The old photographs were scattered across the wooden floor of my parents’ living room. Decades of memories escaped their plastic box jail cells and wafted up into our memories as we gently handle each picture trying to mentally place ourselves in the time and place they captured. Lost in thought, I hardly hear my mother’s slippers flop across the floor as she comes up behind and places a delicate hand on my shoulder. Startled, I jump and turn to look at her red rimmed eyes.
“Do you remember this? It was from your grandfather.” She whispers as she hands me a ratted brown object. As I reach for it I remember the tattered brown fur before I even touch him. Wrinkles I called this stuffed dog because he was covered in wrinkles including his large wrinkly eyebrows that hide his dark brown marble eyes. His black nose was rubbed raw.
My eyes twinkle as I pull him towards me into a hug. The sounds around me fade and turn to hushed, urgent whispers and loud beeps. My eyes fly open and I am no longer in my parents’ living room but instead am standing in a hospital hallway with fluorescent lights running along the ceiling and white/green tiles glossy beneath my feet. In front of me is a large window with several people blocking my view of what is inside; all of them looking somewhat familiar.
I creep slowly towards them with a feeling of déjà vu. As I stretch out my hand the tallest man quickly turns around and I jump back as I see a much younger version of my grandfather look towards me. In his hands he holds my brand new Wrinkles. My longing to touch him is mingled with my confusion of how he could be here but he quickly walks past me and up to a nurse in green scrubs.
“I give this to my granddaughter?” he pleads in broken English.
Her face softens at the look in his eyes and she nods briskly reaching out for the stuffed dog. He gingerly hands it to her as she whispers “We will have to put it through the disinfecting process before being able to put it in her incubator but I will make sure it gets to her.” She smiles up at his kind face.
“Thank you” he mumbles as he walks back to the window and places his large arms around 2 small women. They are both crying into his chest as I draw closer to them my heart catches in my chest. I know who they were. The young face of my mother looks up into her father’s face. It was full of worry and hope.
“Will she be ok?” She questions him in Spanish. My throat catches as I see my beloved grandmother, looking much healthier than before she passed, look up at him full of expectation.
My grandfather smiles “She is my granddaughter. She is like me. We are fighters. She is strong and will get through this.” He replies confidently. A familiar man with jet black hair that was no longer graying at the temples, as I last remembered, came up behind my mother and took her in his arms.
“Oh Eddie” she cried. “I’m so worried about her.”
“She will be fine” my father replies. I couldn’t wait any longer. I needed to see what was behind the glass. I walk up to the window and peer inside. Several incubators line up in front of me, most empty except for two. A door to my right opens and the nurse in green scrubs steps in walking towards one of the incubators. She approaches the clear box and opens it gently placing Wrinkles next to a tiny figure inside. My parents and grandmother step away whispering to one another. My grandfather stands solemnly watching the figure begin to cry and move around. The nurse picks up the crying baby soothes it and places it back down. As it begins to coo and move around I gasp recognizing my baby self.
As I gasp I feel my grandfather suddenly turn towards me squinting hard in my direction. It was like he could see me! I reach my hand out towards him as he reaches his hand towards me. When our hands connect a jolt runs through my body and we jump in unison. Tears run down my face as his eyes light up in recognition. I can’t speak as he affectionately looks at me his eyes filled with love.
“You’re ok.” He whispers as I nod stunned. “You will do great things I can see it, I can feel it. Even after I’m gone, my Negrita, don’t give up. I know you will do great things. You are strong and I am so proud of you and I love you.” I felt the room shake and knew the connection was breaking. I could feel my hand slipping from his.
“I love you Papa. You are the best grandfather ever.” I cry out to him as the sound of crashing waves fill my ears and the room blackens the last thing I see is his smiling face full of pride and love. I awake, finding myself lying on the wood floor. My mother and father hover above me their faces full of worry as they help me sit up.
“Are you ok?” My mother’s worried voice calls out to me. “You just blacked out!”
As I sit up and look around I find that I still have a tight grip on Wrinkles. Comfort floods me as I remember the memory (or was it a dream?) I just awoke from.
“Yes” I respond smiling. “Yes. I am going to be just fine.”