Today, I was opening a straw for my drink the way I always do: I rip off a small section toward one end, then remove the longer end of the wrapper. While holding the shortened wrapper, I insert the bare end of the straw into the cup lid.
I hadn’t thought about it until my boyfriend asked me why I did it that way. I flashed back to the memory of sitting in a restaurant with my grandfather, who was showing me how to do it. This is where I find my strongest memories of my grandfather: It’s always in the small things.
It’s when I walk into the library and remember how he used to take me there almost every day when I was growing up.
It’s when I see “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” on a shelf. I flash back to being in Florida with him; the movie is ending, and we look outside and see a snake on the porch.
It’s when I have an ice cream float, a treat reserved for the times he watched me while my mother was at work. For years after he passed, I couldn’t have an ice cream float without breaking down in tears.
It’s gotten easier over the past eight years. The memories that have faded the most are those having to do with Huntington’s — although my mom still hates Marshmallow Fluff and sweet potatoes, the two main ingredients in the concoction she made to try to get him to stop losing weight. What’s left now are the memories of him being goofy with me and all the stories I’ve been told about him.
I’ve been told he had an engineer’s mind, which he passed on to my mother; the two of them wired a house for electricity together. I recently graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering, and it’s easy to see where my way of thinking comes from.
Sometimes, I hope that whatever genetic factor made us think in a similar manner is related to the one that causes Huntington’s, because it’s also easy to see where I got that. It’s a part of him and my mom that I carry with me every day.
On one hand, the news that I had the genetic mutation was very hard to hear. On the other, while I am already extremely close to my mother, there was something about it that made me feel even more connected to them.
That’s why I think the Huntington’s community is so close: It’s family.
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