Ashley Schoenfeld
16 December 2007

That Hot, Muggy, August Afternoon

The bright fluorescent light flashed directly into my eyes. The camera focused and beeped a few times. My pupils dilated and my eyes began to water. My heart fluttered, my knees shook, and my stomach flipped upside down. It began. A short, round faced man with grayish hair, a small mustache, crimson cheeks, and a gentle smile began to talk: “ What went through your mind, how did you feel, when you found out your father was diagnosed with ALS?” As these words rang in my head, almost instantly, my mind wandered back to that exact moment. That day, that horrible, heart wrenching moment that changed my life forever…

I stared blankly at the TV. I was as bored as could be. My eyes wandered back and forth from the clock and television screen like a pendulum. Outside it was a hot, muggy August afternoon. It had been a week already, since we had returned from our exotic trip to Costa Rica. My brother Johann was heavily enticed into his video game on the family computer. I heard the door open, it was my mother. I jumped up from the couch and ran over to her and squeezed her firmly. Oddly, she gave me this “never ever leave me” hug. Something was wrong. I pushed myself away and looked up at her face. Her eyes were bright strawberry red. Dark sagging rings had appeared under her eyes. She had a cold, empty, forced smile on her face. In a hoarse voice she asked me how I was doing. I was fine, but her? Before I got up the courage to ask her why she looked like she had been crying for hours, my brother skipped into the room joyfully and gave my mother a huge teddy bear hug. He was oblivious to the pain she was hiding in her face. She then just smiled and kissed him and trudged over to our computer. My brother followed her asking how her day was, but I just sank back down onto our leather couch. I starred painfully at the ceiling, my head aching in confusion…What was wrong? What was wrong? I heard muffled sniffling- my mom? I followed the sullen sound. I turned a corner revealing our family’s altar. I stared first at the giant hand crafted crucifix draped in brilliant violet linen, with thick construction sized nails wedged in randomly around the dark brown surface of the wood, looming over our family pictures. Then I lowered my gaze down to see a weeping Johann staring back at me on his knees, hands folded gently resting on the altar’s edge. His face had the same angst that I had recognized in my mother.

“What’s wrong?” I asked softly.

“Daddy is going to be ok…right?” With saying this he released a few more yelps of emotional pain. More hot, salty tears poured down his pallid face.

I turned around, and quietly tipped-toed over to where she was sitting in front of the computer. I stopped and stared at the screen she was analyzing. It read: “The disease ALS has been known to…” ALS? What’s that? My head throbbed. I remember what my brother had said…

“What’s wrong with dad?” I whispered. My mother quickly spun around, startled, unaware I had been hovering over her for some time now.

“Sweetheart…” She was choking back tears.

I heard the garage door open. I quickly leaped across the room toward my father, who had just entered. He was standing tall with his white dress shirt, pink tie, khaki pants, and Disney name tag. I squeezed him as hard as I could. He put a giant, gentle hand on my shoulder.

“What’s ALS?” I asked softly.

“Oh, did you mother already tell you? I thought we were going to wait till tonight…” he said softly.

“Well, she didn’t tell me, I kind of saw what she was reading on the computer. It said ‘ALS’ ” I choked.

He knelt down, looked me straight into my deep brown eyes with his pale sea blue stare, and said:

“Don’t worry honey, we’ll beat this...”

Beat this? What’s “this”? What is wrong! My head felt as though it was going to explode. All I wanted to do was scream and wake up…

“…And later that night, my mother explained to me and my brother that ALS was a disease, better known as Lou Gering’s disease, that destroyed motor neurons and muscle.” I finished with a deep inhale.

“Thank you. And how did you approach your father with the idea you could be his hands? Collaborate together to create these unique painting?” the short man asked.

“I have always adored my father’s art, working with him would’ve been a dream come true. So last Father’s Day, I simply presented the idea of collaboration. We started right away.”

The whole experience, my father getting diagnosed with a terminal disease, working together as father and daughter, has changed me as a person for the better. We, my family, have been able to turn a grim situation into something as positive as it could be. Even though times were bad, we made the best of it. This has been very essential in molding the person I am today.