Martisha Montemayor

The Bystander Effect

            The bystander effect refers to the phenomenon in which the greater the number of people present; the less likely people are to help a person in distress. When an emergency occurs, observers are more likely to act if there are few or no other witnesses. Being part of a large crowd makes it, so no single person must take responsibility for an action or inaction. (Understanding the bystander effect,

            My grandma, Guadalupe Canales, was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, my father was away in prison her keeper. I didn’t know she was sick. I never asked if she needed anything, I figured she had all her kids you know. I am a victim of the bystander effect. I never even checked on her the whole four years my dad was away. I have my reasons for that, but now I feel like those reason where excuses to not take responsibility for my inaction with my grandmother. I feel guilty now, I could have helped, I could have taken her to the doctor, I could have been there.

            Now more than ever I wish I could see her coming out of the house in her

spaghetti strap shirt and ole torn comfortable shorts with that gripe look on her face. I never knew it was just because she was old, the look on her face came with age. I feel so stupid, life and spending it with my people is what’s important. My grandma was more beautiful than Audrey Hepburn I swear she was like the Kitty Foremen of Premont back in the day. She was the kind of women to get dressed to the nine to check the mail or to go eat and get coffee.


            I used to see her around town embrace her hug her, ask “how you are doing grandma?” she’d say “I’m okay” and she’d slip me a five dollar bill every time it was the coolest. I never asked her for money the other grandkids did that. She had this big two-story house that was long it had the old rustic door knobs it was a beautiful house and it smelled like her. When I was little, she used to give me the biggest hugs she was my grandma.

            I never cared until it was too late. I’m a victim of the bystander effect now all I do is kiss the top of her urn. She has six children we were all there she raised four or five grandchildren (not me) she acted in her life. All I did was take her, her rosary when she was on her death bed. She was distant my estranged grandma, and now all I do is kiss the top of her urn. I am a victim of the bystander effect. The morphine helped her not to be in pain the family kept her in Victoria, she wasn’t even the same person laying there she looked bad.

I couldn’t stay long everyone there was so sad in their own despair and agony her kids were about to lose their mom. Her keeper wasn’t. I felt that guilt for my dad and my brother. We were family just not close. Everyone’s heart was heavy I feel like that’s why people slouch over in sad situations the heart is too much to carry in our chest so our back bends in causing the shoulders to droop down. We were all family, but no one acted, I am so sorry.

            The bystander effect is the phenomenon where a large family didn’t realize the queen was in distress. I was there, I didn’t help when I could have but I didn’t know she was sick. I’m a victim of guilt for not moving my sorry ass, when my dad was in prison, I didn’t check on his keeper. I’m a divine daughter. An innocent bystander.

            Now all I can do is kiss the top of her urn.

© 2019 Tapestry, Annual TAMUK Women & Gender Studies Journal

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