Intergeneration Storytelling Contest 2015

The Intergeneration 2015 Storytelling Contest was an enormous success, once again garnering stories from around the world. Intergeneration Foundation would like to thank all of the storytellers and the organizations that helped spread the word of the Contest to help make it another very successful event.

The 2015 Intergeneration Storytelling Contest Winners are:

20 CASH PRIZE WINNERS:
Michael P. Adams – “The Shoe”
Sue Anger – “Building Neighborhoods”
Cathy Bryant – “The Grandmother’s Story”
Mara Buck – “Of Doughnuts and Rain…”
Ken Crossley – “The Never Ending Story”
Holly Dutton – “Four Generations at Sea”
Danica Green – “Forget Me Not”
Melanie Harless – “Daddy and the Dishes”
Jill Harrison – “Forgotten Daughter”
Mary Laufer – “Like Looking at the Stars”
Barbara Lein – “Words Matter”
Tom Leskiw – “Three Heads Are Better Than One”
Linda Lucas – “Fa’ Trut (Gullah for “really!”)
Kate MacManus – “Our Only Chance”
Cynthia Shepard – “Love and Acceptance”
Chang Shih Yen – “My Grandmother”
Nancy Smelser – “Grandparenting”
Anjum Wasim-Dar – “Take Her Home, Lady”
Kellie Woodson – “The Necklace”
Kalie Zermeno – “Mary’s Cooking”

20 CERTIFICATE OF DISTINCTION WINNERS:
Mimi Adebayo – “Letting Go”
Gregg Anderson – “Unwritten Stories”
Beth Browne – “Failure”
Tanisha Coleman – “A Generation Thing”
Phil DeVries – “Ode to Charley”
Bill Dotson – “When the Cousins Came”
Paulo Da Costa – “The Playground”
Cynthia Funegard – “How Does He Do it?”
Kai Kraemer – “Sandy and Cary and the Cow Chase”
Autumn Kruis – “Outgoing Love”
Rose Kreher – “To Tell or Not to Tell”
Pascal HD Gillon – “Once Upon A Time True Family Love”
Efe Grant-Oyeye – “The First Rule”
Victoria Jackson – “The Joy of Learning Together”
Eugene McCreary – “The Wisdom of Youth”
Christy Myers – “My Grandmother”
Diana Rosen – “How Not To Be An Old Maid”
Nina Skaya – “Family Resemblance”
Kelsie Stelting – “Chauffer”
Genevieve Van Voohis – “Measuring Age”



Michael P. Adams
Camarillo, CA

The Shoe

Grandpa showed up at my door with a brown paper grocery bag, looking more pensive than I was used to seeing him.

“Harlin,” he said, “right before your grandmother moved to town, this woman came to see me in the shoe store. She said she was looking for a size twelve loafer. I asked her who the lucky fellow was. She said there was no fellow, just needed the shoe. And when I say ‘the shoe,’ I mean one shoe. Naturally, I asked why she only wanted the one. She said she didn’t think she’d ever meet a man who could fill her father’s shoes, such a generous and kind man he was. But maybe if she went a size smaller and only one of them had to be filled, she’d have better luck. I said, ‘I’m not sure that saying is meant to be taken literally.’ She told me I could think whatever I wanted as long as I sold her the shoe. ‘Course I couldn’t sell just her one shoe, so she bought the pair and said I could do whatever I pleased with the other.”

With that, Grandpa pulled a brown loafer out of his bag. “I never felt like I was able to fill the shoe, either. Never even met that woman’s father and I still can’t measure up to him. Maybe you can try.”

He handed me the loafer, nothing special looks-wise, and I slipped the shoe on my foot. I couldn’t tell if its abnormal weight was inherent or if it was the expectation that my grandfather had attached to it. Either way, I now felt I had something to work toward, some onus of manhood that I had yet to fulfill.



Sue Anger (aka Sue Barnett)
Raleigh, NC

Building Neighborhoods: One Species at a Time


“If Herb were alive and sitting right here, there are a hundred questions I would ask him.” It was 1985, and both of my grandparents had died the year before. I was visiting a dear friend of theirs. So many unanswered questions had arisen since their passing. After that year, I learned to savor the last generation’s view of life.

Many years down the road, I noticed my elderly neighbor was venturing less and less from her home. I noticed her dormant birdhouse in front of her large bay window. I figured if it saw more action, it might bring a little of the great outdoors to her. I filled her feeder and we started years of email discussing squirrel and cardinal activity.

One snowy winter day, I spent the morning in her kitchen drinking coffee and helping her identify the birds that were knocking the snow off the seeds. I learned about her partially orphaned childhood in the mountains of North Carolina. Her mother died when she was very young and Helen grew up among several relatives. “My mother was the youngest of her family” she explained. “Everyone was crushed when she died. I was always told she had the voice of an angel, so sweet and clear.”

Over the years, we have attracted a wide range of birds. One rainy, dreary morning, I walked out my front door and checked her feeder to see who might be there. The feeder carried a motley group of birds but behind her house, high in the row of trees sat four or five hawks also observing the feeder.

My life is richer and fuller for having my neighbor in my life. And the birds seem to faring better as well. Even the hawks.



Cathy Bryant
United Kingdom

The Grandmother’s Story


“You ask where the world came from. Well, child, the world (like everything that lives) came from its mother. She was a star from another strand of the multiverse, and her father was angry when his singularity collapsed. He tried to snuff her out, and she fled here, hidden underneath her umbrella in a meteor shower.

In this galaxy she was happy, and sang with the star-sisters she found. She was always a little restless, though, remembering those she had left behind when she left her home.

One fine epoch she met a moon and fell in love. The moon was small and simple and quite unpretentious, wanting nothing more than to be near her. But their mutual attraction ignited strange forces, and one day the star birthed a great egg. This was the planet Earth. It lay warm and close to the star for a long time, and then hatched; cracks formed on it and life crawled from it and all over it. What a lively, buzzing, colourful thing that egg became! All the elements set to dancing, and they haven’t stopped yet.

The star is now our sun and will never leave us. When she sleeps, the moon watches over us, tucking us into blankets of cloud and other weathery covers. The other stars sometimes come to watch. We are very beautiful. Do not forget that, child.”


 

Mara Buck
Windsor, Maine

Of Doughnuts and Rain …


A drizzly Halloweenish day, the sun setting early, brilliant leaves already faded, a day when I crave a sizzling doughnut plucked from the cast-iron spider atop Winnie Kimball’s woodstove. Such a day will never come again, for beloved Winnie of the pin-curls and the flour-dusted cotton apron is long dead and “” lest the irony gods feel any sense of deficiency in a job well-done “” a Dunkin’ Donuts pink behemoth now looms on the very soil where Winnie’s clapboard porch used to welcome anyone with a hankering for a fresh doughnut to greet a fresh morning.

Will another generation rhapsodize about the coziness of Dunkin’ Donuts when that franchise is ousted by Tim Horton’s? Will they yearn for the antiseptic smell of vinyl floors, or blink back tears for pink logoed napkins, or smile at the memory of a Styrofoam “˜tips-accepted’ cup lazing on the Formica counter? Will they recall the crackle of the drive-through speaker as a love song for them alone? I doubt it. I truly hope not.

On that same corner, creaking porch floorboards once announced my arrival into a kindly cracked-linoleum kitchen where Winnie’s husband popped a warm molasses “˜pill’ into my mouth before I could even smile good morning. Doughnut holes were pills, given readily to kids for whatever ailed you, free medicine dispensed as a friendly treat and a pat-on-the-back “” a promise for the day ahead filled with warmth and goodness and the truth of fellow travelers trekking toward winter.

If there is an aroma of yeasty cooking in heaven, I envy the angels, for that means Winnie Kimball is surely there. May you all treasure memories of your personal Winnie Kimball deep within, memories to revisit when the weather is harsh and long days grow shorter.



Ken Crossley
Spanish Fork, UT

The Never Ending Story


When I was eight years old in 1961, I was selected to give a talk in Sunday school. My mom suggested that I read a poem or story from a book. I wanted to tell the exciting story that Grandma told about her grandfather being captured as a spy during the Mormon War in the winter of 1857 in Utah. Joseph Taylor escaped in the night in the midst of a cattle stampede and how he found a pair of wool socks and a coat to keep him warm until he could return to his camp.

Mom agreed. So one evening we called Grandma McEntire in Utah. Mom explained my assignment to her mother and asked her to repeat the story. I stood by Mom’s side as she took notes. At the end of the call, Mom handed me the phone and Grandma wished me success on my talk. Mom typed her notes and coached me for my public speaking debut.

That little Sunday school talk served me well throughout my growing up years as I shared it with different congregations as we moved around. Later, I found documented accounts of Joseph Taylor’s prisoner of war adventure published in Utah history books, but none of them could be more precious to me than that simple Sunday school talk.

It even became more valuable when I scrambled to find source material for my five children when they each had to give Sunday school talks. And now the legacy continues as I telephone each of my grandchildren to wish them success as they share the story of their grandpa’s grandma’s grandpa’s great spy adventure.



Holly Dutton
Phoenix, AZ

Four Generations at Sea


“I want to take a cruise to Alaska and I want everyone to come.”

“Everyone who?”

“Everyone, everyone. The whole family.”

So it began. One man, his five middle-aged kids, their spouses, their kids, and one great-grandchild on a ship. Eighteen in all, ranging from two to eighty-six.

In this mobile, modern world we live in, families are not geographically grouped as tightly as in the past. Often life takes us miles if not states away from each other. Our family is luckier than many, being concentrated mostly in a few western states. We see each other in various combinations for weddings, graduations, spring training, the important milestones in life. Yet it’s rare to get everyone together all in one place at one time. And that was exactly what Grandfather wanted, everyone there at once, doing something amazing, something he could be part of.

Alaska brought us all a chance to figure in each other’s stories; A salmon fishing trip, complete with bald eagles, sight-seeing with a family of bears, paddling together to a glacier, almost beating the odds at the casino, dancing.

Meals became so much more that a chance to indulge in two desserts. It was time for the family to reconvene around the table, share stories. One group told of a glacier, another talked of Alaskan history. Tales of the day mingled with plans for the future. Cousins shared dreams of acting, moving to New York, going to Fiji to swim with sharks. Seven days together gave our stories a chance to unfold and build slowly.

Even more important was the chance to start a new story, the one that will be told in twenty or thirty years, the one that starts with, “remember that time that we all went to Alaska.”



Danica Green
England

Forget Me Not


Her face is small and overly pink, the way that children’s are. There is awareness in her bright eyes, yet little understanding of where we are or why I lie here, plastic tubes snaking out of my chest and left arm.

“Grandma?” she says with a questioning tone, as though asking permission just to speak to me, a figure of almost holy radiance in her eyes.

“Yes, my treasure?” I answer, holding out my unused arm to her as best I can, ignoring the weakness.

“I got some flowers for you.” She walks forward and places a crumpled posy of small blue flowers in my outstretched palm.

“They’re beautiful,” I say, smiling broadly, and use the last of my strength to hold the flowers to my face and inhale though, between the picking and the walk over here, they seem to have lost their scent. Her little face beams with the praise and she climbs up the side of my bed to sit next to me, trying to avoid the tubes and wires as she has been told.

“I think these are forget-me-nots,” I say to her and run my fingers across her knee, unable to lift my arm to ruffle her hair.

“Forgimme-nots,” she parrots back. She is only three, still learning so much about the world and it devastates me that I will soon give her the cruellest lesson life has to offer. It will be a matter of weeks, or only days, before this bed is empty. She leans forward and places her head on my thigh, giving my fingers access to her soft face.

“Forget-me-not,” I say, hoping that as she grows she sees this as both correction and loving instruction. Please, little angel. Forget me not.



Melanie Harless
Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Daddy and the Dishes


When my ten-year-old grandson complained about emptying the dishwasher at his home, I told him my dish-washing story from a half-century earlier.

It was my chore to do the dishes after supper every night. I had other things I preferred doing, like watching television. I dragged my feet almost every night, even though I had agreed that this would be my chore to earn my allowance.

One night, Daddy had had enough of my procrastination and ordered me into the kitchen to do the dishes before bedtime.

Frowning and sighing deeply, I scraped the food from the dirty plates and dumped the leftover gravy, now dried into a gray lump, onto old newspaper and folded it up from the corners like a gift for the trash can.

I clattered the dishes loudly onto the counter beside the sink and stacked them in the order Mama had taught me to wash, glasses first, pots and silverware next, then serving bowls, pots and pans.

As I ran the hot, soapy water in one side of the sink and the rinse water in the other Daddy came in and offered to dry. I was still mad and didn’t reply.

As he dried the clean dishes with a dish towel, he started singing “When the Saints Go Marching In.” I tried to resist, but soon I joined him. We belted out other songs and made up silly verses to “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain.” We were singing and laughing together, and I didn’t want the dishes to be done.

As the dishwater drained away, Daddy hugged me and said, “Work goes easier with a song.”

I never forgot that lesson and even today, I cook and clean with a song. I hope Daddy’s lesson will help my grandson too.



Jill Harrison
Roanoke, VA

Forgotten Daughter


“Who’s your daddy,” my 87 year old mother asked me.

“Wayne Woody,” I replied. Her skin was pale with dark veins and broken capillaries, as thin and sheer as a baby bird before its feathers come in. We were sitting on the front porch of the house that my family had lived in for decades.

My Wayne?” she asked surprised.

I nodded. They had been married over fifty years before he died.

“So, am I your mama?” she asked.

I nodded again.

I knew I was taking her memory loss personally, like I was not even important enough for my own mother to remember. It was the same disappointment I remembered feeling as a child when she told me that I was too heavy for her to carry anymore.

“Why don’t I remember that?” she asked.

“It’s just a part of aging mama. It’s called dementia.”

She looked out into the yard which was busy with bumblebees and birds fighting over space in the forsythia bushes.

“Have we eaten lunch? I’m hungry.”

“Yes, mama, we just ate.”

I tried to find comfort in the fact that she had not only forgotten me, her daughter, but also eating a meal, her favorite, just five minutes earlier. When she was really tired, she was even forgetting to chew the food that was in her mouth. I would see her grapple with it, choke, and eventually hide it in her cheek or spit it out, like a bird that was too small to enjoy an oversized piece of stolen bread.

“Come on,” I said, standing. “Let’s get you something else to eat,” I reached my hand out to help her out of the chair.

“Hey,” she said softly. “I may not remember, but I love you.”

“That’s all I need, mom.”



Mary Laufer

Saint Cloud, FL

Like Looking at the Stars


My mother’s cousin Celia holds our family history””all the names, dates and stories from our family tree. She’s ninety-two-and-a-half-years old. When my husband Mark got the genealogical itch, Celia sent us a huge chart containing my mother’s lineage. It traced her father’s family back to the 1700’s.

Every Sunday afternoon, my husband and I unrolled the chart on our dining room table. We placed beer glasses on the corners so it would stay flat. Looking at the chart was like looking up at the stars. I had so many relatives! One by one, I read aloud their names, birth dates and death dates, while Mark typed them into a genealogical program on his computer. I placed a button on the last person I read, so that I wouldn’t lose my place.

The same names were repeated over and over: George, John, Mary, Ann. Some families had eleven children, some thirteen. Often a baby died within the first year of his life, and the next baby was named the same as the one who was lost. Whereas today it seems that women live longer than their husbands, in the past a woman was more often to die first, probably in childbirth, and her husband remarried. The new wife had more children.

How short life seemed now. How fragile! Transcribing the chart was a very humbling experience. In the grand scheme of things, I was just one more name added to the bottom of the chart. Yet my husband and I had produced two offspring, a boy and a girl. Our line would keep going. We already had one grandchild.

Celia, who was childless, told me she was “a dead end” on the chart. But hadn’t she influenced our lives? She’d passed on our heritage.



Barbara Lein

Temecula, California

Words Matter


My Grandfather lived to be 96. He was my best friend when he died. He would always tell me “You’re going far. You’ll do well. You, my dear, can certainly DO IT!” As if he had a crystal ball, he would feed me with his words of wisdom and plant the seeds. Seeds that I took to get a college degree, travel the world, build a career. I didn’t know it then, but what he was doing was feeding my mind with words that I could live by. And live by them I did.

My mother is now 89. She always says to me, “Your beautiful. You’re smart and you have God looking out for you.” Words that until last year seemed like – just words. Until…..I realized what she was doing. She was doing what her father did with her, and me. Feeding words. Words that matter. Building us up with words that would encourage us.

When I go through the grocery store and hear a mother say “You dummy!” to one of her kids – it makes me cringe. Dummy – coming from your own mother.

If you have influence over a young person’s life – I challenge you to feed them with words – the kind of words that will foretell their future. With youngsters in my life I do the same. Build them up with words. “you’re the best. You never give up! You will go far!”

Bigger than the biggest inheritance, words can build us up – or take us down. Think about it. Then say something. With rich words that will matter!



Tom Leskiw
Eureka, CA

Three Heads Are Better Than One


Grandfather Max often counseled us to “Use the right tool for the right job.” This philosophy clashed with that of my father’s: IMPROVISE. Which was the only option available to a man who could count the tools he owned on one hand.

Recently, I tackled a home improvement job that was inspired by my friend Conner. His wood stove can over-heat his living room, so using two bathroom exhaust fans and some ductwork, he devised a way to capture this hot air and blow it around two 90-degree corners into his bedroom.

At our house in Arizona, winter nights are surprisingly cold. The window in my office-man cave faces south, often heating the room 10-15 degrees warmer than the rest of the house. One day, I vowed to get some heat into the nether regions of the house. But first, I’ll have to trek to town for materials. Then, I heard a whisper: IMPROVISE.

Maybe you’re right, Dad. I have a floor fan that plugs into an outlet. Then, Grandfather weighed in. After you’ve cut a hole through the drywall, fasten pieces of oak plywood over the ugly wall framing and cover the corners with the molding””already stained””that you’ve got.

In no time, I had the hole cut and the fan operating. However, later that night noise from my wife’s TV watching came through the hole. My plans to build a hinged door for the hole were interrupted by a familiar whisper: IMPROVISE. So, I stuffed a pillow into the hole.

I took a moment to enjoy my handiwork: miter joints that fit tight, everything stained to match. Thanks, Grandfather.

A salvaged floor fan, no electrician or hardwiring needed. No outlay for lumber. A night time pillow sound-blocking door that fit perfectly. Thanks, Dad. Enough improvisation for you?



Linda Lucas

School Counselor & Parent Educator
Malcolm C. Hursey Elementary School
North Charleston, SC

Fa’ Trut (Gullah for “really!)


If laughter could make you rich, my southern family members are “trillionaires.”

How about the time they found my great granddaddy, Bra Ed, dead on the side of the road. They put him on the “cooling board” to get him ready for a funeral. The tradition was that people were laid out in a casket in their house before the funeral. Everybody went to the funeral at the church. In the middle of the services, Bra Ed sat up and looked around. Needless to say, the church emptied. Oh, did I tell you that folks were not embalmed then?

Now Uncle Robert, Mama’s (my grandmother), oldest boy, is “a chip off the old block”. He was sooooo popular with all the ladies, good-looking (He thinks he still is), smooth-talking (He thinks he still does) and a lady’s man (yep). Guys respected him. As a widow with seven kids, Mama invented resources to raise them. Mama built a pit and restaurant to sell barbecue. Mama built the first and only dry cleaners in the neighborhood. She got training to be a mid-wife. I often sneaked a peak into her black midwife’s bag – YUCK!!!

One day, Uncle Robert lost his only pair of shoes. Mama said, “Your behim is going to school!” His creative juices flowed. He got an old pair of Mama’s shoes, cut off the heels, took off the bows and put them on. Besides, he had to save his own face “˜cause “he was the man“ around Bonds Wilson High School. As he walked up to the campus, he held up his foot and said, “Look at these man, bet you wish you had some like these!” He laughed first and the whole school laughed with him all day long!

Fa’ trut!



Kate MacManus
Georgetown, New Zealand

Her Mother’s Arms


The child cries, a weak, helpless mewling sound that is lost in the air.

She is so tired, so frail and useless, unable to fend for herself.

And oh so desperately alone, seeking the comfort of her mother’s caring embrace and the secure scent of her perfume.

A child such as this wants only one thing – her mother, the sense of safety, the aura of love that is emitted from her.

The bundle wails once more, then is still as she is taken into the world of slumber, the only sound now being her muffled snores from under her blanket.

The baby is unaware of her mother’s presence in the room across from her, not sure that she is tucked in her own bed, gently breathing easily now that she is no longer burdened by the child’s wailing.

They dream in a perfect harmony, together in a way that can only be accomplished through the bond of mother and daughter.

In their minds they are super humans, living off nothing but the other’s presence, the fragile child guided by the strong mother, and the proud mother humbled by the meek child.

They are the most important parts of one another’s lives, the essence of each other, and nothing else matters more than their happiness.

Time takes its toll and the child wakes from her sleep, well rested and once more craving her creator’s presence. She sends out a call, stronger than her pitiful mewl this time, and her mother is pulled from her own lulled dreaming to answer her daughter’s needs.

The mother pulls the baby from her nest of blankets and scoops her out of her cot, holding her with care. And at last, finally the child gets her greatest wish and she is, at last, in her mother’s arms.



Cynthia L Shepard
Eureka, CA

Love and Acceptance


When they met and fell in love, he was tiny. She was there for him through his parents’ divorce, his trips to Disneyland, his highs, and his lows. His friends were always welcome in her home. He grew older; so did she. Finally, last year, she died. He stood by her bed thinking of all the reasons why he needed her to stay alive, and then, gently, let her go. It was her time. They both knew it. Now he makes his home in her house, surrounded by her belongings – reminders of the love and acceptance his grandmother gave him.



Chang Shih Yen

New Zealand

My Grandmother


My grandmother Ah Poh came from China. As a young woman, she sailed away from China, crossing the seas, never to return.

When I was a child, Ah Poh took me to her temple and told me stories about Heaven and Hell. As I became a teenager, Ah Poh became nothing more than a shadow from my past. I went to school; I went out with friends, each time moving further away from my childhood. Long forgotten were those times when Ah Poh had taken me to her temple. Long forgotten the stories she had told. They all became a distant memory, something that had happened to me in a past life.

Time passed. I grew up and left home. Ah Poh became an old woman who stayed home and prayed. Occasionally she went out to her temple and prayed. I didn’t share her faith. I didn’t understand. She tried to explain; I tried to understand.

Time tore us apart. It was as if we were standing on opposite sides of a deep gorge, a huge chasm in between us. We had to shout to each other across the huge divide of time and space just to be heard. But the more we shouted the less we understood.

Ah Poh grew old and one day, she was no more. She had prepared for this moment for a long time. Perhaps all her prayers and temple visits were in preparation for this one final moment. When the long awaited moment arrived, she departed peacefully.

After her funeral, I sat down and cried. I cried for a childhood that had passed, I cried for a grandmother who had passed on, but most of all I cried for a grandmother who would never again take me to her temple or tell me stories.



Nancy Smelser
Colorado Springs, CO

Grandparenting


I was never fortunate enough to know my grandparents. They had all died by the time I arrived. Thankfully, my two daughters got to spend lots of time with their grandparents on my husband’s side. I got to see firsthand how amazing and precious this relationship can be. The time they spent together helped form my daughters into the wonderful young women they became. I saw my daughters thrive in their grandma’s and grandpa’s company, doing everything from going to baseball games with their names engraved on the seats, making cookies and gingerbread houses every Christmas, and going on nature walks. But their absolute favorite thing was snuggling on either grandparent’s lap and hearing their stories about when their daddy was a little boy, over and over again. The girls never tired of these stories growing up. Now I am a grandmother myself to four incredible grandchildren. One of my greatest life purposes is to be the kind of grandmother that I had always longed for. We do lots of fun things together. My two oldest grandchildren and I go on hikes, play putt-putt golf, color eggs, and, yes, we play video games. If you can’t beat them, join them, I say! My two youngest grandchildren and I take long walks in the stroller and do our own version of nature walks where we collect pretty rocks and leaves. We love to run in the sprinkler in the backyard or play with a ball. A new thing we have started is telling knock-knock jokes. They think this is hilarious. But do you know what their favorite thing is? Their favorite thing is to hear my funny stories from when their moms were little girls, just like my girls liked to hear from their grandparents, over and over again.



Mrs. Anjum Wasim-Dar
Islamabad, Pakistan

Take Her Home, Lady


As neighbors, we thought alike, wondering who lived next door.

One day I saw her with her mother, I waved. “Hi, please come over,” she said.

I accepted and soon was greeted by a strong well-built determined elderly woman wearing dark glasses. Grand Mother, eh? A hug and a cheek to cheek greeting followed.

“Where’s your granddaughter?”

“Making tea,” said Mother. I thought ‘they are loving’, love and respect being rare.

The curtain moved revealing a slim smiling girl carrying a tea tray. This time I being the senior hugged her. “How are you?” she smiled. I looked at the tea tray – apple cut in thin slices, French fries, sweet balls, laid neatly.

“So we meet, finally.” mother said. “We wondered if Uncle lived alone.”

“Now you know, tell me about yourself.” I looked at my host.

“An army doctor.” mother answered again.

“Great.” I remembered my father, an army doctor too…

“We are from Sindh and you?” My thoughts broke, “Oh er… Kashmir…”

“Please take these chips I made them for you,” the doctor said, her voice was husky. I was with three generations. Surprisingly Grandma was silent.

“I feel there is still hope for our generation, our elders did not contribute enough, I feel deprived.”

“You think deeply, speak frankly, I write and worry…”

“Oh, a writer! Can writers bridge the generation gap?” doctor asked. “If our elders had written to make the country better, passed on true traditions?” the husky voice was excited…

Suddenly mother got up. “Prayer time. Elders must show regularity.”

“Doctor, it’s your life time. If I write, you can contribute by healing.” Grandmother coughed, smiled as if in agreement.

“I like your granddaughter.”

“Take her home, Lady.”

“Home?”

“Yes, I bet you have a son, Grandma!”

“Doctor!”

Aunty, Grandma’s dream of the next generation.



Kellie Woodson
King George, VA

The Necklace


The small house was full of life. Two grandparents, two moms, and three grandchildren of stepladder ages. I was the one in the middle, the girl, the quiet one that always seemed to be in her own world. We had come together for our Christmas ritual of feasting, presents, and football, and when it came time to tear into that colorful pile, it filled me with almost as much glee as it did when I was small. Still, not everything was the same. Mom wasn’t around much anymore, and even in the midst of celebration, I could see her subtle glances at the clock. A gulf had opened between us, and that mixed with the inevitable confusion of adolescence meant I felt ever more separated from my loving family and they from me. The one exception to this was my grandmother, or “Grammie.”

“Open this one, sweetie,” she said as she handed me a small package. I looked into her face and saw that warm smile and those sparkling dark eyes that had meant home to me for so long. I smiled back at her and began pulling at the ends of the bright paper. The gifts from other members of the family had represented generosity and good intentions, but there was a sense that they were selected for the girl they wanted me to be rather than for the one I was actually becoming.

When I pulled the silver necklace from the box, Grammie looked at me sheepishly.

“I hope you like it. I went to Spencer’s, and I just wasn’t sure what to get.”

I looked at the necklace with its crystal orb and then at my grandmother’s shining face, and everything else faded away. She was my bridge over that gulf, my home, and always will be.



Kali Zermeno
Chicago, IL

Mary’s Cooking


When I was a child, the kitchen was beyond anything I had experienced in my little life. It was where my grandmother would take on feeding a large hispanic family of 150 people. Her 16 brothers and sisters, their children, and so on. I’d watch her agile, tireless fingers as she orchestrated everything; a seamless dance of fresh ingredients and wisdom. This was my first encounter with a woman who was not afraid of getting her work done. She had a mission.

“Mija, let me show you how to make the tortillas. Venga,” she spoke so gently over the searing heat of the frying pan in front of her.

I was so scared that my fear of getting my hands dirty would make her ashamed, but the cream yellow walls calmed me; made me comfortable with the flour, and the process. She held my chubby fingers as I kneaded, and passed down to me something beautiful. This feeling wasn’t just mechanical but something beyond that. This was something her mother did with her and her mother before. It was a precious gift to me, showing me that when your fingers begin to ache, and you’re digging at something, it changes you for the better.

Hard work. Patience. Care. All virtues that will carry you through your life. She kept this up in me, long beyond frying the tortillas and everyone having their fill.

I recently graduated with my BFA. I am a sculptor, a painter, a builder, and most of all a creator. I’ll pass this ethic to my children, and their children. It’s these moments between the generations, showing them not to be afraid of getting the work done no matter what it takes, no matter how dirty their hands get, that make the difference (and great food, too).



Mimi Adebayo
Tanke, Ilorin

Kwara State, “Nigeria

Letting Go


The first time I had to let my daughter go, she was two. It was the first time at school; my little angel, looking adorable in her pretty pink frilly gown and her hair hanging down in two small ponytails. She had never looked more grown up and more beautiful. And she was just two.

When I said goodbye to her at the reception, kissing and hugging her; she didn’t cry like I did. Instead she held her favorite doll and after giving me a dimpled smile, sailed away from me.

When I told my mother about it, she laughed saying the first time was the hardest.

“˜It gets easier with time,’ she said.

I nodded, hiding the tears that spilled out of my eyes.

“˜You’ll be fine, hon.’ she said again, hugging me.

I believed her until now.

Today, my daughter is getting married. She’s twenty; I thought I’d have at least a few more years with her but when she announced that she’d fallen in love and wanted a quick wedding, I felt my heart plunge. Again.

I am seated in the front pew, my head turned, eyes fixed on my daughter as she walks down the aisle with her father.

She looks absolutely beautiful in her white gown flowing behind her.

As the tears crawl down my face, I am tempted to think that my mother lied to me. It never gets easier.



Gregg Anderson
Colorado Springs, CO

Unwritten Stories


A blessing, the young with the old

And stories, not written but told

Through the years they go

And what do you know

It is generational gold!



Beth Browne
Garner, NC

Failure


In the middle of my high school career, I got a bad grade. My father told me it was okay. He said he had once failed a class. My sanguine teen ears perked right up.

“You did?” I asked.

“I’m not proud of it,” he admitted, “But yes, I failed a class once.”

“What was it?”

“Gym class. I think it was the tenth grade.” He stared off into the distance.

“You failed P.E.?”

He shifted in his seat and cleared his throat. “Let’s just say the teacher and I had…”

“What?” I demanded, my eyes suddenly seeing this man, my father. He was confessing a failure that must have cut like a knife when he was a boy. He was smart, graduated high school early, finished his pre-med degree early and tore through medical school at Harvard like a demon. Yet he had failed at gym class.

“Let’s just say,” my father went on, his voice sounding as if he were trying to swallow a plum, “we had a difference of opinion.”

“What do you mean?” I pressed.

“As long as you do your best,” he said, dismissively patting my knee, “that’s all I ask.” The conversation was over. We never spoke of it again.

Years later, when I got a crushing D in an art class in college, I thought about my dad and his failure. One doesn’t fail an art class any more than one fails at gym class. That teacher hated me for reasons I will never know. I had done my best and still the teacher nearly failed me. I moved on and finished my degree with honors. My father had failed once and ultimately won, becoming a stunning success in his chosen field. I would do my best to do the same.



Tanisha Coleman
Miami, Florida

A Generation Thing


It’s Saturday. Grandma Patti woke up at 5 a.m. like she usually does. She didn’t need to set an alarm – it was instant like a light switch. Her tradition involved preparing a hearty breakfast – homemade biscuits with jam, bacon, eggs and grits. The alluring smell permeating throughout the town house never seemed to awaken her granddaughter, Jennifer.

“Jennifer, get your butt out of bed and come eat your breakfast,” she yelled. “That child is gonna sleep her life away,” she murmured to herself. “It must be a generation thing.”

“O.k., give me a few more minutes. I want to finish the dream that I was having. It was getting good,” Jennifer yelled.

Thirty minutes later, Jennifer bounces down the stairs with excitement. “Want to hear about my dream?,” she asked.

Exasperated, Grandma Patti replied, “What was your dream about, Jen?”

“I met and married the love of my life. He was a famous musician – a millionaire!! We had a fairy tale wedding and lived happily ever after,” she explained.

“Jen, dreams are figments of our imagination,” Grandma Patti said, trying to get a message across. “The key is to use your imagination and turn it into a profitable career. Since you have such a vivid imagination, maybe you should become a writer. When I was your age, I had dreams of being a teacher. I had a passion for sharing my newfound knowledge with the future generation. I had to work hard for what I have – nothing was handed to me on a silver platter. My dream came true; yours may too. But will your accomplishments fulfill you? . . . “

“My philosophy is to marry smarter, not work harder,” replied Jen, shrugging her shoulders.

After a long sigh, Grandma Patti simply said, “It’s definitely a generation thing.”



Phil DeVries
Colorado Springs, CO

Ode to Charlie


Gramp will be one of those sorely missed,
No more havens for birds from cold morning mist.
His joking, his laughter were big parts of his life,
Gone, not forgotten, he rests now with his wife.
His hands calloused with years,
His face marked from borth,
He gave much to others,
He had no idea of his worth.
To know him was to love him, but
We can’t have him back,
So let’s focus our efforts on his
Traits that we lack.
He now is at peace. His soul is at rest.
Thank you, God, for being his grandson.
I know I was blest.

October, 1987



Bill Dotson

Wise, Virginia

When the Cousins Came


I remember a time way back when, as a country boy, I had lots of friends
But a summer event stands out in my mind.
Me and my brother sat in the yard, watching the lane for an uncle’s car.
I still remember the times when the cousins came.

When the cousins came we all played and had a good time.
Kick-the-can and wiffle ball in Grandpa’s front yard.
The old bean tree made a good first base, hide-&-seek or just a chase.
Those were all good times when the cousins came.



Paulo Da Costa
Victoria, Canada

The Playground


I’m the only grandfather among the see-saw of children.
A vacant swing rocks between intermittent cries, skinned knees. After a week in crowded apartments, the wound-up bodies unleash their appetite for running, jumping and tumbling.

The day frowns, overcast. The commotion from the children’s play sparks an occasional flash of change in the otherwise monotonous afternoon. My granddaughter Maria rushes toward me, a cry above the playing swirl. She delivers me a scraped hand to be fixed. I close the warm wings of my arms over her hiccupping body and blow on her wound. Blow with such fierceness the pain flies away to the upper branches of a poplar tree.

“Maybe going head first on the slide isn’t such a good idea. What do you think?”

“Not now,” she sighs, anticipating the reasonable, typical lecture to be expected from an adult. Instead, she stares at the blood scratches in the shape of a spider web. She jumps off my lap. “I can trap flies now!” Maria sings, waving her fly-catcher arm in the air. A breath of wind puffs up her skirt.

“Would you like a sweater?”

“How will I feel the wind with a sweater on?” Maria shakes her head in disbelief and escapes into the twirl of movement, color, erupting from the sandbox.

A stronger gust sends mothers marching into action, sweaters in hand. The children, forced into the wool, scream impotent don’ts, stops and be carefuls.

From the sandbox my granddaughter smiles and blows me a kiss. I lunge in the air and catch the kiss with my baseball glove. I blow another one back, the kiss reaches my granddaughter despite the strong headwind, and Maria falls backwards on the sand from the kiss’s impact, laughing without control.

We wink at each other in complicity.



Cynthia Funegard
St. Charles, IL

How Does He Do It?


I have a 29 year old son who has suffered from epilepsy since he was a child. He also suffers from several chronic and acute, nearly debilitating illnesses. Several are life- threatening, and all are frustrating and resistant to treatment, even though he is an extremely compliant patient

Nick has a son who is seven years old. Christian was a little preemie, and remains small. The light of our lives, of course, our grandkids are incredible. Nick’s illnesses were better controlled, and he was engaged to Christian’s mom, when the baby came along. Our son was a dean’s list student and award winning employee, but recently has been much too ill to do any paid work except for teaching a few private music lessons per month.

Christian has an older brother, whom Nicky adores. Tommy has suffered with developmental challenges, and although he is not Nick’s biological child, Nick has always treated him as his own, even for years before Christian came along.

Seeing my son struggle with so many relentless health challenges that cause him intense suffering on a daily basis has been challenging for my husband and me as well. But seeing the dedication he has to his boys is breathtaking, encouraging and truly amazing. His warmth, his tireless patience and attention, his tenderness and total commitment and “˜round the clock interaction is a joy to behold.

Too often, recognition comes rarely to the most deserving of all, but Nick says the only reward he covets for his dedication, is happy little boys.

We are in awe and so grateful.



Kai Kraemer
Colorado Springs, CO

Sandy and Cary and the Cow Chase


Cary is my little brother and Sandy is one of my cousins. So of course I have many stories with them. One of the stories involving them was once we were at our grandparent’s ranch around black forest Colorado. All generations of our whole extended family like to come to this ranch and catch up with each other and just have fun in general. Many of my most vivid family memories are made there. Anyways, we were hiking around. As soon as we got out of the car, our parents said that we could go hiking around wherever we wanted as long as we did not get lost. So, first we decided to go along the road that led to the first barn. After we passed the barn, we kept walking on the road until it ended. At the end we found a long barbed wire fence and a cattle gate. “C’mon guys” said my cousin Sandy. Bud judging by the look on Cary’s face, I could tell that neither one of us had a good feeling about this. But I still said “ok” anyways. So we walked up to the cattle gate and it was locked, probably for a reason which, little did I know, I would soon find out. I eventually started thinking about what my parents would say and especially what my grandparents would say if they were here. If they were here then, they would be able to tell us why the gate was locked and I would know if it was okay to go in. Whatsoever, we unlocked it and went through. So far, the coast looked clear. So now, we hiked around a little more past three old rusty cars that I had seen there before. Eventually I stopped for a rest and made sure that I could remember my way back. Then, I looked up and realized that Cary and Sandy weren’t there anymore. I thought that they must have went on without me and didn’t notice that I had stopped for a rest. Suddenly, I heard lots of cow moos. After that, I saw Cary and Sandy being chased out of a small group of trees by an entire heard of cows. So, we ran back to the fence and hopped it and locked it. After that we all knew that the gate was locked for a reason. All three of us decided to name the first cow that came out of the trees Amy (#008). As we walked back to the house we all realized that we had learned a valuable lesson: If you are not sure about something then don’t do it. Back at the ranch house, we told our parents the whole story and they just laughed. And that was just another of my many memories made at this ranch. Later I laughed at it too. It was a good memory.



Autumn Kruis
Colorado Springs, CO

Outgoing Love


My grandpa was known for talking. Strangers became his friends almost instantly. When I was young, he took me on an ice fishing trip. Literally within minutes we ended up leaving our poles and talking to the fisherman nearest us. We spent most of the day with them and, of course, we caught no fish. I always thought it was strange that he was so outgoing. At his funeral, when people were asked to speak about him, the line was so long that the pastor had to turn people away””his outgoing love had impacted so many lives””including mine.



Rose Kreher

Snowflake, AZ

To Tell or Not to Tell


Following my breast cancer diagnosis in October 2010, doctors detailed every step of my treatments. I had only one decision to make – whether or not to tell my mom I had cancer.

Widowed for years, Mom lived alone in a senior housing apartment in Colorado. I lived in Arizona, but each year took my vacation to be with her. The all too short visits were supplemented by weekly telephone calls.

Mom had been at the bedside of my brother when he died of cancer a decade before. I didn’t want to worry her that she might face the unimaginable grief of outliving her only other child. Some of my friends agreed with me; others felt I should tell her. They argued, “You’ll need her comfort and support.” Or, “What if something happens during your operation? The shock might kill her.”

My operation was set for the Monday following Thanksgiving. I didn’t make my decision until the last minute as I dialed her number Thanksgiving morning. I breathed a sigh of relief when all I got was her voicemail. I left a cherry greeting ending with, “Call me back. Love you.”

When she hadn’t returned my call by late afternoon, I knew something was terribly wrong. I contacted the housing unit manager and asked her to check Mom’s apartment.

The manager found Mom’s body in her easy chair, head resting back, shoes and socks neatly on the floor by her bare feet. “I thought she was just asleep,” said the manager.

Coming out of the anesthesia Monday after my surgery, I felt strangely at peace, knowing, beyond any doubt, Mom had been by my side the whole time.



Mr Pascal HD Gillon
Devon, England

Once Upon A Time True Family Love


True love, is it real? Are those stories a fad of imagination for our need to rise and grasp that needed tenderness? It then had been given to me as those timeless hugs. Already as a child, “la mèmère”, the patriarchal Grandmother throwing upon me her blanket of protection, which saved my innocent life as a child. Always cushioning me in those trying times. Her glance, never to be forgotten, reflecting still her younger self, bound to that oath of affection for her loved ones. I still remember the time when Claire graced my life with the honor of saying yes to our fairy tale love: thirty years we have been together now, in that glorious fight against all odds with our devotion. Those golden memories of our Daughters, running thru the lemon trees, as toddlers. Thru those eras, true love decided to manifest itself in the distinctive forms of Grandparenthood, marriage, family offsprings. Can one count those blessings in these cacophonic times? Yes, one must. The echoes of whispering words of fondness cements the allegiance of timeless humanity.

It is the evening. The music of this aria is shaking my belief. I stand, here, looking at the stars, raw, uplifted by my tears. True love is not just in those books. It has humbled me. All this pain to go on the other side, victorious of my inherited nature. Cherish all those beloved bricks of warmth, gathered from your Grandparents, parents, and soulmate, to be embedded in your life’s wall: smile, as your children can add their name onto it then.

Is true love real…I close my eyes. I smile. Some tears of thanks run down my face. Yes…it does exist.



Efe Grant-Oyeye
Prince George
British Columbia
Canada

The First Rule


The first rule that he had been taught was to not let your emotions get the best of you. That would make you unable to think straight, which could lead to all sorts of complications in times of distress. That was one rule that he had always done his best to uphold. At all times, he was able to think clearly and get through anything. That had worked perfectly fine for him until that very moment.

He held her hand as life was seeping away from her body. Earlier, he had struggled to hold back the tears, but now they were flowing down from his eyes. She, on the other hand, remained calm and focused. He admired her strength and courage. She was just a child, but was handling it with the ability of an elder. He was nothing but a disgrace when compared to her.

It was never meant to be like that. The older generation was meant to pave a way for the newer one. If anything, he should have been the one in her position. His years weren’t yet finished, but she had many more in front of her. She had barely even begun to live her life and now that opportunity was being stolen from her. Were there no kind gods up there that would have mercy on her?

He wanted to be the one to end her pain and suffering. He wanted to be the one to take her up in his arms and bring her home. He wanted to be the one to guide her through the journey of life. He wanted to be the one to sacrifice himself in order to let her live. Unfortunately, he was the one to watch as the new generation faded away.



Jackson, Victoria
Highland, California

The Joy of Learning Together


When my niece, Maurita, was 11, she expressed a desire to be home schooled. While she liked learning, she preferred to be able to follow her own schedule, rather than a formalized school schedule, and she socialized with other homeschoolers involved in the program.

Grandma Sarah, at age 89 took on the task and monitored Maurita’s enrollment in a Christian online program which provided books, a computer, an instructor (long-distance) and a support group of other home schoolers in her area. Soon Grandma’s apartment was filled with books about science, math, geography, history, art, and technology. Maurita was a stellar student, excelling in all subjects, she had monthly meetings with other homeschoolers and was also taking music lessons (violin, viola, and piano) and she also took riding lessons.

After 3 years of home schooling, Maurita graduated from 8th grade with academic honors. She will attend a local private high school this fall, it is the same school she had attended before being homeschooled.

This experience has fostered a loving, unique bond between Maurita and her grandmother as they shared field trips, new knowledge, meals, errands, and a celebration for her 8th grade achievements.

We are so proud of both of you and Maurita. This experience motivated Grandma to learn the capitals of all 50 states, and now as Grandma enters her 91st year, she is now ready to consider going back to school herself. On the internet, we learned about a woman, 100 years of age who recently received a college degree. This has been an experience that will bond these two relatives forever with a love of study!

As an aunt, I thought winning the $100 would help us raise the tuition needed for Maurita to attend this private school with an excellent reputation and record for producing scholars and musicians.



Eugene (Gene) McCreary
Penngrove, CA

The Wisdom of Youth


The old, blind Master rested on a granite bench in the monastery’s garden. At his feet, his young student and companion sat in the lotus posture on the grass, customarily tall and awkward but at that moment, graceful as a swan. Close enough to touch, a rivulet gurgled past them, on through the grounds to the cliff’s edge.

“Today, my son, I want to tell you a story. One day a certain farmer’s horse escaped. It was his prize possession. His””.”

“Yes, Master. Forgive me but you have told this tale many times. It is an old one, truly. Perhaps even older than you.” He smiled, shyly, indulgently, affectionately.

“Do you think it thus?” The Master laughed. “How perceptive of you.” He took a deep breath of the mountain’s clear air then shook his head. “Yet I wonder if you truly understand it, my child.”

The boy said nothing, his eyes on his teacher.

Finally he rose and gently embraced the old man, then kissed him on his bald head, his hands resting lightly on bony shoulders. Puzzlement and delight spread across the Master’s face while the boy stepped back, pleased at his teacher’s reaction, but as he gazed more intently he was suddenly able to see, beneath the wrinkles and dark spots, a young man whose strength, though diminished, still flowed through those aged veins. The image struck him at first with wonder, then sadness. Yet still he looked, summoning his courage, unwilling to break the vision’s power, until he saw, though more faintly, a boy, like himself, the one who laughed at him. He thought his heart would burst.

“Ah,” sighed the Master, his sightless eyes intense as two suns. “I see you understand even better than I. Sit here beside me.”



Christy Myers
Jacksonville, Florida

My Grandmother


She’d been the 1934 Jitterbug Queen of her tiny town. Now 87 years old, she was known for her biscuits. Today, however, she had trouble telling the ICU nurse her name. My grandmother, whose red hair I had inherited and hated with her, stared opened-mouth back at the nurse.

Again, the nurse sweetly implored, “Can you tell me your name?” Grandmother’s response was a series of expressions beginning with “Silly question!” and ending in muddled confusion. She searched the stranger’s eyes until her mind landed on what she knew for certain. Then she recited the phone number she’d shared with her husband of 68 years – the husband she’d buried only 20 days before. I stood witnessing a new definition of alone.

Her eldest son, the Uncle I adored and admired stood as stoic as his father. Expressing emotion and showing weakness were not options. But I knew the truth. And I began to shake for both of us. I concentrated on BP and oxygen levels.

Grandmother was proud and relieved to provide an answer. That phone number rang a home that had smelled of biscuits no one would ever taste again – she was too weak to mix the flour and shortening. That phone number was dialed up, and called from, for more than fifty years. She met the nurse’s eyes and confidently called out her phone number to every question…. “What’s your birthday?” “Can you tell me what year it is?” “Do you know where you are?”

She was there. She could be found at that number, in their home, making dinner and tending to her man of whom she never lost pride. He was the quarterback and she was his girl. My grandmother knew the answer to the questions better than the nurse.



Diana Rosen
Las Angeles, CA

How Not To Be An Old Maid


My Aunt Rose had a steady beau, Jerry, and promised that I would be a flower girl at her wedding although, truth to tell, he had not asked her to marry him.

They had met when Jerry was thirty-five and Rose was forty and had been dating for six years. Now that they were in the “same decade” she was sure, so sure, he would ask her to marry him. My grandmother thought otherwise, and told her she shouldn’t be so available. She should go away for the weekend and simply not tell him where, just tell the family in case of an emergency.

The next week, on their usual Friday night together Rose left town, chose a lovely hotel-by-the-sea where she paced the floor, dined alone (so alone), and resisted the phone although the temptation to call lasted throughout her stay.

Jerry dialed her home but got no response, nothing at all. Friends hadn’t a clue, her apartment was dark. Imagining the worse, he dissolved, fell completely apart. At 9 p.m. Sunday, exactly on cue, she returned home to be greeted at the doorway with hysteria! Drama! (It did please her so.) “Oh, I’ve been visiting friends. You know…,” she offered as an offhand reason for her absence.

They drove off to Vegas the next week, (he had a two-for-one coupon) and for thirty-six years, they were a one-word couple, RoseandJerry. And, yes, she did confess the ruse, but never, ever regret.

And, no, I didn’t get to be her flower girl, but I did get to have a charming uncle and see my aunt happy for all those many years.



Nina Skaya
Washington, D.C.

Family Resemblance


When I was eight, I thought my grandpa was really Picasso. There was such a powerful resemblance in size and personality, and my grandpa was a self-taught artist. I let myself forget that Picasso and my grandpa were two different people: one was dead and Spanish, and the other, Jewish, living in West Palm Beach, Florida. And when Introduction to Picasso (for readers ages 9-12), described such a familiar man “” his strong opinions, his child’s sense of wonder about the world “” I knew it was my grandfather. Like the man who made a bull’s head out of a bicycle seat and a handlebars, my grandfather made clocks out of household objects and, my mother would say, would make a clock out of you if you stood still long enough. He created a menorah out of copper tubing for us one year; nuts, bolts and welded tubes, just like Picasso might have done if he were in need of a special menorah for his visiting grandchildren. But then, would the Spanish man in the striped shirt and beret stand on the balcony of a Florida apartment blowing soap bubbles and singing?

The year I was 13, my brother and I resisted Grandpa’s attempts to get us to join him on the balcony. We were, we told him, too old for that. He went ahead alone and, in ten minutes, we were next to him, leaning against the railing, carefully breathing life into the glinting bubbles that floated up and away. Grandpa sang a song from his teenage years and we joined in:

I’m forever blowing bubbles
Pretty bubbles in the air.
They fly so high,
Nearly reach the sky.
Then like my dreams,
They fade and die.

For us, three musicians on the balcony, it was a happy song.



Kelsie Stelting
Nashville, TN

Chauffer


I was staring at a blank wall contemplating the usefulness””or rather the un-usefulness””of hospital buzzers when my grandma propped herself up onto her elbows and said, “Kelsie, will you take me home?”

As the oldest of four children and the granddaughter of a “visually impaired” woman, I was no stranger to serving as chauffer. However, I was a stranger to this situation. When Gram asked me to take her home, she wasn’t simply asking me to take her back to her house on the family ranch; she was asking to be taken home to her final resting place.

Gram had been in the hospital for the last week dealing with the complications of cancer. Like clockwork, she had blood drawn every four hours, pain medications every five hours, and called to get assistance in the restroom every two hours.

“What?” I asked, thinking that this might be the biggest decision in my life.

“I want to go home,” she said.

She proceeded to list well thought-out reasons why I should take her home, from comfort to money to the ultimate factor: it was her decision to make. I tried to explain to her why she should stay in the hospital. While we spoke, I became two parts chagrined and one part impressed at the realization that Gram had been scheming/preparing for this exact conversation over the last week. I wondered if I actually meant those things I said or if I was protecting my own conscience.

Despite my arguments and conflicted feelings, Gram’s planning paid off. A nurse helped her into a wheelchair, I gathered her belongings, and together we made the short march outside to my car; the nurse, dutiful, me, torn, and Gram, ready to finally be home.



Genevieve Van Voorhis
Berlin, Germany

Measuring Age


“In the Gregorian calendar,” Great Grandpa says, “they wait until you are born and that is when they start to count your age. But the Chinese start counting nine months before that. So really, I’m one hundred and four.”

I tell him I wished I’d known about the Chinese calendar a year ago, when I was twenty and three months.

“It only adds a year,” he says, “but when you get to be this old, one year is a lot.” Great Grandpa talks about his theories about particle physics in the human body, and his plans to figure out how trees exist. He says that after his cataracts surgery, his eyes can now see electrons. He talks about how beautiful they are when the sun reflects off of them. When I pull out my own laptop, Great Grandpa comments on how miraculous it is that you can store and transport so many pictures that way.

“You can store your whole life on there!” his son says.

Great Grandpa points to the table along the wall, which has about a dozen framed photographs. “You can have anything on that table,” he tells me. My eyes immediately dart to the photo of him and my great grandmother on their wedding day.

“There is just one thing I’d like to keep. The one of that fella with my wife.”

My eyes water and I smile. I want to say that he looks very handsome.

“She was beautiful.”

 

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