Peggy made an error. Or maybe it was a huge mistake. Accepting the date with Myron was not the issue. The mistake was not preparing Ned for the fact that she planned to go on a date with a man. It never occurred to Peggy that Ned thought of himself as his mother’s protector.
Maybe the offer from the handsome professor muddled her brain. Maybe she hadn’t thought about anyone but herself that Saturday.
She decided to go to the beauty salon and change her hairstyle. Usually she kept her hair shoulder length and in a ponytail. Peter used to call it her perky ponytail. He said it was the perfect thing to follow her enthusiastic personality around.
Peggy came home with her hair in a French twist piled up over her head. She thought it made her look taller and quite distinguished.
Ned took one look. “What’d you do to your hair?”
“I went to the beauty parlor and got a new style.”
“Oh,” was his dejected reply. He walked away.
Peggy thought little about Ned’s objection to her new hairstyle. It turned out it was the early stage of an impending disaster.
Peggy asked her Mother to come over to eat with Ned and spend the evening. Mother and Ned always enjoyed watching TV together. Peggy thought she’d planned well. Wrong.
As Ned and his grandmother sat down to dinner, Ned asked, “Aren’t you eating with us Mom?”
“No, I’m going out for dinner.”
“Oh, where’re you going?”
“I don’t know.”
“How can you go out for dinner if you don’t know where you’re going?”
“The man going with me is making the decision.”
“You’re going out with a man?” Ned’s voice was surprised as well as hurt.
“Yes, he’s my Economics professor, Myron Keyes.” Seeing Ned’s anxious glance Peggy added, “I got an ‘A’ in my course. We’re going out to celebrate.”
Ned stared at his mother. “Don’t think for a minute, Mother that you are going out to celebrate your ‘A.’ He’s got other things on his mind.”
Ned’s perception was shocking! He’s only nine! Peggy began to grasp the realization that Ned felt very protective of his mother. As she reflected about it, she realized that his protective behavior began right after Peter died….. My date has shattered Ned’s image as my guardian. Before Peggy could think of something to say, Ned abruptly left the table, stalking up to his room.
Margo tried to smooth things over. “Don’t you fuss, dear, I’ll talk with Ned. I can calm him down, probably better than you can right now.”
“I never should have accepted the date.”
“No, that’s not the problem. We should have anticipated Ned’s reaction and prepared him for your having a date. It’s our fault, not your date’s fault.”
“You’re being kind, Mother. It’s my fault. I never sensed this would create a problem, I truly didn’t.”
“Run along and have a good time, dear. I’ll handle Ned. He’s a strong boy, he’ll get over it.”
Myron Keyes picked Peggy up. It was the first time she had seen him without a suit and tie. It didn’t matter. Dressed for teaching or with an open shirt and sport coat, he’s…… well he’s truly a good looking guy.
He took her to a pleasant restaurant for a nice dinner. The problem was making conversation. Reflecting back on the evening Peggy felt certain it was her fault, because she was upset about Ned.
Later she began to wonder if Ned was only part of the problem.
Myron likes to talk ……about Myron. He goes on and on about his life history. It was practically a soliloquy. I tried to listen. But, my heart was worrying over Ned. As dinner ended, Myron asked for a second date the following weekend. Because my mind had been on Ned, I felt badly. So I accepted. I knew I hadn’t given Myron a fair shot.
The next morning Peggy tried to talk with Ned, but he was having none of it. She knew Ned needed to face the fact that his mother might enjoy some male companionship. She just didn’t know how to convince him. Ned responded to her little conversation by getting up from the breakfast table and stalking into the back yard.
A week went by. This time, Myron followed up their dinner by taking Peggy to a college play which was showing on the campus. Peggy enjoyed the play a lot. Myron, however, was leaving a lot to be desired. His personality was sort of well, wooden. Peggy felt as if she were talking with a tree.
For some inane reason, Peggy thought it might be a good idea to invite Myron to dinner. He accepted. The following Saturday night, she set the table for three. Early in the week Peggy told Ned, “Myron is coming to dinner on Saturday night.” But Ned may have forgotten.
Peggy opted for cropped pants and a light blue blouse with white flats. She’d put her French twist aside for her normal pony tail.
As Myron came up the walk, Ned snapped at his mother. “What’s he doing here?”
“Ned, dear, I invited him. I know I told you. I thought you might enjoy getting acquainted.”
“Oh yeah, I guess I remember.” The disgust in his voice told Peggy everything she did not want to know.
After a few minutes, Peggy left Ned and Myron in the living room while she went into the kitchen to finish dinner preparations.
Ned asked Myron, “Do you play chess?”
“Not with little boys.”
“You have a problem with little boys?”
“Young people have to learn their place in this world. I believe America caters to the wants of its young people far too much. As a consequence, a very spoiled generation is descending upon us. My freshman students are all lazy, ill tempered, and interested only in a party, not an education.”
Just then Peggy called, “Dinner is ready.” Slipping out of her apron, she gave Myron her biggest smile. She had no idea of the conversation which had transpired in the living room.
At dinner Myron announced, “Peggy, have you thought about a military school for Ned?”
“A military school?” she questioned.
“Yes, one of those where the boys live at the school. They get to wear uniforms and learn discipline. Does that sound like fun to you, Young Man?”
Ned answered politely, “I don’t know. Would I be away from home a long time?”
“Well…usually the school semesters start in September. You would be home for Thanksgiving and then again for Christmas break.”
Peggy interjected, “Myron, I don’t think I could afford to send Ned to a military school, even if he wanted to go.”
“Well, it is a fine system of education. You should consider it carefully.”
Somehow, they got through the balance of the meal. Ned retreated to his room.
After dinner, over coffee, Myron and Peggy talked. No….. He talked and Peggy listened. By the end of the evening, Peggy’s mind was made up. Myron was a gorgeous man; but his personality was not doing a thing for her. Not one spark did she feel for him.
As he got up to leave, she came out with it. “Myron, I’ve enjoyed my time with you, however, I don’t feel there’s anything to be gained by continuing. It’s simply too early for me to be dating. I hope you’ll understand.”
Myron blanched. Peggy wondered if he’d ever been shot down before. “Well, I am certain upon reflection you will change your mind. I will call you in a few days.”
“Myron, I don’t want you to call. Our dating is over. OK?”
Without another word, he left, slamming the door.
The next morning Peggy could hardly wait to tell Ned she’d ended things with Myron. But, he was asleep, so she went for her morning jog.
When she returned she assumed from the silence Ned was still asleep, so she showered and dressed for the day. Still no Ned.
She went quietly to his bedroom door and peeked in. The room was empty! The bed had been made. A note lay on the spread:
I guess I’m not needed around here anymore. I‘m leaving.
Sorry. I love you.
When Ned left the house that morning, he didn’t have a clue as to where he was going. He just knew he had to get away from that Myron character. Military school. Come home Thanksgiving and Christmas. He just wants me out of the house. I can’t believe Mom has fallen for that jerk. Well, wherever I’m going, I’m not going on foot. I’ll take my bike.
The problem was leaving Snug. Fortunately, she was jogging with his mother.
As the tears streamed down his face, the little guy wheeled his bike out of the garage and began to pedal.
Maybe I should go to Mrs. Glassman’s house. She was our neighbor on the street behind us. The morning after my dad died, I was so lonesome. Our house was filled with people. I left. I walked over to Mrs. Glassman’s street.
It was easy for Ned to remember that awful morning. Mrs. Glassman found him kicking stones along the sidewalk.
“Have you had breakfast, Ned?” she called out.
He shook his head.
“Well come on in then. Would you like a fried egg and some toast?”
“Bunch of people at your house, huh?”
“I’ll say. I just want to hug mom and there are all those people in the way. I decided it was time to get out of there.”
“Well, I’m glad you came here. Remember Ned, you’re always welcome at our house.”
He would never forget that fried egg and how nice Mrs. Glassman was to him that day.
Finally, he made a decision. I’m too upset to go to Mrs. Glassman. I’ll go find Gram. She’ll understand.
As he picked up speed on his bike the wind in his face began to dry his tears. Gram’s my best friend. After Mom, of course. I had so much fun with Gram last summer when I helped her plant tomatoes. They grew pretty well too. Tasted great. Gram says they tasted better to me cause I helped grow them.
Last August she took me fishing. We rented a boat out at Small Lake. I’ll never forget she insisted I spit on my bait. “If you spit on your bait, you’ll catch a fish for sure,” he remembered.
I love it when she tells me stories about when she was a little girl.
As he approached Gram’s house he realized he really didn’t want to talk to anybody right then. Not even Gram. So he rode into Gram’s back yard and crawled into her hammock. He curled up tight and let the tears come. I wish I’d remembered Bear. It’s bad enough leaving Snug behind. I’m glad she was out running with Mom. I never could have left her. Snug probably doesn’t even know I’m gone.
Peggy panicked. When Peter died, it was such a shock there was no time to be frightened. Now, with Ned’s note in her hand, she was more frightened than she’d ever been in her life! She flew downstairs, made sure the house was empty, then ran into the garage. His bike was gone!
She ran out to the street, looking each way…… No Ned.
She rushed back into the house, grabbing her cell phone. “Mom! Ned’s run away! His bike’s gone! Where does a nine year old boy go when he runs away from home?”
“Ned’s run away?”
“Yes he….he left me a note. Mom this is simply awful. It has to do with Myron I’m sure.”
“Well, he’s probably headed over here.”
“He’s never ridden his bike that far. He may not even know the way!”
“How long has he been gone?”
“Let’s see; I took Snug jogging. When we returned, I thought Ned was still asleep so I showered and dressed. Then I checked his room and found the note. I guess he could be gone by thirty minutes or even more! Should I call the police?”
“If he’s riding over here, he has to come on 4th street or 5th. Tell you what, I’ll drive over to your house on 5th. You drive over to my house on 4th. When I get to your house I’ll call you.”
“Don’t you worry, Peggy. I’m hurrying.”
The ride down 4th street became panic city for Peggy. There were some children out playing but Ned was not among them. She didn’t see a single sign of her little boy. Her panic hit an all-time high. As she entered her Mother’s house her cell rang. “Did you find him?”
“I didn’t see anything on 5th street,” Mother announced.
“4th street was empty too. Oh God Mother, what are we going to do? I need to call the police, I guess.”
As she said this, she glanced out the window into her mother’s back yard. She thought she saw the hammock move. She took a second look. “Mother, I think your hammock’s moving. It looks like a little boy’s lying in it.”
“Well, check it out. I’ll stay on the line.”
She rushed into the back yard. There was Ned’s bike. She found him curled up in the hammock crying. Since he didn’t see her, Peggy backed away from the hammock a few steps and in a hushed voice assured her mother Ned was safe. Ending the call, she carefully approached the hammock.
“Need a shoulder to cry on?”
Ned looked up. He held out his arms to her. She snuggled into the hammock next to him. Never had anything felt as good as the hug they gave to each other that scary morning. It took a long time for Peggy’s heart to beat normally.
When the tears stopped, they shared a long talk. Ned related the conversation with Myron that had occurred in the living room. That plus Myron’s conversation about a military school had really frightened him.
Peggy thought, for a college professor Myron must be monumentally stupid about young children. How could he possibly mention a boarding school to a nine year old whose father had just died!
Here I am trying to surround my son with a warm loving atmosphere so he will feel secure, and Myron talks about sending my child away to boarding school! I could kill that stupid man. Luckily, I had already ended it with him.
Peggy told her son, “Before I even knew you were upset, I gave Myron the gate.”
“It’s an expression a girl uses when she tells a guy she no longer wants to see him. When I told him, he was angry. He announced he would give me some time to rethink matters. He said he would call me later in the week. I told him I don’t want any calls, I just want to end the dating.”
“I bet he was mad.”
“You know, Ned, I really don’t care what he felt. I just want him out of our life.” Then she added, “He did slam the door.”
Ned gave his mom an extra big hug. A few minutes later, Peggy decided it was time to open up this sensitive subject.
“Ned, I’m a very young widow. There may be a time when a nice man comes along who could provide some adult companionship for me as well as some male friendship for you. After this first experience with Myron, I don’t think this will happen for a long, long time. But, if it ever does happen, I want to promise you something.
“I’ll never become seriously involved with a man, unless you are completely happy with whoever it is. Trust me, Ned, you’ll be involved in every decision I make in this area.”
“I don’t see how anyone could ever take Dad’s place, Mom.”
“Of course not. No one will ever take your Dad’s place in our hearts. However, there may be someone out there who could provide friendship and happiness for both of us. If we ever find that someone, I promise you’ll be part of any decision we make. Do you understand?”
“I guess so.”
“Since your Dad died, it’s been very lonely for both of us. A nice man might be able help us deal with our loneliness. Unfortunately, finding him will be next to impossible. I don’t think we don’t need to worry about a man coming into our lives for a long time, especially after what we just experienced with Myron. Deal?”
“Incidentally, Ned you’re doing an excellent job of looking after me and protecting me. Your Dad would be very proud of the way you are taking care of me. You’ve been thoughtful and kind. You’re wise beyond your years. Good Job!”
“He would? …… Thanks for telling me that, Mom.”
Usually Peggy was a shower person. But that night she crawled into a warm tub. She was shivering. The recollection of Ned’s running away was devastating. She had great concern about her son. He was so young to be so burdened. What could she do to help him?
As she soaked her tired body, she reviewed the three goals she had made shortly after Peter’s death.
Her number one goal was to provide some economic stability. I need to make enough to support our daily living. That will leave the balance of Peter’s life insurance for Ned’s college. It will be important for Ned to know his father is paying for his college.
So far, her job at the bank was covering their expenses. So she guessed she had a good start on number one goal.
Her second goal was to be a father as well as mother to Ned....... I’m not doing too well on that one. The mother stuff I do OK; the dad stuff is proving to be much harder……. Maybe Ned does need a father figure in his life?
Goal number three, was to be an ‘up’ person? When people are around me I don’t want them to become gloomy because I am a widow. I’m trying hard on that goal, but I could become bitter in a heartbeat. Why did Peter happen to be the one who died? Why am I the one left with all these problems? Peter, how could you do this to me? I loved you and…..and you vanished on me!!!
Shame on you Peggy…..You know that’s not healthy thinking. It’s just so hard……. Ned’s running away frightened me way more than I realized. I simply have to solve this challenge. It’s important for Ned’s outlook on life.
In many ways time passed quickly that second year after Peter died. In other ways it continued to be a lonesome empty drag.
The holidays were still filled with emptiness. Peggy was challenged to be a cheerful person for her son. She had to hide her own feelings for his sake. She owed him as normal a childhood as she could give him. Come on Peggy, knuckle down!
Ned turned ten. They asked some of Ned’s friends in for a birthday party. Peggy filled the dining room ceiling with balloons for decorations. The boys had a wonderful time popping the balloons! For at least that one day, the atmosphere in the house was really up!
It was Peggy’s job that helped the time pass. She worked hard at being an ‘up’ person for her customers which in turn helped her entire attitude about life.
I enjoy the work. As I’ve become more experienced, I’m finding a lot of ways to improve things at the bank. I think I’ll just wait to speak about my proposed changes. If my time comes, I will be ready.
My MBA classes proved to be interesting as well as challenging. School is totally different when a person is working at the same time. The lessons seem to have purpose as well as relevance. There is a reason for learning when what you are studying can be applied in your job.
One night in mid-July, the phone rang. It was Jeb. Peggy wondered why Peter’s former partner would call in the evening.
Jeb asked Peggy to dinner and a movie! She was really surprised. She truly debated whether or not she should accept. After her experience with Ned and Myron, she was understandably concerned.
The affair with Myron was over a year ago… Perhaps Ned would have calmed down a little by now. Peggy explained the problem to Jeb and asked him to give her time to consider his invitation. Of course, gentle Jeb was agreeable.
After dinner that night, Peggy sent out a feeler to see how things stood with Ned if she had a date. “Ned, guess what, Jeb Richards asked me to dinner and a movie Friday night.”
“You know, Mr. Richards, Ned. He’s one of your father’s CPA Partners. He’s been helping me with our finances ever since your Dad died.”
“Oh, that guy.”
Peggy could see that Ned was giving the matter considerable thought.
“I guess it’d be Ok. He seems pretty harmless.”
“Well, Jeb’s been very kind to me. I’m sure he won’t do anything improper.”
“What time will you be home?”
“Why, I suppose right after the movie.”
’I guess Gram won’t mind staying up that late.”
Ned gave a deep sigh as he left the table. Peggy could tell he was still in his protective mode. She was glad she’d decided to get Ned’s approval before accepting Jeb’s invitation. Since Ned had given a reluctant OK, she called Jeb accepting the date.
Nothing much happened on the date. Jeb is a nice considerate person. He’s probably just what I need right now.
She shook hands with Jeb on the porch and reported in to her son at ten thirty on the dot. Ned was still awake.
“Did you have a nice time?” he asked.
Peggy thought about his question for some time. “You know, Ned, I’m not exactly sure.”