The Yellow Piece of Paper

The Yellow Piece of Paper

From Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul

The Yellow Piece of Paper

When you’re a young teen, it can seem like your parents have no feelings whatsoever. They don’t understand when you just HAVE to get that new CD, even though you don’t like the music that much. And that you HAVE to buy the new swimsuit, even though it costs sixty dollars for just two inches of material. Or, that you MUST impress the object of your affection by showing up at the movies, even though you’ll dump him after two weeks of boredom. And then you have a huge zit and you need a dermatologist RIGHT AWAY, even though no one else can even see the zit.

These were my sentiments exactly. I never cared about my parents’ feelings. I thought they weren’t like me and had no idea what emotions were. I didn’t believe that they could ever feel the same things I could. How could they? In my mind, they were old and cranky and that was that.

Then all that changed.

Snooping through my mom’s purse was sort of a pastime of mine. It was usually for money, which—with my mom’s permission to retrieve—allowed me to go to the movies or wherever the hot spot of the evening was. It was like an art form to dig through my mom’s purse. Messy was one word for it, but I can think of others! I never found anything too interesting, so I tried to keep my digs quick and to the point, which was getting my money.

One Friday night, while I was looking for ten dollars, I pulled out my mom’s black wallet. A piece of yellow paper fell out.

Curiosity killed the cat. . . . Right?

Naturally, I hesitated.

Satisfaction brought him back.

I opened the piece of paper. It looked like a diary entry of some sort. Maybe it wasn’t my mom’s? That was highly doubtful, considering it was her sloppy cursive. I read it. It hit me; it was about my brother and his friend who died of leukemia. I didn’t remember ever meeting the boy, who died when I was barely three.

I was overcome with shock as I read the contents of the letter. I quickly folded up the piece of paper and put it back where I had found it.

The next day, my curiosity overcame me again. Making sure my mom was out of the room, I got out the piece of yellow paper and read it again. It said:

June 3, 1987

I saw grief on my son’s face today. He is eight years old. His friend died from leukemia. I’ve seen hurt, anger and bewilderment on my son’s face, but never before have I seen grief on the face of one so young. I wonder what he is thinking. I told him that his friend had become an angel. Even though I had tried to avoid the word “died,” he immediately realized what I meant. I’ll never forget his look. Somehow I didn’t expect such an adult expression of anguish. My angel story could not remove the pain of the passing of his friend. We knew for several months the bone marrow transplants had failed and that my son’s friend was on limited time. And yet when the call came, I felt shocked. I had just seen him a couple of weeks before and he looked so good. How could God let life rob us of him so soon?

I keep thinking of his mother’s pain. Her son died in her arms on the way to the hospital. Where did he go? How will she survive the loss? The pain must be so great. I see her grasping, trying to find her son. As a mother, it pains me to think of her great agony. There can be no experience worse than the loss of one’s child.

For all of us, things will now be different. Next year, in the third grade, there won’t be a seat waiting for my son’s friend to come back. Our parish won’t be praying anymore for that miracle. And his mother will be forever grasping, trying to find her son.

I cried a little, thinking about what my brother had to go through at such a young age. At least he had my mom, dad, sister and a little baby—me—to love him and help him through it.

My mom actually did have more feelings than I thought. Maybe my small problems of needing to have a certain CD, of buying a swimsuit, the need to impress some guy or an invisible zit weren’t as important as I thought.

I can’t say that, after reading the letter, all of those things still don’t cross my mind, but I have a new respect for my mom. I don’t ask her for things as much, and I don’t yell and cry as much when she says, “No.”

What did change was that I can tell her more about my own feelings, because now I feel that she will understand. I’m glad I found out early enough, before I grew up and left home. I have my mom to talk to, when I need to.

I don’t know what would have happened if I had never read that letter. I don’t think I want to know. I’m just glad that I did.

Lauren Thorbjornsen, fourteen

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