Terry sat quietly in the first row, not crying, yet much closer to that than anything else. The minister recited some bible passages, some personal stories, and even paused twice to let a young woman fill the small brick church with a somber song about letting go, and the hope of the afterlife. It didn’t seem that long ago that life was beautiful, and happiness was an everyday occurrence, and they walked on air, lost in the moment and living in a dream. That is until now. It was a sobering fact that now the two of them now were reduced to one, with one sitting, watching the eulogy of the other. This was not the plan. There were going to live for a good long time. At least long enough to see the inside of a nursing home as residents. Then they were going to terrorize the staff. Get their money’s worth. Not now. Less than three years after getting together, it’s over. Now he just carries around a permanent feeling that he wasn’t going to ever smile again, which he has had ever since, well, that moment.
The minister spoke softly, pausing to infuse a good natured analogy, or a direct quote, yet he heard none of it. Terry panned around the room, to gauge how everyone felt. Most were watching with a tired, ok we get the point, can you wrap it up expression. Some were hanging on every word, yet clearly they were the minority. A couple of teenagers were in the back, texting something. No harm, they don’t know yet what they are doing. A few sensed his look, and locked eyes for a second, only to dart away, in disgust. There was one woman that appeared to be in her fifties with short brown hair dressed in a knee length grey dress and white sneakers next to the door by herself. She looking right at him, smiled with a twinkle in her eye, as if she knew him, yet that lasted for a moment, and then was back to looking at her laptop while listening to the service. Terry turned back to the minister, just in time as he looked his way. He wryly smiled, all the while never pausing the message. His foreheads was a now a dark peach color, his hair now glistened, as he would wipe his forehead of sweat and slick his black with grey speckled locks with one motion. Black is the traditional color of funerals, yet in a semi closed room with no air-conditioning, it felt out of place.
The service wrapped up, somewhat uneventful. No applause, obviously. Quietly, everyone left, without stopping to talk. One older woman did come towards him, after the rest had left. She had whitish blonde hair, with a small frail figure. She stood 3 inches shorter than Terry at about 5’6” slightly stooped over, and had a wooden cane for balance. She cleared her throat to get Terry’s attention, and then spoke. “Excuse me, I haven’t seen you before, are you related to Chris?”
“Oh no, I was his life partner.” There was a deer in headlights look, as she clearly had no clue what he was talking about. “Thank you for coming,” he added. “I am glad you came over, as I couldn’t place who you are, and if we had met before. My name is Terry, by the way.”
The woman responded slowly “Oh I was Chris’s eighth grade art teacher. He was always one of my favorite students, as well as one of my brightest. I was so sorry to hear of this, and really wanted to come today.”
“Oh, yes, you are Mrs. Crabtree. He spoke of you often. I am sorry I can’t quote him directly, yet I can say he had a special place in his heart for you.”
She beamed, and gently reached out and touched Terry’s forearm. She then recalled a few select memories, as did he. For a brief moment his spirit was alive, filling them with sense of comfort. She then checked her watch, and realized that time dictated she cut their visit short. She asked if the minister was still there, and seeing him at the end of the hall where he pointed, she nodded, and made her way to him.
She stopped next to the door, and tapped the clergy gently on his left shoulder. He turned, beamed, and they began a quiet, personal conversation. Strangely enough, she turned to see who was behind her, as if she needed privacy at that point. Wait, I know what’s happening thought Terry. She is inquiring about the “life partner” statement. She purposely turned to hide her face from any onlooker. The minister, Reverend Joshua Swanson, covered his mouth, and whispered his response, as he leaned into her. Oh, there is no doubt, they were talking about it, conjuring up images of him and Terry, without a doubt, naked, in compromising positions, performing all kinds of debauchery. The entire time, however, never stopped to think what it would be like to have others imagine what transpires in their bedroom after the lights go out. If I had a nickel for every one of these moments, well, this funeral would be paid for, that’s for sure. There is still one more piece left of this scenario. She has to turn and look squarely at me. Wait for it. Yes there it is. She turns to me. Blank poker face, no smile, or frown. The eyes, however, are looking down on you, as if you’re a human piece of garbage. The same person she enjoyed a moment ago. Now with this new information, well, you’d have thought I had used the old testament of the bible as toilet paper.
Terry was still stewing over this over as he lay down for the night. He set the alarm, contemplated using the normal ear plugs, and yet realized there was no need. Without Chris, there was no need to turn on the noise maker that emanated a white noise, to sooth him asleep. So no need for the plugs, as there was nothing for him to block out. He rested his head, and starred at the ceiling, until sleep fell over him. This is not going to be easy. 33 years old, and already buried the only one. Life was not supposed to take this direction. Life was going to be good.
One week ago…
Frank waited for his baby boy to be born. On the outside, he was the picture of calm, cool, and collected. Yet his insides were in knots, anxious to know what was going on. The waiting room smelled like the janitor used pure ammonia, which was wreaking havoc on his sinuses. There was a woman behind a desk about 20 feet inside the door, with a monitor, phone, and a small book shelf of thick white binders behind her. There was no one else in the waiting room, which at capacity probably seated about 20 comfortably. The magazine rack was up to date, surprisingly, and had today’s paper, which he almost ready entirely now.
It was so improbable to happen, that he had given up. His wife, Sharon, insisted that God would provide her with a child. A small part of Frank wanted to believe this, yet when he factored in that is wife is 39, and with only one ovary, cast a lot of doubt over that thought. He would never let her know this, so she wouldn’t get down on herself. She would continually pray for a baby at every meal, every church gathering, and even had her bible class doing the same, to try and help the cause. She would always know when she was ovulating, and made sure they copulated then, and every time Frank did not work overtime, they would go at it then, because, hey, you never know.
Then the day came. There was no period. They bought the test kit. It turned blue. Thank God Sharon’s cell was charged. She called everybody, starting with immediate family, stretching all the way out to shirt tail relations, friends, and some classmates she at that point only had been in contact through Facebook. Frank early on tried to slow her roll, and offered that maybe they should wait till the doctor confirmed what the 13 dollar test strips showed her. No matter. She was on a mission. She made all the calls. And then after, they met the doctor, who did confirm that she was with child. Mercifully, she stopped short of the ‘I told you so speech’.
The baby had grown at the normal rate, and everything was developing quite well. It was found out it was a boy, he never moved or ever kicked at all. All other tests came back normal. Sharon was unwavering in her plans for what was to come. She was happier than ever. Her skin was a radiant peach color to the point it almost glowed. He thought she was the happiest coming down the aisle at the wedding. That compared to this, yet this was ongoing.
It wasn’t the worst timing, yet could have been a little better. Then again, when is the timing ever perfect? They had just gotten up for breakfast, when their schedule now was now uprooted. Her water broke. They stopped everything they were doing, and headed for the hospital. The driver’s side door latch had broken just the day before, and since it was now wired shut, Frank had to shimmy though the window, which for a portly 5’6” 200 pound frame, was not easy. They made their way to the hospital, through clear streets, yet a thick, cold fog impeded vision quite a bit. Every red light seemed to last twice as long, every other driver seemed twice as slow, and every bump in the pavement felt as twice as deep, and Sharon, in great distress, took out her frustrations out on everything around them, from the other drivers, to the traffic signals, and the bumps in the road, yet mostly Frank. Too slow, Too close to merging traffic, not driving on the smoothest part of the highway, which continued all the way up until they pulled up to the emergency room door, Having called en route, the staff was outside waiting. They let her out, laid her onto the rolling gurney, and as quick as that, all was quiet again. An approaching ambulance broke the silence, and Frank moved over to park, and wait for the news to about his new addition. And this is where he has been ever since.
He had been sitting for a bit, when a pair of little hands brushed his pant leg. Startled, he looked, and saw a toddler, a young blue eyed blonde 3 year old boy looking up at him.
“Well hello young fellow, how are you today?”
A silent stoic stare looked back at him.
“Billy, will you leave that man alone, and stay close to me?!” a voice said piercing the stagnant silence.
The boy spread an ear to ear grin, and darted towards the voice.
Frank craned his neck, to see who where the parents voice was coming from, and saw a younger woman, blue jeans, Chicago Bears jersey, and a frizzy hairdo with bags under her eyes, that cried out that sleep was not a bountiful commodity these days.” I am so sorry sir, he is three, and full of energy, so, what are you going to do?” She shrugged, and gave a nervous smile, as she hoped for some empathy.
Frank smiled, and winked. “No worries. He looks like a bundle of energy. Looks to me that there is no stopping him, you can only hope to contain him.”
She giggled just a little, and exhaled. “Thank you so much. Just the same, we will be in another part of the building now, and will leave soon, so we should be good now. I am just glad he is feeling better now, as he saw something pretty traumatic late last night and was pretty shook up. We were out taking a walk when we came across someone who had been beaten up pretty badly, and left for dead. We tried to get him help, yet it turns out, it was too little, too late. Now we are just giving our take on this to the hospital, and police. Oh, I left my cell phone in the car, do you have the time?”
Frank pointed his thumb over his head, at a clock behind him on the wall.11:45 and change. “Wow, it’s that late. Excuse me; I got to check on something.” He sprang to his feet, and made his way to the receptionist.
She, an older woman, sat quietly, with her eyes fixed on the monitor, as she was reading the latest news in between patients. She had on light blue scrubs, yet had a light sweater draped over to keep the chill off, as the air conditioned room was just a bit cooler than she would like. There was a headset on, which looked out of place on her brown turning grey hair. Rebecca was printed on her nametag. “Yes, can I help you sir?”
“I hope so, my wife is in having a baby, and I haven’t heard a thing, I would like to know if everything is okay?”
“Oh ok what is her name?”
“Gustin. Sharon Gustin.”
“Okay, just a moment,” She answered, doing her best Abe Vigoda on the keyboard. “I saw you come in, yet I thought you would stay with your wife, so I am sorry that I didn’t notice you out there.
Frank twisted his face slightly into a wry expression. Yes, in today’s world, it was not just acceptable for the father to be in during delivery, it was expected. Yet he felt it had worked out just fine for both his father, as well as his grandfather, who just paced the waiting room. Everything turned out for them. They never regretted not being there. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? He felt like he bucked enough traditions by the mere fact they named the baby, Adam, even before it was born. Who started that trend? Anyway, back to being in the waiting room during delivery, the real underlying reason that would remain unknown was that he was sure he would pass out from the sight. There have been too many stories circulated around about husbands who took a nosedive in the delivery room, who are still constantly the butt of jokes about those unfortunate few moments. Add my name to that list? Sorry, not in this lifetime.
Rebecca looked at the computer, and then turned a slightly whiter shade of pale. She excused herself, and walked a short distance away, still talking, apparently about the question at hand, yet wanted to do this out of ear shot of Frank. She covered her mouth, whispered into the head set, and nodded in between. A wave of feeling slighted began to come over him, yet after a moment dismissed it. She was only doing what she was told to do. What she was programmed to do. Nothing personal, just business. Rebecca wrapped it up, and returned.
“The doctor will see you soon, and will let you know how everything is going.”
“Has she given birth yet, can you tell me that anyway?”
“The doctor will be here as soon as she can, and specifically asked me to tell you that, and nothing more. Please understand, I am not authorized to divulge such things.”
Frank furrowed his brow at the sound of this, and almost questioned this. Mercifully, the phone rang, and Rebecca had a way out of this stalemate of a conversation. He puffed out his cheeks, and almost waited to see how long the phone confab would last, yet gave up on that, and returned to the couch facing the flat screen, broadcasting Rachel Ray. As long as everything is reasonably okay, all can be accepted. If there is a problem, a serious problem, then Rebecca and her protocol is the least of the concerns. Sharon will, and may be already devastated. The game plan then will be to keep her from totally shutting down, and giving up.