Tea. Such a simple beverage. And I am not talking about the Chamomile Tea or Mint Tea or Lemon Tea or the Boba tea. I am talking about the tea you get in subcontinent especially in India. The tea that is made out of actual tea leaves, milk, ginger, and a bunch of optional spices. Yes, you got it. I am talking about the Masala Chai but also a lot more than that! At its simplest, it has only four ingredients - Milk, Water, Sugar, and Tea Leaves.

Tea is such an integral part of Indian culture and a lot of things make or break over tea. Friendships are forged, relationships discussed, marriages fixed, business deals finalized, gossip, and what not. Having tea in the middle of the day when the temperatures are soaring is not about the tea, but about a chat with a friend or if alone, just unwinding from whatever is bothering you at that time.

But in its simplicity lies the complexity. Even with just four ingredients, it is not easy to get it right. True that it is basically just boiling a cup of water, but still not everyone can get it right. In fact, I am a big fan of tea and can drink tea at any time of the day and any number of times. But till recently, I was not able to get it right. That tells you how much I love tea.

Even with just four ingredients, the quantity of ingredients added and the order they are added is very important. In quantity depends on how much tea is being made, but basically, you add one teaspoon of tea leaves to 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of milk to make one cup of tea. Sugar is up to the individual's taste, but generally 1 teaspoon or less is what is recommended. Just recently I figured out the order as well and since then the tea has been heavenly.

I used to boil the tea leaves with the water thinking that the tea flavor and fragarence will steep in. But I was overcooking it and the tea was losing its taste. What you need to do is to bring the water to a hard boil and then add milk to it. Once milk is added, add the tea leaves at that time and stir the concoction and stir it well. You can add sugar anytime. When the final product is about to come to boil, that's when you add the crushed ginger and other spices. That's when the tea leaves and ginger release their flavor and make the tea, Tea.



Relationships are like a joint checking account in a bank. You can withdraw love, affection, or care from there whenever you need or want which sounds pretty cool, right? But it is even more important to keep making frequent deposits of your own love, affection, and care for the other person in the relationship. The size of the deposit doesn’t always matter but the deposits have to be necessarily frequent.

I don’t have to say it, but I’ll still say it. If you don’t make those deposits frequently enough, then pretty soon you’ll be overdrawn. Everyone goes through emotional turmoil and sometimes you can get a little overdrawn and it is ok. But you must remember to start making deposits as soon as you get better emotionally otherwise pretty soon resentment starts setting in and from there it starts going downhill.

How can you make a deposit and what deposit should you make? All valid questions and the answers depends on each individual, relationship, and the strength of the relationship. A simple gesture of getting a flower sometimes can go a long way. Sometimes it is being there for the other person when they are going through a rough patch and lending an ear and comforting them is needed. Compassion is definitely one of the most important and essential qualities.

How to fix 404 errors in Laravel application authenication


I am not a Laravel programmer by any stretch of imagination but I like to think that I am a pretty good engineer who can solve problems regardless of the situation. Recently I faced a situation where I was working with one of my clients on setting up a validated environment for their customers using a standard operating procedure (SOP). They had gotten the application developed from a third party vendor. Long story short, since their target market is highly regulated industry, they must have detailed and exhaustive documentation of all steps of setting up and tearing down of the computer systems.

It's not easy to write SOPs

There is a video where a father is asking his kids for some instructions to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. While for most of us making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is highly intuitive and easy, for a person who doesn't know what is to be done, it can be stupefying. When we write instructions, we know a lot of things as we have already done the task successfully and assume that the reader is already aware of a lot of things that we know about and do not include those steps in our documentation.
Sometimes it is different. We miss some steps in our documentation and when someone else finds out and reports the gaps, we quickly make the change and do not update the documentation, hoping the problem will not recur. That exacerbates the actual problem. In case someone else has to reproduce the environment using those SOPs then they are basically stuck.
Therefore it is very important to have accurate and correct documentation updated. Admittedly, it is tedious and cumbersome, but in the long run it definitely is the right thing to do.

Laravel and Apache server

I had a Laravel application that was front ended by an Apache server and the backend was MySQL database. The developer had setup an instance and my job was to replicate the same using the SOP that they had built to ensure they are accurate and the process is predictable and repeatable. I followed the steps exactly as documented. I was able to get to the login screen. So far so good. But when I tried to log in using the test credentials, I was shown a 404 - Page not found error. Initially, I worked with the developer and they did something and fixed it. Interestingly, they failed to mention it to me what they did and neither was it documented in the SOP. So as it happened, I had to rebuild the server to try and get the SOP working. I again faced that issue and this time, instead of reaching out to the developer, I did my own research and Voila' I was able to solve the problem.
The research led me far and wide and in one of the forums I found the possible answer which suggested setting AllowOverride All on the parent directory of the application. In my case it was /var/www. The post suggested to set it at the main Apache configuration file. But I always try to localize these solutions and not make global changes if I can help it in order to keep the installation secure. So I added a Directory directive in the VHost configuration file which enables AllowOverride All for that VHost only while leaving the original configuration untouched.


They say that Laravel is a programming language for coding artists with elegant frameworks. But these issues are pretty simple and will be prevalent in all applications that require authentication. Why is this not better documented? More importantly why does the authenticate or login action in Laravel return a 404 error?
I wonder...

What’s the Point of a Foreign Language Class?

Hello! Namaste! Bonjour! Hola! Aloha! Guten Tag! Привет! 你好!

Many students view a foreign language class as something that is required solely for college credits. Once the requisite two or three years of taking a foreign language class are completed, all of that hard-earned knowledge is simply thrown out. As long as the credits show up on the final transcript, the essence of knowing how to speak French, Spanish, Mandarin, or any other foreign language is lost. Learning a foreign language may seem like a short-term achievement and can quickly become a burden if not approached with the right attitude and perspective. As it is, the point of a foreign language class is more than just the ten credits allotted to it; it is more than just learning a new language.

From an academic perspective, a foreign language is not about equations, memorizing formulas, or analyzing literature. The difficulty of learning a new language increases with age, but a different part of the brain is implemented in such a way that is not used in other subjects such as math or science. Learning a language is just as important as taking math, science, and English classes as it helps train all parts of your brain to create well-developed, well-rounded cognitive capabilities. In addition to using computational and analytical skills, a foreign language class challenges a student’s creativity. Because in a foreign language class, students must read, write, speak, and even think in a completely new language, students must use their creativity to weave grammar, spelling, logic, and imagination together to apply a new language in instances such as telling a story, completing comprehensive projects, or analyzing foreign literature, to name a few. In this way, studying a foreign language also contributes to the improvement of other skills such as listening comprehension, problem-solving, memory, and the ability to quickly understand concepts, as all of these are required to fully grasp the flow and application of the language. In the broader perspective, learning a foreign language keeps the brain sharp by testing it to work through the same problems in daily life, only this time, in another language. Beyond the textbooks, however, a Foreign language class provides countless opportunities to become involved in the culture associated with the language and is also meant to help students develop leadership qualities. For example, a Foreign Language class may come with a club and an Honor society in which officer positions are available. These clubs and societies allow students to organize cultural activities and bond with others with a common love for learning the language. Participating in these activities and becoming an officer enhances the learning process by teaching students more about the language and culture, and brings them out of their comfort zone by connecting with other students and shouldering the responsibility of facilitating events, developing students into active learners. Through this experience comes the “A-ha!” moment when students finally realize how to use the knowledge gained from the Foreign Language class in their daily lives, giving students confidence and a reason to feel proud of themselves. The satisfaction of learning and understanding a new, difficult concept is a priceless emotion that is especially prevalent in a Foreign Language class.

Furthermore, the point of a Foreign language class goes beyond the classroom and straight to the heart. A Foreign language class not only teaches you a new language, but also includes information about the corresponding culture and people associated with that culture, all down to the minute details such as the way people interact with each other, facilities such as hospitals, grocery stores, parks, etc., and essential locations with a cultural significance. In this way, a Foreign language class is a window to a different world. Such education is key as it brings the students awareness of other cultures. Students learn to appreciate and respect other peoples, traditions, and customs as well as understand the nature of a people’s culture. Familiarity with the culture and language breeds a mutual understanding of similarities and differences between people and allows for close bonds with one another.

While a foreign language class ultimately teaches a new language, the enlightenment and new horizons that come from learning a new language define the real value of the class. As difficult and arduous as learning a new language may seem at first, grasping the countless opportunities and making it a point to apply the language where possible is a promising way to make the best use of the class. In the end, a foreign language class is not about tests, grades, and credits, but about exploring new territory and cherishing the experience.

Going to Be Good

This article will be good. Cupcakes are good. I have good grades in school. My friend is good. All that’s good, but what do I mean by “good”?

When we say that something or someone is “good”, we have positive, esteemed opinions about what we are referring to. For example, suppose after you watch a movie, you think, “That was a good movie.” We can tell that you really liked that movie, and you have respect for that movie to a certain level. Every day, we use “good” copiously to describe many things in our lives, whether it be in our writing, speech, or ideas. But there’s more to the word “good” than just being a compliment, and this ambiguous word can suggest so many different things. It’s not always enough to declare something as “good”, because its denotation may not always capture the complete meaning behind your ideas and it does not always apply in the same way for everyone.

A Good Time to Use “Good”

“Good” is a very vague word and does not specify what exactly is positive about something. “Good” can take on different meanings in different contexts; you can find qualities of an object that are “good” for different reasons. If I said that a cake is good, there are multiple things that I could mean:

  1. The cake looks good, or the decoration on the cake is really pretty
  2. The cake tastes good (chocolate is the best!)
  3. The cake smells good
  4. The texture of the cake is good (who doesn’t love a soft, spongy cake?)

Notice how “good” is used in each of these descriptions, but it points to a different thing. Because there are multiple meanings behind “good”, every time you present your opinion, try using a more precise word that is specific to the quality that it describes. For example, if I wanted to point out the taste of the cake, instead of “good”, I could say: “The cake is delicious”, or “The cake tastes sweet”. This way, you know that I’m talking about how much I loooovvvveee the taste of chocolate cake.

Another example of an unclear usage of “good” appears in The Hobbit when Bilbo wishes Gandalf a good morning and Gandalf replies,

“What do you mean?” he said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”

What exactly makes the morning good? Why should the morning be good? It’s a simple greeting, but to whom does it apply? Is there a better word you could use to make the meaning clear?

Let’s replace “good” with “Beautiful”, so then you would say “Beautiful morning”. By replacing good with a descriptive word, I would be able to infer that you’re talking about the weather, the scenery, etc.

In formal writing, always try to avoid the use of the word “good” (unless it appears in direct quotes from a source, then you can’t really change it). “Good” sounds elementary, and we do have a larger vocabulary span than such basic words. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people use “good” in their essays or articles because exactly what they are thinking, or what perspective they have is unclear since “good” is quite flimsy (okay, I know what you’re thinking. I’m using the word “good” because I’m trying to explain why you shouldn’t! Stop it. I’m not a hypocrite). If you’re expressing your opinion about something, try not to say what was good and what was bad, because that doesn’t really say much; add some more depth to your statement. Some terms in my vocabulary include: controversial, beneficial, unreasonable, quixotic, effective, predictable, ulterior [intentions], and rebellious. Using thorough words with specific meanings not only makes your writing formal and advanced, but it also shows the reader that you have clarity in your thoughts.

Banish “good” from your vocabulary. It doesn’t exist. “Very good” doesn’t count either (haha, gotcha!)

Other terms to describe quality (to replace “good”):
vivid, vibrant, delicious, pungent, fragrant, satisfactory, musical, soft, peaceful, thunderous, cheerful, ecstatic, beautiful/handsome, sharp, warm, comfortable, cozy, studious, energetic, dedicated, strong, supportive, excellent

Bottom line: Don’t use “good” in your writing or when speaking because though it is a positive word, it makes things unclear.

My Good, Your Bad

We all have our own standards and our own definitions of what is right for us. In a basic definition, something is “good” when it helps us, and that thing or person is different for each person. Our background, our expectations of ourselves, and our dreams set personal standards that we must meet to feel satisfied.

When we use “good” as a measure of quality, such as a “good” test score, a “good” job, or even what you might consider a “good” book, it can often become an umbrella and become the bar for everyone, not just one person. In some cases, this can lead to the growth and development of a community; on the other hand, a general standard makes several people vulnerable to bullying and discrimination.

From the perspective of a student, a common example of this is that an A is a “good” grade to receive on a test, and any grade below that is disgraceful. On one hand, this pushes students to work harder to do their best and earn an A, but…

When they don’t, they may feel like they aren’t good enough, or that they are dumb (which is totally NOT TRUE). So what do we do?

It’s important to keep high standards of oneself and the community because that’s the only way we can motivate ourselves to strive for success. At the same time, understand and accept that each person has personal goals that will help them meet the higher standards. Don’t judge and condemn others just because they don’t meet your standards. If the results of their work make them happy, then that’s what’s important.

Recently, we had our final exams, and the first exam I took was for science. I was elated to have received a 97%. When I asked one of my classmates what he got, he told me he had a score of 63%. If I had gotten this score, I would be horrified and disappointed in myself, probably fearing the wrath of my parents. But my classmate was perfectly happy with this score as long as he still passed the class. If he was happy, then his score didn’t really matter to me; I just gave him a high-five, celebrating the end of the first final.

You don’t always know the background of other people, and people don’t know your background either. It’s not fair to judge each other based on individual standards. Decide what’s good for you and aim to do the best you can (or even beyond) because, in the end, the only thing that matters is what makes you happy.

So...What’s Good?

Does this mean that “good” is a bad word? No. It’s just not the best word to use. How can you use “good”? Use it to encourage, rather than define.

“Good” is a positive word, so use it in that way. Tell your parents they’ve been good (or how about supportive and kind?) parents. Tell your friends they’ve been good (maybe funny, loyal, and caring?) friends.

By using “good” in the right way, whether it be in writing or in words, we can spread some “good”ness in the world! 🙂

Like A Girl

See her, as she walks by
Instantly think, how she must be shy
Timid, even, oh, let’s not make her cry!
For she must be like a girl
Last to be picked on a team
Playing sports? Oh, in your dreams,
That girl over there? Don’t you see a theme?
For she must be like a girl
This is what they say as they look
Through a murky glass they mistook
For being reality
What do you mean, like a girl?
I am not what you see
There is more than meets the eye
Timid, you say?
Well, I must say, your mind is as narrow as the glass
For I would love to make your acquaintance
If you gave me a chance
I must not be good at sports,
But if you just pass me the ball
You’ll see how I make a slam dunk
Surprised? Don’t be.
Wipe those lenses clean, and look again,
Do you see something different?
It hurts the most when you look through that
Scuffed, old glass
When you don’t look past.
You don’t see it, do you?
You only see gender,
While I see character.

Adventure in Outer Space

This is a story I wrote when I was in 3rd grade for the Young Author's contest. It didn't win, but it makes me laugh every time I read it. It reminds me of how much creativity children have and the innocent way the story was written! This was also the first story I wrote, and since then I've been into writing stories, long and short. You can read some of the other stories I've written throughout my life here.


There was once a little girl named April. That’s me! I like adventures very much. Sometimes I go hiking or to the planetarium. But one day I went to an amazing place called Outer Space. Here’s how it all started.

Chapter 1

The Announcement

On Monday at school, my teacher made an announcement. She said, “Boys and girls, this Friday we will have a school carnival. The carnival will start at 7:00 P.M. and will end at 9:00 P.M. Family and friends are welcome.”
Everyone was excited so much that everyone in my class was talking about it at recess. “I wonder what kind of games there would be,” I thought to myself.

I kept thinking about the carnival and I had so many questions that I wanted to ask like: “What kind of food will be there?” or “Who will show up?”.

When I got home I told my parents. They were excited, too. That night I was too excited to sleep. The days went by quickly and I was getting more and more excited. . .

Chapter 2

The Big Day

Finally! The big day has arrived! My family went to my school and I saw my school lit up. There were so many lights! I even saw my best friend, Riley. I went up to her and said, “ Hi Riley. Do you want to play some games?”

“ Sure!” she said.

First we went to the Throw-the-pin-in-the-bottle game. We each got three pins. Everytime I dropped the pin it kept missing! But Riley got all three pins in the bottle! “ Wow Riley! How did you do that?” I said. Riley replied, “ I just aim the pin at the bottle and the pin goes in”.

Next we went to a game where you throw a wet sponge at a cup drawn on a big piece of plastic. This time I won . “ Yay!” I said. “Now we’re equal”, Riley said.
“ Yup”

Then we went to the Moon Jump. We climbed the ladder and started jumping. On my tenth jump, I started going up in the sky.

Chapter 3

The Adventure has started!

“ Oh my god!” I said. “What is going on?!”
I was very scared. I closed my eyes so I won’t feel where I was going. After a few minutes I felt bright light around me. I opened my eyes and I was blinded by the light. I adjusted to the light and I saw outer space. “ This place is so cool!” I exclaimed.

I glided through space and I looked at each and everything. First I went to the planets. I looked at the sun and saw how big it was. I also saw flames shooting out of the sun because it was so hot. Did you know that the sun’s gravity keeps the planets from flying off into space? It’s like the sun doesn’t let the planets play. Then I looked at the planets. “ Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter,Saturn, Uranus, Neptune” , I said.

Also, did you know that there is another way to memorize all the planets name? It is My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nachos. Then I went to the moon and stood on it. I jumped for a little while and then I above me and looked at the stars. I saw red supergiants, black dwarfs, white dwarfs, nebulas, and red giants. I even saw a shooting star! Did you know that our sun is a star? After I saw all of those cool things I started to head home. “ Now I can pass my science test”, I said

Chapter 4

Home Sweet Home

I was very tired but still excited by playing all the games and learning cool new stuff. I decided to head back home before anyone missed me. During my journey back to earth, I thought and wondered about my adventure and how cool it was. As I was approaching the Earth, I saw the carnival was just about to get over. I looked over for my parents and saw that they were starting to head towards the playground to fetch me. I started descending faster and headed behind the moon-jump so that I can land out of sight.

Just as I was landing my parents reached moon jump and hugged me and asked me if I had fun at the carnival and the playground with my friends.

They had no idea!


As we reached home, I wanted to tell my parents about this fun adventure but I’m sure they won’t believe me. It is after all a fantastic adventure and not everyone gets to go on such a cool adventure. Maybe I will tell them one day...

Implementing nested loops with dynamic step in Python3


The other day, my son asked me about the result of evaluation of program in Java that he had in his AP Computer Science A (APCSA) course. This course is as a part of his high school senior curriculum. The problem was quite simple of nested for loops in the control flow section. The code is as below.

    a = 0;
        for (i = 0; i < 10; i++) {
            for (k = 0; k <= 5; k++) {
                for (z = 1; z <= 16; z = z * 2) {
    print a

The problem

As you can see, the problem is simple enough. I had done this kind of for loop in shell scripting and in C language when I was learning it a long time ago and somehow I thought that this was the same way you run a for loop in Python as well. Of course I know Python quite well, so I thought I would quickly port this code in Python and run it to verify the answer of the problem (My son had gotten it right by the way and through a very simple mechanism, I must add).

The for statement is used to iterate over the elements of a sequence (such as a string, tuple or list) or other iterable object. However, Python doesn't allow the developer to define both the iteration step and halting condition. Instead Python’s for statement iterates over the items of any sequence (a list or a string), in the order that they appear in the sequence.

The syntax for a for loop in Python is very simple and intuitive like so:

    for i in some_list:
        <do something>

Most common use case is to iterate some operation a certain number of times. And the easiest way to do it is to use the range function. In the range function, the structure contains the start point, end point and the step. The step takes an integer as an input and it does not accept an expression as a step. Similarly as Python doesn't allow the developer to define the iteration step in the for loop, it posed a problem for me as I the program above required to have the step in the powers of 2 for each loop.

The research

I tried various combinations and options to change the step size in range function, but as the step is a positional argument and doesn't accept either keyword argument or an expression, the choices were limited to only integers (Range also accepts floats but it for another day). I searched far and wide for a solution but to no avail. Finally I hit on the a possible solution on (where else) Stack Overflow.

The person who asked the question had a similar goal as me. The answer to the question was kind of cryptic, but I was able to figure it out as the answer pointed me in the right direction.

The solution

The solution in the end was embarrassingly simple. Here's the final code for this: There are certain commented statements here which I have left here that I used to debug and understand what was going on.

    # Implement nested for loops in Python  #
    # Programmer: Mukul Dharwadkar          #
    # Date: 24 September 2021               #

    a = 0
    for i in range(10):
        for j in range(6):
            for k in range(1, 17, c):
                while c < 17:
                    # print(f'Index c is {c}')
                    c = c * 2
                    #print(f"Index i is {i}")
                    #print(f"Index j is {j}")
                    a += 1
                #print(f"The value of a when is i, j, k and c is {i}, {j}, {k}, {c} is {a}")
    print(f'The value of a is {a}') 

As you can see, I needed to initialize a new counter c that would then be used as the step size. In the innermost for loop, I needed to create a stop condition as the counter was completely independent of all other variables. The while loop above creates that stop condition. Inside the while loop, I am incrementing the counter by the powers of two.

The actual operation of interest is the value of a which is incremented by one everytime the loop is executed. So essentially, the easy way once you figure out how many times each loop is executing is to multiple all those values (5 times 6 times 10 in this case) and arrive at the final answer of 300.

    The value of a is 300

The Formation of Our Solar System

If I ask you to name and describe the planets in the solar system, what would you say?

You'd probably say that Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars are small and rocky inner planets, and Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are the gas and ice outer giants.

But do you know why these planets are composed and ordered like this?

The order of the planets actually has to do with the formation of our solar system. Our solar system formed around 4.5 billion years ago. But we’re talking about before the sun even existed!


It all started with a large cloud of interstellar gas and dust, called a protostar, like a “primitive star”. The reason it’s a protostar is that it doesn’t have enough energy and fusion reactions to generate heat and light to be a star. Some of the gases in the cloud are hydrogen and helium, which is what our Sun is made of!

So, how does a cloud of, well, stuff, become a radiant star?

The protostar collapses on itself under its own gravity, forming a nebula. As it continues to collapse, its gravity pulls in material from the cloud.

And now we start cooking! The pressure and rising heat generated through the collapses allow nuclear fusion to occur. In a nutshell, during stellar nuclear fusion, hydrogen nuclei fuse together and form helium atoms.

Nuclear fusion releases heat and light, and thus, our Sun was born.

Protoplanetary Disk

Thanks for the FYI, but what does this even have to do with the planets?

I’m getting there.

Welcome to the protoplanetary disk. This is the remaining 1% of the material left from the cloud. That’s right. The Sun is made up of 99% of all of the material in the cloud.

And our planets are going to form from that teeny 1%. I’m not kidding. Seriously.

The nuclear fusion in the nebula caused solar winds around the Sun, scattering the remaining material, creating the disk. The material is mainly metal, rock, light gases, and ice.

Near the sun, obviously, the disk was really hot. Only heat-resistant materials like metal and rock could retain their form in this area. And farther into the disk, it was really cold, where everything froze and became ice.

The area between present-day Mars and Jupiter is called the frost line. Past that, there is a lot of rocks, ice, and other frozen material.

The Great Collisions

So, near the sun, rocky and metallic matter started clumping together, forming the small rocky, inner planets with their metallic cores. These planets were too small to trap any gases, but because of collisions at a certain speed, they became large enough for their gravity to shape them into a sphere.That’s why we get those small, rocky, inner planets at the beginning.

Remember those solar winds?

They blew those gases far away, where it was cold enough for those gases to freeze into ice. And because past that frost line there was so much material, the outer planets grew larger and larger with rocky cores and ices. Eventually their cores were so big that they were able to trap gases such as hydrogen and helium using their gravity, thus becoming gas and ice giants. And that’s why we have our giant gas and ice planets way out in the solar system.

Now you might be wondering: If there was so much material in the disk, why were there only 8 planets in the solar system?

Past Neptune, the disk is too thin and does not allow planets to form. The rest of the material floats around as space junk in the Kuiper belt. And Jupiter is so large that its gravity has a lot of influence in the area around it, gathering material for itself, and other planets could not take their shape, thus creating the asteroid belt.

The rest of the material formed comets, asteroids, moons, meteoroids.

And there you have it! Our very own solar system.

The Perfect Grandmother

“I’m home,” I called, shutting the door of our house. I threw my backpack down on the floor and kicked off my shoes.

“Peter! How nice to see you again!”

I whirled around, and when I saw who had called to me, I almost groaned. Instead of my mother waiting to give me a snack after school, I saw my grandmother. In a wheelchair.

She wheeled over to me and asked, “How are you, Pete? I haven’t seen you in a while!”

“Where’s Mom?” I asked, ignoring her question.

My grandmother smiled brightly at me, her eyes dancing with joy. “She went to the grocery store to pick up some things for dinner,” she said and took my hands. I wanted to pull away, but I didn’t, and she continued. “so right now it’s just you and me, sonny, whether you like it or not.”

Whether I liked it or not. I didn’t like it. I tried to hide my glare by flopping my chocolate-brown hair over my eyes, but I nodded.

After freshening up, I slowly made myself a sandwich, as Mom would have done.

“You think you could make me one, too, Peter?” my grandmother asked. “I’m starving.”

My scowl darkened. I hated the fact that my grandmother was in a wheelchair, but not because I was sad. It was supposed to be the other way around. When I came home, my grandmother should have been in the kitchen, baking cookies for me, and asking me how my day was. I reluctantly made her a sandwich as well, and plopped down on the sofa and turned on the TV to my favorite show, The Office. Literally everyone in school watched it, and if you wanted to be in, you had to do what everyone did. I sat as far away as I could from my grandmother, but she wheeled over anyway, eating her sandwich awkwardly. Her right arm had been fractured badly during a fall when she was young, and the doctors could only do so much to repair it. At least that’s what I assumed. She never really told me. She ate her sandwich messily, and bits of cheese stuck to her face. I turned my face away, disgusted.

“Ha, ha!” my grandmother whooped. “That was funny, wasn’t it Pete? My favorite character is Jim Halpert, who’s yours?”

“Toby Flenderson,” I mumbled. I couldn’t believe I was watching TV with my grandmother, and that she enjoyed it. The reminder of her disability and that she could do nothing but sit down all day took all the fun out of the best show in the world. Where was Mom? Why wasn’t she home yet?

The show wasn’t over yet, and I still wanted to watch, but I still clicked the remote to switch off the TV. I hastily stood up to go to my room, but my grandmother stopped me before I could ignore her.

“Hey! Where are you going? The show wasn’t even over yet!” she croaked. She was still finishing her sandwich, and her face was covered in bits of tomato and cheese. She continued, “Anyway, do you want to go outside for a bit? I need to stretch my legs.” She waved to her paralyzed legs and laughed at her own joke.

“I can’t,” I told her quickly. “I have homework to finish.” Actually, we had taken a test today in class, so we didn’t have homework. I was just looking for an excuse to not be with my grandmother. She would bore me with her life lessons anyway. There was no real way to do anything memorable with a grandmother who couldn’t walk. Plus, I had the guitar to practice for the upcoming Talent Show at school.

“Really? Oh, well, then we could always go later,” she admitted. Just as I was about to close the door to my room, she stopped me again. “Wait, Pete, I want to give you something.”

I raised my eyebrows. What could my disabled grandmother possibly give me?

She wheeled into the next room, my parents’ room, and came back a few minutes later clutching a red and blue scarf, three hand-knit skyscrapers that were about a foot tall, and an embroidered picture of me. She smiled brightly as she handed me the pieces, and patted her wrinkled hand over mine.

“These are for you,” she said. No duh. But I let her continue. “I was in your room --”

“What?! You know not even my parents are allowed in there without my permission --” I raged.

“Pete, I’m your grandmother, I don’t need your permission. Anyway, I saw that you loved action figurines, so I decided I’d make a scene out of yarn for you to play with,” she gestured to the skyscrapers. She pointed to the embroidery. “That is a special gift for you so that you’ll always remember me and my embroidery and how much I love you.”

It took all of my willpower not to roll my eyes and shut the door at that last part.

Suddenly, her hands started shaking as she stroked the scarf, and tears welled in her eyes. Thick beads of water fell and stained the scarf. I stood there, stunned, and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t need to, because a minute later, my grandmother dried her eyes with the back of her hand and took a few deep breaths.
“Sorry, Pete, this is the hardest part,” she gasped. She managed to give me a small smile, but her eyes were still watery and the shine that was usually there in her eyes had dimmed. “This--this is the scarf I gave to your grandfather after we got married. And it’s not just any sc-scarf. You know what he said to me when I gave it to him?” she looked up at me intensely. When I shook my head blandly, she said, “‘Now I’ll be warm from head to toe, and not just from the heat’. Then he grabbed my hands and whispered, ‘from your love. I won’t ever let you down’. Your grandfather used to play the guitar, just like you do, Pete, and he asked me for a scarf to keep him warm so his fingers wouldn’t get cold and stop playing. He would play well into the night, but we never got sleepy. He would play, and I would sing.

“This is the same scarf I gave him. He promised me to keep it forever, but then he had to go and get himself blown up in that car crash,” she said bitterly, but then her face softened. “Those were great memories. And he never complained that I couldn’t walk or run or do anything that couples could do. He believed in memories, and he told me once that if he and I couldn’t go out and spend time, we could make better memories inside. He was an angel, he was. He did everything for me.”

Most people would tear up at this story, but not me. Sure, it was cool that my grandfather used to play the guitar too, but I still think that he was crazy. Why would anyone in their right mind want to marry a crippled woman? I’m not being insensitive, it’s called being practical.

Once I placed the rest of the gifts on my desk, I took the scarf from her trembling hands and wrapped it around my neck. I awkwardly patted her hand and said, “See? It’s really comfy and warm,” I commented vaguely. Any scarf could be comfy and warm.

The shine in her eye returned. My grandmother smiled and said, “I know, Pete. Your grandfather used to say that, too.”

Cool. Like I cared.

“Um, Grandma, I have to do some work.” I slipped behind the door and closed it softly. I let out a long, slow breath, finally free of my grandmother and her ‘emotional’ stories, and unwrapped the scarf and stuffed it at the back of my closet along with the other knitted objects, where I would never have to see it again. We, as in my parents and me, needed to have a serious talk. Grandma just popped in out of the blue, and I had no idea when she was going to go back. I wasn’t expecting much fun with her around and with my parents gone most of the time, so I would have to work something out, some way to avoid her. Maybe go to my friend’s house every day after school and play soccer to practice for the school game, and then either Mom or Dad could pick me up. I wouldn’t have to be with the old woman and bear the stench of old socks coming from her, or the boring stories about my grandfather. It sounded like a brilliant plan, all I had to do now was put it into action.

We had spaghetti for dinner that night. At least Dad was feeding my grandmother this time. She was chattering away between bites about how her day had gone and other stuff. I kept shooting my parents looks that hopefully meant we-need-to-talk-SOON.

“...and Pete and I had such a great time watching The Office together. I love the fact that my grandson has some of my genes!” I heard Grandma say.

“That’s wonderful!” my mom said, genuinely happy. She gave the side-eye, as if to ask, what-are-you-complaining-about?, and continued, “I hope you two can continue grandmother-grandson bonding like this. You should even go outside! It’s wonderful in California this time of the year.”

My grandmother sighed. “What can I tell you, Sarah, this boy’s a busy one. I asked him if he wanted to go to the park, but he said he had too much homework. Kids today! When I was a little girl and I could run and jump and play, I would always play games like hopscotch and jump rope with my friends. Teachers are drowning these poor kids with homework. In my day…”

And there we go again.

I twisted my fork around my spaghetti, not bothering to eat. I stared at my plate, listening to Mom and Dad, who were happy to hear how we spent our time together. A realization crossed my mind. My parents didn’t know that I didn’t like Grandma. They didn’t know that I didn’t want to bond with her. And if I told them...how would they take it? Would they be mad? Confused? Understanding? I don’t know. But I could tell they definitely wouldn’t like it.

Finally, finally, after what seemed like an hour, Grandma said, “I’m stuffed, dears. I would like to go to bed. Are you sure you don’t want me to help with anything?”

Dad got to his feet and picked up Grandma and placed her in the wheelchair. “No, Mom, we’re sure. We don’t want you risking anything in this condition. Just go to bed.”

I watched Dad as he carried her to her bedroom. Once I made sure Grandma was out of earshot, I quickly turned to Mom and dropped my fork on my plate, which still had cold spaghetti. “Mom,” I whispered. "We need to talk. About Grandma.”

She raised an eyebrow but smirked amusingly. “Okaaaaay. Do you want your father in this conversation?”

I bit my lip. Dad would probably be affected the most, but I still needed him to know. I looked over my shoulder and saw that Dad was closing the door to Grandma’s room. I gave Mom a quick nod before turning back around and waiting until Dad sat back down at the table.

“Mom was out like a light,” he whistled. “Anyway, I still have some work to do.” He took Mom’s plate, then reached for mine, then stopped when he saw it was half full. “You still eating?” he asked.

I continued to stare at my dad. He looked at Mom, who was also staring at him.

“What? Why are you both staring at me like that?” he asked, his hand still hovering next to my plate.
Mom glanced at me before saying, “Peter, um, has something to say. About your mother. I don’t know what,” she hastily added after Dad’s eyebrows shot up too.

He crossed his arms and leaned back against his chair, staring at me. “Spill,” he said.
I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. I just couldn’t get myself to tell Dad that I didn’t like Grandma. I knew it would be hard for him. I sucked in a breath and tried again. Still nothing.

“Well?” Dad said. He looked at mom again, who shrugged her shoulders.

I opened my mouth, and I decided to come right out with it. “I don’t want to be with Grandma. I wish she would go back to the countryside, where she came from.”


More silence.

More, agonizing silence.

I looked nervously at both of them, hoping one of them would say something. Mom was speechless. Dad’s face was blank.

A few minutes later, Dad let out a long breath. “Well,” he began. “This is...interesting.”
More silence.

“Why?” The question came from Mom.

I gulped. “Because...because...because she’s crippled!”

“Don’t-” Dad started to yell, but Mom held up a hand to stop him. “Let him speak,” she said.
There was an angry and hurt look in Dad’s eyes. I couldn’t decide which was more painful to see. But I went on.

“We can’t do anything together, grandmas are supposed to do...I don’t know, what grandmas do, like bake cookies, pick me up from school, tell me stories, and you know…” I said. “But instead I’m the one making food, I’m the one who’s supposed to take Grandma on walks. It doesn’t work that way!”

Dad closed his eyes and rubbed his face with his hand. “Do you know why Grandma is crippled?” he asked without looking at me. He said the last word like it was something disgusting.

I shook my head, then realized he couldn’t see, so I said, “Not really. Didn’t an accident happen when she was young?”

He looked up at me, and I saw his eyes were tired and his face looked pained as if he didn’t want to relive the memory. He took in a deep breath and exhaled the longest sigh in the history of sighs. His sigh was the only sound in the house. Even the clock’s ticking in our living room had gone silent.

“That’s...not what happened,” he said quietly. “It happened just before you were born, even when your grandfather was alive. Believe it or not, Peter, your grandmother was once a tough woman. Her legs weren’t strong even then because she was affected by polio, and she could barely walk for a few minutes or stand for over ten minutes. But she was always happy. She fought through her difficulties and tried her best to do everything she could to make us feel comfortable after I married your mother. Everyone loved her. Her presence alone brought joy into a room. And then…” Dad paused for a moment and squeezed his eyes shut. I glanced at Mom, and even she looked like she was fighting back tears.

“And then came the day when you were going to be born,” he continued, collecting himself. “It was time to go to the hospital, and your mother was screaming for help. Mom and Dad rushed her to the hospital, while I was still asleep. They came back to get me and on the way...the accident changed everything.”

“Accident?” I asked, astonished.

Dad said no more, so Mom pitched in.

“Yes, honey, an accident. Both Grandma and Grandpa had several injuries, and at their age, it was very difficult for them to survive. And Grandpa didn’t,” Mom finished.

My mouth fell open. That’s why I never knew my grandfather. And why Grandma can’t walk at all.
“An accident,” I mouthed.

“It was the happiest and saddest day of our lives,” Mom continued. “You were born, and Grandpa died.”

“Why does Grandma seem so happy all the time, if she lost Grandpa?” I asked.

“Everyone has to go at some point, honey,” Mom said, glancing briefly at Dad. “You can’t keep clinging on to a person forever. And as much it hurts to remember them, that’s the best we can do. Remember Grandpa and all the happy moments we shared with him. And your grandmother knows that, probably.”

Something was starting to make sense to me, but I couldn’t quite understand it. It was like I knew something had changed. It was hazy and not quite formed, but it was there.

“Do you understand now?” my dad asked, collecting himself together. “I hope from now on, you’ll be more compassionate.” He glared at me so intensely, I had to look away.

“I have an idea,” Mom piped up. “Why don’t you take Grandma to the park tomorrow, like she wanted?”

Instinctively, I opened my mouth to refuse, but stopped before I could say no. I paused for a moment before slowly nodding my head yes.

Mom smiled brightly, and Dad exhaled a slow, long breath.

“Where do you want to go, Grandma?” I asked as I pushed her on her wheelchair through the large field in the park.

“Anywhere you want, sonny. This place is beautiful! Pink, blue, purple flowers, the sun is shining, birds are singing --”

“Hey! Peter!”

I looked in the direction of the voice, and saw my friend Marc running towards me. He moved to California from France two years ago and I met him in school. He’s a pretty funny guy, and a little eccentric, so to speak. He walks around wearing a long-sleeved collar shirt and a vest and wears a stereotypical French beret with his blond hair flopping out on the side. And he speaks in French sometimes, forgetting that literally no one around him understands what he’s saying.

“Hey, man!” We high-fived each other like we were arm wrestling.

He grinned at me, and then noticed my grandma. “Your grandmère?”

“Yeah,” I said awkwardly. I wasn’t used to being seen with my grandma. I would die of embarrassment at school if my friends saw me with her. Before.

“Salut, Madame,” he said politely in his French accent.

“Ooooh, a Frenchie! Bonjour!” she replied in her terrible American accent.

Marc laughed out loud and winked at her. “Nice one!” he complimented. He didn’t say anything about her being in a wheelchair.

I grinned too. I guess Grandma could be funny sometimes, too.
“Whatcha doin’?” I asked.

Marc looked at me quizzically. “What did you say? That definitely wasn’t French or English, ami.”

I rolled my eyes and sighed. Sometimes Marc didn’t understand American slang. “I said, what are you doing?”

“Ohhh, I see. Nothing, I’m just here with my grandpère,” he shrugged nonchalantly, but his smile faded as he looked back toward where his grandpa was sitting.

I noticed the sudden shift in his mood, so I asked, “Are you okay?”

He turned his attention back to me and smiled half-heartedly. “Yeah. Just not him. My grandpère. He has Parkinson’s disease and dementia.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“He has difficulty moving, speaking, and blinking, and he’s very rigid and off-balance. He can’t keep track of time and he gets lost easily, even in our house! We have to take care of him, but he’s starting to forget his own grandson, too,” he replied quietly, speaking more to himself than me. “Mais il a voulu être dehors, alors... nous sommes venus au parc.”

For a while no one said anything. Marc just kept staring sadly at his grandfather, while I stared at Grandma, and she stared at Marc.

As I watched Grandma, that feeling came back to me, the one I couldn’t understand before. Except this time, it was a little clearer. Marc’s grandfather had it worse than Grandma. At least it was only her legs that were affected. It was amazing that despite her situation, she still had the same cheerful spirit and she never missed the chance to laugh out loud, all while keeping her memories of Grandpa. And then there was Marc’s grandfather, who couldn’t even remember his grandson. And yet, Marc was trying to make the most of the situation by bringing him outside. He was trying to make and remember happy memories with his grandfather, even if his grandpa wouldn’t remember anything.

It was truly an enlightening thought.

I gently placed a hand on Marc’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, dude. Seriously. I didn’t know he had it that bad. If there’s anything you want me to do, just ask.”

Marc turned around and smiled gently. “Merci, mon ami.” He held his hands up in the air. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make this trip depressing for you.”

“Oh, it’s fine, sonny, that’s what we’re here for,” Grandma pitched in. “Would you like to come with us for a short walk?”

“No, it’s fine, Madame, I must stay with my grandpère.”

“I see. Merci beaucoup!” Grandma said in her American accent again.

Marc looked at Grandma, confused, but then laughed. He walked away from us and we waved as he left.

“Poor kid,” Grandma sighed. “Anyway, it’s really hot, the sun is scorching! You wanna go back home?”

I thought for a moment, then grinned. “I have a better idea,” I said.

I swerved the wheelchair back onto the sidewalk and ran as I pushed her. I ran faster and faster, and the wheelchair rolled with such speed that Grandma whooped out in shock and glee.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa there, sonny! What’s with the rollercoaster?!” she cried.

I just laughed and kept running and pushing. The road zig-zagged and there were times when Grandma almost fell off the wheelchair because we were going so fast. But neither of us cared. We laughed hard in joy.
When we reached the end of the park, I stopped suddenly and tilted Grandma in her wheelchair backward.

“I bet you could do a wheelie with this thing!” I snickered, tilting it higher up until the wheelchair was almost parallel to the ground.

“Ahhh, stop, stop!” Grandma screamed, but she laughed at the same time.

I gently set the wheelchair back down and kneeled next to Grandma. We were both laughing so hard, tears were running from our eyes. It was pure joy from that short but exciting ride in the park. Believe it or not, I had fun with my grandmother!

When we were able to control ourselves, Grandma placed a hand on my head and asked, “Well, that was fun, Pete. Where to next?”

I had more plans up my sleeve. “Well, I was thinking of this ice cream shop that’s about a block away. We should go there. They have, like, the best ice cream ever.”

“I’m all for it. Oooh, do they have birthday cake flavored ice cream? That’s the best one. I also like mint chocolate chip, and…”

All the way to the ice cream store, we debated on which flavors were the best. It was a friendly argument. I found out that we both love birthday cake ice cream, but Grandma hated strawberry, and I loved it. She even told me about a toffee flavored ice cream, and yogurt parfait one. We talked about how many scoops we took at a time. When she was young, Grandma said, she had taken five scoops of five different flavors at once. She teased me about being unadventurous when I told her about my three-scoop record. We had so much fun we didn’t realize when we actually reached the ice cream shop.

“Five scoops of chocolate, coffee, rocky road, birthday cake, and orange pineapple ice cream for my grandmother, please. And two scoops of birthday cake for me,” I told the ice cream vendor.

He raised his eyebrows a mile high in disbelief. “Five for grandma, and two for you? Oookay, coming right up.”

Grandma and I grinned at each other. “You know, sonny,” she said to the vendor. “It’s no biggie to have five scoops. You think just because I’m old I can’t eat that much? Well, you’re wrong, wrong, wrong, sonny!”
The vendor said nothing, but chuckled to himself, and I high-fived Grandma.

As we sat down to lick our treats, Grandma said, “These days people underestimate old people. They think all we can do is sit around watching TV and play bingo at the club with the other oldies like us. Sure, I might be in a wheelchair, but I still like to have fun!” she said as she licked her ice cream. Grandma looked directly at me when she said that last part. Her eyes were sad, but her mouth was curved up in a smile. She quickly looked away, though, and said nothing after.

I cleared my throat, breaking the long silence that followed. “Well, if you really think so, you think you’ll be up for another ride?” I grinned mischievously.

Grandma sighed and patted her stomach. “Hmmm, maybe!” I helped her back into the wheelchair as she finished her ice cream. She gripped the armrests tightly and looked up at me. “Just go a little slow.”

I looked back and smiled again. “Slow is not in my vocabulary.”

And off we went, laughing all the way back home.

For the next few days, Grandma and I followed a schedule: I would come from school, finish my homework in the next hour, and then take Grandma to the park. Sometimes I would even bring my guitar and play for Grandma under a tree that we had picked out as our spot.

I couldn’t wait to do it again. Seriously! I realized how much I enjoyed Grandma's company and wanted to play more games, tell more stories, and talk more about her life. I never wanted these moments to end.
One day I planned to go to the annual spring carnival, and instead of going with my parents, I decided to take Grandma instead. That day, I ran home from school and pushed open the door, yelling, “GRANDMA! YOU READY? WE HAVE TO LEAVE FOR THE CARNIVAL NOW!”

I shrugged off my backpack and didn’t bother to take off my shoes as I sat down on the couch. I decided to watch TV while I waited for Grandma to come. It did take her a while in the bathroom. I clicked on the TV and watched The Office to pass the time. I figured I had a little time before we could leave.

“GRANDMA, COME ON!” I yelled again just to make sure she heard me come home.

I finished an entire episode of the show, and still Grandma hadn’t come. I was starting to get frustrated. Sure, it might take some time in the bathroom, but not a whole hour!

“GRANDMA!” I yelled louder.

Silence. Where was she? What was Grandma doing?

Still no reply.

I hurriedly stood up, ran past the kitchen, narrowly missing the corner of the dining table, and checked all of the bedrooms, but she wasn’t in any of them. All of the bathrooms were vacant as well. Something was very wrong.

I ran back toward the living room and stopped short when I found her wheelchair propped up against one of the kitchen counters. Empty.

Afraid of what I would find, I tiptoed into the kitchen and almost slipped. I grabbed the edge of the counter to regain balance, and when my eyes finally focused again, I almost slipped again.

There she was.

Grandma was lying on the kitchen floor.


I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. I was frozen, and I didn’t know what to do. I kneeled down beside Grandma and checked for a pulse on her wrist. I couldn’t feel one. I quickly moved my fingers across her wrist and...there was a faint beat. I scrambled away from Grandma, whispering, “It will be okay, she’ll be fine,” the whole time. I searched the whole house for a phone, slipping on the hardwood floor the whole time, then realized I had one myself in my bag. I ripped open my bag, and dumped everything out on the floor. I rummaged through the sea of papers, notebooks, loose pencils, erasers, sticky notes, and folders until I found my phone. I looked back at Grandma, hoping she was still alive.

Punching in the numbers 911, I breathed heavily. I waited.

“911, what’s the emergency?”

“My grandma...she...just come!”

“What’s the emergency, dear?”

“She fell! Please, please come to 3522 Florentine Place, please, we need help! PLEASE!”

“Alright, calm down, help is on the way, dear.”

How could she be so calm?

“Please come, please!” But the line was already dead by then.

I ran a hand through my hair, which was drenched in sweat. I sat on the mess of school supplies, dumbfounded. I prayed to the gods that Grandma would be okay. I sat there with my head between my knees for fifteen minutes before I realized I should have called Mom and Dad.

“Hey, sweetie, what’s up?” Mom said when I called her. “Enjoying the carnival? What have you won so far?”


“Excuse me, young man--” she started to yell.


Silence. “What?” Mom gasped.

“She fell I don’t know how but please come we need to go to a hospital please please come now, now, now, NOW!”

“Okay, honey, I’m on my way, and I’ll bring Dad too. Hang tight, sweetie, we’ll be right there,” she said.

I put down the phone and moved to Grandma’s side. I held her hand tightly, making sure every so often that there was a pulse. She looked so peaceful, as if she was in a deep sleep, as if she was…

I shoved that thought away immediately. “You’ll be fine, Grandma.”

I sniffed, trying to hold back tears. I suddenly smelled something burning, and it was a strong scent. I looked around in bewilderment trying to see where the smell was coming from. My gaze fell on the oven next to Grandma, and it was on, running for half and hour, according to the timer. I carefully stepped over Grandma and peeked inside. A huge cloud of smoke blew in my face, and I drew back, coughing loudly. When the smoke cleared, I leaned back in and saw chocolate chip cookies, burnt to the point where they looked like charcoal. Why were there cookies in the oven? Who made them?

There was a loud bang on the door, and I whipped my head around so quickly that I almost cracked it. My fear returned as my attention turned back to Grandma’s precarious condition. I opened the door as the paramedics were in mid-knock.

“Over there,” I squeaked, pointing to the kitchen.

The paramedics barged in, two of them carrying a stretcher, two of them rushing to Grandma’s side and carrying her. The fifth one stayed by my side and wrapped a shock blanket around me. I felt a little childish, standing there, a ten-year-old, shaking and wrapped in a blanket. I tried to insist I was fine, but my traumatized face said otherwise. The woman spoke softly to me, and led me out of the house, where I bumped into Mom. The woman smiled at Mom and left me with my parents. Both Mom and Dad were in tears, and Mom strangled me in a hug. We stood back, out of the paramedics way as they gingerly carried Grandma out. We watched as they put Grandma in and drove away, not knowing whether we’d see her smiling face ever again.

The next few hours passed by slowly, anxiously waiting for the doctor’s update. Dad sat with his face in his hands the whole time, and I silently sat, pale-faced. Mom was torn between rubbing Dad’s back and hugging me from time to time.

Three hours later, the doctor came by. Dad immediately stood up and peppered him with questions. The doctor kindly put his hands on Dad’s shoulders and quietly said, “Your mother is fine. It looks like she tried to stand up, but her legs gave way, causing her to fall. She hit her head and has a minor concussion, but other than that, she is okay. Make sure she gets as much rest as possible, not too much activity. Fresh air is good from time to time. If you want, you may visit her. Room 348.” He smiled at us and continued on his way.
Dad started walking quickly toward the room, and Mom held my hand as we caught up. My parents immediately rushed to either side of Grandma’s bed where she was resting, but I lingered in the doorway. All of sudden, tears streamed down my eyes and let out a sob. I turned away from Grandma lying in bed.

Mom turned around and her face sympathetically relaxed. “Oh, sweetie,” she said as she came over to me. She held me tight in a hug and stroked my hair.

“I don’t want Grandma to die!” I burst out.

“Oh, Peter, she’s not going to die--”

“It’s all my fault! I should have checked on her right after school! I shouldn’t have treated her the way I did! I should have done more with her! And now she’s gone!” I repented.

“No, honey, no, Grandma’s going to be absolutely fine,” Mom said as she pulled away and looked at me directly. She wiped away my tears from my face. I could see tears forming in her own eyes. “You will get to spend more time with her, I-I promise. And you know what?” She paused and continued only when I nodded. “It doesn’t matter what you should or shouldn’t have done in the past. What matters is what you do now, when Grandma feels better.” She smiled.

I turned away from Mom and shuffled over to Grandma’s side. I took her hand in mine. I thought about how I kept avoiding Grandma before. I thought about our time in the park. I thought about how we were going to go to the carnival. I thought of Dad’s hurt face when I told him my true feelings. I thought about how I should have been there with Grandma from the start. All of those thoughts, the guilt, the repentance built up inside of me and I hid my face in my hands, preventing tears from falling. One sneaky drop fell on Grandma’s hand, and I felt her hand flinch. I looked up. Grandma stirred, and managed to give me a weak smile. She reached for my cheek and I leaned forward, letting her stroke it.

“Don’t cry,” she whispered. “Why are you crying, sonny?”

“Why? Why did you get out of your wheelchair? You can’t walk!” I countered.

Grandma exhaled and turned her face away from me. “I heard you.”

Even Dad looked up at Grandma. I stared quizzically. “What did you hear me say?”

“At the spaghetti dinner. How you wanted me to do things normal grandmothers did.”

All the color drained from my face. “But-But you were asleep!”

“Sonny, look. I’ve known all along how you’ve felt about me.” She coughed loudly for an entire minute before continuing. “I know that you don’t like me because I couldn’t bake cookies, tell stories, or take you on walks like the perfect grandma. That’s why I tried baking cookies for you. But I want you to know that--”

“No, Grandma. You’re the perfect grandma. I couldn’t ask for a better grandma.” I wiped away remaining tears and hugged her.

She stroked my hair as I lay still and closed my eyes. “You’re the best grandson I could ever have,” she said softly in my ear. “And I’ll always be happy with you, your mother, and your father, even without your grandfather. You know why?”

I slowly shook my head, but I knew why.

“I will remember all of the good times we spent together. Oh, those days with your grandfather, such amazing times. They make me smile just by remembering them. And that’s exactly what we should do, Peter. We should make good memories while we have the chance so we have something to remember when that person is gone. You’ll end up regretting it later, sonny.”

I pulled away and looked at Grandma and smiled. “I think I get what you’re trying to tell me, Grandma.”

“I’m glad to hear that, sonny.” Grandma sounded tired, and she went back to sleep. Or so I thought.

Dad jerked up and grabbed the edge of the bed. “Yes, Mom? What do you need? Are you okay?”

Grandma tried to laugh, but it ended up turning into a cough. After a minute, she croaked, “Why are you getting so worked up? Don’t worry, all I need is that book over there.” She coughed again and moaned in pain.

Dad glared at Grandma, as if to say, Obviously not to worry, HACKING IS NORMAL.

Still, he trudged over to the desk where Grandma was pointing and returned with a classic, brown leather notebook, placing it in Grandma’s hand. She relayed it over to me, sandwiching the book between our hands.

“I want you to keep this, Pete,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“To record every memory in your life, with me, with your friends, with your family, when you grow up, everything. Memories are the only things that stay with you forever, support you every step of the way, and remind you of the good in this world. Those are the real souvenirs in life, hanging proudly in your mind, something to be shared and spread. These souvenirs will make you smile, reminding you of the great things in life. Start collecting those souvenirs today,” she gestured to the notebook.

“I will.” I caressed the smooth leather, breathed in the smell of the pages, and imagined the ink of the pens sinking into the paper, immortalizing the people and places I loved. “Thank you. I love you, Grandma.”

“I love you, too, sonny.” And she drifted off into a deep, deep sleep.

❋ ❋ ❋

Dear Diary,
It’s been exactly 15 years since that day in the hospital, when Grandma gave me this diary. And I’m still writing! Not only for myself, but others, too. That’s right. You guessed it. I’m an author now. I write stories that other people can remember, something they will store in their memory. After a long time, I’ve finally come to realize that memories, the good ones, are what spread the most joy, to so many people. And I didn’t want to keep all these memories to myself. There’s magic in memories, and what good would those memories be if I didn’t share them? So, I just finished a story called The Perfect Grandmother. It’s about that time 15 years ago when Grandma came over. And guess what? My readers absolutely LOVED it. An unforgettable journey with my perfect Grandma.
To celebrate another success, I went out with Angela and our two kids, Izzy and Luc. Boy, was it crazy today! When we went to the beach, Izzy snuck up on Luc and pushed him into the sea. He got so mad, he pushed Izzy in too. They put wet sand in each other’s hair. They swallowed salt water. And then both were laughing like crazy. The nuttiest pair of siblings I have ever seen. We had to stop at home to get them cleaned up, and then at the restaurant, as Izzy was drinking her soda, Luc tipped her glass too far so it spilled all over her shirt! Angela and I reprimanded Luc and Izzy, but if Grandma had been there, I’m sure she would have laughed along. “This is what is called creating new memories to share later on in life,” she would have said.
Both were grounded when we came back home, but I could hear them giggling in their rooms. Crazy.
Next week I have to deliver a speech about my work so far, and I am excited to go! It would be a pleasure to inspire new authors, or memory-creators, as I call it now. I’m sure when I look back at all the stories I’ve written, I’ll smile as I remember the great times with Grandma and my other characters as well, all immortal through the power of memory. When I look back at these stories I’ve collected in my diary, I’ll laugh with sheer joy and nostalgia as I remember what fun I had with my family, and the not-so-good times as well. I’ll especially make fun of the crazy things my kids did, but for now, they’re grounded until next year.

To more memories!