I climbed out of bed and ran into the bathroom.
“No,” I whimpered to the girl in the mirror. She wasn’t me: she had ratty hair, puffy eyes and no smile. You could tell she felt pain. I didn’t feel anything.
Why was it that day? Why couldn’t it have been any other day? But it didn’t happen on another day, it happened on Valentine’s Day. February 14, 2012. A date I will never forget.
The day had started out great. I woke up extra early, feeling refreshed, so I got up and read some Matilda for a while. Then I made scrambled eggs for my sister and headed to school.
At Collister Elementary school, Valentine’s Day meant that we gave every single kid in our class and the sixth grade class Valentines, then we watched a movie and got on a sugar high. The movie that day was Tangled, which most of us had already seen. Still, it was pretty funny, and my friend Jennifer and I almost choked on candy three times each from laughing so hard.
When I got home, I put my candy in the cupboard and ran downstairs to finish Tangled on my own Netflix account. My little sister, Kendley, joined me at one point with her candy loot and I picked out some pieces from her bag that looked tasty.
At long last, my great day came to a close. But I should have known it was all too good to be true.
I’ll never forget the words my mother said that night.
For some time, my Grandpa Larry had colon cancer, but he never let that bother him. He was energetic and funny. He always took my sister and me to get chocolate-brownie milkshakes at the Hawkins Pac-Out by our house when he came to visit. He was the one who taught me how to do a behind-the-back pass in basketball. His visits were the highlight of my month.
But starting in November of 2011, his cancer started getting worse. It spread to his lungs. When we saw him at my Uncle KC’s for Thanksgiving, he was carrying an oxygen tank around with him. I felt uncomfortable sitting on his lap, even though that’s what I always did when I saw him, because he looked so small and weak.
My dad started going up to Grandpa Larry’s house on a weekly basis. It was about a seven-hour drive from our house to his parents’, so he started staying up in Waterville and teleworking for a week at a time. Whenever he’d call, he talked to my mom about Grandpa Larry’s health, and it turned out that he wasn’t getting better.
I was getting nervous, so I started talking to my teacher, Mrs. Brady, about how I felt. She’d been my second and third grade teacher, and as my fifth grade teacher we’d developed a strong bond. I told her about how Grandpa Larry was on medications that made him forget who I was.
When my whole family went up to Grandpa Larry and Grandma Gevi’s house for Christmas, Grandpa was even smaller and weaker. When I said goodbye to him, he told me to ‘marry well.’ I’ll never forget that, because that made me realize that Grandpa Larry wasn’t ‘all right.’ He was sick, really sick.
That Valentine’s Day, my mother told me the news:
“Sydney, your Grandpa Larry has passed away.”
When I exited the bathroom, I went to my parents’ room. I felt like a train wreck victim. My father was packing his overnight bag.
“You come with the girls after school on Friday,” he told my mother.
“Mom,” I managed, “can I sleep in your bed tonight?”
When she looked at me, her eyes were filled with tears.
“Sure, sweetie,” she said.
February 15, 2012. Possibly the worst day of my life, apart from the preceding day. My classmates were yelling at me like news reporters.
“Syd, let’s play basketball!”
“Syd, what’s up?”
“Syd, are you okay?”
I just felt numb.
Why should they care that I had giant bags under my eyes, snot dried on my nose and milk on my sweatshirt? I was determined to have a whole week of mourning. I didn’t want to have any fun.
The next day, however, I woke up with a different attitude. I decided to go to Mrs. Brady and talk to her about my grandfather. She told me that I should find someone from one of my favorite books and model my behavior after them.
Then I thought, WWHD? That is, What Would Hermione Do? Well, I told myself, she’d have a day of mourning. Then she’d read and concentrate on schoolwork.
So I did that. I immersed myself in my studies. I reread Harry Potter for the millionth time. I started interacting with my friends instead of shunning them. I was happy.
Now, whenever I go to Hawkins Pac-Out for a chocolate brownie milkshake, or play basketball, or do anything, really, I think about my Grandpa Larry. And I realize now that no one was making me upset about Grandpa’s death – I was making myself upset. So I changed. I’m not angry or sad anymore. I keep telling myself, just let it go. So now, that’s my new motto.
Whatever life throws at me, I know what to do now. It’s like the song Let It Go by Randy Rogers Band. My favorite verse goes like this:
Everything happens for a reason
And you ain’t gonna stop it
If you build your own prison
Only you have the key to unlock it
So I unlocked my prison, and life is better because of it.
“Syd, want to play basketball?”