This story was inspired by Criminyy whom i just adore, she's so great :)
anyways, this is a kind of deep story and i REALLY hope you guys read it and let me know what you think. I'm not 100% sure about how long it'll end up being, but it shouldn't be more than five chapters.
Disclaimer: I no own Hey Arnold! This plotline was heavily influenced by Criminy and her great fantastic idea :)
Anyways, R&R guys!
When you're a kid, it's almost like everyone around you will live forever. Considering all my life I lived with my Grandparents stepping in for my parents, I never once considered them leaving me for good. I never considered that they'd be gone before any of my other friends' parents and I never considered what I'd do once they were gone.
While I sat in the waiting room at Hillwood Hospital, I found myself staring at my fingers as they picked at the skin surrounding each nail.
Not this soon, Grandpa c'mon...
Two years ago I had been in this very position sitting with Grandpa who had been pacing back and forth muttering random little tidbits about Grandma I'd never known before. Things about them.
"She kept laughing at everything I said. It wasn't even funny, I tell ya. I must have spilled five cups of water on her that night, but she never once got mad. Crazy old coot. Such a crazy...beautiful old coot."
His voice sounded so clear in my head, the memory seemed so real that I had to open my eyes to wake myself from the past. The waiting room was still the same; but Grandpa wasn't with me this time.
I was alone.
I checked my phone to see if Gerald had called me and I had missed the call, but it was 2:22 am and I doubted that he'd answer at this hour. Gerald had a hard enough time getting up for school in the morning, more or less get up at his phone buzzing.
School. School was tomorrow.
My mind had been racing since Mr. Hyunh and Mr. Potts had helped me get Grandpa out to the Packard. He was mumbling weird things, soiled his pants, and was looking around dazed and confused yet completely aware of what was happening. Grandpa was smart, he always knew.
"I'll be fine, Arnold. Pookie will meet us there...th-there...Pookie...there..."
I'd started the car so fast. I must have broken fifty speed laws to get him here in time. They said he'd be fine, so he had to be fine.
He had to be fine.
I checked my phone again, but the screen just showed the time.
2:26 am. 2:26 am. School was tomorrow. Grandpa hated me missing school.
Grandma had hated it too, but she'd usually make me questionable soup no matter what kind of sickness I had and would sit and watch pointless movies with me; movies I'd never heard of before that she had laying around in her closet amongst other awkward items and lost pictures.
Grandma had been different than this. She had just never woke up that Autumn morning. Grandpa came downstairs with a solemn look on his face and picked up the phone.
"What's going on, Grandpa? Something wrong?"
"It's Pookie, Arnold. I have to call the hospital."
The ambulance had shown up within a few minutes.
Why hadn't I called the ambulance? Why did I have to take him here myself?
My heart near jumped out of my chest when my phone vibrated in my pocket.
"Y-yea man," he yawned into the receiver, clearly still half asleep. "Wassup?"
"It's my Grandpa, Gerald. He, he, we're at the hospital."
I heard his bed creak at him apparently sitting up from his bed, now much more alert.
"Arnold. Is he okay? What happened, man?"
My eyes bugged out of my sockets as I saw the doctor approach me and I muttered for Gerald to wait a second as I rushed over to meet the doctor.
"You're Phillip Shortman's grandson, correct?"
I nodded my head in urgency to know what was going on with my Grandpa.
"Yes. That's me, Arnold Shortman. Can I see him? Is he going to be alright?"
I was holding my cellphone to my chest so hard I thought it'd leave it's imprint in my skin.
"Arnold, I'm so sorry but your Grandpa, he isn't going to make it."
Despite how tight I had been holding onto the phone just moments ago, it slipped right out of my fingers and fell to the floor with a muffled thump.
It slipped out of my grip almost as quickly as my Grandparents had slipped out of my life.
Gerald was standing on my doorstep and I looked at him with a blank expression. I hadn't slept properly since the night before the hospital a full week ago.
"My mom thought she'd give us a ride to school today. Said she even told Timberly to ride the bus so we could have the back all to ourselves."
Gerald hated having to ride with his mom since his car broke down, mainly because of Timberly. I never cared much, Timberly was a sweet girl even if she could get a tad annoying.
"That was nice of her."
"Yea... Hey Arnold? You okay, man? I mean, you sure you should be going to school today, I mean what with what happened last week and all and your Grandpa still in the hospital and...you know..." his voice trailed off in uncertainty and his eyes lost contact with mine, even though I hadn't looked directly at him since a week and two days ago when he was over for lasagna.
Grandpa had made it, or rather, attempted to.
His first four tries were in the refrigerator still.
Everyone was afraid to touch it, and not just because it probably wasn't edible.
I wouldn't let them.
"Yea, he's still at the hospital. I'm going to see him after school."
"You wamme to come with, man? It's gonna snow today when we get out, if you're walking I could-"
"No Gerald. This, this is something I've gotta do alone. They think today could be his last day."
"Sure thing, Arnold."
Slinging my messenger bag strap over my left shoulder, I shuffled my feet in the already footstep-packed snow as I made my way to Mrs. Johanssen's car. My eyes caught glance of the Packard, and I closed them quickly thereafter.
Maybe school would be a good distraction.
You know that feeling when you open your eyes in the light and your pupils have to adjust so the world is full of fireworks and explosives and your brain spins around in your head before the world comes into focus again?
School was like that. Every period was full of nonsense apologies and condolences. Rhonda had heard the news from somebody who had a mom who worked at the hospital in the ER and the news had spread like wildfire just the day after the incident.
Everyone knew Grandpa had been taken off life support. Everyone knew that he had hours at the most left; even Helga G. Pataki knew.
Throughout High School, Helga had never really toned down on making my life miserable, or rather attempting to. I tried to play along and smile and brush everything off of my shoulders that she said, but I knew that I would snap if she even said a word to me today.
As if my patience had been a brittle hollow twig, it'd snapped and I felt no compassion for almost anything for the past week.
"Hey Arnold," she started which was unusual seeing as Economics was her prime choice for name-calling and spitwads, "I-I'm sorry about your Grandpa." Her eyes were glimmering under the florescent light of the classroom and my teacher watched us as if waiting for Helga to slip up and say something rude.
"Doesn't matter, Helga." I mumbled as Mr. Granting started his lesson for the day, his eyes staying locked between Helga and I. "I guess."
The rest of the day remained a blur. I kept trying to tell myself that when I walked in the door of the boarding house after school, Grandpa would be right there on his rocking chair as usual with a sandwich and laughing at some story he was ready to tell me about whether I'd heard it before or not.
For the passed two years I'd been convincing myself that same thing about Grandma, how when I'd get home she'd walk in with some weird colored pom-poms or some big hunk of watermelon or even wearing a frying pan on her head just to get a rise out of me. However, that never happened, and I couldn't realistically hope that it would magically happen for Grandpa too.
At lunch I couldn't eat a thing. The two slices of pepperoni pizza that sat in front of me looked only like pools of unappetizing grease and I pushed it aside in hopes that nobody would notice.
"I'm just ever so sorry about your Grandfather, Arnold. I know how close you were with him and I only want to say that if you need anything, just anything at all, I'll only be a phone call away. Okay Arnold?"
I absentmindedly nodded my head and Lila must have stood in place waiting for some form of verbal acknowledgment before she sighed and walked back to wherever she'd appeared from in the cafeteria.
"Arnold, c'mon you gotta eat something, man."
"I'm really not hungry, Gerald. I'll eat when I get home."
He cocked a brow in my direction while taking a bite of his apple and crunching away on it.
"Gerald, just leave it. I'm not in the mood."
With a falling expression, he looked over to Stinky and Sid who merely shrugged and then over to Eugene and twitched his head in my direction as if some kind of cue for Eugene to say something.
"Arnold, I'm sure that things will get better. They always get better, even when they don't seem like they're going to. I know when I'm really feeling low, I perk myself up again with a happy little tune I made up. How about it?"
I stood up and took my full tray in my hands.
"Not today, Eugene. Maybe, maybe another time."
They watched me leave to dump the food into the trash can and walk as far away as I could, but I could still hear their concerned voices.
"Oh dear..." Phoebe said to herself.
"We have to do something."
"Since when do you care, Pataki?"
"Look AROUND, Geraldo. It's been one day he's been back and his attitude is affecting everyone else in the school. We have to do something."
"Well, what can we do?" Sid perked up.
"I reckon I'd do just about anything to get the poor feller just to smile."
"But WHAT, Helga? He's just sad..." Gerald said rather while looking away and out to where I had disappeared to while the whole gang turned to look at Helga.
"Anything, Tall Hair Boy. But we've GOT to do SOMETHING."
While the boys locker room stunk of dirty socks blended with the overly powerful scent of Axe cologne, it proved to be a peaceful place to sit and think during lunchtime. Lunch period still had over twenty minutes before it was over, and that gave me plenty of time to sit and think.
I pulled out my phone from my jeans as I sat down on the wooden bench that was standing by the wall. Scrolling through my contacts one by one and imagining their faces in my head, I highlighted that of the boarding house and hit the little green button in the left-hand corner.
The dial tone rang a few times, and I knew that none of the boarders would care enough to answer the phone until whoever it was calling decided to leave a message of some sort.
"You've reached the Sunset Arms Boarding house," Grandpa's voice sang into the phone. "leave a message for either Me, I'm Phil, Pookie, or Arnold, or any of the other boarders here and if you are interested in renting a room, try calling back at a-, Pookie! What are you doing? Get off of the railing you crazy old-, Just call back. Bye!"
I couldn't help but smile at the sound of Grandma's crazed laughter filling up the background and Grandpa forgetting to turn off the answering machine. Grandpa was so embarrassed of the voicemail, but I told him not to change it; it was too great of a memory. I found myself more grateful than ever that we had decided to keep it seeing as now that was the last recorded evidence of our strange but happy family.
I sniffled slightly and rubbed my plaid flannel long sleeve shirt over my watering eyes.
I hadn't been old enough to remember my parents leaving. I couldn't remember the last things they said to me, and as hard as I had tried, I couldn't remember the looks on their faces as they left in that taxi Grandpa had told me about all those times before. I could remember this. As hard as it was to grow up without my parents, I knew from here on out that it would be significantly harder to live my life without anyone else waiting in the wings like Grandpa and Grandma had been.
And I was 18 now anyways; I was a legal adult who could go out and make his own choices about anything he wanted, I could move out and get a job and start a family if my heart desired to do so. But it didn't. So why was it fair to thrust me into the world that I was so unprepared for?
The bell rang and I gathered all of my things to walk to my next class in silence. The hallways were the only place where nobody bothered to disturb me. I watched as they conversed with each other, talking about the latest gossip and their weekend plans even though it was Monday.
I knew what my weekend plans were: Arnie and his family were coming up and would be staying at the boarding house. Needless to say, Oskar voiced his dislike for such a decision, but everyone else had been understanding and sympathetic to the situation. They knew I needed someone, even if it was just my slightly-off cousin and his lint.
He was really all I had left.
I had been walking so slowly, that when I walked into my Astronomy classroom, everyone was seated and looking my way which was only the gesture given to those who were tardy. Mr. Smithens didn't say a word however and I made my way to the desk in the second row.
It was a sickening feeling to take notes about a funeral in place of notes about the moon. When Grandma had died, Grandpa was the one who prepared everything. Her things that weren't useful to keep (which wasn't much) were boxed away and either donated or thrown out and Grandpa had worked out the funeral arrangements so there wasn't much I could do. This time around, I'd have to dig through Grandpa's things and I'd have to decide what was useful and what was junk. I had to plan the funeral and I had to decide what I'd do with the boarding house and the Packard.
My life suddenly wasn't going to flight school and traveling to San Lorenzo to find my parents, my life was now living in Sunset Arms until I was Grandpa's age and passing it down to my own kids.
As much as I loved the boarding house, that wasn't what I wanted. I didn't want this responsibility and part of me wanted to curse out Grandpa for burdening this on me but I just couldn't. He was sitting in the hospital unresponsive and alone until I came over trekking through the snow at approximately 2:57pm every day since his stroke. I couldn't curse him out now.
I felt someone tap my shoulder.
I turned around to see Gerald leaning over his desk to whisper something to me.
"My mom says you're welcome to crash at our house tonight, it's a lot closer to the hospital than your house and since we pick you up in the morning anyways-"
I nodded my head while turning back around to face the board.
Maybe being away from the boarding house would help a little.
Gerald was right when he said it was going to snow, but he hadn't quite said it would be like a blizzard.
My head was as far down as I could manage and it took all I had to make every step I took.
Amidst the wind and snow dancing around me, I heard someone call out my name.
"Hey Arnold! Arnoldo!"
I sighed and shook my head, stopping midstep.
"What?" I called out as loud as I could manage.
"What are you doing out here? It's insane! You're gonna get sick or something!"
I turned around on my heel and looked at Helga incredilously.
"Why do you care?"
"I-I...well I DON'T Football-head, but I wouldn't want you in the hospital too..." Her voice had become softer at the end of her sentence and I looked down at my soaking wet feet.
"I'll be fine."
"Are you sure? I'm sure your buddy Geraldo would give you a ride or something."
"I don't want one."
"Well, what if you slip and get hurt or something? I'm not gonna come running to save you if you klutz your way to the ground on your as-"
"I don't CARE, Helga. I just... don't care. I have to go."
I walked away from her as she continued to yell out for me. My mind was too focused on getting inside the hospital to even consider why Helga would reach out so much to care about my well-being.
By the time I walked in the doors, I'd made up my mind that it was because of the situation, and nothing more.
The smell was overpowering as usual; antibacterial and clean (it had a smell) flooded my nostrils and I stood in the middle of the lobby watching the doctors, nurses, patients and visitors roam around with a mild to maximum sense of purpose on their faces.
"Excuse me, but do you need help with something?"
I looked over my shoulder to see a nurse with a quizzical look painted on her face.
"Do you need some help?"
"Oh, no. I just need to get to room 303."
"Do you know where it is?"
I forced the best smile I possibly could and nodded a few times.
"Yea. Thank you though."
She smiled a warm smile and patted my shoulder once.
I took a deep breath and walked to the nearby elevator and hit the button. My eyes focused on the red glow the button had once I pressed it and for a that brief moment, my mind had cleared. How quickly my mind started to spin once the elevator doors opened and I walked inside of the small area to make my way to the third floor.
Standing next to me was a woman holding four shiny red balloons and a yellow teddy bear that said, "Congratulations!" She looked over to me with a smile.
"My sister just had a baby. We didn't know if it was a boy or girl, so I just got the yellow bear."
I nodded and smiled for a second while looking at the bear.
The doors opened and we both went our separate ways for very separate causes.
The 300 wing wasn't very crowded around my Grandpa's room like it had been a few days ago. The days had started to blend together and I wasn't entirely sure what had happened when. I took a few steps into the dimly lit room and prepared myself yet again for what I knew would be lying in the hospital bed; the shell that was my Grandpa.
I pulled up a chair and set my messenger bag on the floor before sitting down and taking my Grandpa's hand.
"Hey Grandpa." I mumbled as I swallowed the lump that was rapidly forming in my throat. "3:04, not my usual time, but you should see it outside... I'll be shoveling the walkway at the boarding house for hours. Maybe I'll get lucky and it'll be a snow day tomorrow."
I listened to the beeping of the machine to his left, his heart was still strong, but that was all he had with such power left in him. His breathing sounded like a soft snoar, but I had convinced myself he was in there still and that he could hear every word I was saying.
"I uh, I'm staying with Gerald at his house tonight. I kind of thought, well, the boarding house just isn't the same without you there. So I thought maybe I'd stay with the Johanssens." I looked down at my lap and mumbled to myself, "Maybe it'll help..."
I looked at Grandpa's hand as it lay limp in my hand.
The doctor had come in about an hour after we brought Grandpa into the hospital.
"Yea." I looked up from my spot and glanced over to the doctor. Grandpa's moniter continued its monotone dirge and I half listened to him and the doctor, to make sure that nothing about his heart changed.
"I have a few things I'd like to talk to you about if that's okay."
"S-sure." I said shakily, afraid of what his news was to be.
He pulled up a seat next to me and looked at me head-on.
"Your Grandfather appears to have had three separate strokes."
"How is that possible?"
"Well, you said that while you were getting him to the car, he seemed to know what was going on and the only big difference is he was stuttering quite a bit and he soiled his pants."
I looked at the picture on his name-tag that hung around his neck and I read the name below it carefully.
Dr. Stewart Quist.
It sounded like a doctor name.
"That, we believe, was the lesser stroke; it wasn't as severe. Now, that stroke took place on the left side of his brain which controls the right side of his body. This would explain the slight movement that you sometimes see in his right arm and toes."
He had been lifting his right arm, even though he couldn't open his eyes. Once in a very rare while, he would almost groan as if trying to word something and as much as I had coaxed, nothing further happened. The doctors said it might be reflexes and nothing more, but I knew it was something more. It had to be.
"Okay." I said, my mind still lost in thought.
"The other two strokes, were slightly more severe unfortunately. While one stroke was extremely severe on the right side, this stroke took place after he was under our care, the other stroke that took place on that side was still more severe than the one that took place on his left side."
"So what does that mean?"
"Well, it means that we don't think his left side will ever be able to recover."
I remained silent for a moment.
Grandpa was a pretty uppity elderly man. He was always running around doing things and always up for trying something new. Taking away his whole right side, it would devestate him.
"What about his right side? Will he be able to recover there? His hand is moving, there's hope isn't there?" I was searching his eyes in desperation, hoping to find even the smallest morsel of hope that this whole thing could play out okay.
"Realistically Arnold, the best we can see in the future for your Grandfather is a wheelchair, and if we're lucky, speech if that."
"So he'd...he'd be like a vegetable."
Silence settled between us, only broken by the beeps of Grandpa's heart monitor.
"I'm very sorry."
I looked over to him for a moment.
"So what should I do?"
"Well, it seems that Phil has left it all up to you."
"You can either keep him on the feeding tube and life support, or, you can let him go."
"How long until he'd...um..."
"About a week. Maybe two."
I stared over at Grandpa as he remained as if in a peaceful sleep. The few strands of hair that floated atop his head were all askew and I tried to imagine Grandpa confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
That wasn't a life.
"I'll let you think on it-"
"He wouldn't be living."
"If he were to be stuck in that wheelchair, I know he wouldn't want that." I felt tears sting my eyes and I squeezed his hand tight for a moment. "I don't think he'd want me to keep him living if... if he couldn't really live."
"If that's the way you would like to go, there are some papers I need you to sign in the lobby. They'll be ready for you to sign whenever you are ready." He stood up and made his way to leave the room. He turned around in the doorway. "I'm very sorry, Arnold."
As the days passed, Grandpa's movement became few and far between. It seemed as though he was giving up, and while I wanted him to keep trying and to find a way to come back as the same Grandpa I'd always known, I wanted him to be normal again, and that wouldn't happen. Maybe he'd be with Grandma. Maybe she was waiting for him to join her. Maybe he was waiting for me to be okay here without him.
"I ran into Helga today. Well, actually she yelled me down in the middle of the snow out there." I turned his hand palm side up and palm side down repeatedly as I talked. "Helga's the one with the one eyebrow as you always called her."
I swallowed hard as the lump in my throat grew bigger yet.
"Grandpa, when I was little, you always used to tell me stories about my parents, and how they went off to save the Green Eyed people..." I looked over at him, memorizing every wrinkle on his face. "and when I asked if you thought they'd come back, you'd always say, 'Maybe one day Shortman. Anything can happen.'" I watched the monitor as it beeped continuously as if it'd never stop. "Anything CAN happen. And, and whether they think you can hear me or not doesn't matter because I... I just KNOW you can hear me." I readjusted myself in my chair. "I love you Grandpa, and if, if for some reason you're holding on to make sure I'm going to be okay, well, I'm going to be okay."
I waited for a moment as if waiting for him to jump up and do some outrageous dance in his bed and laugh at me for believing such a cruel joke. Nothing happened.
"I'll, I'll take care of the boarding house and Mr. Potts, and Mr. Hyunh, and the Kokoshkas, and I'll never eat raspberries and I'll-"
Mid-sentence it happened.
I watched as the monitor slowed, I listened as the beeping near slurred until the screen finally showed that flat-line I had dreaded seeing.
"Grandpa...?" I looked at him as he lay still, his chest no longer rising and falling and his eyes still shut as if in a peaceful slumber. I sat still as Dr. Quist rushed in and looked between me and what was left of my Grandpa lying on the bed.
Gently, I placed his hand on his chest and swallowed back tears before rushing out of the hospital as fast as my legs would take me.
Sorry i left it on such a super duper sad note...
I just found this to be the best stopping point to transition into the next chapter.
So what do you guys think?
this whole experience that Arnold is experiencing, at least how things happened with his Grandpa is heavily based on what happened with my Grandma two years ago this winter. It makes writing this more realistic and this way, what i'm saying doesn't sound like it's clearly fiction, at least i hope so anyways.
I hope to see you guys at the next chapter! Can't wait for what you guys are gonna say about this chapter!