I take a deep breath as I pull into the hospital parking lot, my hands gripping the steering wheel tightly. The familiar sense of dread washes over me as I stare at the imposing modern building, looming before me like the Grinch who stole Christmas Eve.

The thought of Gran’s recent health scare still sends a shiver down my spine. It’s been a few weeks since Theodore’s initial call. My world came to a standstill. When she had to be admitted this second time, it felt like the ground opened up from under me. The fear of losing her, the only family I have left, was—is—paralyzing. And now, as I make my way towards the hospital entrance, I can’t help but feel a mix of relief and apprehension.

As I step through the automatic doors, the pungent smell of antiseptic assaults my nostrils, making my stomach churn. The white walls and the beeping of machines immediately transport me back to when I had to watch my mother wither away in a hospital bed, her body ravaged by breast cancer. Somehow the memories are still raw, even though it’s been years since her passing. I was only eighteen then—a lifetime ago, it feels like—but the pain of losing her has never really left me.

I approach the wide reception booth, my heart pounding in my chest. One of four or five receptionists looks up at me with a polite smile, her eyes tired behind her glasses.

“I’m here to check out my grandmother, Helen Gallo,” I say, my voice sounding strained to my own ears.

I hate having to experience this nauseating phobia back-to-back, but I have no choice but to push through. Not for the first time, I wonder at that moment if I should seriously consider seeing a professional to address this…this thing. Because it isn’t getting better. And it can’t possibly be normal.

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