If Not Now, When?

moving-day

The other night I was home as usual–I know, it must be hard to believe I’m not out every night at the club—and I had yet another revelation.

It’s time for me to leave my grandparents house.

In order for me to fully begin the process of following my dream of moving to New York and becoming a writer, I need to be independent. I need to break the physical tethers tying me home so I can be free to make my own decisions.

It may seem silly to move all my things to New Paltz only to move them all the way down into the city in only a few short months, but I know that this is the right thing to do. By moving all my things upstate, I won’t have to make an interim stop at my grandparents in the winter. This will not only save time, but will keep me from falling into the same slump I fell into last winter and this summer.

When I am at school I am constantly being stimulated and inspired simply by virtue of being in an academic setting (even if it’s not perfect). I have a much clearer focus of what I want to do and how I’m going to get it done. I am completely independent, cleaning and doing my own grocery shopping and cooking (even if it is only vegetables and veggie burgers most nights).

But when I return home, I feel as though all the progress I’ve made during the semester is lost. I go back to relying on my grandparents more than I’d like to. I have to tell them where I’m going, why, and when I’ll be back. Every time I sit down to do work, my little sister knocks on the door. And most of all, it’s extremely hard to feel inspired here when everyone in my family has been living the same way for longer than I’ve been alive—and sometimes not in the healthiest ways.

By moving my things upstate now, I will begin to feel the freedom that I crave. I will make decisions for myself without worrying about what my family will or will not approve of. I will be free from criticism (that my grandfather thinks is helpful, which sometimes just hurts). I will be the head of my household. The decision maker of my life. The captain of my ship, if you will.

I always imagined this sort of independence when I was younger. Even before my dad became sick, I dreamed of living on my own at a young age and providing for myself. I wanted that sense of independence over my own life. And my dad never disagreed.

When he died though, my fierce sense of independence dulled. But now that I’ve healed and refocused my energy, I look forward to the opportunity to truly be on my own.

My grandparents have done so much for me growing up and I am truly grateful to them. But now it is time for me to live my own life. “Carve my own path,” like my grandpa just said the other day.

And if they truly love me, they will be happy with my decision. Because they know this is what will help me find fulfillment.

And if I’m not mistaken, this is what all parents’–or in this case, grandparents–want for their children. For them to be strong, determined, and independent. It means they’ve done their job right. And for me, they have.

How I Met My Wife: Walter Whitmore

Guys, I am SO sorry I didn’t post yesterday. You know I rarely skip a day without a post telling why but yesterday turned into a bit of a nightmare with a family emergency. But don’t worry, everything is okay now. So here’s the video I was going to post. Today’s post will be up in a few minutes as well! 

Last Thursday I posted a video of my grandmother telling me about how she met her husband, my grandfather. (As seen here:  https://abbeygallagher.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/how-i-met-my-husband/)  This week I decided to get my grandfather to tell his side of the story. Enjoy!

How I Met My Husband

Hey guys! I am SO sorry I didn’t post yesterday. This week has been very hectic for me. I started working at my old summer job and also began volunteering at a children’s hospital. I was completely burnt out Tuesday night and yesterday. But never fear, today’s post is something I hope will make up for it! 

A few weeks ago I asked my readers’ what story you would like to be told. I got some great ideas (and please, feel free to keep sharing your ideas with me in the comment box below) and decided that the first story I would record and share with all of you is one of my grandmother telling the story of how she met her husband, my grandfather. I hope that you enjoy!

The Month of Maying

Last Wednesday, after teaching my violin lesson, I happily returned home and found one of my neighbors parked in my driveway. It was one of my grandpa’s best friends, May, and her son Marty. I hadn’t seen them since the winter at a volunteer party at church. May had her white hair set in ringlets that night. She was the belle of the ball.

I waved hello to Marty, his smile spread wide across his face, and leaned in the passenger side window to give May a kiss on the cheek. She was pleasantly surprised that I played the violin. In her lyrical Irish accent, she asked if I would come to her house one day over the summer with my grandma and sister for dinner. And of course, I agreed.

As I walked back into my house, I heard May’s voice. “She’s such a sweet girl…” I couldn’t help but smile.

*

Monday morning, I sat in my Jeep before heading home from Nina’s after getting my wisdom tooth pulled below the dark sky threatening rain. I pulled my cell phone out.

“Hello,” my grandpa answered. His voice sounded deeper than usual.

“Hey Grandpa, I’m just calling to—“

“Hold on.” Click. He switched over to the other line to finish a call with someone else. He always does this. I couldn’t help but feel a little frustrated. I only had to say “–I’m coming home now.” Nevertheless, I listened to the silence and waited for his voice to sound in my ear.

“Yea, hi.” I heard him shifting in his seat. I could picture him sitting at the wooden kitchen table, in a plaid button up t-shirt, his FDNY mug filled with coffee, still deciding on what to have for breakfast.

“I was just calling to let you know that I’m coming home now. That’s all.”

“Oh, okay…well, drive safe okay?”

“I will.”

He hesitated.

“Because we had a big tragedy here today…” My heart dropped. The world stopped. All that existed was my grandpa’s breath on the other line and the water that had begun streaming down the windshield.

My mind raced. Someone had died. But it couldn’t have been anyone in our family. He would’ve told me immediately. Or maybe he would have waited until I got home? My thoughts raced to my grandma who had been sick with a cold the last few days. What would I do without her?

“My friend May Loftus is dead.”

What? I just spoke to her a few days ago. I can still hear her voice in my head. “She’s such a sweet girl.”

“Oh my gosh…Grandpa, I’m so sorry. What happened?”

“Her and Marty got into a car accident. We just found out this morning…” his voice trailed to a whisper and I could see his lip quivering, fighting to maintain composure, his blue eyes squinting against the tears that would be pooling in his eyes. “Here…talk to Grandma.” His voice cracked.

“Hi Abigail.” Her voice calm and steady as usual, if only a little scratchy from her cold.

“Grandma, what happened?”

Shocked, I hung up the phone promising to drive especially careful in the downpour. I sat in silence while I drove—something I never do—and let my mind wander.

I knew that this was not my loss and I shouldn’t let it consume me the way the death of my father had. But I couldn’t help but feel like the world was once again reminding me how quickly things can change. Literally, here today—gone tomorrow. And so easily. What are the odds that it was our neighbor driving at that exact moment? What if they had left five minutes later?

I couldn’t help but contemplate my own mortality as well. Will I die suddenly without feeling satisfied with my life? This is a fear I battle all too frequently. I’m not sure if other people my age think about this. For me, I think it’s the result of having been exposed to such a close loss so early in my life. But then again, I know this question rests in everyone’s minds.

There are so many things I’ve yet to do. So many people I want to meet and places I want to see (cliché I know, but who cares at a time like this). And after being reminded of how easily this beautiful life can be taken away—just in a matter of seconds—I realized how much I take for granted. I need to be more appreciative of what I have now instead of what I could have in the future.

You might be thinking I’m having a bit of an existential crisis. And you would be right. Mark Twain said, “A man [or woman] who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” I want to be prepared.

*

I don’t think May’s death happened to teach me a lesson. That would be narcissistic to think. But I do think that when tragedies happen, there is a lesson to be learned. It may not be a lesson we learn today, tomorrow, a month from now, or even years. But there is something to be learned from loss. Even if it is just to value our own lives and the lives of those around us just a little bit more.

For May.

1928-2013

The Meaning of Life: Abbey Gallagher Style

The_Meaning_of_Life

Last night I was video chatting with one of my best friends Kaitlyn (who I wrote about here: https://abbeygallagher.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/meet-cha-cha/) and she decided to give me suggestions of things to write about for some upcoming posts. She kept the list short and ended with, “Oh yea, and if you could…can you please write about the meaning of life?” Sure Kaitlyn, because I’m such an expert on that one.

And since I’ve realized my best ideas come to me while I’m either showering or brushing my teeth, I headed to the bathroom with toothbrush and paste in hand. As I scrubbed away at my pearly whites (rather aggressively–the dentist is never happy with me) I realized I don’t have any answer for Kaitlyn about the meaning of life. I do however know some things that give life meaning.

So coming to you from my stuffy NYU dorm I give you:

THE THINGS THAT GIVE LIFE MEANING: ABBEY GALLAGHER STYLE

1. Cats. Or pets in general. They are cute and cuddly (for the most part) and are always there when you need them. They are perfectly content to listen to you talk about how you and your ex-lover broke up when all your friends are sick of it. And unlike that ex-lover, they never fight with you. Plus, they are so darn cute:

cute_cat

even when they’re grumpy:

Grumpy cat

and even when they’re naked:

naked cat2. Frozen yogurt. Because finally, there is a place where I am allowed to have all the toppings I want on a sundae and don’t have to feel guilty for making the waiter write them all down. And besides being delicious, it’s an opportunity to get together with friends and enjoy a night out.

froyo

3. Sunsets. Or sunrises. The simplicity of the sun rising and setting is often an act of nature that is often taken for granted. I highly recommend taking a morning and evening once in a while to stop and simply enjoy the beauty of the natural world that we live in. You won’t regret it.

sunset

4. Books. Books to entertain. Books to instruct. Books to inform. Bad books, mediocre books, any books. Story books. Cook books. Old books. New books. Books, books, books. And not just having the books! Reading the books!

reading

5. Music. In a few short minutes, a song can take the listener (or the musician playing) on an emotional journey that cannot be replicated in any other art form. It’s hard to describe in words the importance of music and even though I have this pretty picture below, I think you should just go listen to your favorite song right now.

violin

6. Helping others. While it’s nice to go on and enjoy our very exciting and interesting and busy lives, it is very important to give back to others. This could be by financially helping a friend when they need it, volunteering at an animal shelter or nursing home, or teaching a child a new skill. However you do it, you’ll be surprised to know that yes, you’re helping someone out, but the reward of that feeling will stay with you long after you commit the act.

volunteeringHands

7. Family. This can include the people that raised you and love you unconditionally and the friends who love you with no obligation. They are the people who choose to be a part of your life and that you choose to keep in it. They make you feel important and understood. They encourage you to pursue dreams and help create new ones. These are the people you share your life with, who make it all worth while.

Group Shot1

From left: my Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, Dad, and Auntie Barbara

In other words– much shorter words–the things that give life meaning (for me) are:

  1. Our non-human creature friends
  2.  Food
  3.  The beauty of the natural world
  4. Knowledge
  5. Art
  6. Charity
  7. Love

Although I don’t have the meaning of life for Kaitlyn, I do know that it has to do with being happy. And I know that all the things I’ve listed above do that for me.

And whenever I am worried that there is no meaning at all, I think about what my dad asked me one hot summer night: “Why is there something instead of nothing?”

I’d love for you to share what gives your life meaning in the comment box below! Have a great day everyone and keep doing the things that give your life meaning! 

World of Jenks and Why It’s Awesome

world of jenks

I’ve never watched a lot of TV that I actually cared about. Sure, throughout middle school I was entrenched in the story of none other than Ms. Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, but aside from that not much else sticks out in my mind.

During my dad’s illness, I especially avoided watching TV because you never knew when a character would just be killed off. I vividly remember going to the movies with my best friend Emily to see The Last Song, a romantic drama based on Nicholas Sparks’ novel when suddenly, out of left field, with barely any foreshadowing to warn vulnerable audience members, the father gets cancer and dies. For “dramatic effect.”  Well, I was deeply insulted. All Emily could do was exaggeratedly mouth in the darkness, “I’m so sorry.” It’s okay Emily; it wasn’t your fault.

When I moved in with my grandparents after my dad died, I watched TV even less. I didn’t even have a TV in my bedroom. I even began to hate having to hear the TV when other people had it on in the other room. (For this reason, I always have either a. a fan blowing in my room to muffle the TV’s sounds b. ear plugs stuffed so far in my ears I worry I’ll never be able to pull them out c. headphones snug atop my head with music pouring into my ears or d. a combination of all the above.) And so when I do like something on TV, I really like it. I mean, really.

While I was living in my apartment during the school year, it was never a problem when I wanted to watch the one show I do follow on TV. We only had one television but I was lucky to have a roommate that enjoyed watching the same show I did. Now that I’m home though, I realized that in order to watch the season finale of my favorite show, I was going to have to ask permission to watch the television in our living room at 11 o’clock at night. This wouldn’t be an issue in a normal house where teenagers–ahem, young adults (since I’m no longer a teenager anymore)–stay up late and grandparents go to bed early, but since my house is anything but normal, my grandpa watches TV every single night into the wee hours of the morning. Every. Single. Night.

And so I planned my attack to ask him at the opportune moment. Right after breakfast, before anyone had seriously bothered him (yet).

“Hey Grandpa, I have a question for you…”

“Yea, sure.”

All right, at least he seems open to hearing your idea.

“Well, tonight my favorite show is having its season finale at 11 and I was wondering if I could watch it?”

“Why are you asking me?”

Is this a test?

“Well, you always watch TV at that time.”

“You do realize we have more than one television in this house, right?”

Apparently my grandparents had made some changes to our house while I was away. Oh the joys of being a college student returning home for the summer.

 “Oh….okay. Duh. I hadn’t thought of that.”

Home free. Get out fast before he asks more questions!

And just as I stood up to walk upstairs…

“What show is it anyway?”

Oh here we go.

It’s not that I don’t want to share the interesting, exciting things that I love with my grandpa. Really, I do. It’s just that with every interesting and exciting thing I do or discover he seems to question me.

For example:

1)   I became a vegetarian. FOUR YEARS AGO.
THIS Thanksgiving: “Abigail. Why would you want to be a vegetarian? I’ve never known a happy vegetarian. You’re missing out on all the good things in life!”

2)   I wanted to be a music major.
“Abigail. What kind of a job can you get with that?”

3)   I wanted to go to NYU’s creative nonfiction summer writing program.
“Abigail. How is that going to help you at all in life?” (Thanks to all my followers I managed to change his mind about this one!)

4)   I pitched my first book idea to him.
“Abigail. Why the hell would anyone want to read that?”

5)   I cut all my hair off.
“Abigail. Why did you do that? Are you a lesbian?”

Seriously. The list goes on.

So it’s no surprise that I didn’t want to reveal the one show on TV that actually makes me happy just so he can tell me why he thinks it sucks  stinks. But I can’t ignore him since he’s my grandfather after all so I took a deep breath in through my nose to prepare myself for what I knew was coming next and said,

“World of Jenks.”

“World of what?”

“Jenks, Grandpa. Jenks. It’s a guys last name.”

“And what’s it about?”

Time to say goodbye to the one show that brings you joy. It was nice knowing you Jenks, Kaylin, Chad, and D-Real.

Clenching my jaw, I hesitantly began. Because when I find something I really like, I don’t want people questioning why I like it, I just do. And sometimes, it’s hard for me to understand how some people wouldn’t also find the things I like as awesome and completely amazing and inspirational as I do.

 “Well…it’s about this guy…Andrew Jenks. And…he lives with these three people for a year and…documents their lives….

And with a blank stare that seriously suggested I continue on, I said,

“This year he lived with a young man with autism, a new father who is trying to promote peace in Oakland through dance, and a young woman who’s had cancer twice who just moved to New York” you know, that big city with all the lights that’s only a half an hour away from our house “to pursue a career in fashion.”

Perfect. Good job Abigail. Sweet and simple.

 “Abigail.

Oh for the love of God.

Why would you want to watch that? Who cares about those people’s lives? Don’t you want to watch the lives of interesting people, like movie stars?”

Movie stars? Really? That’s the best you got?

 “Because it shows that even though these people aren’t famous, they’re leading amazing lives all on their own!”

“It’s amazing that that girl had cancer?”

“No! Of course not! It’s amazing what she’s doing in spite of her cancer, Grandpa.”

You’re losing the battle Abigail.

“Alriiiiight.”

I didn’t say you had to watch it, did I?

And with that, I walked away and counted the hours until I could sit in front of the new television we apparently acquired while I was away at school to watch the season finale of my favorite show on TV.

*

I guess there are other people who wouldn’t understand why I love World of Jenks so much. So maybe I should try and explain it here. And then maybe my grandpa can read it and understand a little better (since verbal communication isn’t exactly my strong suit—as you can tell from our conversation).

The biggest reason I love this show is because it’s real. The people being filmed aren’t actors. They’re just regular people like you and me. And that’s super cool, because it makes me feel like I could be doing just as cool things as they’re doing.

These people’s stories are true. Neither their pain and struggles nor their victories and triumphs are made up for dramatic effect (take note, Nicholas Sparks). And the best part is that they don’t let the obstacles in their lives—whether it be autism in Chad’s case, Kaylin’s pain after chemotherapy, or the violence where D-Real lives—identify them or keep them from doing amazing things. Jenks and his crew use the show to humanize these individuals instead of letting stereotypes define them.

chad

For example, despite the challenges that Chad faces because of his autism, in the year that Jenks followed his life, he graduated high school, got himself a job, and even moved with his family despite the anxiety it brought him.

dreal

D-Real (who I posted a video of here: https://abbeygallagher.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/dancing-in-the-rain/) created dance competitions in Oakland to promote nonviolence and his dance crew performed for Mac Miller and even got signed with an extremely well-known choreographer.

kaylin

Kaylin said f*ck you to cancer and moved from California to New York while in remission, published a comic series about cancer, got a job with a fashion designer, and even put together her own line that was shown at Brooklyn’s Fashion Week despite having to make it all in a few short days when her sample maker failed to make the pieces correctly.

I especially relate to Kaylin since I watched my dad battle cancer. I was so proud to see the way she handled her diagnosis (with a kick butt, take names later attitude) and the way she persevered to create a better life for herself while she could. Kaylin has a blog, which I highly recommend checking out here: http://cancerisnotfunny.blogspot.com. Unfortunately, from what I can tell from her blog, Kaylin’s cancer returned and it appears she’s needed help paying for medical services. I don’t know Kaylin personally but I do know her story and believe she would greatly appreciate any donation, no matter how small. (Despite this jab at trying to advertise on Kaylin’s behalf, I really recommend checking out her site, if only to read the unique way she has documented her experiences with cancer.)

I also love that the show is a documentary. There is rarely a time when the camera isn’t rolling because you never know when something important may happen. I think this is a testament to both the people behind the camera and the people on it because there is really no time to “take five,” making this the most demanding type of filmography (is that even a word?) there is, in my opinion. Not to mention all the editors who have to watch all the hours of footage and piece together the important parts to create a cohesive story for each individual. They work through the night, through the tears, and through the smiles of each of their subjects gracefully and honestly. And by doing so, Jenks and his team educate their audience on different ways of life and expose the audience to different perspectives, something we can all learn from. Jenks has my dream job. Telling other people’s stories.

Most importantly, I like watching these individual’s lives because it makes me feel like I stand a chance in this world that at times makes no sense at all. If these people can overcome the obstacles in their lives, I can certainly work my way to create a life that is different from the one I have been born into.

I guess the best way to put it is that the show gives me hope for a better life.

And so I write this post as a way to say thanks to everyone who was a part of the show for keeping that light at the end of the tunnel shining bright for me.

Here’s the trailer for the show if you’d like to check it out!

Going Home…

 IMG-20110805-00233

My Family–For Real. 

Those are peanuts in their noses mouths face holes. 

From left: Grandpa, little sister Mazie, Mom, and Grandma (in front)

It’s hard to believe my first year away at college is over. It seems like yesterday that I was moving in my furniture in the hot August air and waving goodbye as my grandparents drove away. I remember the sinking feeling in my gut as I realized I was left to start this new journey on my own. No longer would I have my grandparents right at the bottom of the stairs to talk to when I got bored. No longer would I make my grandma fruit salad every morning for breakfast. No longer would I have dinner with both of them each evening. No longer would we watch bad singing competitions every week. On the other hand however, no longer would I have to live at home where at times it could be difficult to study. No longer would I have to ask permission to leave the house. No longer would I have to answer to anyone but myself.

Don’t get me wrong though, I love my grandparents for all that they have always done and continue to do for me and I’m so happy to be returning home for the summer, but when I moved into my own place last August it was truly time for me to take the next step in my life towards my independence. And I truly can’t thank my grandparents enough for nourishing me, encouraging me, and letting me take that step all on my own.

And for the first few weeks of school, I was thrilled. I loved everything about my campus, my apartment, my classes, and my freedom. It wasn’t until around the middle of September that it finally hit me: I wasn’t going home any time soon. I had adjusted to living with my grandparents and commuting to school so much the previous year that it felt abnormal to commit myself solely to “college life,” whatever that even meant. Anxiety crept up on me and I felt out of place, shy, and confused. It seemed everyone knew what they wanted to study, had friends, and didn’t need me to hang around like a lost puppy. I felt discouraged, but persevered in the hopes that I’d slowly assimilate to my new lifestyle even though it seemed impossible back then.

In order to manage my anxiety, I started seeing a counselor once a week off campus and it made all the difference. For one hour a week, I was able to indulge my inner narcissist and talk about only myself and my worries, my fears, my struggles; and best of all my accomplishments and triumphs. Throughout the year, I learned how to cope with anxiety in healthy ways, learned how to identify anxiety-binding behaviors, was able to find my niche in my academics and with a couple of close friends, and most importantly learned to accept the people in my life for who they are.

This last lesson has been extremely helpful in maintaining relationships with my family, who at times (like all families) can be hard to handle, especially when my mom and sister moved in last summer. There are so many conflicting personalities and attitudes working against each other in such a small space that it can be hard at times to get along. I used to create expectations in my mind of what my family should be like and would be disappointed when I’d return home for a weekend or a school vacation to find that they hadn’t changed at all. But by learning to accept the members in my family for who they are—who they have been, and who they are most likely going to be—I have been able to create better relationships with each of them and know that accepting them is essential to living with them this summer and staying in a positive and healthy mindset. I have learned that there are no shoulds, only what is.

Now, as I head home for the summer, I know the best ways of how to live in an environment that can sometimes be tricky to navigate. I look forward to the plans I have made to keep me occupied over the summer (which I will be blogging about very soon! Stay tuned!) and can’t wait to have my grandma cook dinner for me. Lord knows (if you believe in that sort of thing), I’m sick of my own bad cooking.

The Heart Attack

heartattack

Contrary to pop media, heart attacks are not the result of some romantic endeavor gone awry. Sorry to break the news to you Demi Lovato, One Direction, and Olly Murs. But don’t worry; I was under that impression too until one day last year when I learned what really causes a heart attack. And sorry to disappoint, but there was no catchy pop tune playing in the background.

*

I cautiously walked up my street, glancing left and right to make sure it was safe to proceed. Prowling through the streets of my neighborhood was a tiger that had escaped from the zoo. My neighbors were locked inside their homes. Being the brave soul that I am, I of course was roaming the streets trying to capture the six hundred pound feline. Suddenly, I caught glimpse of it heading toward my neighbors house. I immediately began running towards it, until it turned its head and headed straight toward me. I stopped in my tracks and began running in the complete OPPOSITE direction only to look over my shoulder to see it leaping towards me, it’s jaw wide open to flash all its pearly whites right before it chomped down on my—

“Abigail!!”

I rolled over in bed and groaned. What…? Who’s calling me?

My grandparents never woke me up in the middle of the night so I was extremely confused and totally disoriented from my nightmare. Luckily, my head was still rightfully in place.

“Abigail!!”

It was my grandma’s voice. I groaned again.

She opened the door.

“Abigail…Abigail…Wake up. I think Grandpa’s having a heart attack.”

Well, if I wasn’t awake before, I surely was now.

I immediately sat up, put my glasses on and rushed out of bed to my grandparent’s bedroom. My grandma was already downstairs calling an ambulance.

Laying on his back, my grandpa lay in bed, his blue eyes staring right up at the ceiling. Completely unsure of what to do, I asked him what was going on. Just like when he got hit by the tree (https://abbeygallagher.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/if-a-tree-falls-in-the-woods/) I knew he would be the one to remain calm and instruct me on what to do.

“Feel my forehead.”

Tentatively, I rested my palm on his head.

“What does it feel like?” he asked. Now is not the time to wonder if you have a fever, but alright.

Nervously, as if I was about to give the wrong answer on a test, I replied, “Uhh…cool…damp.”

“Okay,” he pointed toward his closet, “See that box? It’s an oxygen tank. Get it.”

Who in the world keeps an oxygen tank in their bedroom? But I didn’t verbalize my confusion and just followed orders.

Pulling the box down, I quickly unpackaged the oxygen tank (that looked like it had been sitting in the closet for more years than I was alive), fit the mask on his face and twisted a valve to get the oxygen to flow. Then, I sat on the edge of the bed and held his hand.

A moment later, my grandma entered the bedroom and told us that the ambulance was on its way. Within minutes, the EMTs had arrived and I left the room to stay out of the way. I put my shoes on, getting ready to leave for the hospital. My Auntie Barbara (my aunt on my mother’s side), had arrived as well and was pacing back and forth when I heard EMTs questioning my grandma about my grandpa’s medical history and what exactly happened. I could hear her struggling to answer, stumbling over words and getting confused. She was overwhelmed and flustered. After all, it was the middle of the night and this was an extremely stressful situation. I came out of my room and went to her side, answering to the best of my ability all of their questions. Being able to stay focused during an emergency is something I’m extremely proud of; there’s a sense of accomplishment I feel in remaining calm and following exact orders. And being acutely observant my whole life really came in handy to give the EMTs all the information they needed to know.

I watched as my grandpa was carried down the stairs in a specially stabilized chair since he couldn’t walk down the stairs himself. My grandma, my aunt, and I followed the whole team outside to see the ambulance lighting up the entire street against the pitch-black sky and a fire truck parked in the light’s glow. While my grandpa was loaded into the back of the ambulance, my grandma climbed in the front. One EMT told me to get in as well and then another yelled at me to get out. Excuse me, but when someone’s grandfather has just had a heart attack it is most likely NOT the ideal moment to YELL at them. I immediately jumped out and explained that I was going in the ambulance to the hospital. Or would he prefer I walk?

Turns out, he preferred I walk. And so, as my aunt returned to her home around the corner (she couldn’t come with us to the hospital immediately because of work obligations), I got in my Jeep and followed the ambulance at a heinous speed into Manhattan. Somewhere I’d never driven before, and certainly hadn’t planned on driving there alone for the first time at three o’clock in the morning.

Luckily, no one was on the road and following an ambulance really makes it easy to get to your destination. I watched the ambulance pull into the ambulance bay as I parked on the side of the street, hoping I wasn’t too far from the curb but not caring enough to check. I briskly walked into the Emergency Room (I’ve learned that running in a hospital is not recommended) and found my grandma standing at the edge of a curtain hung in the middle of the ER looking tired and scared. My grandpa was on a gurney, sitting up with wires already covering his forearms. He already looked a million times better than when I found him in bed less than an hour before. He was even joking around. Alright, so when can he go home?

But first, the most prominent question on everyone’s mind was Did he have a heart attack? Because he wasn’t even sure he had. When the ER doctor came over, he didn’t even have the answer. He said they had to run tests and that my grandma and I could wait in another building until they were done. And so, as they wheeled my grandpa away, I led my grandma along the Manhattan sidewalk in the middle of the night to another building of the hospital where my grandpa was getting his tests done. We took seats in the waiting area that was eerily quiet since it was still the night and slowly watched the sun start to rise and the hospital wake up as I called family members to tell them what happened. Finally, we were called upstairs. A female doctor came out and spoke with us.

Yes, he had had a heart attack. And if he was going to survive, he needed a triple bypass. This can’t be happening. The last time I was in the hospital with someone, they died. The thought of possibly losing another person so close to me was something I could not bear.

*

For the next two weeks, my grandma, aunt, and I went to the hospital every day to be with my grandpa. I learned how to maintain my role as “granddaughter” and did my best to stay out of the way. I stopped trying to be the leader of the situation and let my grandma and aunt take the reins even when they didn’t always understand. I knew that no matter what, my grandpa was still going to get the care that he deserved whether the rest of my family knew what was going on or not. And best of all, I was certain he would be coming home.

He had his surgery and went to a rehabilitation center afterward to regain his strength. After a month that felt like a year, he finally returned home to us in one healthy piece. Now, when people ask me how my grandpa’s doing I almost forget he even had a heart attack because he’s back to his old cranky—yet funny and lovable—self. Yet again, my grandpa had a close brush with death, but—did I mention, he has nine lives?