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The Red Hill
By Colleen Messina
  

1     Suzanne was nervous. Grandpa's visit was imminent. She looked out over the dry, grassy hills of western Montana and sighed with disdain. Sometimes she wished she lived in a place that was more humid-like a tropical rain forest! Her thoughts were as scattered and aimless as the dry tumbleweeds that rolled across her backyard. Would everything go well? Would Grandpa know her?
 
2     Her grandfather had always been her favorite relative. He only had a high school education, but Suzanne had always thought of him as her best teacher. He seemed to embody fun, humility, and wisdom, and he loved practical jokes. He loved to take a hike to his favorite promontory when they visited the ocean, and he played the violin beautifully. Suzanne always looked forward to his visits and thought of him as a paragon of illumination about life's twists and turns. Until recently.
 
3     Grandpa had become more and more forgetful. Suzanne caught her mom often crying during phone calls home or after the mailman came with a letter from Grandma. One day, Suzanne's mom explained what was happening. Grandpa had Alzheimer's disease. Sixteen-year-old Suzanne received a much more detailed explanation of the disease than her younger sister.
 
4     Her mom explained that structural changes in Grandpa's brain caused his forgetfulness, and that this would gradually take away bits and pieces of Grandpa's memory. Sometimes, people with the disease become oblivious to their surroundings or even belligerent about what was happening to them. No one knew exactly what caused Alzheimer's disease, but nothing could stop or neutralize the devastating effects on Grandpa's brain. Suzanne knew that Grandpa was coming to stay with them so Grandma could have a rest. Her father had driven to Grandma's house to pick him up, and they would be back any minute.
 
5     Suzanne wondered what they would do together. Grandpa loved to hike around Suzanne's house. About a mile away stood a rocky, red hill covered with cactus. Suzanne and Grandpa often hiked there together to look at the rose quartz crystals that sparkled on the hill. Sometimes they watched eagles soar and dip with effortless grace. Grandpa loved the wide, endless skies and the variegated desert flowers that clung with determination to the ruddy slopes. Even now, the smell of dusty, arid air always reminded Suzanne of her hikes with Grandpa.
 
6     Ding Dong. Suzanne ran to the door. Her heart leapt when she saw Grandpa. He didn't look different. He hugged her. In spite of his illness, his eyes retained the dazzling, blue clarity that reminded Suzanne of a summer sky after a storm. After a moment, she felt confident that she could help her family and her dear Grandpa.
 
7     "Grandpa, I want to show you my pennant from our basketball tournament, and then maybe we can go for a hike!" said Suzanne. "We can go visit the Red Hill!"
 
8     "What is the red hill?" asked Grandpa.

Paragraphs 9 to 18:
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