he spoke to me. "Und hos dis grul, she don fel gut?"

I stared at him. Probably my jaw hung open. He may as well have been speaking Klingon, I would have had a better chance of understanding him. He reached out and put one hand on my tummy. "Dar ist pan?"

I just stared again, until he curled his fingers into my guts. "OW!" I shrieked and tried to slide away but Nurse was holding my shoulders now and I was stuck!

"Ah,ah,ah, mowe nut!" He admonished me mysteriously as he moved his hands around and poked different places, several of them making me scream. By the time he finished I was crying.

"Viv mama ve spek now, ja?" He said as he took mom's arm and led her and our doctor out of the room again.

I just laid there in shock. How was he supposed to help me if I didn't know what he was saying? I didn't even know what language it was! Maybe he was an alien!

Then my dad came in the door. I looked and the clock and realized he had just gotten off work and must have come right up. I could smell the oil, smoke, greasy garage scent of him and it comforted me.

"So wha'dja break this time, kid?" He said as he walked over to the table. I was hurting just then and couldn't answer him but I tried to smile at him to show I knew he was just teasing me. He took one of my hands that was pressing on my stomach and held it. This was like the President calling you up to have dinner with him. While we played and romped and there were hugs and such, Dad was not usually demonstrative with affection outside the home. I felt better right away and then I got even more scared. What had the doctors told him that made him all mushy with me? I would have bet I was dying then, beyond help.

The pain in my gut let up but all the rest of me started to shake. I was really getting myself worked up now! I was the one sick and no one would tell me anything!


This won't hurt a bit

Mom loaded me right up in the car and headed for the emergency room in the next town. The doctor would meet us there. This was in the old days where you had one doctor that could set a broken bone, do surgury, tell you you were pg, test for vd, pull a fish hook out of your foot, treat hypothermia, and fish the pea out of your sister's nose. AND would leave his home or office to meet you at the hospital in an emergency. I miss that doctor. And yes, it was the same emergency room where I had my hand x-rayed when I was four.

Eight years is a long time and I guess they had forgotten me by then because they let us in with no problem. The doctor must have called ahead because a nurse met us at the car with a wheel chair. They wouldn't let me walk at all even though it wasn't hurting now.

They wheeled me into an examining room, back then they had real doors and only one gurney per room, no sharing with the old guy dying from a heart attack, it was private and you didn't pay extra for it. I started to get on the table when the pain, skipping the build up, went through my guts like a hot prong through a marshmallow. I bent over so fast they thought I was falling.

Mom and the nurse grabbed my shoulders and my feet and slung me up on the cold steel covered with plain white wrapping paper. I remember wondering if they could see me at all or if I matched the paper so closely that I was invisible. I curled around my belly like a catapillar around a finger and moaned.

The doctor walked in just then, of course. So I looked sick to him, too and there was no way out now. No saying, "It doesn't hurt now," and going home. I just knew he was going to poke and thump and prod and measure me till I was all bruises. Then he'd stick me with a needle. I started to tear up.

"What's the trouble, Val?" he asked in his "get down to business" voice.

"My stomach hurts really bad and then it stops. I feel a little dizzy then and I look like a ghost and I'm too warm," I rambled on to him.

He put his hand on my forehead, then on my shoulder and gave a little pat. "Let's get her in a gown, Nurse, and Mama, come talk to me while she gets changed." They left the room.

This was my first experience with the thing medicos call a "gown". It won't keep you warm, covered up or comfortable and it's always too big or too small. The gap can't be closed no matter how you hold it and some part of you touches the cold table no matter how you lie down on it. I hated it then and hate them now. All the complaining I have done over the years and they have not redesigned them at all, what a waste of whining.

The pain was going away so sitting up and getting out of my clothes was only embarrassing, not painful. "Nurse" folded them up as I took them off. She slipped the gown over my head as I took off my shirt so I took the rest off under it.

I was surprised to see that I was white all over, not just on my face. All my scars and bug bites stood out like dark marbles on a white floor against the pallor of my legs and arms.

(When I had my heart attack last year they asked me if I had ever been abused. I was so taken aback that I almost didn't answer. Then I said, "Yes, by my sisters when I was little. They always ganged up on me." Between the bugs, the bushes, the bonfires, the creeks, the motorcycles, bicycles, unicycles, ladders, trees, chairs, stairs, football, frisbies and general crashes off swing sets I am scarred all over my legs and arms. Back then it was just a few chicken pox left overs and bug bites.)

I felt dizzy again so I laid back down. Nurse went to the door to let the doctor know I was ready and Mom came back in with him.

Now the fun started. Doc got out the fancy lights and looked at my eyes, nose, ears and then grabbed a flattener to see past my tongue and down my throat. He put the cold round thing on my chest by my ribs and then moved it to other places before it could get warm, a nasty trick. He even put it on my stomach. I never had a doctor listien to my stomach before.

While he did that nurse did the pump up thingy, held my wrist and stared at her watch then popped a thermometer in my mouth as soon and the doc pulled the flattener out. They were all quiet except for the "hmmmmm...." and "hummm" noises all doctors make when they are thinking.

He stood back from the table while Nurse fished the temp thing out and said, " 103, Doctor."

The Doc looked right at me. "I want to check your abdomen for tenderness, Val. It's going to be a little uncomfortable but you're a big girl and I don't want you to cry unless it REALLY hurts, OK?"

This was his way of letting me know he had heard about the episode with the hand and that he wouldn't put up with any the hat tricks from a twelve year old girl. I nodded agreement.

First he just placed his hand spread fingered over my tummy. Then he just wiggled his fingers a little bit. That was ok. Then he pushed down with his thumb. 'OW!!" It was a cross between a scream and squeek. I was trying not to scream but it HURT and that one got by me. I pushed off with one foot and I almost snaked right out from under his hand and off the table. Mom glared and Nurse was right behind my head so I didn't get past her. I slid back down, looked right at the doc and told him, "That HURT!"

Then he started using both hands and pushing into my stomach all over the place. It hurt really badly in several areas. He wasn't pleased. "Mrs. P., can I speak to you outside please.

"Hey," I interrupted, "may I get dressed now?"

"Not just yet, Val, we'll see when I get back." He looked pretty serious when he turned to leave with Mom. I didn't like it one bit!

There isn't much more boring than laying flat on your back in a white room with a white ceiling and nothing to read. Your brain just flies down the road of "what if". What if I'm going to die? Will I go to heaven? Would I see Grama there? Does God mark down for shutting your sister in the closet? Will I go to hell because I said "he**" once? What if dead people are just the skeletons of themselves and not angels? WHOA! Scary! What if I can never eat again? What if they take me off Safety Patrol because I didn't go back to my post when I was told to by my Hall Leader? If I died Vee would be the oldest, the little kids weren't going to like that! What if I didn't die but had to walk bent over the rest of my life? Would my guts always hurt? I never even had a real boyfriend! I didn't want to die! I didn't do my homework for today yet!

Yup, I scared myself. I have always been really good at it. By the time Mom and the Doc got back the pain had been and gone once and I was in a real sweat, not just feverish.

"Valerie, I want to have another doctor look at you. He specializes in abdominal medicine. He is on his way now. Is that ok with you? I looked at mom for my cue and she narrowed her eyes and nodded. That meant you better say yes.

"Yes, I guess so," I told him, as directed. Mom smiled at me and gave me the "good girl" nod.
So we all waited for Dr. Unus.

It hurts when I laugh

Twelve wasn't my best year ever. After dealing with the birthday blues and learning to get along without Grama and Grampa, because he sold the house and bought a camper for his pickup and went traveling, and the family in fighting about posession of tables and chairs and such I went on to have another bad day.

In school the 6th grade kids are used for Hall Patrol and Safety Patrol. You get a glow in the dark orange belt thing that runs over one shoulder and around your waist to wear. For hall patrol you make sure there is no running or fighting in the halls. Safety patrol was to help kids cross the streets. When kids don't mind you then you report them to the teachers.

Now hall patrol was an honor. Not just anyone got the job. You had to have good grades and no black marks for misbehaving and the teachers had to trust you. I was only picked the week before and it was still a rush for me to put my safety belt on and work the hall patrol.

I was on patrol one day, leaning against a post with my hands behind my back and my legs about shoulder width apart, as required, when my stomach started to hurt. I don't have a pain threshold, I have a hair line crack. I feel pain quickly and thoroughly. This wasn't an "I ate too much" pain or an "I have to go" pain and it didn't stop, pause or fade, it got worse and worse.

I tried to deal with it. I didn't want to have to be excused to go to the john, you were supposed to do that before you came on duty and I had. I was there with my hall leader, Rut, so she knew I had gone. So now what was I going to do? It was really hurting! Then, all of a sudden, there was a sharp pain, like someone stabbed me. It made me bend right over and wrap my arms around my stomach! OWWWWWWie!

That decided it for me and I hobbled down the hall, bent almost double and clutching my gut, to where Rut was standing. "I need to go to the bathroom, please. Can you cover for me? " I asked.

Rut had just been picked for hall leader that week, too. Her responsibities lay heavy on her shoulders. She wasn't really a friend or an enemy and we usually got along ok. I guess she thought she had to play hard ball or she thought I was faking because she looked down at me, her eyes narrowed, her chin stuck out and she looked me right in the eye and said, "No! Get back to your post."

I said, "I'm sorry, I can't!" and took off hobbling as fast as I could for the girls room. I ran into the closest stall, unfastened my jeans and slid them down with my panties and took a seat. I felt a little better then. I tried to do my business but there was just a tiny tinkle, nothing else and then the pain rammed me again and I bent over my arms, flat on my knees and cried out a loud groan.

Just then my favorite teacher came in, calling for me. Rut must have tattled that I left without permission and she was in charge of the patrols that week. She must have heard me groaning with pain because she sounded concerned. "Valerie? Are you alright? Where are you?"

"I'm here, Mrs. M, in the first stall," I creaked out past the pain.

"Are you ok? Should I come in?" she asked.

"My stomach hurts," I replied, "and I don't know why! I'll be out, just a minute."

I was panting and carefully sat up. I got to my feet, pulled up my bottoms and hooked them over my poor tummy. The pain quit. I didn't move for a minute because I was afraid I would make it hurt again. Then I unhooked the door and stepped out. Mrs. M looked at me and said, "My goodness! You're so pale, Val!"

I looked in the mirror across from me, she was right - I looked like a ghost of myself I was so white! It was spooky! And it scared me worse!

"My stomach just stopped hurting when I put my pants back on but I must really be sick!" popped right out of my mouth.

"I think so, too, " she agreed, "Do you want to go home?"

That was a no brainer, "Yes, I had better," I said shakily.

"I'll call your Mom and tell her you are on your way."

That was one of the things I loved about Mrs. M. She knew Mom and Dad both worked and that I would have to walk home but didn't act like it was a crime. Mom would be there when I got there and it was only four blocks to my house. She didn't make me wait around in the nurses office till a parent could come get me. This happened to be a very good thing.

While the rest of the the kids filed back to their last classes I walked out the front door, by myself again. I didn't bother to go back for my books or anything, I just headed for the house.

I made it about half way before the pain started again. It did just like before - twinge, pause, twist, pause, pause, GRAB GRAB, pause and I walked the last block all bent over and holding my tummy again. When I stepped down off the curb to cross the last street to my house it stopped again. I stood straight up, felt a little dizzy, then was ok and just walked home, up the steps and in the front door.

I went right to the bathroom, stood on tip toe in front of the sink and, sure enough, the ghost me was back! My lips looked like someone drew them lightly with pink crayon and colored over them with white really hard, my hair stood out where the bangs went across my forehead like fence posts across a snow drift and my brows and lashes looked painted on. My eyes were green but looked dark brown against the no lines and never been drawn on paper white of my face. It made me feel sick to look at me, so I ran out and laid on the couch. I was really tired all of a sudden and it felt right to lie down.

I heard mom's car in the drive and she came right to the living room to find me there. She actually gasped, "Hauu!", sucking breath in fast, when she got a look at me. I was that strange looking.

She slid her hip down beside mine and put her hand on my brow. "You're burning up! What is the matter with you?"

"My stomach hurts really bad and then it stops." I answered in a weak voice. "It makes me dizzy, " I added. (Now there is medical terminology for you! )

"I'll be right back," she stated as she rose and headed for the phone in the kitchen. I knew she was calling the doctor and there was nothing I could do now to get out of seeing him. I even looked sick to me!


I get it my way

I found out later that Mom and Dad had talked it over and decided that if I was that dead set on going to class it was better to let me than have me sulking through the funeral. 12 year old sulks and the 11, 10 , 9, and 6 year old tears were just more than they wanted to deal with.

On the big morning I got up and was already bummed because there were no lovely chocolate cupcakes to go to school with me. I got washed up, brushed my teeth and hair, told my sisters thank you when they wished me subdued happy birthday's and got dressed in my favorite jeans and blouse. By the time I was tying my shoes I had almost cheered up because they were all going to have to wear dresses and I wouldn't.

I knew it was late when I went to bed the night before but Mom had said she would get me a treat and when I walked into the kitchen and there was nothing set out by the single lunch bag on the counter I started to panic again.

Mom was in curlers and wearing her slip and nylons under her pink robe, already at the stove and flipping eggs for the rest of the family. I had cereal because I had to get to school. "Mom, where's my treats?" I asked. Not hello, not good morning, not what is the plan for later when I get out of school but where's the treats. Cold, child, cold.

"The stores were closed last night, Val. I am going to give you five dollars and you will have to pick them up on the way to school."

I put the milk back in the fridge and sat silently in my chair. There was nothing else to say. I was so low in rank that I had to buy my own birthday treats. The fact that five bucks back then would buy 50 good candy bars and was a lot of money to a girl who got twenty five cents for an allowance every week went right on by me. I was all "woe is me" and depressed. I wasn't supposed to have to do anything on my birthday, especially a trip to the store which was a regular chore for me as the oldest.

Nobody loved me. Not one person cared that my birthday was ruined. Grama was dead and I would never see her again and my birthday was ruined and it was all her fault and I was a big girl now and shouldn't be such a cry baby, but the tears were dribbling down my chin and into my cereal. I made Eyor the donkey look cheerful, let me tell you!

And, of course, I had already bragged to my friends about the yummy cupcakes. So now I was a welsh or a liar, too. I didn't know how I was going to work things out with them.

Mom sat the platter of eggs on the table and ran to butter the next batch of toast as it popped out. She had seen I was crying and over her shoulder she asked, "Are you sure you don't want to stay home and go to the funeral with us? I think you are too sad to go to school."

"No," I mumbled through cereal and tears, "I wanna go to school." I wasn't rude, just firm that that was my decision and it had not changed.

She slipped the toast into the oven and onto the warm plate then came over to stand behind me. I laid my spoon down and she wrapped her arms around me, gave me a kiss on the cheek and whispered, "Happy Birthday" in my ear. Then we both started crying again. She gave me another hug and went over to the sink.

I snuffled to a stop, joined her at the sink and washed my hands and face, then went to the counter, picked up my lunch bag, found the five dollar bill under it, crumpled it up and shoved it in the pocket of my jeans, grabbed my winter coat and hat and went out the door, still buttoning up.

The snow wasn't heavy but it was cold and cooled my face off, lowering the swelling of my eyes and nose to an almost normal level before I got done with the first block. I slogged along, ho huming and poor me-ing, watching my feet, all the way to the store. I must have been a pitiful site. I was trying to be, anyway.

When I got to the store the heat hit me in the face as I opened the door and sweat started running down my neck. I was in this store probably at least once a day on errands for Mom. I knew it like the back of my hand and I knew the prices as well as the grocer did. It still took me ten minutes to decide to buy forty one bags of M & M's. A whole bag of regular sized was better than the mini bags in a big bag, I decided, and I still had change to give Mom. That gave me 36 for the class, one for the teacher and four to take home to the sibs.

The nice man behind the counter, Mr. M, commented on how much candy I was buying. I was still watching my feet but answered,"It's my birthday," politely. He wished me a happy birthday as I took the bag he pushed across the counter and headed for the door. I called thank you over my shoulder and kept moving. I was going to be late if I didn't get a move on.

School sucked. I was so depressed about everything that it was all I could to to be nice to my friends and classmates, much less be all happy happy joy joy about turning twelve. We did our work. My hand went up for the answers, same as always. The teacher wouldn't pick me because she knew I did the work, same as always. Blah. The bag of treats sat under my desk, taunting me because it wasn't cupcakes every time my foot bumped it.

Just before first recess the teacher announced the birthdays. I shared mine with one other student. Guess what they brought? No chocolate stars on top but cupcakes all the same. We handed out treats out to each desk and went back to our seats. Then everyone sang the happy birthday song. It was all I could do not to break into sobs of despair looking at that cupcake.

As we went out to play, treats in hand, all the "cool" kids joined the other birthday kid. I went to sit on the entry way flower box with my neighbor kids, the not so cool. Everyone ate their cupcake first. I was hurt again by the rejection from my peers off my treat. It was the best I could do but it wasn't good enough for them. (hard lesson to learn).

Then I realized that when we stashed our treats that were not so appealing in our desks for later or to give away because we wouldn't eat them that we were hurting the birthday kids feelings. It was the best they could do, too. So then I felt bad for doing that to other kids on top of my crappy birthday and crappy treats and my grama and aunt being gone forever.

It was just too big a load of grief and too many epiphanies for a just turned twelve girl. I left without saying good bye to my friends and ran back to the class room. The tears started well before I got there. I went straight to the teacher's desk and managed to gasp out that I needed to go home - before I couldn't talk anymore. My teacher was a man. He came out from behind the desk and said, "I think you should see Nurse first," took me by the hand and led me down the hall to the Nurse's office.

They all knew my Grama had died. He left me with the nurse. She had me lay down on the sofa, gave me a baby asprin and then put a cold rag on my head over my eyes and told me to just lay there a few minutes. I could go home when I was calmer.

It was quiet in there and she turned off the overhead lights as she went back to her desk. I got myself calmed down. I reached up and flipped the rag over to the cool side and lay there a little longer. When I could see again, through my swollen eyes, I put the cloth on the sink and went over to her desk. She smiled up at me. "May I go home now?", I asked.

"Is there someone there right now?"

I was stumped. It was about eleven o'clock by now. They would all be at the funeral. Usually when Mom and Dad were gone Grama was there for us. I teared up again but repressed it as hard as I could. "No," I told her truthfully, "But I babysit now and I can be home alone until they get back. I'm twelve now."

"I shouldn't let you go home to be alone when you are so sad but I think you would like to be by yourself for awhile, wouldn't you?" She was a nurse who could see more than visible wounds.

"I really need to go home, I can't stop crying today. I got my school work all done. I will be ok by myself."

She finally let me go but I had to call her when I got there and then call her again when my folks got home.

I got my coat from the hook in the hall and went out the front. It was strange to walk the empty hall and go out the door alone. Usually there were hundreds of us trying to get through. It was weirdly quiet walking home, too. No other kids to play with or pick on me, no little sibs to watch over.

I walked on the forbidden wall, stopped at the store and got myself some Fizzies with my last dollar, mom was only getting .80 cents back now. I had left the treats for the kids in my desk. I would have to get them tomorrow.

The house was quiet, too. No radio, TV or noisy sibs. No Grama. I quick, called the nurse and, using a very grown up voice, let her know I was home ok. I hung up as soon as I could and ran over to the chair where Grama used to sit and darn our sock and flung myself in it, curled up in a ball and bawled like a calf taken from it's mother. If I sniffed really hard at the back of the chair I could still smell the lavendar she kept in her closets that scented her dresses. I got up on my knees and I hugged the back of the chair like she was sitting there and I was on her lap. Then I cried all over her shoulder.

I know this whole post was filled with tears but you should have seen this batch. This is when it was real to me that there was NO MORE GRAMA. I wasn't loud for long because my throat was sore from so much crying the last several days. But the quantity of fluid I shed actually left me thirsty.

The funeral was no better. Our family mostly likes each other and lots of people liked Aunt Mary and Grama. They cried buckets. Then they went to the dinner. It was 4:30 before they came home.

No one remembered my birthday until they were getting ready to go home. They sent someone to the store for icing sugar and ice cream. They wrote Happy Birthday on one of the cakes that didn't get eaten and brought that home with them.

We put the candles in it and they sang happy birthday to me and my other grand parents gave me a card with money in it. I pretended I was having fun but I don't think anyone was tricked. They were all pretending that a birthday was as important as a dying day and I wasn't fooled, either.

I always think of my eleventh birthday as my last good one. This is my beloved Grama and Grampa and my sibs with me after the 11th cake and ice cream. We were watching whatever I wanted to on TV. You can see my choice didn't agree with everyone.

I love them all.