“Michelle…Michelle. Are you awake?”
The sound of my mother’s voice, right on schedule, made me toss in my bed. I slowly opened my eyes. The sunlight crept in through the blinds, creating rays of stripes on the hardwood floors. I turned to my side, facing the locked door, and mumbled imprecise words acknowledging that I was awake.
“Get up; it’s 6:14.” Her last words of warning faded as I heard her footsteps tumble down the stairs.
I rolled out of the comfort of my bed and rubbed my eyes. The television, which had stayed on all night, was flickering with the volume low. I yawned, feeling an intense pressure on the right side of my forehead. I still had a migraine. I took medicine for it all day yesterday, and the drugs had done nothing. I grimaced at the thought of leaving the house today. Having to deal with everyday situations today was just not a possibility. I remembered one of the teachers telling me there was a possibility that school would be canceled, since the night before there was going to be yet another snowstorm. I prayed he was right. I heard my mother climbing back up the stairs, and I opened my bedroom door.
“Hey, Mom, uh…did they cancel school today?” I asked, still slightly drowsy.
“I don’t know; did they? You know they don’t announce your school on the news, so did they say it’s closed?” she said as she applied her makeup.
I planned my next maneuver carefully. True, I really dreaded the thought of going to school today; however, I dreaded the thought of my mother gnashing her teeth at the fact that I said school was canceled.
“I don’t know. They said it might be. Uh, I still have a migraine, though. I don’t really want to go in today.” I softly rubbed my right temple, playing up my migraine.
She brushed her hair and gave herself one last look in the mirror.
“Well, if you call and make sure you don’t get in trouble for not being at school then its fine.”
I nodded and triumphantly walked back to my room, locking the door behind me as I always did. I crawled back into bed and buried myself in my heated blanket. Slowly I drifted back into sleep.
The sounds of the doorbell and Roxy barking wildly startled me. Still in a lethargic daze, I looked at the time. It was 7:32. I sat up and eventually realized there was someone at the front door. I quickly checked, making sure I was decent, and looked out the window to see if it was someone I knew. There stood my godfather. This was strange for many reasons. Nevertheless, I turned off the alarm and let him in.
"Hello, gorgeous,” he said as he gave me a kiss on the cheek, greeting me in his usual manner.
“Hi, Drino, what are you doing here? My parents are at work.” I took his coat, hung it up on the hook, and smiled.
I hadn’t seen him in about a month at the least. I studied him, and I became filled with questions. He came in and had a seat, but there was something different about him. Really different.
“Uh, do you want anything to drink, Drino?”
Yes, technically his title is Padrino, but my mother and I always referred to him as Drino. I guess it was a little more casual than Padrino.
“Water is fine, beautiful, with a lot of ice,” he replied as he cleaned his glasses.
“So, what brings you over here? Where’s Drina?” I handed him a glass of water and sat down.
“Thanks, doll, I’m parched. She’s at home. I just wanted to visit; I was in the neighborhood.”
I smiled at him. Again, there was something different; for one, he was walking. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw him without a cane. More importantly, the last time I saw him, he was in the hospital. He had gangrene and was going to have surgery to cut off his leg. We only visited him twice while he was there, but from my understanding the surgery went fine. However, they said he would be in a wheel chair.
“Um, Drino…I thought…I thought you weren’t going to be able to walk,” I said, not really wanting to bring it up.
He looked at his leg and then back at me.
“It’s uh, one of those new prosthetics. I tell ya, the advances in modern medicine are amazing.”
“Oh, okay then. And how’s everything else? You feel better?”
“I feel like a million bucks, doll. I tell you, I’ve never felt better. I don’t hurt anymore.” He smiled, taking another sip.
I was glad to hear he was okay. As of late, he was really sick all the time; whether it was his diabetes, his kidney failure, or the congenital heart disease, there was always something wrong. It didn’t help that most of the time he was a grouchy and incredibly talkative something—this was what annoyed my godmother endlessly. Nevertheless, her love for him was beyond description; no one could deny how much love she had for this man. After being married so long, I couldn’t blame her. She was about five years younger than him and both worry and having to take care of him was starting to take its toll on her as well. The day we went to the hospital, she had been there all week. We’d had to force her to eat something, and she hadn’t slept in days. She was mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausted. While we were there, people from church came to visit him. Now he seemed better than ever. I was relieved to hear he didn’t hurt anymore.
“That’s good, Drino. I’m glad to hear that. I was getting worried.”
“Darling, don’t worry about me. Everything is going to be fine. Don’t worry about your old Drino, alright?”
He chuckled as he looked at me. “Are you still with that boy?”
“Uh, yeah, I actually was with him the other day, He took me to school.”
“Your boyfriend is very lucky. You are an intelligent, talented young woman, and you deserve the best. That guy better do everything he can to make you happy. If not, leave him, because you don’t need someone who doesn’t treat you like a princess.”
This was a speech I had heard many times from him. I sat, listening to him, as I awaited the infamous “pedestal line” that was his trademark—at least in my eyes. As I predicted, he lifted his hand up as if he was holding an invisible plate.
“That boy—or any boy, for that matter—has to put you up here, on a pedestal. If he doesn’t have you up here, then he is not worth your time, darling. You remember that.”
“Okay, I will.”
“Now what I really came here for, besides telling you that, is a concert,” he said, a grin growing on his face.
I laughed. He loved my music. Whenever he’d come over, I would always have to play him at least one song. I actually hadn’t practiced in weeks. My interest in music was fading, but I kept that to myself and ran upstairs to get my saxophone. I placed the case on the couch and put the reed in my mouth. As I carefully assembled the stunning brass horn, it glistened in my hand. I had forgotten how beautiful it was.
“Sweetheart, you know what I want to hear, right?”
I nodded and smiled as I slid the reed into place and adjusted the strap. There was a song I played—one of the few ones I actually memorized—and he loved it. I wet my lips and got my embouchure. I looked at him with a smile and proceeded to play Unchained Melody. I focused on my fingering as I tried my best not to make any mistakes. When I played the last note, I saw a tear roll down his cheek and he began to clap.
“Beautiful, hun, really. That is your instrument.”
He took off his glasses and wiped away his tears. He put them back on and took my hand.
“Let me tell you something, dear. When my time comes, I want you to play Ave Maria at my funeral. I think it would sound beautiful on that horn.”
I nodded as I put my saxophone down. He got out of his chair and handed me the glass of water.
“Well it's time for me to go, I just wanted to stop by and see my gorgeous goddaughter.”
I smiled as I got him his coat, and then I unlocked the door as he put his coat on. He gave me a kiss on the cheek and hugged me.
“I love you, sweetheart.”
“I love you too, Drino.” I looked up at him with a smile as he walked out the door.
As I locked the door, the phone started to ring. I ran up the stairs, almost slipping on the chair in my room. Diving onto the bed, I snatched the phone and answered it, out of breath.
It was Mom. From what I could tell, she was crying, so I immediately became alarmed.
“Mom? What’s wrong?”
“Have you talked to Dad?”
“No, what happened?”
My eyes widened as I fell to the floor. My eyes filled with tears.
“He died this morning at the nursing home at 6:14. We’re on our way to see Drina. I just wanted to let you know, okay? We’re going to be over there, so we might be getting home late.”
“Okay. Just let me know what happens,” I replied, my voice shaky from my crying.
“Love you, too,” I said as I hung up.
How is this possible? Am I crazy? I laid on the floor, holding my knees as I cried. I couldn’t believe what she had just told me. It was impossible. I slowly regained my composure and went back downstairs. I took a deep breath. I got on my laptop and went to a search engine. I quickly became focused, with only one objective on my mind. As I wiped the tears from my eyes, I typed in Ave Maria.
In loving memory of my Godfather