“Ma, is it true that boys are not supposed to knit?” A little boy said. It was Caden, but younger. His hands were careful and slow as he maneuvered his knitting needles through a stitch then settling the knot through the other needle. His grandma stopped humming, breaking her fast and steady pace. Her wrinkled hands still held her knitting needles laced with a soft green yarn.
“People are supposed to do what they like to do, hun.” Her kind and gentle voice soothed him. It had the hint of confidence and wisdom that you could only ever gain through a life well-lived. To Caden, his grandma was that. The young Caden nodded happily and continued to knit. His grandma laughed when he saw his tongue stick out of the corner of his lips. She smiled and sighed, settling back down into her large comfy seat near the fireplace.
In that same spot many years later, two dogs slept as Caden packed his bag for work. After, he eyed the room to check if everything was in order. Surely enough, to break this notion, Tashi walked in to plop himself onto the couch, his hair haphazardly done and a couple of things popping out of his bag. He was dressed in a blue collared long sleeve with a sweater slung across his shoulder. Caden rolled his eyes.
“Your stuff is poking out.” He commented. “Just fix it in the car. I’ll drive today.”
“Thanks.” Tashi smiled cheekily. He bobbed his head to the side and looked at Caden. “What are you packing?”
“This?” Caden raised a small ball in his bag. It was a pink crocheted circle with small plastic eyes. “Prizes for the kids.”
“Is that what you were making so late last night?” Tashi raised a brow.
“Yeah. I made 25.” Caden hummed.
“The kids would love ‘em.” Tashi patted Caden’s back as the latter straightened his collar. Tashi’s lips straightened and he looked more serious. “Caden.”
“What is it?” Caden raised a brow. “You look out of character.”
“The professor told me they showed your paper to a colleague abroad,” Tashi mentioned. Caden halted for a second but continued once again. “They’re very interested in working with you in the future.”
“I told them no already,” Caden replied, closing his bag and straightening his collar, tucking it neatly over his sweater. Tashi sighs.
“I thought so,” Tashi replied. He looked at the mantle on top of the fireplace where a picture frame stood. In it was a young Caden and Tashi who were both held by an elderly woman. She had a gentle smile.
It was senior year for their undergrad when Tashi and Caden sat outside the hospital room, moments after they last saw that smile.
The ride towards the preschool they worked in was tenser than normal. They headed their own ways in the small preschool and readied what they had prepared. He glossed his hands over the materials he made over the night. He opened his laptop with a solemn look on his eyes. His wallpaper was a scanned photo of a younger version of him learning to walk with his grandmother holding both of his hands. Caden huffed to himself and slapped his cheeks. He readjusted his glasses and looked at himself in the mirror.
“Chin up.” He told himself. “Don’t let the kids see.”
“You leave it out,” He had once heard that voice. He saw his grandmother fixing his suit. It was his first day. “The kids know if you’re having a bad day. You don’t want them to have a bad day too, right?”
“I don’t.” He told no one in particular. He was alone in the room and it was quiet. No one else was there. He looked at his desktop, silent. He breathed in.
And breathed out.
He traversed the room and peeked outside through the blinds. He saw one of his students approaching, holding the hand of what appears to be their grandmother.
For a moment
He fixated on the wrinkly old hand holding the smaller one. It grasped the smaller one tightly as if to make sure the small one would be safe. The smaller hand let go.
“Caden. Ma is in a coma.” He had heard his father that day. His eyes looked as his grandma slept with all those things hooked up to her. Despite all of it she slumbered steadily.
For as long as she slumbered
He remembered thinking it was okay.
I could still see her.
If I go through her door I could still see her.
“I’m going to be the first person in the classroom!” He heard the child exclaim, breaking his thoughts. He shook his head. He opened the blinds and the door for the child who happily ran inside the room.
“Good morning Teacher Caden!” The child exclaimed. He smiled. “Wait, I need to say I love you to my grandma!”
The child left him alone in the room and Caden smiled as the kid ran out. The kid tackled his grandma’s legs and looked up at her, smiling wide.
“I love you Ma!”