The Hardings family were getting ready to spend the weekend in New Jersey where T.J.'s parents and grandparents live. Her Grandfather Mike's in the hospital. He's sick with cancer. He has been struggling with it for a year. He has about a few weeks to live. The kids packed their suitcases the night before. Buster, who is nine, is upset about losing his favorite great-grandfather, with whom he's attached to. Grandpa Mike is the father of T.J.'s father, Leo. He and Grandma Myra are from Ohio and live with their son and daughter-in-law, Kathy Anne.
The saddest part is that Grandpa Mike would be dead before T.J. gives birth to twins, which is February. Buster is very excited about meeting his new siblings. He already three other siblings, who are adopted and happened to be his friends. And... they're also triplets! Their names are Lee, Leah, and Leo Young. Their two-year-old sister, Linda, passed on of an illness a when they were five. On top of that, they lost their parents: their mom lost her battle to cancer two years ago and their dad got killed in a car crash seven months ago.
Justin and T.J. picked up the kids from school on their way to Trenton. They got there within 20 to 25 minutes later. She arrived at her childhood home, which 15 minutes away from the highway. Then, the family went in carrying their luggage.
"Hello, darling," said Grandma Kathy Anne, who was in the living room.
"Hi, Ma," said T.J.
"Hi, Granny," said Buster.
"Where's Pa?" asked T.J.
"He left to see your grandfather with your grandmother. I decided to stay behind to let you all in and we can go meet them," replied Grandma Kathy Anne.
"Okay," said T..J.
"We can use your car," said her mother.
"Will I be able to see my friends later on?" asked Buster.
"We'll see. As matter of fact, they all knew you coming," said Grandma Kathy Anne.
That was when they left to visit her father-in-law. They stayed for an hour before heading back home. That night, all of Buster's friends, including Lena, came over to see him. He enjoyed that very much. None of them left until around eight-thirty pm. Buster was able to forget about his dying great-grandfather.
In the middle of the night, Buster didn't sleep much and got up to his mother and said, "Mama."
That was when T.J. spotted her nine-year-old and said, "Is everything okay, sweetie?"
"I couldn't sleep. I'm still scared about losing Grandpa Mike," replied Buster.
"I'm sure you are. It's normal to feel that way," said T.J.
"I wish I wouldn't think about it," said Buster.
"There is a way: think of happy times can make your feel better," suggested his mother.
"I could try to do so," said Buster.
He went back to bed and when he started to think about happy thoughts, he was able to fall asleep. However, he's not so sure he wants to attend any funeral services at all; it could be too painful for him to handle. The next day, he was still in bed when everyone else got up.
"We can go see my father later on today. The visiting hours starts at noon and ends at one pm. We can have lunch first when we get there," said Grandpa Leo.
"Good idea," commented Grandma Kathy Anne.
"I agree," said T.J.
"Where's Buster? How come he's not up yet?" asked Leah.
"He might be tired. He didn't sleep too well. He came to me. He's still terrified about losing Grandpa Mike. I understand that. It's okay to feel that way. So, I suggested he can think happy thoughts. It must have helped him. I'll let him sleep for awhile," explained T.J.
"But, uh, he shouldn't skip breakfast," said Lee.
T.J. could see his point: Buster has diabetes, but he knows how to handle it. Plus, his eyes got blurry right after that and now, he wears glasses. He was glad about that.
"I'm sure he'll get something before we leave for the hospital," said T.J.
"I'm just watching out for him so he won't get sick," said Lee.
"I know you are, but he'll be fine. I'm not worried about him," said T.J.
Buster didn't get up until ten am. He came down after he got dressed. He decided to get cereal for breakfast.
"Feel better after you slept for a bit longer?" asked T.J. coming into the kitchen.
"Yes, thankfully," responded Buster.
"Your grandfather said we can go see Grandpa Mike. We decided to have lunch first thing we get there before the visiting hours begin at noon and goes on until one pm," T.J. told her son.
"Fine by me," said Buster.
The family left before eleven-fifteen. They had lunch at the cafe like they planned. After that, they went to Grandpa Mike.
"I have some news. We decided to put him in the nursing home this week," said Dr. Jones, who has been taking care of their grandfather.
"Okay," said T.J.
"Do you have any ideas where yet?" asked Grandpa Leo.
"Yes. He will be at Trenton Nursing Center," answered Dr. Jones.
"We know how to get there. A friend of ours died from there about three years ago," said Grandma Kathy Anne.
"I believe RNs will take real good care of him during his final weeks," said the doctor.
"So do I," said T.J.
They stayed until one when the visiting hours had ended.
"The visiting hours for tomorrow are from ten to eleven am," said the doctor.
Later, Grandma Kathy Anne said, "Would you like to see your grandfather before you leave?"
"We plan to leave for home between one and two tomorrow afternoon anyway," said T.J.
"Okay, perfect," said her mother.
That evening, Buster went out to be with his friends. They went to the mall for dinner in a food court and to see a movie. He came home at nine-thirty pm. He has no curfews when he's with them, which is why his mother trusts him and he can come home anytime. The next day, the family went to visit Grandpa Mike.
"I might plan to visit my father more often while he's at the nursing home. You are welcome to come on weekends to see him if you wish to do so," said Grandpa Leo.
"We can do that unless Buster has a basketball game," said T.J.
"If you can't, no problem," said Grandpa Leo.
"I don't normally have basketball games or practice on weekends. I have two games coming up this week on Tuesday and Friday. We have practice once or twice a week before our games," said Buster.
"Great. Let me know if there are any changes," said Grandpa Leo.
"I will, Gramps," promised his grandson.
They stayed by Grandpa Mike and talked to him until eleven am. Then, they left to have lunch at Friendly's. After lunch, back at home, T.J. and her family put their suitcases in the car and took off for home by one-thirty pm. They were back in Dover after two. They got in their driveway, got their luggage, and went in. After Buster unpacked and put away his suitcase, he went to his mother.
"Mama, may I talk to you?" asked Buster.
"Sure. What's up?" asked T.J.
"To be exact honest with you, I'm not so sure if I'll ever want to see Grandpa Mike at Trenton Nursing Center since Emily died there. I'm worried that memory might haunt me," said Buster.
Emily Dickens was his godmother. She had breast cancer and lost that battle at the age of 70. He was with her when she passed away. He didn't want to go to her funeral. She was cremated and her ashes were buried in Florida with her parents where she grew up and spent Winter with her husband, Jimmy, who is Buster's godfather as well. They have three kids and eight grandchildren. Emily had three older brothers and a younger sister along with nine nieces and nephews. Emily and Jimmy had lived in New Jersey for over 15 years. He had relocated to Georgia last year. He has five siblings and 12 nieces and nephews.
"Does it still bother you?" asked T.J.
"Well... not anymore, but I don't want that to bug me again," answered Buster. "Would Grandpa Leo understand if I want to stay behind for that reason?"
"I'm sure he would. If you go go with us, you can see your friends instead of visiting Grandpa Mike," said T.J.
"Maybe. I still can be with my other friends here," said Buster.
His other friends are the Hallowware kids who are siblings and neighbors; Alex, Jr., Manny, twin brothers; Danny and Lenny, Anna, and Alexis. He has more friends: Haylee, twin sisters, Amy & Tammy, Kayla and Kayleigh.
That night, the phone rang as T.J. picked up and said, "Hello."
"Hi, hon," said Grandpa Leo. "The doctors called us earlier. Your grandfather got moved to the nursing home two days early about an hour after you left. He seemed to like it so far."
"That's good," said T.J. "Buster told me he doesn't think he wants to visit Grandpa Mike at Trenton Nursing Center since Emily died there. Although, it doesn't bother him now, but he's worried that bug hum all over again."
"Oh, I don't blame him for that. I think your grandfather would be okay with it as well. I remember when Buster was with Emily at the time of her passing and how it affected him, " said Grandpa Leo.
"Me, too," said T.J.
After they talked, she told the others.
"That was fast," said Justin.
"I know Pa didn't blame Buster for wanting to stay here," said T.J.
"Why?" asked Leo.
"It's a long story. His godmother, Emily, who was friends with your grandparents, died at the same place where Grandpa Mike is and it bothered Buster for quite some time. That was three years ago. He didn't want the memory to return and may haunt him again," explained Justin.
"Oh," said Leo.
"Pa understood about it," added T.J.
"I get what you meant, Mother," said Leah.
"Also, I think I'll take time off from work so I can see Grandpa Mike," continued T.J.
"I'm sure your boss would let you do that," said her husband.
"I'll talk to him tomorrow either when I get to work or when I'm not busy," said T.J.
Buster wasn't with them. He was getting ready for bed, which which is at nine-thirty pm. T.J. figured Buster didn't want to hear about the nursing home and didn't blame him for that.
He and the triplets attend Brookline L. Elementary School for third grade. He has Mrs. Pierce and the triplets have Mr. Young. Their regular teacher, Mrs. Long, had a baby and was on maternal leave, so she will return in a few weeks.