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I gazed out the window, amazed at how the sun rose from the horizon and illuminated the dimly lit car. It was the beginning of August but my teeth chattered violently as I sat against the cold seat. My grandfather was wise to insist that I change from my bathing suit before we left from our annual trip in Atlantic City, New Jersey, however, my sister and I choose to spend our last minutes merrily wadding in the ocean. A feeble yawn escaped my lips as I felt the cold penetrate through the flimsy blanket and make my clothes cling to my skin. I was going home.
I had anticipated the trip all summer long and now that it was over, I wanted one more swim, one more ride, and one more delightful taste of fluffy cotton candy. It was time to go back to the reality of an unhealthy grandma and the fear of death. My grandma was an alcoholic and I had grown used to the numerous trips to the hospital and the promises of change with the apologies of regret. Day after day, she would sit in the old flower-patterned wooden chair drinking the forty-ounce beer, which she weakly tried to obfuscate in the wrinkled brown paper bag. At the innocent age of eleven, I knew about the evil brown elixir that she tried to conceal and the smell of it made my nostrils flare and stomach churn in repulsion.
The silence in the car became deafening as the reality of what awaited me at home became translucent. The doctors would do as they always did, give her advice, the number to a rehabilitation center and she would come home with a cry of redemption. After a week of abstinence and several incidents of violence, she would sooth her emotions with a drink. In order to regain composure she needed divine intervention and the support of her family. Unlike most of the members of my family, I still believed that she was capable of recovery but I was also slowly losing faith in her. Before we left for New Jersey, she had learned that her liver was failing and she had no more chances to rectify her life. She had to stop.
Through my tired eyes, I observed a feathery white cloud float across the sky and obscure the radiant sun. We were almost home and I could not get the haunting thoughts out of my head.
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Hours later, I awoke to a familiar scene. A few feet away stood my three-story house with the curtains drawn and an eerie light gleaming off the rooftop. My eyes wandered around the spacious automobile, but there was no one in there with me. Suddenly, I heard the screeching cries as if they had come from my own mouth. Outside the window, I could see the glistening tears stream down my sister’s contorted face while my dad held her against his chest. As my blood rushed through my body, I could feel my heart pound viciously against my chest. Why were they crying so hysterically? What was going on?
Hurriedly, I unlocked the door and ran blindly into the outstretched hands of my cousin. I knew, without validation, that the inevitable had happened. As pools of tears cascaded down my cheeks, I remembered how we would sing the oldies while dancing in the living room and gnaw on pigskins during a soap opera. She was not a drunk overwhelmed by the abuse of society or a coward who found victory in death. My grandma was a fighter who had with every breath in her body tried to change and conquer her fears but in the end, her body had failed her.
Later that week, I sat on the front pew of a crowded church to say my last goodbye to woman whose death was not the end. When they escorted her body to the alter, I was amazed at how they had transformed her. She wore pale red lipstick that simmered in the light, a long dark wig disguised her light brown hair and a hint of rouge was noticeable upon her high cheeks. Her eyes were closed and she looked beautiful and peaceful lying in the furnished pine coffin. At last, she was at peace.