After a long night of getting sick once again, my body didn’t seem quite finished with the ailment that I thought it had finally managed to expel. With all that stress in just nine weeks, I was paying the ultimate price.
Davis helped me up in the morning as my head was once again swimming, making it difficult for me to gain my balance. At this point I was fearful that something might be amiss in my ears, and not just the lack of iron as I had suspected. I finally managed to get dressed, putting on my grandfather’s jacket and cap. Davis had Tony drive us to Logan; he was staying behind to take a look into other things while we were gone.
Once on the jet I tried to remain calm, but my tears came and went as they saw fit, sometimes making their appearance without provocation. My eyes were swollen, my head hurt, the nausea was a constant presence for me, even after I was sick this morning. And for the first time since I was a child my patience was nonexistent, and I couldn’t sit still.
We headed to Savannah to go claim my mother’s body, and bring her back home to be buried in Revere. Once the plane was in the air I quickly unbuckled, going to sit on Davis’s lap and hold on to him. My head throbbed so badly that morning, and Davis would only give me Tylenol for the headache I had brought on from a night fraught with exhaustion and tears. The thought of going to claim my mother’s body…no, I couldn’t go there right now, I needed to hold myself together somewhat, the best I could manage. I just needed to bring her back home to Revere, back to where I could lay her next to Grandpa and Aunt Sally. That’s where I knew she’d want to be.
My head lay on Davis’s chest, and I ran my fingers through his hair, tucking it in behind his ears. He kissed the side of my head. “It’s going to be okay, sugar. I’m here,” he’d whisper soothingly into my hair now and then. I just nodded; the thought of everything that I had to do was almost unbearable. I took a deep breath, still petting him, but a memory came to my mind when I thought of my grandfather. “Did I ever tell you about my mom’s dad?” I asked.
His hand caressed my back as he spoke. “No, you haven’t. What about your granddad, and grandma?”
I shook my head. “No, just my grandpa. My grandma left them when my mother was very young. I think she was just three years of age when she left.” I took a deep breath, as my thoughts flowed to other visions that took me away from the pain.
“You see my grandmother was from Revere, but her family moved out to California when she was young. They thought being out west would bring about a better way of life. My grandmother grew up and went to Hollywood when she was old enough. There she became a struggling actress, I was told. She had made her way up to a couple supporting roles and did manage a little fame.” I turned to look at him with a little smile. “She was even a pin-up girl in the war. Her name was Tara Dean.”
“Really? I think I might’ve heard of her before,” he said, a little stunned. “Now I know where you get your good looks, sugar. All the women in your family are stunners, aren’t they,” he chuckled softly.
“Well, my mother and grandmother were stunning. My Aunt Sally might’ve been stunning, but she was more into the hippie scene, I guess you could call it. So to me, even though I loved her dearly, she always looked a little…earthy,” I explained, and heard the rumble of soft laughter coming from his chest.
“That’s one way of putting it.” I heard his smile.
“But those looks are what caused my grandpa’s pain, and broke his heart,” I told him. “You see when she met my grandpa, her family had already come back home to Revere. See, when her parents left, coming back to the East Coast, my grandmother stayed, hoping she’d be the next Lauren Bacall out in Hollywood.
“When she finally made her way back home, some things had gone sour for her, and that’s when she met my grandpa. He was wearing his Marine uniform, drinking a cup of coffee in a diner in Southie that she had stepped into. My grandpa was a tall dark-haired, green-eyed Irishman, and he was what Kitty would have considered, hot.” I smiled to myself. “My grandmother on the other hand was a curvy, vivacious brunette with eyes as dark as a cup of black coffee, well, that’s what my grandpa told me anyway,” I informed him quietly. “But the day she walked into that coffee shop to get out of the cold, my grandfather said he turned his head when she stepped in, and it was love at first sight. He told me at that moment, he knew that woman was going to be his, and she was the woman he was going to marry.”
Arms hugged me tightly. “I know all about that feeling, sugar. The day you walked into my office with your red heels and red lips, I said the same thing to Yancy. I knew you were the woman I was going to marry. There was never a doubt in my mind,” he admitted to me.
I smiled up at him, kissing his lips. “Did you really, even after my warning to you?” I questioned.
“Especially after the warning,” he offered with a chuckle.
“Silly, pushy, persistent, beautiful man…” I smiled, and laid my head back on his chest.
“Go on, sugar,” he encouraged me.
“My grandfather proposed two weeks after they met. It seems her career was slowly dwindling out in Hollywood, and she thought she would enjoy being a wife to such a stunning man.”
He sighed. “But she wasn’t happy?”
“No, she missed the life of glitz and glamor. She wanted to be what she once was; well I think she wanted to be more, thought she could be more. Nine months after they were married she had my mother. Eighteen months after my mother, my Aunt Sally was born. And my grandpa was a very happy man.”
“And your grandma?”
My arms tightened around him. “As you might have guessed, she wasn’t content being a homemaker. And soon after my Aunt Sally’s first birthday passed, she told my grandpa that she was going out with the girls for a night of cards, but never came home.”
“Did your grandpa ever recover from the loss of it? The loss of her leaving him?” he asked me.
I sat up and looked into his eyes. “That’s a very unique way of thinking. I’ve never been asked that before. Well, more like did she ever come back, what happened after, but never put in the way you just have. What made you think of that question?” I asked out of curiosity.
He kissed the tip of my nose, then stared into my eyes. “I asked that because, if you ever left me again, I don’t think my heart would recover from such a loss.”
“Davis…” I whispered as tears started to flow once more.
“I’m sorry, sugar. Please continue with your story.”
I nodded my head, wiping the fresh tears off my face and holding him tightly to me. “Well, to answer your question, no, he never recovered. He raised my mom and my Aunt Sally all by himself. He worked at a paper mill, and then he’d come home at night, picking up his girls from my great-grandmother’s house in Southie.
“He was always there for my mother and aunt. I remember him taking care of me when I was little and Aunt Sally would go off to work. He would take me to see my mother, and when I would come from the hospital I would always be in tears, never truly understanding why she couldn’t come home to be with us. He would put his cap on my head and take me to get a doughnut and a milk. He would just sit and talk to me. He was the only one who sat me down and talked to me about my mom, about how she loved me so much, but she was just so hurt.
“The men I’d met were nothing compared to that man. I didn’t have him in my life that long. I lost him at the age of ten, just a couple years after my mother was hospitalized. Every other man that had been in my life, in my mother’s, even my Aunt Sally’s life, were all nothing but useless human beings. So deceitful and destructive in their words and actions. But my grandpa had been hurt by a woman, and he didn’t let that stop him from being a man. Raising his girls the best that he could. Loving them, supporting them, helping them whenever they needed him. He was a real man in my eyes…just like you are,” I whispered.
I glanced up at him, trailing my fingers down his face as his eyes told me things he didn’t have to say. “I’m not the kind of woman who holds many things of value. Do I love my shoes? Yes. But do they mean anything to me, no…
“This coat, this cap. If I had to choose what to take with me, if I had to leave everything else behind, it would be these two things. His coat and his cap, the only two things I have left of my grandpa, and the happy memories that my mother, my Aunt Sally, and myself had left. That is until you, Davis. You mean more to me than anything in this world. And I think if my grandpa was still alive, he would be very proud of the decision I made in my choice of the man I would spend the rest of my life with.”
“Damn it, sugar, there you go meltin’ my heart again,” he told me, but this time it wasn’t all chuckles and smiles. This time there were tears in his eyes as well.
“I mean what I say, Davis. I love you, and I’m so thankful for you. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. You are now my coat and cap, darling, that’s how precious you are to me,” I whispered my confession of love.
He lifted my face to his. “Thank you, sugar, thank you for such an honor you’ve given me. I promise I will always try to be a man worthy of your gift.” He kissed me softly. “You already know you’re my world, Adire Mills. You’re all I ever need, remember that,” he whispered fiercely, then kissed my lips once more.
I smiled at him, running my fingers over his face, and that crinkle that stole my heart. I lay back on his chest, waiting for us to land in Savannah and face the reality of what was going on around me. I sighed after a couple of minutes, just resting in his arms, feeling slightly more at ease. “You want to know what the saddest thing about my grandpa was.”
“What’s that, sugar?”
“When he passed, I went over with Aunt Sally to clean his place out. In his bedroom he still had boxes of my grandma’s belongings. We found out that she went back to California to try to rekindle her career. And for a short time she did; he had photos of her in magazine clippings and a couple movies she was in.” I shook my head at the thought of him still loving her after all those years. “I saw at such an early age the devastating effect love can have on people,” I told him.
His finger came down, lifting my chin from my chest. “There’s more good than bad when it comes to love, Abie.My granddad and grandma, their love was something amazing, and I knew that’s what I wanted when I grew up. Even into their seventies, my granddad would kiss her hand, treat her like she was his prize possession. Never once did she doubt my granddad’s love for her, and when she was sick, even then he never left her side. That’s what we have, honey, we have that kinda love.”
He chuckled at something that crossed his mind. “My granddad told me once that the only woman you should be with is the woman you want to place on a pedestal, because you feel that damn lucky she’s yours. You, sugar…a pedestal is the only place where you belong. And I completely understand my granddad’s words now and how he really felt about my grandma. Because I feel the same way about you.” He smiled down at me.
Tears came freely, and I tried to wipe them away. “Damn, it sugar, I wasn’t tryin’ to make you cry and all,” he said worriedly in his deep Texas drawl.
“Happy tears, Davis. Very happy tears,” I confessed, wrapping my arms around his neck.
Only twenty minutes later the jet landed. I looked out the window as we rolled down the runway, not sure if I was going to be able to do this. A hand took hold of mine. “I’m right here, sugar. You can do this.” I nodded and stood, following him off the jet and into a car that was waiting for us on the runway. We made our way through the morning commute of Savannah until we came to the hospital where Davis and I had only a month ago said our vows.
We asked for directions at the hospital desk, and headed toward the morgue where my mother was being held. We walked through the long hall to see Lucy sitting alone, visibly distraught. I let go of Davis’s hand and went to her.
She stood when she saw me coming, and I took her in my arms when I finally reached her. “Lucy,” I whispered on a soft sob.
“I know, sweet pea, I know…” She started crying.
It had been a week since my mother passed. Only a week, and yet it still seemed so unreal to me. Lucy had come to Boston and stayed with us while the preparations were being made for my mother’s funeral.
Davis held my hand as Lucy and I picked out what my mother would deem as an appropriate coffin. But I requested some special upgrades so she could be surrounded by the luxury and comfort that she deserved to have. Lucy had brought up her favorite Kelly green suit with matching heels for her to be buried in. I made sure that the mortuary had everything perfect for her viewing. My mother would’ve had it no other way.
On the morning before the funeral, we had the viewing. Lucy and I placed on her coffin a beautiful spray of white and pink roses, larkspur, and pink hydrangeas, covered in baby’s breath. My mother would have thought it beautiful and feminine. Lucy and I agreed that she would have gushed at such a display. Allie came in with Peter and she kneeled down, saying goodbye, then Peter followed suit. She came up to Lucy and gave her a hug and then turned to me, holding me tightly in her arms. “I’m so sorry, sweetie. So sorry,” she whispered in my ear. I held on to her, trying not to cry. “Thank you, Allison.” She pulled back and gave me a smile covered in tears. Then we both saw Kitty make her way in with Richie. She kneeled in front of the casket, making the sign of the cross, and saying her last goodbye to my mother who was like the only mother she had ever had, as well. She placed something in the coffin, and came running to me. Her cries were quiet but her body shook as she held on to me, and Allie came in hugging us too. When she finally released me she went over to Lucy, who was sitting down in the front chair staring over at the casket, held her hand and kissed her cheek.
Allie introduced Peter to Davis and Rich before we all sat up front in the seats, talking quietly. Lucy pulled out an envelope from her pocketbook and handed it over to me. I looked down at the plain writing, then back up to her.
“Your momma wanted to tell you a couple things when she found out that she was sick. I helped her write it, sweet pea. You know she had a hard time sometimes putting things together, and it’s not that long, but it’s all your momma.”
I looked over at my two best friends, who had been with me since kindergarten. Taking a deep breath I opened the envelope and read the short missive that was inside, the last words from my mom.
To my beautiful kitten,
I want to thank you for all the love that you’ve given me throughout your life. For never making me feel like I was a bad mom to you. For always coming to see me, and never forgetting about me.
You’ve always made me happy kitten, and you are the one thing that I’ve done in my life that I’m proud of.
I’m sorry I wasn’t like all the other moms that the little girls had, and that I missed out on so many things that other moms and daughters get to do together. I just want you to know that I wished that I was able to do all those things as well.
I wish you all the love and happiness with Davis. And I’m so happy my girl has finally found love, and I’ve been told by Lucy he is a good man. That brings me such comfort baby.
Be happy kitten, and take care of yourself. And remember even you need a helping hand every once and a while, ask for it. Don’t take everything on your shoulders thinking you’re strong enough to do it on your own. We all need help, Adire.
I love you kitten, more than you’ll ever know. Thank you for all your love, and just remember I’ll be looking in on you from heaven.
Love you always,
Her letter went over my heart as the sobs came freely. Lucy took me in her arms, hugging me. “I know, sweet pea. She loved you so much,” she whispered. My arm went around her hugging her to me. “Thank you for loving her, Lucy, for taking care of her,” I cried.
“Any time, sweet pea…always.”
It was getting time to leave when I made my way up to say goodbye. Everyone had left me alone so I could talk to her. I knelt, signing the cross, then stood to see a picture Kitty had put in the casket of me, her, and Allie when we were about twelve. I smiled, knowing she’d have a photo of us with her.
I pulled out a small piece of paper. Seemed mom and I are more alike than I ever thought. Because for her I wrote a small poem, with my feelings wrapped up in a few short sentences.
May you find the peace that you’ve been seeking,
May your heart find the joy it’s been missing,
May the man whose arms are open wide for you, when you
Enter the gates of heaven bring you comfort,
May you know that truth of the words, that I loved you,
And may you now always have a smile on your beautiful face.
I folded the paper back up, taking one last look at my beautiful mother. “I love you, Mom. Thank you for every ounce of love you’ve given to me. I will never forget you,” I whispered. I kissed my hand and placed it on her casket. Then walked to meet my family, who were waiting for me on the other side of the doors.