A Short Story Project

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Picture from the Wallwiz website

Recently, Mrs. Dreger began a short story project. The students turned them in, and many had very creative and great stories. One student, who wishes to be anonymous, made a beautiful piece.

The title is “It Feels Better To Read It Aloud,” and is based on a true story. They say they were inspired by their own grandfather’s death to write this heart felt story. According to them, the most important thing they wanted to get across was the relationship between the main character and their grandfather.

“Whenever Mrs. Dreger gave us the assignment, she said it was supposed to inspire us and he always inspired me to do the best to my abilities,” They stated when asked about their muse.

Below is the full version of the story, please take the time to read it:

It Feels Better to Read it Aloud

Do you know the feeling where you’d give up anything, do anything, try anything,  to just see someone again. I had the opportunity and at the time I didn’t know it. I’d give anything to turn back time. But I can’t. We all have chapters in our stories we don’t read aloud, because if we read them we must dig up the pain within the pages, and it’s easier to pretend it’s never happened than to acknowledge the hurt.

In many ways my grandpa changed me. His death, his face, it all seems to fade. He’s the reason I’m annoyingly loud, the reason country music makes me sad, the reason I have a quick witt and roll with the punches. I miss him his dark skinned face with prickly grey beard, his scratchy voice, his goofy precancer smile. I miss getting up every morning knocking on his bedroom door

 “Get up Grandpa Don.” Knock. “ Get up, I’m awake, Alli is awake, Grandma’s awake.” Knock knock. “GET UP TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE!” This was how I woke him up every morning screaming at the top of my lungs.

“Bull twinkie, Em I’m awake,”  he said even though he went back to sleep for about another hour every morning.

You establish a bond when you spend every third day with someone for ten years.

“You went back to sleep,” I’d say when he finally came out into the kitchen with my grandma and me.

“Wanna make a bet?” his voice scratched out. I didn’t know a time when his voice hadn’t been this hard, decalit, cold voice. I imagine that at one point long before I knew him, Long before he lit up he had a sweet voice, a sweet voice I never knew. A voice that made our country song duets sound like a cat wasn’t dying, like he wasn’t dying. But if that was the case wouldn’t this be a happy chapter?

“No money to bet sorry,” I said with an ornery playful grin as I stood from the table grabbing his lighter, ready to hide it. I wanted more time, more time with the man I miss so dearly and my god I was a thief. But if I could steal his lighters maybe I could steal him from the grasp of death, maybe I could be a hero, but a hero I wasn’t.  

“Grandpa what’cha doing?” I asked, watching him smoke for the first time; standing in the door to the cellar way. I was never allowed in the cellar way because of the steep stairs. I still can’t bring myself to go into the cellar way, whenever I go over to the ranch I make a point to shut the door, to rid myself of the memories and emotions that cellar way causes. He lit up in the cellar way several times a day. He liked the cellar way it had a window open to the garden so he could see the birds, there’s a radio in the cellar so he could listen to country music. It was his escape perhaps his personal oasis. And when the door was open he could see me in the kitchen.

“I’m lighting a cigarette Emi-Lou,” I don’t know why he called me this my middle name isn’t even Louise, but he’d called me this since I was little and the name stuck. In fact the name still comes up in later chapters.

“Can I light one?”I asked before I knew how deadly they were.

“These aren’t for you,” he said. “These aren’t for little kids with pure big loving hearts, these aren’t for people who can smile and make your day ten times better, these aren’t for people who love you  completely no matter what, these aren’t for little girls with bright futures and kind eyes, Emi-Lou theses aren’t for you.”

“But why do you light them grandpa?” I asked genuinely concerned if they weren’t for me certainly they couldn’t be good for him, this man who took me to school. This man who came to everyone of my concerts and birthday parties, the one who spent time with me when my parents were to busy, the man who didn’t yell at me when I ran over grandma’s rose garden with my Barbie car he simply laughed. Oh how I miss that laugh.

“I’ve seen hard times and I can’t stop” he said looking up to meet my bright eyes.

“I’ll help you, I’ll help you we can do it together.”

To this I got a vague smile and nothing more. This is when I started stealing his packs and lighters,and sometimes I still find them to this day behind closed doors in my book case, behind the picture frames, beneath the sofa. There’s one buried in my grandma’s garden under years of mulch, and I can’t bring myself to dig it up. Because when you dig it up you  dig up the memories, emotions, and that constant reminder of how You tried, You tried to save him but you fell short.

My grandpa and I spent a lot of time together in those first ten chapters.I’d go camping with him, we’d ride bikes, we always would get ice cream together. I’d get peach he’d get chocolate. Running around the yard while he washed the car and I ultimately ended up with more water on me than the car did. But usually we played checkers, ate cheetos, and sang to country music. Not once did I beat him in checkers, we would play for several hours and I put up a fight but always lost. He was a very strategic man and maybe it was from World War Two, maybe he picked up strategy the same time he picked up a cigarette.

It was mid-June in my 7 chapter and we were packing to go camping. The sky was sad almost a faded grey but not raining, just depressing. I had opened the screen door for my grandpa because his hands were full with sleeping bags, and as he stepped through I snatched the brand new pack of camels and his blue lighter. I ran for the trash can. I threw open the lid holding the hellish items over the can about to toss them in.

“EMILY ELAINE DON’T YOU DARE!” he screamed, I froze like a statue. He had never yelled at me before and for once I saw the scary man others saw.

“They’re killing you!” I said and began to cry. “ I want more time, they’re killing you, I can’t lose you, what about grandma and I? What about my dad!” It was a hysterical cry to the point my voice was unrecognizable.

“Give them back,” he said unwaveringly.His voice,eyes and posture unchanged he stood like a soldier.

“But grandpa,” I said. “Please please please,” it was a whisper.

I wish with all my heart I would’ve thrown the damned things away, I would’ve saved him I would’ve bought more time, but I didn’t I gave them back. I gave him the gun loaded and aimed at his head all he had to do was pull the trigger, all he had to do was light a cigarette. I had the opportunity to be the heroine, the grand protagonist you envy for their bravery, courage, and compassion. The protagonist you see as a kid and think ‘wow I wish I could be just like them’. I had the opportunity to save not just a life, but a life I loved and I gave it away.

I remember we were playing checkers and he wasn’t acting the same he started making mistakes that he’d never made. He’d pick up my checkers and one day he set himself up as the black checkers.

“Grandpa what are you doing?” I asked I was always the black checkers  from the time I was little. I guess this was my first clue I was losing him, I just chose to ignore it.

“What does it look like Emi-Lou. I’m setting up for checkers, go turn on some country music,” he said, his voice harsh and scratchy but I did as he asked and went to turn on the music.

The days got shorter as fall rushed in. My dad took my grandpa to the doctor after he started falling and losing his breath. After years of begging and pleading, he finally quit smoking but only because of his death sentence. Four months at most: stage three brain and lung cancer. Turns out cancer cures smoking.

My days were numbered with him, and I was overcome with sadness, but I’d never let him know. So every day my dad and I went to visit him we played checkers together those first few weeks but he often couldn’t remember what we were doing and I’d set up jumps for him because I couldn’t bring myself to win, how could I, if I couldn’t beat him at his best I wasn’t going to beat him as he was dying and so I set myself up to lose, I never beat him not once.

As time went on he got weaker, he couldn’t play checkers, he couldn’t walk, or get up to go to the bathroom. His pain took over as the cancer got to him, the once strong soldier lay bed stricken dwindling away, like a bird without flight he had lost the meaning of life, but when we were around he put on a brave face and I never saw him cry. My dad and I went every day to sit by his bed side to play country music and talk to him. He’d call out for my dad and me.

“Davey, Emily,” it was a miserable cry from the depths of his soul, a cry that shattered your hearts that I can’t get out of my head. My grandma would call us no matter the time and we’d go and sit with him and for the time if only a short amount of it, the world was good and his pain was tolerable.

One day my dad went to visit my grandpa in hospice without me. Chapters later he told me what happened…

My grandpa was dying and he began to cry, “I can’t do it, I can’t leave her Davey.”

“Dad what are you talking about?” my dad asked

“Emi-Lou, I can’t leave her, I’m not ready I need more time, I’ll never see her grow up, never see her sweet sixteen, her graduate, walk down the aisle, I’ll never see another soccer game or a dance recital,”he cried this man who was dying who was miserable, drowning in his pain, and the worst part was he wasn’t crying for himself,  he  was crying  because he was losing me.

“Make it your goal, to make it to her dance recital and it can build from there,” my dad said.

“I’ll try davey, I’ll try.”

He didn’t make it to the dance recital… Soon after their conversation, he stopped talking, and he started to forget who people were.

“ Hi grandpa,” I sat in the recliner by his bed.

“Hi…” there was a hesitant pause as he struggled to remember my name.”Connie,”

“Grandpa, It’s me, It’s Emi,” I said.

He looked really upset and almost broke into tears.

“I know, I know you’re my Emi- Lou, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

“It’s ok Grandpa it happens to me to,” I reached to hold his dark weak trembling hands, and pushed forward a fake smile. Then I went home and I cried, I was losing him…

I often struggle with what more I could’ve done, I did my best to make the most of my last few paragraphs with him.

Isn’t it funny how we deal with pain? Some embrace it like my dad and my grandma, always living in my grandpa’s legacy and blaring country music. Where as some of us hide it, we don’t play country music and we don’t dig up lighters. And there’s nothing we want more than to close these chapters to bring them to an end and bury them deep within ourselves.

On his last dying days while he was still lucid he created this sign to say he loved us and told us if any humanly way possible before he left he’d give us an eyebrow raise.

“It means I love you and it will be alright,” were the last few words he uttered.

My grandpa couldn’t move or walk, talk, or eat and we knew the day was coming soon, he couldn’t even move his eyes. This was his last page his last paragraph. Soon the dreaded day came that my Grandpa met his last sentence, and I balled because I knew this was the last time I’d see him that my memories of country duets, checkers and cheetos were just that;memories. My family stood huddled around his hospital bed for hours upon hours until it was almost three in the morning, watching and waiting, watching and waiting, watching and waiting until my mom gave me a sad look.

“Your dad’s gonna stay here don’t worry he won’t be alone, but It’s time to say goodbye.”

I stood slowly to leave his hospital room for the last time, I took a deep breath and I gave him one last hug, one last kiss and whispered softly as my slow salty tear drops rolled off my cheeks,”I love you grandpa and I’m gonna miss you, I’m gonna miss you so much,”

Honestly I wasn’t expecting a response; none of us were, and I started to back away. But I stopped when I saw it, I froze like a statue, and stared at the bewildered eyes of my family around me. I had gotten a response, I got the eyebrow raise…

Maybe these chapters that we hide from, and live only in our heads are hard to bring to a close because that one chapter’s effect is everlasting. Until now I buried this chapter, I was afraid of the pain it could cause to dig it up. But I’ve realized the pain gets better it just takes time, and sometimes all you have to do is read the chapter aloud.

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