“Rodney! Where is Aunt Emily?” Jenny asked for the third time as she walked into the living room drying her hair.
Rodney kept his eyes glued to the video screen. “How am I supposed to know? Jennifer!”He really hated it when his sister called him “Rodney.” That’s why he had ignored her the first two times when she asked him about Aunt Emily.
“C’mon Rod!”Jenny was getting concerned enough to plead a little. “I asked you to watch Aunt Em while I took a shower.”
“You did?” he asked, offering her his best “who, me?” look.
“Rod, please! When I got into the shower, she was in the kitchen cleaning the sink – like she does at least ten times every day. Now she’s gone!” Jenny was moving around the room looking out all the windows.
“Honest, I dunno, Jen,”Rod answered, pulling himself up off of his elbows. “I don’t remember you asking me to watch her. ”
“I can’t find her anywhere and Mom should be home from the dentist in less than an hour,” Jenny wailed.
“Where do you think we should go?” he asked.
“I don’t know!”Jenny said. “But we have to find her. She could get hurt or something.”Now Jenny was sounding borderline frantic.”
Rod raced to the back door. Aunt Emily’s blue fall coat was hanging on a hook right next to his faded jean jacket. “Jenny, look!” he said. “We’d better take her coat.”
As he opened the back door, a gust of cold November wind whooshed into the house. “Aunt Em could get really sick if she’s outside too long,” Jenny said.
“You checked the yard and the garage. I’ll go down the block. She might have tried going to the beach again,” Rod said as he took off running.
Rod and Jenny lived five miles from the closest beach, but Aunt Emily grew up living only a block away from Rainbow Beach in Chicago. A few months ago she had slipped out of the back door with her bathrobe on. She said that it was her beach jacket and that she was going for a little dip.
Aunt Emily was Grandma Berniece’s oldest sister. Rod used to have fun with Aunt Emily because she had been an elementary school teacher for forty years. She understood kids. Whenever she used to come to visit, they would play Monopoly. Aunt Emily had been the best Monopoly player Rod had ever met. Lately, though, she hadn’t been able to play Monopoly at all because she couldn’t remember the rules, and then she would get upset.
Aunt Emily forgot things on a regular basis – like where she was or what day it was. The doctor said she had Alzheimer’s disease. She didn’t look sick or anything, but she said weird things and sometimes she didn’t know who Rod and Jenny were. One day when Rod came home from school, she had locked the door. She kept shouting and asking him who he was.
“Rodney,” he said.
“Rodney who?” she asked.
“Rodney Schuler; I’m your sister’s grandson.”
“Grandson!”Aunt Emily said with a laugh. “Don’t be ridiculous! Berniece is only twelve years old!”
“Yeah, that would be pretty funny wouldn’t it.” Rod laughed, too, because that was the only way to handle Aunt Emily when she said things like that.
Ladt Christmas, Aunt Emily went to live with Grandma and Grandpa. Every Tuesday, she would come to stay at Rod and Jenny’s house for the day – to give their grandmother a rest. Most of the time their mom was there to watch Aunt Em, but on this day Mom had to go to the dentist.
Rod and Jenny’s house was on a dead-end street, so checking their block for Aunt Emily didn’t take long. Jenny was in the front yard holding Aunt Emily’s coat. She looked like she had just swallowed a whole red pepper. Her eyes were red and watery.
“Rod, Joey Nicholas said he saw Aunt Em about five minutes ago. She was headed toward Devon Road.”
A huge lump formed in Rod’s throat and stuck there when he tried to swallow. He could hardly squeak out the words, “Let’s go!”
They sprinted about ten steps when Jenny grabbed Rod’s arm. “Rod, we should pray about this.”
“You’re right, but I think today we pray while we run,” he answered.
It was only three blocks to Devon Road, but Rod had plenty of time to pray. He asked God to please protect Aunt Emily and to help them find her.
As they turned the corner onto Devon Road, Rod could see Aunt Emily about a block away. She was standing on the cement island in the middle of the four-lane highway. Cars were whizzing by at fifty-five miles per hour on both sides of her. She had her hand up as if she thought the cars would stop.
Rod was just about to yell when Jenny grabbed his arm. “Rod, don’t yell! And pray she doesn’t see us. She might just step off the island right in front of a car.”
“What are we going to do?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Jenny said. She covered her face with her hands, crumpled into a heap, and started to sob.
Rod stood there looking at her for a second, dumbfounded and desperate. “Aunt Em belongs to you, Lord,” he reminded God again. “Please, help us!”
He snatched Aunt Emily’s blue coat and rushed along the roadside. When he got directly across from her, he crouched down. He was praying she wouldn’t see him.
The Rod waited. It seemed like forever. Cars, vans, pick up trucks and semi trailers zoomed past, between Aunt Emily and him. She just kept standing there with her hand up. In spite of the cold wind, warm air from the heavy traffic swirled around Rod’s legs. He licked his lips. They tasted like exhaust.
Finally, Rod saw a break in the traffic. He lunged across the highway and grabbed Aunt Emily firmly by the arm. Rod said as calmly as he could, “Boy, Aunt Em, you must be cold. Here’s your coat.”
Aunt Emily looked at him with a blank expression on her face. Inside of his head, he was crying, Please God, make her know me!
Slowly a familiar smile stretched across her face.
“Why thank you, Rodney. It is getting chilly out.”
A feeling of relief and gratefulness rushed through his entire body. Rod took Aunt Emily’s arm, trusting God to help him with the next step. “This is a really busy road, Aunt Em. Can you help me cross and get home?”
“Hold my hand, Rodney,” she said with a confident smile. “I’ll take care of you.”
Aunt Emily clutched his hand tightly as they waited for a break in the heavy traffic. “Be careful, Rodney; this is a very busy street, Dear.”
When they had safely reached the other side of the street, Jenny was anxiously waiting for them. “Jennifer, what are you doing here?”Aunt Emily asked. “I had better help you near this busy road.”
As they walked home, Aunt Emily chattered away happily. Jenny leaned behind her and whispered, “Thanks, Rod.”
“Don’t thank me, Jenny, “he said, pointing one finger toward heaven. “Thank him.”
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