Jay Warner, 2nd Place Runner-up in this year’s Write a Dear Reader Contest, wrote a bittersweet, yet beautiful story that consumed and touched my heart. What a great guy, he was thrilled when I told him he was one of the winners. Jay says he spends a lot of time writing, but the problem is he rarely submits anything.
“Why is that?” I asked.
“Because I tend not to finish a piece.” Jay said, ‘I like to edit and re-edit, and don’t always get back to submitting my work.”
I fully understand, Jay, it can be a writer’s curse. I certainly am happy that you decided to submit your work this time though, it was a pleasure to read your story.
Congratulations Jay! Thank you so much for entering this year’s writing contest.
Thanks for reading with me. It’s so good to read with friends.
by Jay Warner
2nd Place Runner Up, 2015 Write a Dear Reader Contest
My sister’s fingers are veined and bony. She can no longer hold the phone receiver in her hand and it slips through her curled grip as though greased with butter. She apologizes and tries to cover her mouth with her other hand, hiding the lips and tongue that are also out of control. From her wheelchair it is a long reach down to pick up the phone, so I bend over and get it for her. It hurts my heart.
My younger sister used to run marathons, climb mountains, compete on a diving team. She used to drive up to the resort on weekends and strap on her skis. No fear! Skiing down hills fast was a thrill she looked forward to. Now I can barely stand to see the person she is—and remember the person she was. In her dark room, surrounded by little cups of liquid and little bottles of pills, a tiny television screen flickering with old movies, reruns of sitcoms, Sunday night specials…. This is her world now. She’s too young to be trapped in a shell of a body that has no more use for itself. A calcifying straightjacket encasing a brain that still yearns, feels, thinks, remembers. I miss her so.
The phone seems too heavy so I put it on the little stand in front of her chair and she looks up and says, “thank you.” How do you make small talk? How do you tell her you’re not brave enough to live the journey she’s living? Not brave enough or strong enough to find any kind of hope in that kind of existence? It’s a cruel disease that put her there, and a cruel disease that will keep her there the rest of her days. And yet she has hopes and dreams, and looks forward to each day as though things would get better. It’s something I don’t understand.
I hug her thin shoulders, skin over bone, no layer of fat in between. She takes a sip of her cocoa, now cold and congealed in the bottom of the mug. “Do you want a fresh cup of cocoa?” I ask, but she says, “no, I want to finish this first. Then maybe…” I don’t know what else to say. Nowhere to sit in the room crowded with paper and clothing and plastic-wrapped spoons. Awkward I stand in the doorway and having nothing else to say and feeling a bit sad, I turn to go. “Consider yourself hugged,” my sister says cheerfully. She thinks of me, I know she does. And even though she has no recollection of what life outside her room is like, she worries about me. Worries about my life. I vow to visit more, take her out, spend more time, bring more gifts. But I know I won’t. Time stands still in this room, in this chair, in this body. I leave, grateful for sunshine.