I tore across the street to the school yard, running to the middle swing. Pushing my feet into action, I began my flight to freedom. Higher and higher I pumped. My shoes no longer on my feet, my hat blown of, my hair swinging like a sail in the wind, I was a bird, floating up to heaven—to join Mother. Tears streaming from my eyes, I visualized her coffin being lowered into the ground. Until that moment I hadn't let my mind think about her being gone. GONE!
"Adelaide! What do you think you're you doing? Acting like a child!" The nagging voice of Grandmother jolted me out of my reverie.
I began my descent—out of oblivion, into dreaded reality.
"You're an adult! Responsible for managing a home. Responsible for—"
I made an abrupt landing. As I bent to retrieve my hat and shoes, it hit me—the reality. It was my birthday! Nineteen—a legal adult…I didn't like it. I hadn't finished my childhood yet.
Slowly walking back home, out of the recesses of my mind came a soothing reminder: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." I straightened my shoulders, readying myself for more scathing words from 'Grandmother'.
But what met me was a different scenario: Dad sitting on a chair, his saxophone resting on his knee, his chin quivering, tears pouring from his eyes, and sombre tones of "Standing Somewhere In The Shadows You'll Find Jesus" floating through the air.
Then my eyes fell on nine-year-old Lily. Her arms flailing, her face aglow, she smiled at me from her wheel-chair-perambulator. Love flooded my soul. I reached down and picked her up. It was as if a beam of light had flooded the room. Throwing her flapping arms around me she slurred the only words she had ever been able to say, "Adi, Adi."
"Lily, my little angel." I hugged her close. "You and Daddy and Annie an' me, we's gonna make it, aren't we?" I choked back tears.
Daddy looked up. Setting his sax on the floor in the corner, he came over and gave us both a hug. He sat down at the table, smiling through his tears.
Momentarily I'd forgotten about Grandmother, until I heard a rumbling on the stairs. She appeared in the kitchen, plunked her suitcase on the floor, and without so much as a glance at her son or Lily, she turned to me. "Adelaide. Your mother's gone now. It's YOUR responsibility to look after this family. Think you can handle it? You've got your Dad and Annie to care for, and—?" She stopped, staring over at Lily. "Maybe you should consider putting her into a home. She'll be too much—"
My anger flared. I stood up, placing Lily on Dad's lap. Never before had I talked back to my elders. But as Grandmother had pointed out, I was an adult now. So as an adult, I confronted her. "Grandmother, thank you for all you've done for us since Mom's passing. We're a family. Lily shall stay in this house, and we shall care for her as she has been cared for since her birth. It isn't HER fault she was born with MS. As Mom said: 'She's an angel from heaven.' Just look at her. Have you ever seen anything more heavenly?"
Grandma, uncharacteristically, was speechless. She stood with her mouth open. With an exaggerated sigh she picked up the phone and called for a taxi to take her to the train. Calgary was 800 miles away. She wouldn't be visiting too often.
Thirteen-year-old Annie burst through the door. Grandma dropped her gloves and threw her arms around her—favourite—granddaughter. "How would you like to come stay with me?" she blurted.
"Oh Granny," she said, beaming, then turned to look at me. "Could I?"
"Annie," I cut in. "We're a family and a family we shall stay. Daddy needs you. I need you. Lily needs you. And who would ride, groom and feed Thunder? And what about Tiger and Buffy? You're our family 'vet'. We all need you. Don't we Daddy? Don't we, Lily?"
Her eyes brimming with tears, Annie threw her arms around me, giving me the biggest kiss she'd ever given me in her life. "Yes!" She squealed. "We're family and we're gonna stick together." She gave Grandma a hug and carried her bags to the waiting taxi.
It was an abrupt landing. I'd become an instant adult.
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