Wednesday, March 25, 2009

remembrance day.

Beep, beep. Beep, beep.
It wasn’t so dark when my eyes opened. The cracks between the blinds let a flow of golden sunrays peek through.
“Ugh, what time is it?” I thought as I leaned over to flip open my beeping cell phone. My eyes squinted as I attempted to stare at the screen. “6:45, I can sleep for five more minutes.” I laid back down and shut my eyes for a few moments. My mother, wearing her pink, teddy bear pajamas came in, just as I was getting comfortable in my polka dot bed spread.
“Dear, time to wake up,” she said.
“Do I have to?”
“You’re gonna be late.”
Without responding I threw myself out of bed. I dragged my feet out of my bedroom, almost tripping on something that I couldn’t recognize, as my eyes were still closed. I turned the light on in the bathroom and squinted for a few seconds until my eyes adjusted to the light. I splashed my pale face and red cheeks with water and reached for my toothbrush. I caught a glimpse of my bare neck in the mirror. “What necklace should I wear today?” I said, “Today, I’ll wear my white gold necklace with the heart and circular clasp.” I finished getting ready, applying makeup and sliding into the black McCarthy pants that were placed on my chair the night before. I threw on my white gold shirt and grabbed my green sweater and Aritzia bag. Remembering my necklace, I opened my green jewelry box and pulled it out. Quickly, I put the necklace on and head out of my room. While going down stairs, I could smell the fragrance of pink roses and baby breath from the vase in my room. Finally reaching the kitchen, I threw my bag on the floor and sat down to enjoy my breakfast and head out the door to catch the yellow school bus at 7:28 A.M.
Surprisingly, there were not many people on the bus. Sitting by myself, I searched for my Ipod in my bag and began listening to “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith. I looked down at the sparkling necklace that laid just above my chest, and thought, really thought.

“I suppose that today, yes today; we will be talking about your Confirmation. Your Confirmation is a special event, a very special occasion, where you become united with the Holy Spirit and you accept and devote yourself to Christianity,” said my grade eight teacher a month before I was Confirmed. “You need to choose a sponsor, a sponsor for your Confirmation. A sponsor is someone you can idolize and find inspiration in. It can not be someone younger than you can, it can not be your mother or father, and the person you choose must have had their Confirmation already. Does everyone understand? Any questions? Good! Let’s move on!” My teacher had always been someone who rushed things and never took the time to explain tasks or events. I supposed I was the only one who knew exactly who to choose for my Confirmation sponsor. Everyone around me was asking who others were choosing, and everyone seemed to respond with the simple and rushed, “I don’t know.” I never second-guessed my choice and I knew that I would never regret it either.
The rest of the day seemed to go as ordinary as a regular school day would. When I got home from school, I threw my yellow Invicta school bag on the floor and ran to beat my brother to the table to the snack prepared. Today, it was a plate with oranges and peaches. I knew my mom would call soon so I grabbed a bite to eat just in time to hear the telephone ring.
“Hello?” I said.
“Hey hun. How was school?” Answered my mother.
“It was fine, I guess. Normal, as always. How was work Ma?” I asked.
“Busy, busy, busy,” said my mom, “what did you learn today?”
“Well nothing,” I said, “but we talked about our Confirmation and who to choose for our sponsors, I think I know who to choose.”
“That’s so nice. We’ll talk when I come home. When your brother goes to
hockey tonight, we are going to eat dinner at your Nonna’s. We are going to pick Zia Franca up on the way, is that okay?” My mom said.
“Yep mom! Just call before you leave!”
I hung up the phone and got started on my homework.
A few hours later, when my father came home, he asked, “Did you learn anything cool at school today?”
“Nope,” I said, “we were just talked to about our Confirmation and about choosing a sponsor.”
“Oh, that’s exciting,” he exclaimed as he unbuttoned his yellow golf shirt. “Have you decided who to choose?”
“Yeah! I think I have,” she responded.
“Who?” Asked my dad.
“You’ll see!”
My father smiled at my assumption. Knowingly, I smiled back. I turned quickly
and skipped back to the kitchen table where was I was doing my geometry homework. I hate geometry.
Forty-five minutes passed and the phone started ringing.
“Hi, it’s mommy, I’m leaving now.”
“Okay,” I answered.
“Did they leave for hockey?”
“Dad and Domenic? No they’re leaving in five minutes.”
“Okay, see you soon.”
Click. My mom had hung up the phone before I could say bye. I closed the phone and went upstairs to get ready. What to wear, what to wear! I searched through my brown closet and found a white sweater and a pair of jeans. Just as I clasped the button of my pants, the doorbell rang. I knew it was my mother waiting, so I thrashed down the stairs and threw on my coat and shoes. As I walked to my mother’s car, she was waiting there with a tired smile.
In the car, it was very quiet. It wasn’t as if my mother and I had gotten into an argument or disagreed on something, I was just in deep thought, that’s all. A sponsor is someone you can idolize and find inspiration in repeated in my mind over and over again.
When we finally arrived at the house, all but the front lights were off. The house was small and the black Honda civic that my cousin drove was not on the driveway. As we got out of the car and walked up to the front porch, we saw the small porcupine decoration and chuckled simultaneously.
My mom rang the doorbell and we waited patiently for Zia Franca to answer it. About two minutes later, the front door opened with slight difficulty. Zia Franca appeared in a beige blouse, with its top buttons undone, and a pair of blue jeans. Her hair was slightly spiked and held in place by the strong smelling gel that’s aroma filled the front of the house. She looked amazing, just like she always did. It was a shame she was so sick.
In the car on the way to my Nonna’s house, I made direct eye contact with my mother in the rear view mirror. Her light brown eyes glared at me saying that tonight was the perfect night to ask Zia Franca to be my Confirmation sponsor. I knew it very well, but I just did not know how to bring it up. Through the entire five-minute car ride, I could not bring myself to ask Zia Franca that groundbreaking question. Finally, in the driveway just before the we all got out of the beige minivan my mom was driving, I took a deep breath and surprisingly the words came out of my mouth all at once.
“Zia?” I started.
“Yes, love?” Zia Franca responded.
“At school today we were taught about who to choose for our Confirmation Sponsor. And, well, the only person that I could think of was you. What do you say?”
Speechless, my aunt began to cry. From the back seat, all I could hear were the soft, silent, sobs of a grateful woman. A moment later, after the tears had dried, Zia Franca turned to look at me and smiled.

My bus driver must have hit the curb or something, because I was shaken from my thoughts when I was forced forward in my seat and almost hit the back of the seat in front of me. Looking around, I saw the streets and stores that I knew well and realized that there was still a 10-minute bus ride until we arrived at the school. I thought again.

“Hun…I’ve always wanted to tell you this, but I just could never bring myself to tell you what Zia said to me once.”
“What are you saying to me, mom?” I asked.
“Well, it’s really sad.”
“Okay,” I said confused, “where are you going with this?”
My mom sighed and then continued to say, “Remember when you were younger and Zia would come over with J.P. and you guys would play in the basement?”
“Yeah,” I chuckled, “J.P. taught me how to make masterpieces with crayons on scrap paper.”
“Yes, now a while back, when Zia first started taking her treatments, she came over for supper and you and J.P. were playing in the basement. Drawing your masterpieces,” she laughed. “Well, you see, Zia said to me that her doctor’s had just told her that she was going to die.”
“What? How could you not tell me and expect me to--”
“Wait! I’m not finished,” my mom interrupted. “Zia said to me and your father, ‘When I die, I want you to take care of J.P.’”
“Mom, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t have told me this before,” I snapped.
“Hun, I just didn’t know how to tell you.” She went on, “she loved him so much. I guess she saw herself in us?”

The bus finally came to halt and I got up reluctantly. I was so tired of waking up early and then coming home to a night filled with homework. Struggling off the bus, I ran into a few friends that I hadn’t seen since the previous afternoon. All in all, I couldn’t seem to forget about my Zia.

“Dear,” Zia Franca said, “you know my cane?”
“Hey, yeah!” I answered.
“Do you think you’d like to paint it for me? Decorate it a little?”
“Sure, Zia. How do you want me to decorate it? I asked.
“Anything, really. Whatever you think I’ll like.”
“Okay, Zia! I’ll make it really cute!”
Zia Franca handed me her cane and I took it home to begin with the project. I pulled out yellow, pink, red, green, blue, and white paint and began my design. Small flowers covered the handle and their stems traveled down the cane’s body to its foot. The colours intertwined and the finished product had Zia Franca written all over it – beautiful!
A few days after, I brought the cane back to my aunt. When I rang the doorbell, Zia Franca took a lot longer this time. Instead of the two-minute wait that I expected, I was waiting close to ten minutes at the door. When my aunt finally answered the door, her face was a ghostly white and the dark circles under her eyes covered most of her cheeks. She slowly opened the door and smiled when she saw me standing there with her cane. I could barely speak.
A few weeks later, Thanksgiving came around. Zia Franca and I always prepared the gravy. It had to be mixed perfectly and the thickness of the liquid had to be just right. Each Thanksgiving, we would make the marvelous gravy and later, we’d work on baking cookies. Except, this Thanksgiving things were different. Zia Franca could barely help out anymore. She would try and stir the gravy or mix the cookie dough but her broken and fragile hands could not grasp or feel anything. She was dying.
After Thanksgiving, Zia Franca bought a wig. The chemotherapy was eating away at her. Her eyes were red and watery and her hair was falling out. The wig brightened her up and it gave her life. She came over to my house the day she purchased the wig, full of smiles. She modeled around my living room showing off her new doo and she looked like a young, healthy woman again.
Before I knew it, the summer was quickly approaching and my grandfather was rushed to the hospital for an emergency operation. After a few weeks in the hospital, my grandfather started getting bedsores on his lower back and feet. He started coughing frequently and the doctor’s proclaimed that he was diagnosed with pneumonia. Soon after this announcement, Zia Franca was also put in the hospital. My family and I knew that we were going to lose both my grandfather and my aunt, but we just couldn’t admit to it.
A worksheet was being passed around my classroom and at the end of class, my teacher was going to assess it so I had to take a break from my thought and focus on the assignment placed in front of me. I began to answer the questions displayed on the white paper. I took my time, and remembered what my Zia Franca knew best – try your hardest and you will succeed. Just in time, the bell rang to dismiss my class and I headed out in the hallway to meet a friend of mine.
“Hey,” I said. “How are you?”
“Meh, I’m okay. I’m really stressed out,” she answered. “How about you?”
“Same, I have a lot on my mind.”
“Oh, do you need to talk?”
“Yeah, can I call you after school?” I asked.
“Sure, I’ll be home by three!”
At the end of our conversation, my friend made her way to her classroom and so did i. I dashed down the hallway because I couldn’t be late. Finally, I reached my class and slumped down in the red chair. I thew my bag on the floor and placed my arms down on the white and gray coloured desk in front of me. I wanted to think more.

The table at my Nonna’s house was set with fourteen chairs. Before each chair, there lay a ceramic plate, a silver fork and knife, a long white napkin, and a glass cup. There was a bottle of red wine before my grandfather’s place setting and a glass half full of wine. Before the table, my grandfather sat, resting from a hard day’s work. His gray hair was muffled and short and I could see from his eyes that he was tired. I turned to face my grandmother, who was placing a pot filled with red tomato sauce on the old, white stove. Her hair looked shorter today and she was sweating buckets. The large kitchen was filled with the aroma of fresh tomatoes and parsley in a sauce that would later lie atop a plate of homemade gnocchi. Amongst all the great food being prepared, I couldn’t find my father. I crossed the green and yellow carpet in the centre of the living room and glanced out the large window to find my father flipping lamb chops on the barbecue. He looked up at me, smiled, and waved for me to come outside.
“Honey, can you ask mom if she knows where Nonna keeps the tray for the lamb?” he asked.
“Yeah, one minute,” I answered.
Just as I was making my way back inside I saw Zia Franca walk into the house followed by her only son. I greeted my aunt with a hug and kiss and turned to face my cousin who had his hand held high, waiting for a high five.
My mom started talking to my aunt and I completely forgot about the tray that my father had asked for. Zia Franca was moving slow today but she still had a smile on her face as the two spoke. The only line I was able to catch was Zia Franca saying, “Oh well, what can you do? I guess we just have to live without worrying about what other people think and remember that if something’s wrong, forget about it for the few hours you’re spending with your family because that’s the time that counts and it’s most often cut short!”

My second period class was a work period on a project, so I read over and edited the work that I had already completed but still, in the back of my mind, I remembered the different moments of my life that I sometimes desired to go back to. This time, unfortunate events came to mind.

That morning, that beautiful August morning. It was sunny outside and the sky was so blue it almost looked like a water drop had fallen into the sky and splashed its colour around. My family and I had visited the hospital so many times within the last week, and I needed a break from all the sadness around me. So, the morning of August 13, I went to my friend’s house just around the corner. My mom had dropped me off at around 11:30 A.M. and she was just heading out to the hospital to make her rounds. I knew I would go later tonight, after my soccer game, with my dad. We always went together.
I had a wonderful day but in the back of my mind I wondered why my mother hadn’t called me yet. It was just about 5:00 P.M. and my soccer game would start soon. The telephone rang, and when my friend said it was for me, she passed the phone without any hesitation.
“Hi, it’s mommy.”
“Hi mom, what’s up?”
I could hear the sadness in my mother’s voice but I did not want to face what was about to come.
“Honey, today at about 12, lunch time, Zia passed away.”
“Honey, are you okay?”
“Mom, why didn’t you call me?”
“I didn’t know how to tell you. It’s been a long day. Are you up for your game tonight?”
“Stop trying to change the subject,” I stopped talking for a moment to wipe away a tear trickling down my cheek. “Tell me everything.”
“Well, you’re brother and I were with Zia until her last breath. We had suggested to J.P. that he and his girlfriend go home and rest, since they’d been there the entire night before. When they reached the elevator, Zia took her last breath and the machines went wild. Her hand moved into a shape as if someone was holding it. It was like I witnessed a miracle.”
“So, did the entire family come and see her after?”
“Hun, they did. I’m really sorry are you sure you’re o--”
I interrupted my mom and said, “Be at the soccer game tonight, okay? I’ll play.”
When the conversation ended I had never felt so alone and abandoned in my entire life. The white gold chain that had rested on my chest that day seemed to glow more than normal. Zia was with me.
The soccer game I played that night was one of the best soccer game’s I’ve ever played, so I’ve been told. I thought of my aunt through each kick of the ball. The number on my back, 14, was her son’s when he was younger. I’d never forget her.
The next April my grandfather had passed away. It was all too soon for me to adjust to, but I loved my Zia and my grandfather with all of my heart. I will never let them go, they will always be with me.

It was finally time to walk out of my second period class, when I had finished remembering about my beloved Zia and grandfather. I did not only remember their hair, bodies, and faces, but I also remembered their words and their messages. The one I laughed at the most must be my grandfather’s “Don’t date until your married!” He was so Italian. He worked so hard in his day and I loved him dearly.
Zia Franca, gone at the age of 56, was very young to pass away. She was always there to lend a helping hand and she always made me smile.
At the end of the day, when I walked off that yellow school bus at 2:51 P.M., I looked down at my necklace. It was reflecting the sunlight. As I trotted home, I worried about the amount of homework I had due for the following day, but I still managed to smile. Well Zia, I thought, we’ll get through this together.

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