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fiRsT of aLL thIs giF tHoe

   

My grandmother had a stroke early one morning in January. I just woken up and had been walking down the hall to the n bathroom. My dad had blocked my way to tell me the news.

"Granly's in a coma, sweetie," he told me. His eyes were red-rimmed, and his face looked pale and clammy Beneath his early morning scruff. "Her friend, Mrs Berke, went to the cottage after she didn't show up for their breakfast date here.  you know Granly never locks the door. Mrs Berke found her still in bed and called 911."

There was no sit down, no soften-the-blow discussion about the circle of life. Dad just blurted it out.

I stared at him, completely baffled.

Through the open door of my parents bedroom, I could see my mom frantically packing a suitcase. Regina was in the bathroom, issuing updates: "Mom, I'm packing your toothbrush and your moisturizer, okay?"

And Ruby was curled up in my parents bed, hugging a pillow.

"But she's gonna be okay, right?" Ruby cried. "She'll wake up, right?"

So that's why my poor dad had broken the news to me so bluntly. He'd already had to tell Regina and Ruby.

My brain and refused to register what had happened. The only thing that I remember thinking at that moment was that I really had to Pee.

After that I remember thinking I should call Granly to clear up this ridiculous Timor.

"I'm fine, Chelsea," she'd say with a laugh. "You know Mrs Berke. She's an alarmist. She's the one who always used to wake her husband up in the middle of the night because she was sure he was dead. And of course, he never was. Well, except for that last time..."

Then she'd laugh wickedly, and I'd, say, "Granly!" And pretend to be shocked.

But of course that phone call never happened.

After Mrs Berke called the ambulance, Granly was taken from Bluepointe to South Bend, Indiana, which was the closest city with a big hospital. My mom took the first flight out and spent an entire day and night at Granly's bedside, holding her hand. Then Granly's doctor told my mom that Granly wasn't going to wake up. My mom had followed Granly's living will and allowed her to die, which she did "peacefully" two days later.

Through it all, none of it felt real to me. Granly's The number was still in my phone. I still had emails from her in my inbox. She was in at least half of the family portraits that hung on our dining room wall. And in all of those photos she was surrounded by the still living. The irony was, she looked more alive than any of us in the pictures. She always seemed to be laughing, while the rest of us merely smiled.

Depending on the year the photo was taken, Granly's hair was either closely cropped or sproinging out wildly, but it was always the exact same glinting-golden blonde as mine. That's because when I was little, Granly snipped a lock of my hair and took it to her hairdresser.

"Nobody could get the colour right until you came along," she told me after one of her triumphant trips to the salon. "Now I have the same hair I had when I was a girl. You should save some of your hair for you to use when you're old and gray like me. Blonde hair is really difficult, Ems."

"It is difficult," I agreed with a sigh. Of course, I'd meant it in a different way. Is hated that my hair was as bright as the sun. I cringed when people assumed I had I bright temper (not in the good way) or was as hilarious as a FRIENDS episode.

So I kept my hair long, the better to pull it back into a tight, low ponytail or bun. And if I fell for a coral shift dress or peppermint coloured circle skirt at one of my favourite vintage shops, I bought it.

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