Withering AwayThe little chimes on the door jangled as I stepped into the warm cozy bakery. I shrugged off my jacket and found a chair to rest my cold limbs. The glass case of sweet delights called me over, the light glaring off of the clear boundary between me and ecstasy. The desserts were laid out on doilies, some like little girls with their vanilla icing dresses and small pink roses in their hair. Others stared up at me, with a smoldering glare like those handsome men in the movies. But there was one that called out to me. A simple little muffin, the ugly duckling among the swans. Chocolate chip. I gave the teen at the counter my money and sat down. It was only then, that I started to write.
It was ages since my grandfather had passed away. I remember his last years vividly. He had withered away into nothing more than a doll with a heart beat. Propped in his chair in front of the TV, staring blankly at the screen with the volume blaring, he sat. His wife, my grandmother, puttered around the kitchen, anxiously waiting on her beloved’s every need. She was every part of him that he couldn’t be. I stayed away, too upset to come any closer. My heart sank as my father had to introduce me to his dad. A man who had watched me grow up no longer recalled my name. Or if he did, there was no way he could let me know. He couldn’t reach out his hand to hold mine, or turn off the TV so we could talk. He just sat there.
When I was little, and I came to visit, we played checkers. He always won, every time. Unlike most adults, he wouldn’t let me win, but made me put in all of my effort. I never got a chance to beat him. If he was alive and well now, I wonder if he would still win. And poker. He would always play with other men in his building by the pool. While my brother and I would go swimming, he would play, winning hand after hand. If only he was winning health. I remember that he always loved sweets. And every time I visited, they would have Entenmann's chocolate chip muffins in the refrigerator. The top of the muffin was always slightly sticky and the chocolate chips were so sweet. For some reason, no other muffin has ever tasted like that.
But those days passed, and pretty soon, he deteriorated. His wife, once a well dressed woman, became little more than his nurse, switching her pressed and ironed clothes with an apron. Every hour of every day, she would call my dad, frantically asking him questions about what she could do to help him. But soon, she wasn’t enough. Nurses started coming, but my grandmother was never happy with them. She felt that she could care for him the best.
My father also began to fade from my life. So much of his time was spent at work or on the phone, that I felt like I barely ever saw him anymore. And as much as I hate to admit it, I almost wanted my grandfather to die, so I could have my dad back, and my grandmother could start taking care of herself again.
And then he was gone. The phone calls lessened. I could just imagine their apartment, and that chair, the same one like the ones down by the pool, empty. There was probably an imprint from where he always sat. Their once immaculate apartment, now full of useless items, that once helped my grandfather, Poppy, live his last days.
It felt good to say all of that. To finally write it down. As I took a bite of my muffin, a tear fell on to the table. It definitely wasn’t the same. The chocolate chips were bitter, and the muffin itself wasn’t sticky. Once I finished the muffin, I marked my place in the journal and tied it closed. With a backwards glance to the checkout boy, I put on my coat and walked outside. Back into the cold winter darkness.
[TABLE OF CONTENTS, LHS CLASS OF 2010 EDITION]
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2002-2008 by individual authors. Reprinted with permission. SPP developed and designed by Strong Bat Productions.