« Back to National Winners

Letters About Literature National Winners 2008

Honorable Mentions, Level 1: Sarah Startz

Dear Mrs. Park,

When I was four, my grandpa was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. As a young girl, I could accept people the way they were; I saw no difference in him. But that can't last forever, and by the time I was eight, I loathed my grandpa. I dreaded our family dinners and would lock myself in a backroom to hide from him. I relished the idea of him going to a nursing home, and when he finally did, I was definitely a happy person.

I admire the way Jake, from The Graduation of Jake Moon, accepted Skelly, even when he knew Skelly was not the same way he used to be. I never fully reached that point. Whenever I went with my grandma to visit my grandpa, I would wait in the lobby of the nursing home. I was bored and wished I did not have to come. But one time I changed my mind. I went upstairs to my grandpa's room.

I remember walking down the hall of the nursing home holding his hand; I felt like I was four again. My heart was warm as I looked into his puzzled face. I saw a great man hiding behind the eyes of confused nursing home occupant. He loved music as much as Skelly loved woodwork. He was a strong, sturdy man, who knew all the best places to eat on a road trip. I was proud of him.

That was the last time I saw him. I wish I could go back in time and say that I was never humiliated by him, that I never felt anger or fear or hatred toward him. But I did. And now he's gone, so I try to forget the bad times and hold dearly to fond memories. Each little memory is a snap shot in time, a day at the fishing pier, riding shotgun, partners in crime, and holding hands as we walk down a hall. Now I know what it's like to love someone and resent him at the same time. I just wish I had learned to love him sooner.


Sarah Startz