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    Mikiesboy
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Changes, Again - 6. Hello, Goodbye

I said goodbye to Donny at home, and Robert drove me to the airport. It was a three-hour flight from Toronto Pearson International Airport to St. John’s. I didn’t want to go back home, especially without Don.

“I’ll come soon, but someone has to make arrangements for the animals and the house. I’ll try and be there by Wednesday, babe. Plus, you should spend some time with your mom and dad, Lous.”

He was right of course.

 

So here I was on Sunday, waiting for the boarding call. I felt nervous and anxious. Wishing they would just hurry up and announce boarding, I was having trouble sitting still. Robert patted my shoulder.

“Take it easy, Louis.”

“How can I? It’s my dad, Robert. What if …?”

“What if he dies?”

I sighed. “Yeah.”

“Oh, Louis. I know it’s hard. I’ve been through it. We’ll all go through it, yet that fact doesn’t make it easier.” He stopped patting and rubbed my back in small circles. “When he does pass on, you will deal with it. You will cry, and be angry. And more, you’ll realize your own mortality. That may be the hardest thing of all. But you will get through it. You will be there for your mom.”

I turned toward him, seeing this good man maybe for the first time. I was glad he was with me. “Thanks … for everything, Robert.”

Just then they called the flight, and my heart pounded all the harder. Robert got to his feet. I accepted his hand as he helped me to my own.

“It will be all right, Louis. We’ll help Don and get him on a flight out to you. And Rena and I will help look after things here. Go and do what you need to do.”

I nodded, and he embraced me warmly. When he stepped back, his hands remained on my shoulders. “Ready?”

Once again, I nodded. “Yeah. See you soon.” I picked up my jacket, shouldered my small carry-on, and took the boarding pass from my pocket. I shook his hand. “Thanks again.”

He smiled. “No problem. Text us, okay?”

“I will.” I turned away and walked toward gate. I showed the attendant my pass and moved through it. I spun around for one final glimpse. Robert nodded and raised his hand. I waved back, and went on my way.

 

I was born on the Rock, also known as Newfoundland. We didn’t live there long, as my parents left to go to the mainland to find work. As a teen I did visit with my Gran there on occasion, and lived with my parents long enough to remember a lot of their unique language. If you’re a traveler on the Rock, you’re a come-from-away and will likely be asked, where ya longs to?

My father was in St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital in St. John’s. My parents live in Witless Bay; which is about twenty-five miles from St. John’s. It’s a thirty-minute drive on good days. Most days there are good unless it’s winter.

I knew my mother was staying in town with my Aunt Laura. She was my father’s sister.

I was thinking about family as the plane landed. I do have family here. They are warm, generous people, like most from this Province. People here know life can be hard, but they are generous to strangers. They’ve rescued Tamils from the seas and certain death. They took in those in need when planes were turned away from New York during the 9/11 attacks.

And there is the land itself; it is rocky, full of green, and it’s beautiful.

 

My mother texted me to let me know my Aunt would pick me up at the airport. I saw her I as came out of the baggage claim. I’d always been grateful not to have been on the receiving end of my Aunt’s colouring. Flaming red hair and close to six feet tall, I’d always thought of her as a Viking!

She strode toward me, but even from here I could see she looked tired and drawn.

“Whatta y’at, Louis?”

“I’m doing okay, Auntie.” She embraced me before I could put down my luggage. “How are you?”

“Best kind, I suppose.” She let me go and stepped back. “That man of yours not wit ya?”

“He’ll be along in a few days.” Laura put her arm through mine and we started to walk toward the parking area. “We have horses, and Don works at home. Things need tending to first.”

“Of course.”

“How is Dad?”

We walked through the exit, and Laura steered me through the parked cars toward her blue Ford Escape. “Ta answer, he’s not good.”

She unlocked the rear door, and I put my things in. I pulled down the door to close it. We got into the SUV and did up our seat belts.

Laura started the Escape and then turned to me. “Me duck, I think more or less he’s waitin’ on you.”

My heart fell into my belly. I closed my eyes for a moment and tried to clear my head. I’d wondered that. He’d been ill with a bad heart for many years.

People are not supposed to die. Things are not supposed to change. Yet, they do—both the dying and the changes—and those processes never stop.

When I opened my eyes, she was staring at me. Her brilliant green eyes were filled with tears, which she wiped away. “We better get on, b’y.”

I nodded and reached out to touch her shoulder. “Yeah, we’d better.”

 

Laura drove me to St. Clare’s. I walked through its halls with her, thinking how I hated hospitals. As we neared the room, my mother was just coming out of it. Her eyes widened as she recognized me, and flew into my arms. I held her as she sobbed. “Louis, I’m so glad you’re here.”

“Of course, I’m here.” I fought to hold back my own tears. She didn’t need to be comforting me.

She sniffed and accepted the tissues Laura handed her. “I’m sorry, sweetheart.” Mom smiled at me and reached up to touch my cheek. “Let’s sit for a minute. The doctor is in with your Pa.”

“Okay.” We sat on the green leatherette chairs across the hall from the door.

Laura was going to buy tea. “D’ya ‘ave sugar, me duckie?”

“No thanks, Auntie.”

“I’ll be back darackley.”

We sat for a few moments in silence, my mother and me. Finally, I had to say something. “Ma, what’s the doctor say?”

“Oh, sweetheart, I don’t think he’ll be with us much longer. I’m glad you’re here.”

“Yeah, so am I.”

“Will your work be all right? Your Pa wouldn’t want you in any trouble.”

Always the same; putting me first. “No, Ma, it’s fine. They understand.”

I didn’t know if they understood or not. Frankly, it was the last thing on my mind right now. I’d e-mailed them to let them know, but that was yesterday—Saturday—and I’d heard nothing back. However, it was the weekend.

“That’s good. They are generous your bosses.”

“Yeah.”

We sat in silence again.

“How is Don?” Ma reached for my hand.

“He’s good, Ma. He’ll fly out on Wednesday, I think.”

“Is he busy?”

“Yeah, he’s writing a lot. And right now he’s organizing someone to come and look after the place and the horses.”

“Sorry this was short notice.”

“Ma! Don’t be silly.” I gazed at her. There were dark circles under her eyes; her hair, usually trimmed and styled, wasn’t. I pulled her into my arms.

She whispered, “What will I do without him, Louis? We were sixteen ….”

I rocked with her. “Oh, Ma. You can come to us … anytime.”

We were talking like Pa was already gone. I didn’t know if that was a good thing or not.

At that moment, the doctor came out of the room. He was a tall ruddy man. His thick and abundant hair was mostly white.

I got up and shook his hand. I listened to his opinion about my father. “It’s good you’re here. I’m Vic Samuels and I’ve been your father’s doctor for a number of years; since his first heart attack. His heart is so damaged, frankly, it’s a miracle he is still with us. I’m sorry I don’t have better news, Mr. Taylor.”

“Thanks, Doctor.”

The doctor set his mouth and nodded.

“Can I go in?” I asked, though there was nothing I wanted to do less at that moment.

“Of course.” Dr. Samuels went and sat with my mother.

I pushed the wide door open. The light was dim, the window curtains still drawn. Machines whirred and beeped.

God, I hope when it’s my time, I just want to go from living to dying. Please, please, please, I do not want to be hooked up to a bloody beeping machine.

This was a semi-private room. I walked by the first bed and the man in it smiled.

“That’s your da?”

I stopped. “Yes, he is.”

“He’s a nice man. You look like him.”

I smiled. “Thanks. See you later.” Pulling the green privacy curtain to one side, I stepped in. There was a green chair to my left, and I grabbed the back for support. My father was in the bed. It was him, but it wasn’t. He’d lost so much weight I wondered if the diagnosis was wrong. He resembled a cancer patient.

“Louis?” It was a whisper.

I drew in a deep breath and pulled the chair over to the bedside. “Yes, Pa, it’s me.”

“It’s good to see you, b’y.” His hand was skeletal in mine.

I could only nod and squeeze.

“I understand, son, but I’m glad I have this time ta say goodbye—”

“Pa….”

“Louis, this is goodbye. Let me say what I want ta.” He smiled at me and I saw my father there, in his eyes.

“Yes, sir.”

“You know I’ve always been proud o’you. You were a good kid, tried hard in school, stayed out o’trouble. But d’ya know my proudest day?”

I pondered that for a moment. “When I graduated from college?”

“No … well, I was proud that day, o’course. But the proudest was when you sat me an’ your ma down an’ told us about your orientation. That was a brave thing, son.”

Tears just ran down my face now. I could not stop them. He patted my hand.

“Louis, life goes on. I wanted the time ta say I was proud o’you. My own father never said, and I’ve wondered till this day. I love you, b’y.”

“Love you too, Pa.” I grabbed a tissue from the bedside table.

We talked a bit longer about life and love.

My father squeezed my hand. “You tell Don, from me, thanks. Thanks for lookin’ after me b’y like he’s done.”

I protested. “Pa ….”

“Just do as yer asked, b’y!”

With a sigh I gave in. “Yes, sir.”

He smiled at me then. “G’on now. Ask yer ma ta come.”

“Yes, sir.” I got up. I bent and kissed his cheek.

I pulled open the door and stepped back into the bright hallway. My mother turned her gaze toward me.

“He wants you, Ma.”

She walked to me, and we hugged. “Sit w’your aunt and ‘ave some tea.”

Once she was gone I asked Laura where the public toilets were.

“Just down there, t’tha left.”

“Thanks. I’ll be right back.” I walked down the hall, feeling like I was walking in thick mud.

After washing away the drying tears, I returned to sit beside Laura. She smiled and handed me a cup of lukewarm tea.

She spoke to me softly. “Are y’ok?”

I nodded as I didn’t yet trust myself to speak. I sipped the tea, closed my eyes for a second and breathed. I put the tea on the seat next to my own and pulled out my phone. I’d told Donny I’d text him.

Hey babe. Here at the hospital. Saw Dad. Shit Don, it looks bad. I miss you. More later. Love you, xoxo.

 

It wasn’t long before a reply came back.

I’m sorry, Lous. Call me later and we’ll talk. It’s better that way. Hang on to each other. My love to your mom and dad. And you baby. xoxo

 

I wiped my eyes with a damp tissue, and pushed the phone back into my pocket. Slumping against the padded back of the chair, I sipped more of my cooling tea.

Laura patted my thigh. I turned and gave her a weak smile.

She returned it and said, “I’m sorry, Louis. No matter ‘ow much you prepare or think you understand life, death is always a surprise.”

I put my hand over hers and held it. “Yeah. How are you?”

“I’m ‘anging, in, b’y. To be ‘onest, I don’t think it will be much longer now. I know me brother. Never one to keep ya waitin’.”

I had to smile at her. “No, a stickler for being on time, always.”

She nodded. I could see she was struggling to keep herself together. I put my tea down and hugged her tight. She had been here with my mother and me, putting her own feelings aside. It felt good just to be close, to give her some comfort.

At that moment my mother returned. Laura quickly moved away and grabbed a tissue and dabbed at her eyes. She looked at my mother.

“Laura, he’s asking for you, my sweetheart. Ya best g’on.”

“Yes.” Laura stood and embraced my mother. “The last time, is it?”

“I think so, yes.”

Nodding, Laura walked into the room with a rod in her back and her head held high.

I just wanted to weep.

 

We left the hospital at six in the evening. My father passed away two hours later. I held it together while my mom wept. Laura and I finally got her into bed with a sleeping pill. I stayed with her until she fell asleep.

Laura and I sat for a few minutes in the living room.

“You’ll be all right, b’y?”

“Yes, I will be. I’ll phone Don, talk to him, and then go to bed.” I hugged her. “Will you be?”

“I will. It’s over now, his pain done wit. He got his last wish, seein’ you. I’ll have a little cry and then we’ll g’on.” She stood up. “I’ll go up now, b’y. The coffeemaker is on her timer. She’ll start up at 7am. Help yerself, if yer up then.”

“Okay. Thank you … for everything.”

She walked to the stairs. “No need, b’y. G’night.”

 

After Laura had gone, I sat in the living room. Wanting Donny badly, but not wanting to call him. I didn’t want to utter the words I knew I had to. I tapped the dial button.

Don answered immediately. “Hey.”

I sucked in a gulp of air. “He’s gone, Donny.”

He was silent for a moment. “I’m sorry, baby.”

“He waited for me. He died a couple of hours after we left the hospital. I hate thinking ….”

“Lous … Louis, don’t. It’s often the way. When they are finished what they hung in there to do, they don’t want anyone around.”

“They said it happened while he was asleep. Fuck … fuck, I hope that’s true. Cuz I can’t fucking bear ….”

“Louis … it is true. It’s true.”

I grabbed a tissue from the box on the table and wiped away what seemed like never-ending tears. “Yeah. I’m okay. Ma and Aunt Laura are in bed. I’m gonna go too I think.”

“Good idea. My flight is Wednesday morning. Robert’s taking me to the airport. I found a small hotel not far from Laura’s—”

“There’s room here, babe!”

“I can’t handle all the stairs there. The hotel has got wheelchair access.”

“Fuck, yes. I’m sorry.”

“Baby, I love you. Don’t worry. We’ll work everything out.” Don paused for a second. “You worry about your family. Tomorrow will be hard too. I’ll be there on Wednesday. The plane lands around ten your time. I’ll text you the details, okay?”

“Yes, okay.”

“Go get into bed, baby. Pull an extra pillow in close and I’ll be there with you. I love you, Lous.”

I felt a little better. “Love you too.”

“’Night.”

“’Night, Donny.” I disconnected the call.

A few seconds later I got a text: Don’t just sit there, get upstairs to bed! Muah xoxoxxo

 

I grinned and got to my feet. I turned off the lights, and climbed the stairs. Laura had left the hall light on for me.

In my room, the bed had been turned down. Laura had brought up my luggage and hung my suit in the closet! I went into the hall bathroom to wash and brush my teeth.

Afterward, I climbed between the cool sheets. Grabbing the extra pillow, I lay on my left, put my arms around my surrogate husband, and went to sleep.

I awoke Monday to the wonderful scent of fresh coffee and the murmur of voices from the kitchen. Pushing down the covers, I got out of bed, and opened the bedroom door. In the bathroom I washed and shaved; got myself ready for the day. Then I dressed and went to join my mom and aunt.

Ma glanced at me from where she sat at the solid kitchen table. Her hands were wrapped around a thick white mug. “Mornin’, Louis.”

“Morning. Did you sleep, Ma?”

“I did. Better than I imagined I woulda done.”

Laura was on her feet. “Coffee?”

“Thanks, but I’ll get it.”

“G’on wit ya, b’y. Sit.”

Smiling at her, I sat. You do not argue with women from The Rock.

When we were all settled, I asked about the day.

My mother answered. “We’ll need to drive t’home, and go to McMichael’s Funeral Home to make arrangements. Then we’ll need to let people know.”

Home. It slowly dawned on me. We weren’t staying here. “Wait. Where are … is Pa being ….”

My mother realized just then also. “Louis, yer Pa will be buried in Witless Bay, not here.”

“Shit!” I slapped my hand over my mouth as both women looked at me. “Sorry. I need to text Don. He’s made arrangements for a hotel here. I need to explain ….” I pulled my phone out of my pocket.

Laura said, “Louis, why…?”

“Because of the stairs, they are too much, that’s all. We’ll need to find a motel in Witless Bay.”

“No, you won’t Louis.” Ma held up her hand. “Your Pa couldn’t get up the few stairs in our house either. So, we put in a Stair Master. Don can use that. There’s lots of room and, well, lots of support aids because Pa needed them too.”

I stopped for a moment. Things seemed to take longer than usual to register. “Okay. Let me text Don all of this.”

Once I’d done so. Ma explained what was happening. “Pa paid for our funerals some years gone, Louis. The hospital had instructions to let the McMichael’s know, so that’s arranged. We need to go in to arrange the date and the wake. They take care after it all then.”

“Okay, Ma.”

She went on. “Now then, we need to let friends know when. You can help me with email, if you will.”

“Sure, Ma, of course.”

“Good. Then I think we should get dressed and go over’ta road for breakfast at Tilly’s.”

Laura, who had been silent, said, “That’s a good idea, ‘cause you know me; nuthin’ in but toaster tarts.”

 

While at the restaurant, Laura said she’d pick up Don and drive him out to my parents’ home on Wednesday. I protested, but agreed in the end it made sense, since she would be driving out anyway. Don also thought it was a good idea.

After a nice breakfast we returned to Laura’s to pack. My mother asked me to drive us to Witless Bay because, though she could drive, she didn’t like it.

We carried our luggage out to my parents’ 1995 Range Rover. Laura walked out with us. She was hugging herself. I put the luggage on the back seat and closed the door. I went and put an arm around her.

“Laura, why not pack a few things and come with us. It’s no big deal for me to drive in and pick up Don on Wednesday.”

She hugged me. “Thank you, Louis. There are things I’m after doin’.”

“Okay. We’ll see you soon then.” I kissed her cheek and climbed into the vehicle’s driver’s seat. Ma soon came out with the last of her things. Laura walked around to the passenger’s side with her.

“Doreen, m’duck.” Laura held her arms open, and they hugged. “I’ll be wit you Wednesday. Bide ‘til then.”

“We will, Laura. Bye for now.”

Ma climbed in and settled in the worn leather seat beside me. Laura moved back to the tiny patch of lawn. I started the engine, and the V8 roared into life.

I waved at Laura, who moved a bit closer. I opened the window.

“See you Wednesday. Stay where you’re to ‘till I comes where you’re at!”

I smiled. “Will do. Take care. Call if you need anything.”

She only nodded.

Ma waved as I reversed out of the driveway onto the street.

After following my mother’s directions, we got out of St. John’s and onto the small highway to Witless Bay.

“Ma, Laura seems okay, but ….”

“But what?”

“How come she never got married?”

“Yer askin’ me that, Louis?”

I watched the road. “She’s a striking woman.”

“She is. An’ she’s after havin’ someone for a long time now.”

“Who? Why haven’t we met him?”

“Louis, she’s like you.”

“Me?” Finally, it dawned on me. “She’s Gay?”

“Yes, my sweetheart. She and her tries to ‘ide it. Don’t know why. What odds now?”

“What odds indeed?” I thought about it for a few minutes. “Does she know you know?”

“Yes. I walked in one day and they were kissin’.”

“Tell Laura to bring her.” I glanced over at my mother.

“Aye, b’y, I will.”

I smiled.

 

Before going to my parents’ home on Fisherman’s Road, we stopped at the funeral home. My father’s remains were on the way, and we arranged the small funeral for Thursday. After it; there would be a gathering in the local church hall, where food would be served by the Ladies Auxiliary.

We examined various caskets, and my mother, who had been stoic until then, broke down. The funeral director sat us in his office and went to get tea.

“It’s okay, Ma.”

“So many tears. Yer Pa wouldn’ta been best pleased.”

I held her close to me. “I think under the circumstances he’d forgive you the tears.”

“Mmm, yes. It’s hard, Louis, being away from him.” She sat up and wiped her eyes on a couple of tissues from a box on the desk. “Forty-five years we been together.”

“That’s something special. Rare these days.”

“You ‘n Don, how long now?”

“We met when I was eighteen, so seventeen years now.” I thought about that for a minute. “Doesn’t feel that long.”

My mother smiled. “I know that feeling, b’y. I always felt that way with your Pa. I hope you always do ‘bout Don.”

She stood up and straightened her clothes, tugging the short jacket she wore into place. “We best finish.”

I got to my feet. “You sure you’re okay?”

“Yes, my sweetheart. Which d’ya think, Louis? The pine one I liked, the plainer one. I think Pa would approve.”

I thought of an unadorned, unfinished pine casket. “Yes, I think he would too.”

 

After choosing some flowers to decorate the small chapel, we picked up some meager supplies from the local store. Somehow everyone we met knew that Gavin Taylor had passed on. All were invited to the funeral.

It was a relief to pull into the driveway of my parents’ split-level home. Behind it was pine forest and the house was pretty in white, with a sage-green roof and forest-green shutters and detailing.

The lot was huge and would require a couple of hours on the mower to keep tidy.

Ma unlocked the front door. I brought in our supplies and the luggage, while Ma put the kettle on.

The remainder of the day was spent sending e-mail and fielding phone calls. My mother went to lay down for a while. I heard her crying but let her be. She needed to grieve in her own way.

I’d bought the ingredients to make a simple pasta dish I knew Ma liked, so about 4pm, I started to cook.

Ma came into the kitchen around 5pm. I’d made a small salad. The sauce was ready, and fresh meatballs sat in it soaking up flavour. A pot of water simmered.

Ma appeared to be a bit better. She’d showered and done her hair. Smiling, she hugged me. “Son, that do smell wonderful!”

“We can eat when you’re ready, Ma. It’ll keep.”

“I think we have a bottle of wine somewhere.”

So, we ate, cleaned up, and talked until bedtime.

“Don shouldn’t have any difficulty here, should he, Louis? Once he’s up the front stairs?”

“No, Ma, it should be fine.” I walked her to her room. “Will you be okay?”

“Yes, son.” She hugged me. “I’ll be fine. It’ll take some time, but he’d be mad if I let it get me down too much.”

“Good night, Ma. I’ll turn off all the lights before I go to bed. I’m just going to call Donny.”

“All right, me duck. G’night.”

I sat in the front room and called him. Once we’d said goodnight, I turned off the lights and headed down the hall to my room. After my evening ablutions I crawled into the double bed and lay in the dark. I listened to the silence, and then realized it wasn’t quite so silent. The peepers and crickets; filled the night with their song. Something large moved through the trees behind the house as well. I turned over thinking of my husband, and of what a wonderful man my father had been.

 

Tuesday was cool and cloudy, but the sun threatened. We decided to get out of the house. We drove to the local coffee shop, The Irish Loop, for breakfast.

Witless Bay is home to the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve which, during part of the year, has approximately 260,000 pairs of nesting puffins. Pictures and statutes of these little birds are everywhere in Witless Bay.

After breakfast we took a walk along the cobblestone beach. It felt good to be out in the wind, listening to the water and seabirds.

“Your Pa always loved it here. This province gave us all we have, your Pa always said.” Ma had slipped her arm through mine as we walked.

I smiled. “I don’t suppose his talent had anything to do with it?”

“Aye, well, and you know he’d never say so, b’y.”

“No, he never would.”

We walked in silence. The large round rocks of the beach were easier to walk on than you’d expect. We stopped, arm-in-arm, to watch the waves come in. Ma leaned in close.

“He always said to me that t’was God pointed his camera. He just pressed the button.”

I smiled at that. My father had written several books about Newfoundland and done all the photography. He’d published articles all his working life in a number of magazines. He’d mainly worked for newspapers, writing, but photography was his love.

 

My mother and I spent Tuesday together. We drove over to Bay Bulls to shop a little. Ma picked up a bunch of thank-you cards. In the evening we prepared a small meal for dinner and watched a couple of my parents’ favourite films. Pa had been a lover of Hitchcock, so we watched North by Northwest, and Ma loved good comedy so Arsenic and Old Lace, it was.

After a final cup of tea and piece of Ma’s fruit loaf, we said goodnight and went to bed.

I climbed in and phoned Don to say good night. I was looking forward to seeing him.

“I’ll be with you soon, baby. Sleep and I’ll be there before you know it.”

“I’m missin’ you so bad, Donny.”

There was a moment of silence. “I know. I miss you too. Promise me you’ll try to sleep, and I’ll be with you soon, Louis.”

“Okay, I promise. Goodnight.”

“Night, Lous.”

I disconnected the call and put the phone on the bedside table.

 

Wednesday morning I woke after a solid night’s sleep. There was a noise it took me several minutes to identify; it was a vacuum cleaner. I sighed. Ma was up cleaning because Don was arriving today. I dragged myself out of bed, dressed in some track pants and a t-shirt, and went to help.

I did the bathrooms, kitchen floor and some dusting. Then I fixed us a pot of tea, and some toast. The table was an old unfinished plank door, with its original hinges. The four Windsor chairs surrounding it, were each a different bright colour: blue, green, yellow, and red. My mother joined me, and we ate our little breakfast. The large window with a sliding door let in the morning sunlight.

“I’ll put on some fresh muffins for when Don and Laura arrive. I’ll make a ploughman’s lunch. That’s why I bought those pork pies. Your Pa loved those.”

“Ma, there is no need—”

She put her mug down with a bit of force. “Yes, there is. I needs t’do things right!”

I sat back, surprised. My mother rarely spoke this way.

“Louis, I am doing my best to keep myself … from just falling away. Half of me is gone.” She reached for my hand. “I just need to do this the best I can. Can ya understand that, my sweetheart?”

“Yes, Ma.” I held her hand. “I’m sorry.”

She smiled, said something about a load of laundry, baking, and then added, “Is Don on the same flight you were?”

“Yes, it should be in about 10:30am.”

“Good, they’ll be here then around 12:30pm or before.”

We sat in silence for several minutes, and then got on with our chores. Leaving Ma inside, I went to the shed, and found the riding mower and cut the lawn.

I’d just got out of the shower and was pulling on my clothes when my mother called me. I ran out to the front room. Laura’s blue Escape was parked, but there were a lot more people in there other than just Don.

We went outside on to the small walkway. There were no stairs out here, only indoors, so Don could wheel straight in. Beside Laura was an attractive raven-haired woman. They got Don’s wheelchair and were helping him out the nearside rear passenger door. From around the other side came Robert and Rena.

My mother turned to me, her brown eyes round. “Didya know they were comin’?”

“No, Ma. Gosh, I would’ve said. I had no clue.”

She smiled. “Well, I’m glad. We’ve got lots of space, it will be nice to have them.”

By this time everyone was moving across the wide driveway toward the concrete path. Robert and Rena came first, followed by Laura and the dark-haired woman, and lastly by Don.

Rena was embracing Ma. “It was last-minute. Don made arrangements for us to stay elsewhere.”

“Mind, you won’t. Please stay here; there’s plenty of room.”

Rena smiled and hugged Ma. “We’re so sorry for your loss, Doreen. If there’s anything we can do ….”

Robert who had been silent now echoed his fiancée. “Please just let us know, Doreen.”

“Thank you both.”

I wondered, because it was only a three-bedroom house. Ma was just realizing that as Laura and her partner arrived at the door.

Laura took charge. “Let’s have a cup o’tea and we’ll sort who is staying where.”

I let them all go in and waited for Don to get closer. “Hi.”

“Hey, Lous.”

I bent to kiss him and I was immediately hungry for him. He held me by the shoulders.

“Lous, later, baby. I want you too. I’ve fucking missed you.”

I leaned my forehead against his. “Sorry … I know. Come on, we better get in there.”

From the front vestibule, was a staircase that went up into the main part of the house, which was then all one level. We just had to get Don up the stairs. As Ma had said, there was the Stair Master. Don got to his feet and got on to the seat and pressed the up button on the arm of the seat. I folded the smaller travel chair and carried it up the stairs.

“Will you be okay in this thing?”

“Yeah, it’s just a few days babe. I’ll be fine.”

I helped him back into the chair, and pushed him to the kitchen. An extra chair was brought in and people were having tea as lunch and muffins were laid out.

Don hugged my mother and offered his condolences.

While there were lots of smiles around the table, my glance at Ma, however, reminded me that one of us was missing.

In the end, it was decided that Laura and her partner, Maureen, would stay at the Armstrong’s Suites and Robert and Rena would remain here at the house. “We have a vehicle, much easier for us to get around.”

Ma insisted that meals would be here at home, for all of us. Tonight’s meal was a Newfoundland favourite. Fried fish, boiled potato and Ma’s preferred mushy peas.

After lunch, people decided to go their separate ways, Maureen and Laura to their rooms at Armstrong’s, Rena, Robert and Ma decided to go and see some sights together. That left Don and me home alone.

“Let’s just lay down for a bit.” Don suggested. “I just want to hold you.”

We settled on the bed; I snuggled up, and Don pulled me close. We kissed for a few minutes before just laying together quietly.

Eventually, Don whispered, “How are you doing, Lous?”

I sighed, and held him tighter. “I’m okay. It’s been good being here with Ma. I miss him though.”

Don kissed my cheek. “I’m sure you do.”

“He left a message for you.”

“Really?”

I nodded. Tears flooded my eyes again.

Don just held me tighter. “It’s okay ….”

“I need to tell you.” I wiped away my tears and propped myself up so I could see my husband. “He said; I was supposed to tell you thank you. For taking care of me so well all these years.”

Don pulled me down onto his chest; I listened to his heartbeat. He just nodded. “When we got married … I promised him I would, that hasn’t changed.”

Then I couldn’t stop my tears. All that I’d held back poured out. Donny just let me cry; he just held me close until I calmed.

I lay there listening to Don breathe. I felt more at peace. I started to think about home and what was happening there. “Who is looking after the horses?”

“When Mom and Robert said they’d like to come, I made a few calls and found some short-term boarding for them. It’s a bit pricey, but we don’t need to worry about them.”

Just then my phone rang. Don handed it to me from the bedside table. It was text from Max.

Hello Louis. Mr. Walker told me what happened. I’m really sorry. It’s so hard. I wanted to say I understand and I hope we can meet once you feel up to it again. Take care, Max

 

I just held it out for Don to read.

“That’s very sweet of him, Lous.”

“Yeah it is. I’ll send him a reply.” I told Max, of course we’ll see him again once we returned home.

We finally got up. I felt a bit better for having been able to touch and talk to my husband. We decided to decamp to the kitchen. I did the dishes while Don did some work on his laptop.

When the others returned, we settled in the living room to talk. Later we made a fantastic fish dinner, followed by some favourite Newfoundland sweets, jam jams and snowballs. We were all ready for an early night.

I’d been asleep for an hour when Donny woke me. He kissed me for a while, and then he turned me onto my side and we made love. It was slow, silent and beautiful. We slept wrapped around each other.

 

I woke on Thursday, in Don’s arms. I wasn’t looking forward to the day ahead.

“I’ll be right there with you, Lous.” Don pulled himself up and swung his legs over the side of the bed.

I sighed. I held the chair while Don got in, and I pushed him into the bathroom. There were bars to hold onto and a special seat in the shower he could use. We’d gotten up earlier because there were five of us needing the shower. Don and I would shower together.

Once we were dry and dressed in track pants, Don and I went into the kitchen starting coffee, setting the table and putting out muffins.

Ma came into the kitchen; her hair was done, but she was still in her robe. She sat at the table. Don poured her a cup of coffee.

“Thank you, Don.”

He put an arm around her and asked how she was doing.

“I’m trying to be strong, Don, but I think I will need the pill the doctor gave me the other day.”

That pricked up my ears. I sat on the other side of the table from Don beside my mother. “What pill?”

She turned to me and smiled. “Louis, don’t worry. I have one only; it’s the lowest dose. He said I should take it an hour before we leave, it will just help me to stay calm … it’s like a valium.”

Don said, “I understand, Doreen. It’s just going to take the edge off and let you cope. Louis and I are here, whatever you need.”

“Thank you.”

“Share a muffin with me, Ma.”

She nodded but had started to cry. Rena came in at that moment, and silently took Ma’s hand. They went out the sliding door, into the cool morning air.

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. Don poured coffee and put a muffin on my plate. He caught my eye and I bit my lip. “I don’t think I can eat that.”

“You’ll break off a little piece and eat it babe.” He appeared to be serious, so I did as I was told. It was warm, sweet and packed with blueberries.

“That’s good, Lous. Try and get something inside you.”

Robert sat with us and selected a muffin. “Did your mother bake these? They’re wonderful.”

“Yes, last night. Sorry they aren’t fresh.”

Don patted my arm.

Robert smiled. “They are wonderful.” He checked his watch. “It’s nearly 9:30am. How long will it take to get to the chapel?”

“Under ten minutes. I’ll go and dress.”

Donny followed me. I helped him into his clothes and put on my charcoal-gray suit and the finally, the black silk tie.

“You look fine, Louis.”

“Okay, let’s go.” I so did not want to do this.

By this time the ladies were dressed, and Laura and Maureen had arrived.

We had two cars, so Rena went with Laura and Maureen, and Robert drove Ma, Don, and me.

Ma and I said nothing as we made this trip, dreading what was at the end of it. I just held her hand.

We arrived at McMichael’s Funeral Home. Ma and I went in to make sure everything was done. The flowers were in place, the hymns Ma had chosen played softly, and the guest book was out. We spoke to Reverend Douglas, whom Ma had chosen to conduct the short service.

By 11:00am more people than we’d expected arrived. The small room was full of friends who shared stories about my father. People who had liked him, worked with him and loved him.

After the opening of the ceremony by the Reverend, he called on me to speak. Don squeezed my hand and leaned over to kiss my cheek. I was nervous but determined to make this day the best it could be for my mother. I walked to the front and shook hands with the Reverend. I turned and gazed out over our friends and loved ones.

I cleared my throat, glanced at Donny for a minute, and spoke. “Thank you all for coming today. Ma and I are grateful. I don’t think my father would have been surprised at the turnout; he had good taste in his friends.” I smiled as the congregation chuckled.

“Gavin Taylor, my dad, was a good man. He was kind and fair, a wonderful husband, father, and a talented writer and photographer. He wrote about this place and its people because he loved both so very much. I am an only child and when I was born we left Newfoundland and moved to Toronto.”

Pausing for a moment, I took a deep breath. “Pa worked there at the newspaper, and Mom—Ma—stayed home looking after me until I went to school. Pa taught me a lot about nature, family, and life. They are lessons I still live by. He told me something the other day I didn’t know. He told me because he wondered until the moment he passed on, what his own father had thought of him.”

I sipped from the glass of water which sat on the shelf in the lectern. Replacing it, I continued. “So, he told me that he was proud of me. We often think others know how we feel but I think he was saying we need to hear it. Please, if nothing else today, when you think about Gavin Taylor, remember to tell the people you love how you feel. He did, and it’s the best gift he ever gave me. Those words will last me a lifetime. Thank you.”

Following me, several colleagues and friends of my father’s spoke and shared some special stories.

After the Reverend’s final blessing, it was time.

Myself and the other pall bearers carried the casket to the church’s cemetery.

My father was buried where he’d wanted to be; in the ground of the place he loved. After the short ceremony at the graveside, Donny took my hand, and my mother slipped her arm through mine. We walked to the church.

“Louis, thank you.” My mother seemed calm as she went inside and slipped off for a few moments alone.

This was an old-fashioned affair, with potato and macaroni salad in homey Tupperware bowls, crustless sandwiches cut into quarters, and home-made cookies and date bars. Coffee and tea sat in huge urns.

I stood at the doorway as the mourners came in. Don waited with me greeting people, explaining who he was until the final person walked through.

He looked up at me, and I bent to kiss him. “I love you.”

“I love you too, Lous. Now, let’s go and get a cucumber and cream cheese sandwich before they are all gone.”

“Good idea.” I pushed him through the doorway and joined my family, and friends as we remembered my father.

~~~

 

Thanks to all of you who read this.

 

Much thanks to my editor, @AC Benus and beta readers, @mollyhousemouse and @BHopper2 for the hard work in making this story right.
And to J. Wilcox, my friend from Newfoundland, who helped me make it right.

Copyright © 2019 Mikiesboy; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

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My recent experience with my two Aunts dying less than two months apart is only a faint shadow of what it’s like to lose a parent. My mother’s middle sister was sarcastic and blunt, but also adventurous and lived on the opposite coast from me so I rarely spent much time with her. My mother’s second sister, my Lesbian(?) Aunt, was around most of my childhood, but we never really had a conversation together. Two sisters who were more unalike than they were alike. Unusual for the era, my grandparents sent all five of their daughters to college in the ‘40s and ‘50s. I’ll miss them, but I never really knew them.

 

Louis is much younger than I was when I lost my parents. In the case of my mother who died first, she had suffered from a very long period of decline. She had severe memory problems that we thought were Alzheimer’s, but were diagnosed as a brain tumor. The tumor was successfully removed, but she never regained her memories and wasn’t herself by then. With my father, he had a cancer in his throat and he too had successful surgery. But it recurred and he decided not to have any treatment due to his age (it was unlikely to have any effect in any case). He died a year and a half after my mother.

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