“Quite By Accident” Chapter 8

The Paperback Edition…

There is no easy way to say this…you know they die.

Three days after I had graduated from high school, “The Parents” crashed their brand-new, chili-pepper red Porsche into a large oak tree on Blake Road…four short blocks from home…

They had been at the ‘club’…perhaps celebrating or maybe even lamenting the end of this parenting phase of their life.  It was said  to have been “a spectacular crash”…the Porsche going well over 100 mph.  No surprise there…I guess…spectacular did describe everything they did..

Karlie and I were completely heart-broken.  Losing grandma Sylvia had been a  devastating blow…to be sure… but she had been ‘older’.  “The Parent”s were both only 50.

They had left strict instructions regarding any ‘death rituals or celebrations’.  There would be no funeral, no memorial service…nothing.

Karlie and I picked up a large urn from Woodrow Funeral Home with both of their ashes inside.  They wanted to be cremated together.  Of course.

And then we all went home.

In less than two days, “The Parents” perched on the mantle over the fireplace in the living room.  Together…forever.

Karlie and I spent over three weeks in that room, mostly crying but laughing sometimes too. ..because even though they had not wanted to actually participate in the ‘early parenting portion’ of our lives, they did want it documented…and they did so with their characteristic enthusiasm.

We ate there and we slept there and we watched every single home movie “The Parents” had ever taken…over and over and over again.

We had only had them as ‘Real Parents’ for six short years…we were not quite ready to let them go…not just yet.

“Quite By Accident” Chapter 7

The Paperback Edition…

Those six years were almost epic.   And I say ‘almost‘ because no deaths or serious injuries could be directly connected to any participation by “The Parents” in any planned school activities.

It was, of course, no surprise that all of Karlie’s friends and all of my friends loved Iris and Rain.

Many evenings there were classmates (or non-classmates) eating pizza (or something else) at our huge kitchen table.

Many times neither Karlie nor I knew them..but somehow they knew Iris and Rain and had been invited over for “Pizza Night”.

It should be noted…we didn’t actually have a “Pizza Night”.

Shall I mention that in eighth grade Iris enthusiastically volunteered to be a confirmation teacher at our very progressive Lutheran church?  Sure, why not.

After the second week…kids who didn’t even go to our church…were clamoring to join her confirmation class…and I’m talking about kids from ALL religions.  Iris was a huge hit.  I was not surprised.

God had never been so much fun.

 

 

“Quite By Accident” Chapter 6

The Paperback Edition…

“The Parents”‘  first attempt at ‘parenting’ was to volunteer at my 7th grade “Welcome Back to School”  dance.  This was, incidentally, was my first foray into “socializing” on a grander scale than play dates with neighborhood kids.

Two weeks before the dance, “The Parents” descended unannounced upon a clueless Principal Nelson…he was such a nice, normal man.  I believe he took early retirement…

He had previously been informed when Karlie began 7th grade that the parents of Karlie and Tobey Carlson had been tragically killed on their third attempt to climb Mt. Everest.

“The Parents” had bravely tried to rescue their loyal Sherpa who had unfortunately fallen into a deep crevasse.  As the story went…all three bodies were never recovered…so Karlie and younger sister Tobey were now being lovingly raised by a grandma named Sylvia…so you can just call her if anything came up.

This compellingly sad tale had been created by our highly imaginative grandma Sylvia after a couple of glasses…perhaps more…of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both Karlie and I thought it was a very sound plan and we all heartily agreed that there was no reason whatsoever to mention this to “The Parents”…ever.

But now…“The Parents” told the puzzled Mr. Nelson, that “Yes!  Of course we’re Tobey’s  parents!  Who else would we be?”

And then they added for good measure, “We’re Karlie’s parents too!”  They figured this  further claim would seal the deal.

A hesitant and slightly confused Principal Nelson said he “would check and see if they would be needed.”  He then rose to politely show them the door…vaguely remembering a sad tale involving a sherpa and Mt. Everest…and he pondered this as he walked toward the door with them.

However...”The Parents” were on a mission and ‘parenting magnificently’ had become their Holy Grail.   They were not going to be turned away…

So they made sure of being ‘needed’ by donating $200,000 toward renovating the teachers’ lounge and also gifting the school library with another $200,000.

This generous gesture of goodwill insured that no more questions would be asked on whether or not they would be needed.

They were more than ‘needed’…they were now revered.

Imagine riding a roller coaster with no safety bar to hold you in place…that was my life for the next 6 years…

 

 

“Quite By Accident” Chapter 2

The Paperback Edition…

I was so tired that snowy, cold November night.  All I wanted to do was eat a very  unhealthy (read that very tasty) frozen something from my freezer, add a bottle of beer, some Cheetos Puffs (of course this is a plug for Cheetos Puffs…HAVE YOU NOT EATEN CHEETOS PUFFS?) and then collapse in front of my big screen TV.

I had worked an extra shift at The Book Shop.  I was the assistant manager.

Don’t be impressed by the title.  It only means I get an extra 5% discount on the books I buy and 20% commission on the books I sell.

And…it also means I get to fill in for those employees who fail to show up for work when there is a major snow storm…for instance…like the one we had tonight.

My name is Tobey Larson and I’m 24 years old.

Tobey Larson is not my real name, of course.  I’m not going to tell you my real name.  One does have to be very careful when sharing odd experiences.

Look what happened to all those people who reported seeing flying saucers…

I don’t remember…do you?

“First Love” Final Chapter

The Paperback Edition…

“I heard…” Bobby began…and then the song “Young Love” by Sonny James started to play.  It had been ‘our’ song in high school…the very first song that Bobby and I had ever danced to in a darkened gym…on a winter night so long ago.

Bobby stood up then and for a brief moment I thought he was going to leave and my heart paused.  I looked up and he had his arms held out toward me.

“Want to dance, Sammy?” he asked with a grin on his face.

I hesitated a bit.  I was a little unsure because I hadn’t danced since before my stroke…

“Don’t worry, I won’t let you fall.” he said…as if reading my mind.

The song was way too short.  I wanted to be in Bobby’s arms so much longer…it felt so right…just like before….

We started to walk back to the table, his hand holding mine.  I was so unbelievably   happy being with him.

“I haven’t been dancing since just before my stroke.  Russ and I had gone to his nephew’s wedding…” I said and then tears just started to fall.

I guess it was just remembering the pain that Russ had caused me with his ‘cane’ comments.  I brushed them away quickly.  But Bobby had seen them.

“Well that was stupid of me…” I said and was about to explain to Bobby the reason for the tears when he looked at his watch and said…

“Well, this has been so great, Sammy, but I promised the wife I would get home early so we could go out for dinner and maybe catch a late movie.”

He didn’t even sit back down once we reached the table.

“Are you staying for the dinner?” Bobby asked politely.

I was trying to find words to explain the tears after our dance and how they had nothing to do with my divorce…but then realized that an explanation didn’t matter at all.

Bobby had said he was married.  Mike must have somehow misunderstood.  My dream was indeed a foreshadow.  I had seen Bobby and “there would be no romancing tonight,” I thought bitterly.

“I…no, but I think I’ll sit here for a while.” I answered him quietly.

“It’s been great seeing you, Bobby.” I said.   And I looked away…out onto the dance floor and waved to…no one.

“Be happy, Sammy.”  And then he quickly turned and walked away.  I didn’t watch.

Burned.  Burned badly. It happens when you play with fire.  I knew that.  I should have left the past where it belonged…in dream land.

Time for me to go.  Just as I stood up, I saw my purse moving a little on the table.  What the…?

Oh, it was my phone vibrating.  That’s right, I had turned off the volume after the ear-splitting call from Melanie earlier in the evening.

I looked and it was Mel.

“Hi, is everything okay?  How is Janet?” I asked.

“She’s fine now…in ICU, but they think it was just a minor attack.”

“But what’s going on with you, Sam?  I just got a crazy call from Mike.  He had just gotten off the phone with Bobby who told him that he thought you were still in love with Russ!”

“Bobby said that you were crying because of your divorce.  What’s going on, Sam?”

I looked at the phone in disbelief.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

And…then it slowly dawned on me.  The comment I had made about being at the  wedding and the last dance with Russ before my stroke.

Of course.  Bobby had thought the tears were over the end of my marriage…damn.  Would we ever get this right?

“Sam?  Are you still there?  Mike said that then Bobby told you some made-up  cockamamie story…that he was married and that he had to go home to his wife.

“Bobby isn’t married, Sam.  After his wife died over fifteen years ago…he never re-married because he never really got over you, Sam.  He came tonight just to see you.”

“Mike had told him about your mother’s diary…had even faxed him the pages for him to read.”

“Wait!” I interrupted.  “How did Mike know about the diary?  I thought you hadn’t talked to him.”

“This morning I went over to Frankie’s and we talked for almost an hour.  I showed him the diary and that’s when ho opened up about Bobby…and said he was going to call him.  I tried to call you but that’s when Janet had her heart attack…

“That’s why Bobby came tonight, Sam…to see you.” Melanie finished.

“Oh, Melanie.  I can’t believe this!  This is so mixed up…  Call Mike back, Mel.  Bobby has to know the truth.” I cried.

But even as I was talking to Mel, I was making my way to the front door.  Maybe Bobby had done valet parking as I had and was still out front, waiting for his car.

“I’ll talk to you later, Mel.” I said and hung up.

Hurrying is not something one does well with a cane…

I came out onto the front terrace of the club to find no one there except the valet.  No Bobby.  Too late.

I walked slowly down the steps and gave my ticket to the nice young man and then I walked over to lean against a low garden wall.  There were so many thoughts shooting through my brain.

I’ll call him when I get home, I thought.  We’ll get this straightened out.  It’ll be okay.  Finally…okay.

I’ll tell him everything and it will be fine.

But something nagged at the back of my brain…why hadn’t Bobby told me right away that he had talked to Mike?

Why hadn’t he said something about the diary?  We had talked…not much, for sure…but  then our song had played and…and…we had danced…

We.  Had.  Danced.  Had I stumbled again?  Had I stepped on his foot?  Had I…

Suddenly those painful words that Russell had shot at me months ago…slammed into me once again.

“You look so old, Samantha.  Remember when you were beautiful?  Remember?  Do you really need the cane, Samantha?  It makes you look so old.”

And then I realized…so stupid I was…so very, very stupid.   Bobby hadn’t seen me since I was a pretty, young housewife…shopping for groceries that day so many, years ago…and now…now he felt he had to hold me up on the dance floor…so I wouldn’t fall…

Maybe first love doesn’t mean so much after all.  My eyes were now burning with unshed  tears.

“Here you go ma’am,” the valet said politely as he handed me my car key.

“Oh, oh thank you…thank you so much!” I said and leaned my cane against the wall so I could open my purse.

I was searching to get another $20 but looked up to see he had already walked away and gone inside.

I reached for my cane through blurry eyes and knocked it to the ground.

“Well that’s just great.” I said…surprised at my self-pity.

There was no way I could reach down and pick up that cane…

And yet…and yet…that is exactly what I had to do.

I wasn’t just going to stand there forever and wait for someone to help me.

“Poor Samantha Jones…” I quietly mocked myself.

Another chapter of my life was unfolding…

Concentrating ever so hard, I slowly started to kneel down so I could pick up my errant cane.  Once I had the cane, it would be better.

“I may never leave the house again.” I whispered to myself…perhaps for the first time hating my disability and feeling way too sorry for myself…but…it had been a hellish night.

Then, as I was almost to the ground,  I heard footsteps running toward me…and a hand reached in and picked my cane up and another hand gently took my elbow, helping me to stand.

I put on my very best, ever so grateful smile as I turned to thank the valet.  But it wasn’t the valet.

It was Bobby and I was in his arms and he was holding me so close..as though he thought I might float away.

“Sammy!  I’m so sorry,  I just got off the phone with Mike.  I should have stayed and listened to you explain.  I am such a fool.  Please, can you forgive me?” he pleaded.  And without waiting for an answer…he went on…

“And…I should have told you, Sammy…when I first saw you tonight…”

His voice was softer now as he took my face in his hands, gently wiping away my tears.

I looked at him…my eyes searching his as his had searched mine in that strange dream just a few nights ago…

“I should have told you…that I have loved you from the first moment we met.  You are my life, Sammy.  I love you without measure.”

    THE END

 

 

 

 

“First Love” Chapter 31

The Paperback Edition…

“Hey, Sammy.”  From behind me, I heard that deep familiar voice…wrapped up in his favorite cologne, Old Spice.

No one had ever called me Sammy…no one except Bobby.

I turned slowly around.  And there he was…looking at me so very seriously…so not like the Bobby Flanagan I had known.

“Bobby.”  It was all I could say…and it was almost a whisper.

Suddenly, I was feeling a lot unsteady without my trusted cane…the one that Mark was continuing to tap on the floor in front of him.

Did he think he was fucking Fred Astaire?

I reached out for Bobby’s hand.

“Can we sit down?” I said a little shakily and motioned to an empty table nearby.

Bobby glanced back at Mark but then took my hand and we walked to the table.

I could sense him looking at me.  What was he seeing?

Was he seeing the ‘old Samantha Jones’ that my ex-husband could no longer love?”

“I like your necklace…” Bobby said.

I turned to look at him.  Even in the dim lightning, I could see that Bobby, like all good Irishmen, had aged well.  Some grey hair, a few pounds here and there but he could still wear a blazer and tee shirt and look good.

No shirt and tie for Bobby tonight…that didn’t surprise me.

I sat down and then watched as he walked back over to Mark Hansen who was still playing with my cane.

Bobby carefully took the cane away from Mark and then slammed it against Mark’s knee.  My mouth fell open.

Mark cried out in pain, swore profusely but then limped quietly away.  A few people actually clapped.  Mark had not been a favorite in high school.

Bobby turned and walked back toward me…the signature Bobby Flanagan grin now on his face.  He handed me my cane.

“Now I know why I hated high school,” he said as he pulled out the chair next to me and sat down.

I couldn’t believe this was happening.  It was like years had disappeared and we were at the Portland High School Homecoming Dance…the last dance that Bobby and I had gone to together.

The boys had been instructed to wear suits since it was a semi-formal affair and Bobby had bristled at the idea.

Typical Bobby behavior at that time…he bristled at everything…except me.

He had worn jeans and a blazer he had borrowed from his dad…with a white tee shirt and a tie loosely hung around  his neck.  One week later he had enlisted in the Navy.

He gave a nod to the cane and looked at me with concern in his eyes but he didn’t ask any questions.  I answered them anyway.

“Stroke.  Almost a year ago.  Nothing major, thank God.  Just a little weakness in the left side and my vision is crap…but I can still pretty much drive.”

I gave him my standard…”everything will be okay” smile…the one I had been giving to everyone these last few months.

Bobby didn’t say a word.  He just looked at Sam and then he slowly reached over and put his hand ever so gently over hers…not sure if it was the right thing to do…

“First Love” Chapter 30

The Paperback Edition…

Now I wouldn’t know if Bobby was going to be here tonight or not.  I didn’t know anything…except that Melanie wasn’t going to be here.

As of three days ago, Bobby hadn’t responded to the formal invite.  Maybe I could call Mike?  He would know…no…no…and would he even tell me if he did?  Anyway, I didn’t have his phone number.

What to do?  I looked around the room and it was slowly filling up.

I stood up, grabbed my cane, hooked my little purse over my shoulder and headed for the bar…a nice glass of wine would taste really good right now.

I waited my turn and was not surprised to find that I could not recognize anyone as I glanced around the room.

With my crappy vision and so many people from other classes, I started to wonder if maybe I was going to be the only one here from our class…aside, of course, from the friendly Pat Duncan.

No problem.  I didn’t think I was going to stay too long.

I ordered a glass of ‘house red’ from the cutest, little twelve-year-old girl.  (Okay…she just looked twelve.)  

She also handed me several napkins which I probably would need since she had filled my wine glass almost to the top.

I took a small sip and  started to walk…ever so carefully…so as not to spill my wine…over to a small table off to the side.

Suddenly, someone got on the PA system and hollered “WELCOME EVERYONE!!!  GO HAWKS!!!”

Then the speaker shrieked that loud, ear-piercing sound…as they so often do…only this time louder than I had ever heard before.  It was like those monthly air raid sirens that almost deafen you.

I probably was a little tense, so the jarring noise made me misstep…just a little…nothing significant…but just enough for Mark Hansen, the most obnoxious boy in our class to notice.

He had been walking toward the bar and had seen me stumble.  Unfortunately…I was soon to discover…he was still obnoxious…and very loud.

“HEY, SAMANTHA JONES!!!” he hollered and pointed to my cane.  “It looks like you’ve been cut down a little.”

His remark was loud enough to draw lots of attention to me…and then he grabbed my cane out of my hand and started to twirl it around like a baton.  Was he drunk out of his mind already?  Who did things like that?

“LET ME HELP YOU TO YOUR SEAT, MADAM.”  He said at the top of his voice…as if talking to a large crowd…something he had always done in high school.

And unfortunately,  whoever had been talking on the loud-speaker had stopped…and all anyone heard was Mark’s loud voice booming throughout the room.

He held my cane out for me to grab…but just a little out of reach.  What in the holy hell had I ever done to him, I thought.

I stood there for a moment…wondering if I should just turn around and walk carefully out of this disaster that I had foolishly created for myself.

But then…but then…