THE SEVENTH CROSS

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JOLINE

But Joline had her own ideas. And especially now that her mom was all giddy over Jason. My God, her mom was asking her for advice! What a reversal of roles. Yes mom, good idea. No mom, don’t you dare! Too funny!

Since her mom was so distracted and probably going to marry this guy, this was the perfect time to let her mom know what her plans were. She knew her mom wouldn’t like them one bit but if there was ever a perfect time to lay it on her, it was now.

“Mom, we have to talk.”

“Oh my God! You’re not pregnant, are you?” As Janice slowly sunk into the couch.

“Mom! No, I’m not pregnant!”

“Thank God! What a relief, I thought . . . Oh my God, I don’t know what I thought.”

“Ok, mom, can we talk now?”

“Of course, dear.” After that, nothing Joline could throw at her could be that bad, could it?

“Mom, you know I’m heading to University in the fall.”

So far, so good, mused Janice.

“Yes, I knew that.”

“And I’ll be there for the first year, and then . . .”

“First year? I thought it was a four year program.”

Here it comes. “It is, but I’ve been admitted to several study abroad programs. And one of them involves a semester at sea as well. I still get the same degree but in a different way.”

“What? You’ve already been accepted? You never even asked me what I thought?” Janice was beside herself. How could she go behind her back like that. I never raised her that way! And then for a brief moment she realized that she had indeed. She had taught her to be a strong, independent young lady who could hold her own in this male dominated world. Oops!!!

“I’m sorry! You caught me by surprise. Go on, please.”

And Joline did. On and on, and on some more. As Janice watched her daughter’s excitement she could no longer contain herself and soon found herself transported along with Joline onto the deck of a tall ship racing towards . . . who knows where . . . anywhere . . . and she wrapped her arms around her daughter and they hugged and laughed and cried until they collapsed exhausted. But, oh so alive!

Although Joline had become her own person and made her own decisions, her Mom’s opinion mattered greatly to her. She knew when she confronted her about the studies abroad that her Mom would react the way she had, but it surprised her how quickly her Mom had got on board. That was unexpected. But, then again, her Mom was on her own adventure of sorts as well. With Jason coming into her Mom’s life everything was about to change, big time!

Joline felt like the adult in their “new” relationship. Having her Mom ask her for advice on relationships was weird. But, she reasoned, her Mom knew she wasn’t just her little girl anymore, but a fully grown woman ready to conquer the world. Ok, maybe not the world, but ready to at least push boundaries. And the thought of her Mom vicariously sharing her life with her was a real rush! Maybe other’s would think that kind of weird but Joline was over the moon!

Her Mom had taught her a lot over the years. With her words, of course, but mainly with her actions. She had found out she was pregnant at 17 with a boyfriend that was no where to be found. But she was determined that she would raise this child on her own whatever it took. That’s my Mom! And what could she say about her Grandparents? They had stood by her Mom and loved her where she was, without judgment. Her Mom often spoke of them and how they had helped her through a most difficult time, but how they had refused to enable her. True love. Non judgmental. Real Christian love, right from the heart. And they encouraged her Mom to take classes and move forward. They’d babysit on occasion but they made it clear that she had made choices that put her in this position and that there are always consequences to our choices. But again, without judgment, simply stating the facts.

Joline knew she’d have to spend more time with granny and gramps in the next while before she went off on her great adventure. They were getting older but were still in excellent health so she’d better enjoy them as long as she could.

Of course, being the only grandchild, and a girl at that, she captured both their hearts, but especially Grampy’s. And did he try to spoil her! And did Grammy ever give it to him! But secretly, she wanted to do the same thing. Yet both knew that they would have a huge influence in their granddaughter’s life so it was critical that they follow their own rules. So, instead of showing their love through constantly buying her things, they spent time with her doing stuff, and going places.The Zoo became a favourite place to hang out for a few hours, or the park. Her grandparents were unusual to say the least. How often does one see an older couple throwing around a frisbee? That’s what they did. And they swam, and biked, and get this, wake boarded. As a result, her Mom, and now she as well, were constantly on the go.

Truth be known, she’d talked to them about her plans even before she broke the news to her Mom. Of course, they were concerned, but she could see the excitement in their eyes. “If you need any help talking to your Mom . . . ” but she didn’t. She had to do that on her own and she would, but it sure didn’t hurt to have them on her side!

And that’s how it went. The first year was non eventful as she was able to live at home. Even so, she made a conscious effort to spent as much time as she could with these incredible people in her life. It saddened her when she heard some of her friends talk about their “awful” families and how they couldn’t wait to be on their own. I mean, Joline wanted to be on her own as well, but not for that reason. She just knew there was a great big world out there and she wanted to be part of it, not to escape from her family! How sad, and yet how prevalent in our society. Why God? Why is everyone so unhappy?

The next three years were a whirlwind for Joline. She loved every minute of it. There were trying times, mind you. Being caught out in the Atlantic on a tall ship in the middle of a fall storm is anything but fun! But the stories one could tell! She had learned when talking to her Mom or grandparents to tone it down a little. The last thing any of them wanted to hear was “I nearly died last night,” or “that was a really close call.” A friend’s dad had taken her friend aside one night and let her know in no uncertain terms that she best not do that. “Don’t you know that your Mom’s worried about you all the time anyway? And then you tell her “we nearly died.” Got it? Yep. And now Joline got it as well.

She hadn’t been home much these past three years and that bothered her a bit. Granny and Gramps weren’t getting any younger but they were the first to assure her that “we are quite fine, thank you very much,” now get on out of here! “God, I love them!”

She’d made it home to stand up for her Mom when she and Jason married. And, she was the “unofficial” photographer. Her Mom was convinced that her little girl had no equal when it came to photography! Thanks Mom, but there are a zillion great photographers out there. But, if it made her mom happy, then why not! Besides, her Mom was acting like a giddy teenager. And it made Joline feel less guilty that she was off selfishly following her own dreams. Ok, maybe it wasn’t selfish! Still.

She managed to get home a couple of times each year but this last visit had been different. She’d felt it the moment she walked in to her Mom and Jason’s place. Kind of like when the curtains have been pulled down a little too far. Actually, more of a feeling of despair.

Jason had opened the door, and they had briefly hugged, when her mom came around the corner. When she saw her mom’s face light up with her huge smile, she shook off her initial thoughts, and ran to embrace the person she loved most in this world. “Mommy!” Janice loved it when Joline did that. And they hugged as though they may never let go! What a timeless moment . . . “Come in, God, I’ve missed you sooooo much.” “That’s my Mom,” Joline thought to herself. I am so blessed!

Needless to say, her grandparents were next on the list, so early the next morning, Joline threw on her runners and jogged over to their place. She used to pass by their place on her morning run anyway, and it became part of the ritual to drop in on them before her final 2 mile jaunt home. They knew she was in town, and as if my clock work, she should be arriving any time. “Yep, there she comes. Get out the orange juice!” That was her grampy alright. She could see him on the veranda waving her home, like he did a hundred times before.

Joline had always known she had special people in his life, and thank God, she had never abused that privilege. These past few years had exposed her to a lot of life that she had no idea even existed. So many of her classmates never wanted to go home, or they had no real home to go to, or their parents had been married multiple times, and they no longer belonged, and on and on and on. She knew she was incredibly blessed and she was never going to take it for granted. Never!

Still, she couldn’t shake that initial impression when Jason had opened the door at their home. Call it a gut feeling or whatever but there was something . . .

But soon the time passed, and Joline had to head back to school. At least she got to be with them for a week; better than nothing. Her grandparents hadn’t changed a bit since her last time home. If anything, they seemed to be getting younger. Ok, she knew that couldn’t happen but they were sure doing something right!

But, her Mom. Something wasn’t right. Oh, she was her usual bubbly self around Joline, but Joline had seen a lot these past few years, and if her Mom was trying to put one over her, well, it wasn’t working. So she asked her “Mom, is there something wrong?”

" No, of course not. Why would you ask that?”

“I don’t know. I just feel that something’s wrong. You would tell me, wouldn’t you? You’re not sick or something, are you?”

“Honey, if there was something wrong, I’d tell you. Why wouldn’t I?” Why indeed. To herself “oh my God, is it that obvious?”

“Ok, Mom, but don’t hold out on me. That’s not fair!”

And it wasn’t, but Janice didn’t have an answer. Just a feeling. And it wasn’t going away. But she wasn’t about to burden Joline with a “feeling.”

“I think I might be a bit more stressed than usual. I have a deadline fast approaching and I’ve got a ton to do before then. And I’m thinking about a possible book tour and that’s freaking me out, and . . . ”

“Oh my God, you’re doing a book tour! Wow! I guess you’d be stressed out! I’d be so freaked out . . . I could never do it! If someone told me they hated my book, I’d probably punch them out! Ok, maybe not, but I’m glad it’s you and not me. Ok Mom, love you, gotta go!”

Janice breathed a sigh of relief. Whew, that was close. And yet, even if she had wanted to, there was nothing to tell her. But now Janice knew that she wasn’t going crazy. Joline had picked up on something, as she had, and from here on she’d be paying a little more attention to what was going on around her.

Joline wasn’t buying it. Not one bit! Oh yeah, there may have been something to the book tour freak out, but there was something else, and either her Mom didn’t know or she wasn’t talking. But she knew damn well that something was amiss.

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