Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: It's a Colorful World (12/03/09)
- TITLE: Then there came a day...
By Rachel Phelps
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Then there came a day when those pretty colors troubled her because she could not remember what colors were meant to go together, and when she wore the same plain white shirt and cardigan for days on end because she didn’t remember wearing it the day before.
My grandma taught the children’s Sunday School class at the little church she attended with my grandpa. All through my childhood, she never failed to have some brightly colored activity – construction paper art and flannelgraph stories that made Bible stories come to life with bright green flannel backgrounds and characters that all looked alike but came to life when Grandma talked about them. She loved children. At Christmas, nothing gave her more joy than seeing the children onstage in their red and green and gold and silver and purple – the sweaters and the little ties and the girls’ fancy dresses. She would find and congratulate every single one afterwards – from the shy boy with big blue eyes who froze for his one line of narration to the bold girl who decided in the middle of the song to put her red satin skirt over her head, exposing the frilly pink underwear beneath.
Then there came a day when she could no longer remember the children’s names and their youthful slurring voices were too muffled for her to understand the words. Her arthritic fingers could no longer grasp scissors or flannel characters, and her place at the head of the little table in the Sunday School room was too low for her to sit in.
My grandma had a beautiful silvery soprano voice and a laugh that sounded like Christmas bells. I grew up to the sounds of my grandparents and dad singing any time we were together. When my sister and I were old enough, we joined in, leaving my mom to work the camera and clap. Grandma never tired of singing – especially the old hymns she loved. Nothing made her happier than the sound of her grandchildren singing.
Then there came a day when the silvery voice grew rusty and the laugh more and more often became a cough. She could no longer remember the words to those hymns, and her voice cracked on almost every note. The black notes on the page grew blurry and her hazel eyes could not stand the strain of trying to read it. More and more, she joined my mom on the couch, still humming along, but relinquishing her place by the piano for the next generation.
And then there came a day when she and Grandpa could not live alone any longer. At first my parents opened their home, offering to take care of them and the white poodle they could no longer manage. As time passed, it became clear that the gray, cloudy state of their minds was casting a pall on the whole house. Nine months ago, they moved into a nursing home. Grandma gave up worrying about her pretty colors altogether and simply wore what was handiest, even if the magenta cardigan clashed with the blue dress.
Last week there came a day when I put on my black choir dress and sat onstage with tears in my eyes as the opening strains of Handel’s Messiah filled the air, for on that day, Grandma heard me from heaven. For the first few songs, the sound clogged in my throat and the effort of keeping the tears at bay turned my face a blotchy, unsightly red. Then I remembered my grandma’s smile as she stood by the piano and sang her old hymns, hazel eyes gleaming. As I began the triumphant strains of the Hallelujah Chorus, I couldn’t help but smile through the tears. Grandma has her beautiful, silvery soprano voice back.
In loving memory of Mildred Maxine P., Dec. 12, 1925 to Dec. 4, 2009.
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