It was a different day for Michael. He woke up early as usual, ate his breakfast, brushed his teeth, and went to school, but it was after that when the day got different. After school Michael got onto his old bicycle, the one with the chips and scars and scratches and rode in the snow towards a hospital. He didn’t know why.
All he knew was the address and the fact that his mother had told him that she would meet him there.
The sun was setting, the sky a great mixture of pink, orange, blue, and even a little bit of red peeking out from under all those layers of colors. Michael rode on towards it, his bicycle sloshing through the snow, squeaking with every turn he made.
The children at Michael’s school always wondered why he biked everywhere. In truth, it was something he didn’t want to talk about. His mother was unable to drive him anywhere, working all the time, and there was no one else to look after him. He took care of himself, and his mother knew he was responsible, but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t lonely once in a while.
His father had died a long time ago.
Michael got to the hospital ten minutes late. The snow had caused him to lose control of his bike numerous times, slipping and sliding. His bicycle’s tires were almost bare, unable to gain any traction.
“Why don’t you get a new bike?” his friends asked.
Michael never answered. His bicycle was old. It used to be navy blue, now it was just gray with some blue splotches. Its brakes had worn down, the reflectors were filled with dust, and the handlebars were dirty with years of dirt and grime wearing down on them.
There was a reason Michael kept the bicycle.
It was the last gift his father had given him, and Michael believed, no matter what his friends said, that the bicycle had a part of his father, a spirit, in it. And Michael feared, that if he got a new bicycle, that the part of his father that he believed to be in the bicycle would disappear.
So he never got a new bicycle.
He was also afraid of forgetting about his father. He still remembered his father in his mind, his brown hair that never stayed in place, or his hazel eyes that seemed to sparkle when he laughed. His father was tall, and Michael always remembered the times where his father would lift him up onto his shoulders and Michael would laugh. And before he died, Michael went on the first and last bicycle trip with his father.
He had expected more.
It was these little things that Michael remembered, and he didn’t want to forget them.
The bicycle was the last memory of his father.
Michael cherished the bicycle, cleaning it, oiling it, but he never caught up to the work of nature, and eventually his bicycle had ended up the way it was now.
Michael chained his bicycle to a stop sign, and walked into the hospital. It was already dark outside, only a thin sliver of light shining from behind the darkness. As he walked towards the receptionist’s desk, he saw his mother who was beckoning him to come over.
Michael’s mother was short, with long brown hair and blue eyes. With a nice smile, she always stood out in a crowd. But today, she looked different. Michael could tell by the look in her eyes that she was tired, more tired than usual. Her normally clean-kept hair was disheveled, and Michael saw that she had been biting her nails, a sign that she was either stressed or shocked.
With Michael’s mother working all the time with hardly any time to spare for Michael, it was with his grandfather that he liked to spend his time with. Michael’s grandfather was his father’s father. He was about his father’s height, with gray hair and green eyes. He laughed a lot. That always cheered up Michael, who spent a lot of time alone because his mother was constantly at work.
As Michael walked down the white hallways of the hospital, he could see on the wall the pictures of laughing men and women with thank-you notes scribbled on them, the people that had recovered and who were now leading a normal life. He wished his father had been able to be on the wall. To be able to write a thank-you letter to the hospital.
He wished his father was still alive.
He would have done anything to get him back.
Michael’s father died when he was six. His father had started having pains, and went to the hospital. It was cancer that took Michael’s father from him. He knew nothing about his father’s condition when he was six, he only knew that the disease he had was called pancreatic cancer, and that it was very bad. Now that he knew what it was, he wondered whether his father would be standing next to him right now if he had went to the hospital sooner, instead of saying that the pains were stomachaches from eating too much.
It was painful to think about.
Michael had noticed changes in his father, bags under his eyes, frequent stomachaches, and coughing, but he didn’t think they meant anything.
Michael wanted to change the past so desperately, but he knew that he couldn’t.
He walked into a room.
Michael’s grandfather was an interesting man. He never started conversations, but he wasn’t a quiet person. He enjoyed reading, and was jolly and caring. When he was sad he didn’t show it, but kept quiet to himself. And when he laughed, his gruff, booming laugh seemed to fill you up with happiness, like a balloon.
Michael saw his grandfather. He quickly realized that something wasn’t right. Not only was his grandfather sitting on a bed staring out the window into the darkness, he didn’t seem to be moving at all.
He was quiet.
A sheet of paper on a table next to the bed caught Michael’s eye. As he looked at the bundle of words, he flew over the words, and only two caught his eyes.
“Alzheimer’s” and “Fatal”.
Before he knew what he was doing, Michael flew out of the room, ran out of the hospital, and threw himself on his bike.
His world seemed to flood out of him.
He rode away into the night.
Could he get away from reality?
The cold, hard wind stung his face, the melted snow on the ground splattered onto his clothes, but Michael didn’t notice anything. He didn’t know where he was going.
After aimlessly biking, Michael got to his house, charged through the unlocked door, jumped onto his bed, and then stuffed his face into his pillow. He felt something in his hand.
It took a couple of seconds before he realized what the crumpled piece of paper in his hand was.
The contract of his grandfather’s death.
He fell into a deep sleep.
After a while, the sun shone in through Michael’s bedroom window, illuminating the darkness inside.
Michael opened a bleary eye.
The sun was golden. Michael couldn’t tell if he was facing east or west, whether the sun was setting or rising, all he knew that he was living the moment, in reality.
Michael didn’t want two people in his life gone, another person taken from him. Michael knew it wasn’t his grandfather’s fault that he had the disease.
And as reality struck Michael, he knew that he had to face it and look it in the eye.
Michael stood up.
It was a weekend. Why not give his grandfather a visit?
Michael was always a thinker. There was never a time where he wasn’t thinking. And he thought now, about the disease. The disease that would slowly destroy his grandfather.
But he knew it would take a long time.
That was the shimmer of hope that Michael had in his heart.
Michael and his grandfather would still be able to talk to each other. Michael would always remember the years of him with his grandfather.
Would his grandfather remember them though?
And as Michael got to the hospital and chained his bicycle to a stop sign, he thought about how it would feel like to have your memories taken away from you when he was trying not to forget his father.
Michael walked into the hospital and walked towards his grandfather’s hospital room. He knew he would never forget that room.
When Michael walked into the hospital room, he was met with blinding light from the rising sun. And when he saw his grandfather smiling at him, Michael could only smile back.
Someday, years from now, there could be a cure, and someday, Michael’s grandfather could be rid of his disease. Michael could only hope.
But Michael knew something for sure.
He still had his grandfather with him.