3rd Place Winner in Nonfiction: “The Last Few Words of the Ladybug”

Posted on: August 13, 2012
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By Cara Kidd
“I can’t handle this Mallory,” I cried.
“Ashton, you are going to be alright. I promise you can do this. Just be strong, like you know Uncle Doug would want you to be,” she said as she held me tight.
I needed someone to tell me it would be alright. Even though it wouldn’t and even though it wasn’t going to change a thing, I wanted to hear those false words. I could not handle the fact that I was about to lose the greatest man in my life, my hero. It knocked the breath out of me. I cried convulsively, Mallory tried to calm me down, but I couldn’t get a grip.
“We are going to get through this together,” she cried with me.
A few months ago, my dad told my family he couldn’t survive much longer. Daddy had suffered through many, many years of pain and growing worse in his condition. He was diagnosed with a horrible disease when I was about six years old and it took over his body over time. He eventually became paralyzed and not able to breathe on his own. Therefore, he needed a ventilator. The only reason he chose to go on a ventilator was for my brother and I. He wanted to watch us grow and be here for us throughout our childhood and teenage years, and he did that. Unlike most fathers that are physically able to support their children but decide not to, my father, completely paralyzed, went above and beyond to support my brother and me. His body had weakened over the years, and he decided that he was too tired to carry on.
When my dad told us about his decision, he also asked our family for our consent. No, I didn’t want my dad dying, but I didn’t want him lying in bed every day for the rest of his life suffering and wasting away in pain. That was no way to spend life. We all cried together. But after my dad told me that, something inside me changed. I no longer wanted to be close to my dad. I put up a wall bigger than the Great Wall of China, because I was trying to protect my emotions.
November 11, 2010 crept on me. This was a day I would never be able to forget. I knew it would come eventually, but it came quicker than expected. My whole family came to Emory hospital in Atlanta to share my dad’s last few days. Everybody knew what was about to happen, but we all tried to be brave. We all made an attempt to spend his last days with laughter, jokes, smiles, and fun. Although what was about to happen consisted of none of that.
Daddy took turns calling each family member into the room and sharing his last few words with each of us. Every time he called someone in, we all knew one of us was next. I did not want to cry nor hear his last words to me.
After my breakdown earlier, my mom came out of the hospital room and into the waiting room, looked at me gloomily and said, “Ashton, your dad would like to see you.”
My heart raced. It was so scary to think that these would be my last few moments with my father.
I entered the cold, cramped hospital room where my dad lay paralyzed. He was looking up at me with his golden smile. When I saw, that through all of this, he was still smiling, I broke down once again. My dad could not hold me as I wailed or talk to me and say it would be alright. But he began to type his last words to me through his computer.
“Ashton, you know I love you more than anything in this world. I know you have tried to avoid all of this, and I understand completely.” He looked up at me and smiled once again. I felt the biggest weight lifted off of my shoulders.
“I want you to know that this is not the end for me. I promise you I will be here for you, not physically, but in a sense I will be watching you throughout the rest of your days on this earth. If you ever see a ladybug, that’s me. That’s me watching over you and telling you everything will be alright. I need you to be strong for me, help your mama and Kyle. Be strong for them, and most importantly be there for each other through the hard times. Don’t abandon them when they need you the most.” I knew when he said that, he was referring to the way I had treated him.
For the past few months, I acted like nothing was wrong. I didn’t act like I was about to lose one of the most important people in my life. Instead, I distanced myself from him. I continued to do my own thing, and I made it seem as if there were no problems in my life. I tried to spend the least amount of time at my house as I could. I did not want to face the truth. I would speak to my dad, but I spent very little time with him. He tried to do things with me such as watch Glee, our favorite show to watch together, watch movies, or chat. But I always put it off. My mom mentioned to me that my dad noticed that I was never around and that I never attempted to spend time with him. Of course, I felt bad, but I didn’t show it. I made it seem like all of this had no effect on me, and that nothing was about to change in my life. I just wanted it all to be normal and for it to never happen.          
I felt so guilty. All these months my dad laid in a bed, in pain, and all I could do was think about how I felt, how selfish. I laid my head on his chest and continued to bawl some more. I told him I was sorry for the way I had acted towards him the past few months, but I couldn’t handle it. He consoled me by the look in his big, green eyes and the words of,
“I forgive you. You have nothing to be sorry for. I know it was hard to deal with. Do not regret a thing. I love you regardless, Ashton, and I always will.”
After my dad and I talked he called my mama and brother into the room. We all talked as a family and consoled each other and cried. My dad’s last few moments on this earth were spent in the arms of the people he cared about most.
Although I regret the way I acted the last few months my dad was here, I can’t turn back time. I know he would not want me to continue my life with regret. I try to live every day in honor of him.
My dad wasn’t lying when he said if I saw ladybug, then that was him. When we returned from the hospital, our house had ladybugs in every room. I don’t know how they got there or why they were there, but I am assuming it had something to do with a little angel from up above. From then on out I saw a ladybug almost every time I was upset about my dad. And that is why I have a ladybug tattooed on my wrist, to know he is always watching over me.

15. Uncle, nonfiction

Uncle, ok to share name but must First get permission from other pple (like the kid)
By Anonymous
The boy has little chance of becoming a man.
Tall, gangly and uncoordinated, lacking neither emotional nor physical confidence, basic human goals appear out of his reach.
Father deserted mother while he was fed from within. She has used his young presence as a wedge to prop open the rapidly closing door of her choices. Unhappy on levels she will never fathom, she has nonetheless plowed through the decaying thickness of her life, using him for what little comfort she is able to derive from a life that has always been a losing proposition.
Unwittingly, she has taught him that the vehicle of control is driven by manipulation. In fact, most of what she has passed along has been unintended. Inner conflicts, emotional baggage, psychological ineptitude, all have been transferred to him as directly, and as unconsciously, as she nourished him in her womb.
An invidious IV, delivered through the senses, with a potential to destroy, not nourish.
This single mother can determine the quality of her child’s life, wielding the power of God in total ignorance, under the diaphanous shroud of motherhood.
Determining one’s destiny is a fundamental element of life. The tonnage of accumulated evidence that negates that precept, however, often muscles its way to the forefront, steering us in directions that simply don’t work. It is how we wrestle with these forces that define us. Anyone can swim with the tide.
Life is the ultimate metamorphosis. It becomes death.
A boy with little chance of becoming a man.
Unless I help.
His uncle.
We share the same name.
Entering his fourteenth year, Billy Rayburn has command of very little. He is a passenger in the vehicle of fate, occupying a seat with no seatbelt, no exploding pillow of air to cushion the blow.
Discerning his interests and passions has not been easy. One syllable answers are neither evocative nor reflective. Critical thinking has not found its way into his thought process. Yet there is a native intelligence simmering beneath the cowering exterior.
He plays chess.
This unformed 14 year old plays chess, and he’s good. Holds his own in dominoes, too.
A human book whose pages evoke so much more than its cover.
The audio visual world has been his babysitter since his life advanced to the vertical stage. Television plays the role of syringe, through which the mind-numbing liquidity of action movies and video games seeps into his veins, poisoning his mind. Thought-provoking flicks haven’t crossed his radar yet, but they will.
I want to teach him about thought.
We go for pizza. The place is empty.
“I like linguica,” he tells me. No linguica, I am told. For a second, I am tempted by the dramatic image of driving all over hell and back to find this kid linguica. Then I realize the incredibly short life span of the desires of a 14 year old.
“You’re out of luck,” I tell him. He shrugs, a gesture of such pure innocence that it sends me spinning back to my own fateful acceptance of things at that age.
Sitting at the bar, sipping soda, he parries my queries awkwardly. Enroute to his mouth, half the ingredients of his slice of pizza fall to his jeans. Questions turn to his mother.
“What time does she go to bed?”
“Eight o’clock. Around eight.”
“That’s early. When do you turn in?”
He thinks for a moment, juggling loyalties.
“Eleven, sometimes twelve or one.”
”Does she go to bed that early because of drinking?”
He looks me in the eye for the first time. Betrayal and honesty clashing at the heart of his soul.
“Yeah, I think so,” he says casually.
“Are you wondering why I’ve suddenly shown up in your life?”
He chews his pizza thoughtfully. A piece of sausage tumbles to the floor. He pretends not to notice.
“Yeah,” he says softly, through a mouthful of food. I sigh.
This boy will only understand part of my motivation.
“I think I can help you. Maybe teach you some things. How to act, how to deal with people. Maybe we can do some fun stuff together.”
My turn to chew thoughtfully. I bite the bullet I’ve been gumming all night.
“You are going to have to, I’m afraid, grow up pretty fast.”
He turns to look at me. The subtle change in my tone has registered viscerally with him. The honed antennae of a boy who’s lived with a defective mother.
“What do you mean?”
Change must absolutely terrify this kid.
We stare at each other.
“Billy, your mom has done all she can for you. To survive in the grown-up world, you’re going to need to know a lot more about things that she can’t teach you.”
For a moment, the words don’t seem to register. Then, through the waves of conflict and emotion that flow from brow to chin, I see him begin to understand. Putting his slice of pizza back on his plate, he runs his greasy hand through his greasy hair.
“Like…like what things?”
“Well, as we progress, you’ll see. In essence, I want to teach you how to become a man. Your own man.”
He takes a deep breath, the exhalation broken by shudders.
Looking at me, he asks, “Why you?”
Why me, indeed.
When I drop him off at my sister’s apartment, he speaks for the first time since I allowed his question to hang between us, unanswered, like a piñata stuffed with explosives.
“Are you gonna be my dad?”
“Billy, you only have one dad, and he is a bad man who doesn’t want anything to do with you.”
I let the power of those words wash over him.
“I’m going to be your friend.”
He nods, turns and exits the car. His shuffling walk breaks my heart. I realize I have never seen his shoulders do anything but slump.
Rain begins to fall, heavily.
I leave the top down and drive home.


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