In Every Thought

In Every Thought

From Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul

In Every Thought

Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.

Unknown

I don’t remember exactly when he came into my life. He was just always there. My grandfather was the most incredible person in the world.

Some days Papa, as I called him, and I would go down to a little creek that flowed into the river and go fishing. He taught me how to cast, reel, and the scariest of all, bait a hook. I remember what it was like to catch my first fish, which Papa called a blue gill. For the first time in my life, I felt I had accomplished something useful. I was proud of myself.

Other days we’d sit on the front porch in the rocking chairs he had made and talk.

But the thing I most loved was when we’d go out to the barn and he’d make things out of wood. He made me my first rocking horse when I was four. It wasn’t anything fancy, but like me, Papa believed if it came from the heart, then that alone made it beautiful.

Above all, anything that could bother a seven-year-old was something that I could always talk to him about. Papa would set me on his knee and listen to me cry. He made the world go away with one hug.

Whenever I needed punishment, he always talked to me about what I had done. He’d ask me why I made that mistake, while every other authority figure I knew went straight to physical punishment. He was the one person who had my respect, and who actually treated me with respect in return.

Something else I admired was that he didn’t treat me like a girl who only related to pink ribbons and Barbies. He treated me like a person.

When I turned eight, a horrifying fact changed my life forever. That fact was death.

In September, they discovered that my Papa had cancer. It never sank in, even at his funeral the next February, that I’d never see him alive again.

The agonizing six months of his sickness were long and cruel, especially to my grandmother, who could not talk without crying. I didn’t know what death was.

Everything was a big, rushing blur. It was too much for an eight-year-old, so I blocked it out. Whatever death was, it wasn’t real to me.

Slowly, I learned I couldn’t block it out. There were no more rodeos, no more fishing, no more horses and no one left to talk to. When I walked into my grandmother’s house, there was no longer the smell of smoke mixed with coffee and sawdust, which was what Papa always smelled like. Everyone around me was sad, and I was learning what it was like to be sad.

It finally hit me that he was gone. Things started getting rough with guys and friends. I knew if Papa had been alive, he could’ve helped. Instead I faced the world alone, and believe me, there are many pressures from sixth grade to high school. The world had become very cruel to me, or so it seemed, and I missed Papa. Night after night, I would go to bed crying.

In seventh grade, I hung out with the wrong crowd. One morning, in the bathroom, a girl offered me a cigarette. All of a sudden, something clicked in my mind. Cigarettes are what had killed my Papa.

“No,” was my simple but strong reply. Regardless of their comments like “good girl” and “too-good,” I stuck with my no smoking policy. Since then, I have been offered cigarettes many times, and I have always replied with a simple “no.” I wouldn’t want my grandchildren feeling the way I did if they lost me to smoking.

I was too young to figure out what a great role model I had around me when he was alive. But I realize it now. Papa is in every thought I have today. I still have all our special memories in my heart. He always made me believe in myself. Anything I do, he has influenced in some way. No one has ever or will ever have the patience he had with me.

His death taught me many lessons, but the one so harshly instilled in me is that no one, even someone as great as him, is invincible.

Leslie Miller, fourteen

[EDITORS’ NOTE: To learn more about the effects of smoking, contact the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids at www.tobacco freekids.org or call 1-800-284-KIDS to get involved in its campaign against the tobacco industry.]

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