Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write a Coming OF AGE short story (11/20/14)
TITLE: Throwing Out the Garbage
By Katherine (Kat) Kane
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Our lifestyles were worlds apart. Theirs revolved around weekend extracurricular activities. And oh, how they cried foul when asked to help with small tasks at home.
How I envied their carefree existence.
Granddad, who lived with us, was dying. To Mum, caring for him was her privilege and duty; any talk of nursing homes was robustly silenced. Being the eldest, I tried to help as much as possible. Life was a constant carousel of minding younger sisters, cleaning, ensuring Granddad had what he needed and then struggling to comfort Mum, who was falling apart under it all. Like lava, anger at my impossible situation bubbled unseen under the surface until it exploded, burning anyone in its path.
According to my teachers, flunking my A levels meant the end of the world. I knew university beckoned, but study was nigh-on impossible with an endless stream of visitors. I never had the time or energy to contemplate attempting coursework, not that I cared anymore. Mum was often overloaded, but Granddad would always find time to soothe away my angst. And I was about to lose him. Forget exams, this was the end of my world.
My priorities conflicted with those of teachers and peers, intensifying my angst. I felt like I was from a different planet sometimes. My brain had become a battlefield; grief, anger, resentment, responsibilities, study, normal eighteen-year-old preoccupations with popularity and self-discovery all fought for control. Nobody understood. Teachers thought I had an attitude and my pals thought I’d become a boffin.
I found Granddad most frustrating of all. Even though he knew cancer was eroding his life and strength away, he seemed immune from the angst that had taken over my life wholesale. How could he be so calm and accepting? I got that he was a Christian and believed he was ‘going home’ and all that. Mum had dragged us to church every Sunday since forever, so I knew about God and all that religion malarkey. But how could any of this God stuff help me decide what really mattered in life or somehow come to terms with the thought of living without Granddad?
Granddad had this habit of knowing what I was thinking. One morning, I brought him customary mid-morning cuppa. His tired hands reached past the steaming cup toward the battered Bible beside his bed. Instinctively, I retrieved it and went to hand it to him, but instead he said “Darling, would you look up Philippians 3:8 and read it for me?”
“Nothing else is as wonderful as knowing Christ. I have given up everything else and count it all garbage. All I want is Christ.”
I brought the Bible over to him. Knowing my unasked question had been answered, Granddad gently closed his most treasured belonging and pressed it into my hand. “Darling, I can’t answer all your questions, but I can give you this. You’ll find all the answers to the important ones in here.”
Curiosity replaced frustration at Granddad’s peaceful acceptance of his approaching death. In the final weeks of his life, our conversations were Granddad’s last life-changing gift to me. We talked about so many things, serious and banal. But most of all, we talked about why he wasn’t afraid of dying. Religion hadn’t helped me cope with Granddad’s impending death. But Granddad’s Master, Christ, could. Moreover, He alone could melt my anger into acceptance and fade the deafening racket of exam pressure and popularity into background noise. Funny how these things that once fought for control of my life were now consigned to the garbage pile. Soon, knowing Christ and following Him was all that mattered to me.
Granddad passed away a fortnight before Results Day. True to form, he clung on long enough to see me finish my exams. But more importantly, he lived to hear me commit my life to Christ. He went home happy.
I reread that verse as soon as I got home from Results Day, soaking wet and with bad news. Poor grades meant no university place; the trade-off for the time spent with Granddad, which I would not change for anything. Failure by the world’s standards, but not by Christ’s! I had gained something far, far more precious.
It was estimated that there were at least 244,000 young carers under the age of 19 in the UK in May 2013 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-22529237.
This story is fictitious, but very loosely based on my own experience of being a young carer for a terminally ill grandparent many years ago.
Boffin – British slang for a bright kid, generally used in a derogatory way.
Scripture ref: Philippians 3:8 CEV
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