The Big Root Beer Float in the Sky

Delta Winds cover 2003Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


The Big Root Beer Float in the Sky

Becky Weeden

Walking down the all-white hall, holding my mother's hand, I smelled medicine, plastic containers, and bleach. I hated the smell of hospitals. A few people, mostly nurses and doctors, passed us. Was that my grandpa's doctor? Was that his nurse? Near the end of the long hall, my mom guided me into a room on the right side. As I looked up, I stopped in my tracks. I couldn't believe what I saw. Grandpa was lying there, on the hospital bed, with tubes coming out from everywhere. Each tube was attached to a different bag of fluid, on a different pole. The poles surrounded him.

Grandpa's face was sunken, pale, and a little bruised. He had lost weight. Already a thin man, he looked ghostly, like he was just barely there. My eyes started to sting. I didn't know it was this serious, but just then, when I saw him for myself, I knew it wasn't good. Grandma was sitting on his right side, holding his hand. She had been crying. Her eyes were puffy, and a pile of used Kleenex was on the nightstand.

He stirred, and then opened his eyes a tiny bit. He opened his eyes wider.

"My glasses, Beulah."

He knew we were there. Grandma adjusted the wide-framed glasses onto his head. Still, I stood in the same spot. He turned his head to the right, and looked in my eyes. I gripped my mom's hand tighter. I heard her whimper, fighting to hold back tears. Grandpa smiled meekly, and motioned for me to come to him.

"It's okay." Mom gently pushed me towards him. Slowly at first, but then at a run, I crossed the room and grabbed his left hand. His large hand was so light, even my small fingers seemed too much pressure to put on it. He had turned his head to face me.

"Are you going to be okay? I'll make you a root beer float, to feel better," I whispered.

"Everything's going to be okay. And I'll take a rain check on that float."

Even standing a foot away, I could barely hear him.

"Grandma, can I get you something. . . ?" Mom started to talk so that she wouldn't start to cry. She blinked quickly, blew her nose on a tissue from her purse.

I said nothing for a while. I sat there by my grandpa's side, gently stroking his hand (carefully avoiding the needles that were taped under his skin), and silently praying. Please, God, make him better. I'll be a good girl. I'll give you my favorite purple blanket, and my favorite stuffed puppy dog, Daniel. Please just make him be okay. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Grandpa's breathing had slowed even more. Mom had stepped outside, into the hall. She was talking to a tall, older man with a white coat. This must be the doctor; he'll make Grandpa feel better. But he looked so sad. He put his hand on my mom's shoulder.

"The cancer has spread to his brain; there's nothing else we can do."

Cancer? What was cancer? I didn't understand. Mom came back in the room, crying ever so slightly, and dabbing her nose with another tissue. She looked up at me, and the look in her eyes told me that cancer was a death sentence. I squeezed my eyes shut, and suddenly reopened them. That's all right, I prayed. I had already made a deal with God. Nothing could happen now. The doctor was wrong. Why couldn't Mom see that?

"I need you to go wait outside, Becca."

"Okay. I love you, Grandpa, and don't worry." I jumped up on the bed and hugged him tightly. A good hug would help him. I hopped down, and walked out of the room. Everything was going to be all right; I knew that now. Just wait, he'll want that root beer float in no time.

"Oh, Grandpa," Mom whined, and then she began to sob -- a heartbreaking, body-jerking type of sob, and it echoed in the near-empty hall. I was confused. Grandpa was going to be fine. Why was she crying so hard? I peeked in the room. Mom had moved to where I had just been, sitting on his left side. She was holding his hand in between her own, next to her face. The tears that had covered her face made it shine in the light. She was shaking from head to toe. Grandma was standing, still on Grandpa's right, stroking his matted hair. A red light had begun to flash on the machine next to his bed. Mom had seen it too. She started crying so hard that I couldn't even hear her anymore.

"No, no, please no," she blubbered. Grandpa wasn't moving. His chest was still. He was gone. I started to shake. Tears of disbelief poured out of my eyes, down my cheeks and onto my sweater. This can't happen. I made a deal! Weren't my blanket and my puppy dog good enough? They were not.

Grandpa was not going to have even one last root beer float; he was not going to wake up; he was not coming back.

God's answer to prayers is not always yes.