My Present

My Present

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

My Present

Miracles are the swaddling clothes of infant churches.

Thomas Fuller

I was ten years old when my mother’s mother, my grandma Dolores, began losing her battle against breast cancer. She was only fifty-four and had always been the apple of my eye. . . . I felt like I was the pupil in hers. Grandma spent the last month of her life in the hospital. My little brother, Vernon, and I weren’t allowed to visit her. Our parents thought that seeing her might frighten us because she’d lost one hundred pounds and hardly resembled herself. I missed her very much.

It was soon to be my eleventh birthday, and I told my parents that all I wanted for my birthday present was to see Grandma. They finally agreed, and on my birthday, May 30, 1954, we drove to the hospital in San Francisco, about thirty miles from our home. On the way my mother explained that Grandma was asleep and not to be surprised, that she was laying in an oxygen tent, that I was to be very quiet because she needed her rest, and that I wasn’t to wake her. I wouldn’t have understood then, being but a child, but the truth was that my grandmother had been in a coma for a week and wouldn’t be waking up.

When we reached her room, I saw my relatives sitting on chairs everywhere. Everyone was quiet, unlike the happy noise I was accustomed to hearing when everyone got together at our family gatherings. My grandfather and great-grandma didn’t even say hello to us. Neither did any of Grandma’s younger brothers or sisters. I didn’t realize it then, but they were all in a death vigil, waiting for my grandma to take her last breath. All I understood was that everybody was sad; my mother cried silently.

Grandma was lying fast asleep on the hospital bed, but I could see her clearly through the oxygen tent, which looked like a large, clear, plastic box extending from her waist to the top of the bed. She just looked like Grandma to me, and I was so happy to see her. I immediately went to the head of her bed—nobody stopped me, not even my mother or father.

Well, I tell you, my grandma just sat right up and pushed that tent aside and, smiling, said, “Barbara, come here and sit next to me, right here,” as she patted the sheet on her right side. I pulled myself up and plopped down next to her, and she put her arm around me. “Barbara, it’s your eleventh birthday and before I came to the hospital I got you a present—here.” She leaned over and pulled out a little white box from a drawer near her bedside. I opened it and under a square of cotton was a turquoise tortoiseshell-covered compact. The cover was engraved with St. Christopher carrying the Christ child on his shoulders. When I opened the compact there was a mirror on one side and some light powder on the other. “Barbara, some day soon you will become a teenager, and when you do I want you to use this, and always remember that I love you.”

I thanked Grandma and gave her a lively hug and a kiss. She chuckled and we smiled into each other’s eyes. Then she told me that she was too tired to visit anymore and that she needed to take a nap. She slowly laid back and closed her eyes.

I hopped off her bed and a nurse came to reposition the tent around her. My father took me by the hand and, without saying good-bye to anyone in the room, the three of us left. That was that.

What I hadn’t realized is that my parents and relatives had been unable to move or speak while watching Grandma and me enjoying my birthday together. They’d witnessed a miracle taking place right before their eyes— like seeing Lazarus rise from the dead. I can’t imagine how it must have felt to everyone present, watching Grandma back to being fully herself while laughing with her little granddaughter, happily visiting together on a hospital bed.

My grandmother never opened her eyes again. She peacefully passed away one week later. I have believed in miracles ever since my grandmother woke up to attend my eleventh birthday party.

Barbara G. Drotar

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