Calista was walking down the stairs one step at a time, carefully holding onto the banister. She hated living in a two-story house. Every time she was alone, she would hear the creaks and moans of the house and feel the hair on the back of her neck stand up.
It wasn’t fun, but her parents left her here alone often. They claimed they wanted to teach her how to grow up but she knew better. Her mom, Bekki went out often with her friends – or at least that’s what she told her husband, Calista’s stepfather.
Calista knew better.
Her mom never seemed to grow into the mature woman Calista always wanted her to be. Before she was a toddler, her parents got divorced. Since then, her mom had dragged her along from house to house while she paraded around town finding one new boyfriend to fill the void after another.
It was exhausting, but Calista was 16 and she knew it was almost time to leave home. She’d be different from her mother, she said. She never had a boyfriend of her own and all her friends teased her. She had had enough of men in her life. She didn’t need someone else to worry about.
That night as she eased herself down the stairs putting both feet on each step before moving forward, she felt different.
Her stepdad had left about an hour ago. He was drunk and had told Calista that he was going to the bar so he didn’t bother her. Didn’t he know that she wanted him home? Didn’t anyone know that she wanted them in the house?
As the wind whipped around their small town, she started to get the feeling that she wasn’t alone. She wanted to chalk it up to the same spooked out feeling she always had, but this time felt different. She was scared, but she felt more grounded. She was nervous, but she felt rational.
She finally made it to the bottom of the staircase, unsure of what she would do if she ever found someone in her house. Right now, she just wanted to make it to the phone to call her mom and beg her to come home.
Calista rounded the corner to the kitchen. As she picked up the receiver and looked out the window, she saw him.
There, in the backyard was her grandpa. He lived a few blocks away but this was the first time he’d ever come over unannounced at such a late hour.
Her heart skipped a beat while she breathed a sigh of relief that the presence she felt was a familiar one. But she was concerned.
She opened up the backdoor. The screen blew quickly into the side of the house.
Her grandpa jolted to attention.
“Calista! How’d you get to my house?”
He was confused. This wasn’t the first time she’d seen him disoriented, but she knew what to do.
Calista invited her grandpa into her home and sat him down at the kitchen table. The wind was blowing too hard and she didn’t want to be out in it anymore than she had to be.
As they plopped down and started talking, his confusion seemed to fade. There, in the comfort of her home, the fog lifted. He finally started to seem more clearheaded when he admitted: “I have Alzheimer’s, Calista. You’re the first person I’ve told.”
It was a heavy statement that sparked the next four hours of conversation. They talked about his cat scans, what the doctors had said, and his prognosis. Calista didn’t care that it was late. All Calista could think was how grateful she was to be the first adult he told. Her mom and dad were too unstable to handle this but with her by his side, her grandpa could get the help he needed.