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The Day My Life Began 2
Jimmy went into Sean's room and I went into mine. We both tossed and turned and tried to sleep but that seemed impossible. Jimmy walked into the room and said "Mark, I can't sleep."
Not being a time for formality, I said "Neither can I, son. Want to lay here with me for a while?
"For a while, if that's OK," Jimmy said
"Sure," I said pulling back the covers. "For a while."
He crawled in and snuggled against my chest with his backside. I thought to myself, this reminds me of the times Sean would cuddle with me when he got really sick. I laid my arm over his chest and I felt his hand take hold of mine. Closing my eyes I thought, some things never change.
I rolled over and a hand pushed on my bladder. I opened my eyes trying to figure out what was there and I saw Jimmy lying beside me, hand against my bladder, sleeping soundly. I gently lifted the covers so I could get out of bed to use the can then he opened his eyes and smiled at me. I returned his smile but needed to get to the bathroom before I did something I hadn't done since I was two years old.
Jimmy hollered at me like he had done something wrong saying "Mr. Thomas, wait. Please come back. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to...."
Then he heard me in the bathroom and when I opened the door after flushing the toilet I said to him calmly. "Hey pal, what's the matter? I needed to get in there bad, or else you would have seen a grown man wet himself."
Jimmy was laughing when he heard that. Through the giggles he said, "That would have been something to see. You standing in a puddle of pee with wet underpants! Hehehehe."
As I walked over to the laughing tyke I said. "Someone standing in pee with wet underpants, huh? Maybe you'll be the one with wet underwear." I quickly got to him and started to tickle him on his stomach and ribs. He was laughing and thrashing around on the bed so much, I had to sit on him so he wouldn't roll.
"Hahaha, please, hahaha stop, hahaha Mr., hahaha Thomas," Jimmy said through all the laughter. "Hahaha stop, hahaha I gotta pee, hahaha bad."
I relented and stopped. Jimmy jumped off the bed and ran into the bathroom and just made it to the toilet. In his haste to get there before he wet himself, he forgot to close the door. I leaned against the door and said. "I bet you won't make fun of someone needing to pee again, will you?"
"I'll get you for that." Jimmy said as he balled up his fists like a boxer.
"Sure you will," I said back. "And I'll just tickle you like I just did."
"OK, you win." Jimmy relented. "No fair, you cheat. You know my weakness."
"And," I said "Point being?"
Jimmy shot back, "You don't have a weakness like me, so I'll never win."
"OK," I said "I won't tickle when you gotta pee and you don't make fun of me when I have to pee. Deal?"
Jimmy thought about it for a minute and said, "Deal"
We high-fived each other and suddenly I smelled coffee and breakfast cooking. I put a pair of sweat pants on, Jimmy grabbed a pair of shorts and together we went down stairs to see what was going on. I had a pretty good idea. My watch read 9:30 AM, Jimmy was beside me so there could only be one person in the house. "Marge, what are you doing?" I asked.
"Well," she said chipper as usual. "Good morning, sleepy heads. I looked in on you two earlier and you were sleeping like little..."
"Don't say it Marge," I said "I only see one baby in this house."
"Baby!" Jimmy shouted. "Who you calling a baby!"
I was rolling and answered "You. Gogo gaga"
Jimmy ran over trying to tickle me. After a few minutes, he saw that wasn't working. He punched me on the arm and said pouting "I ain't no baby."
I could see I hurt his feelings. I leaned down and gave him a peck on the cheek and said. "Hey, pal. I know you're not a baby. I was just poking fun. Sorry, I really didn't mean to hurt your feelings. Friends?" I stuck my hand out.
Knowing he could never stay mad at me when I said I was sorry to him, he said. "Friends."
"OK, you two kids," Marge spoke up. "Come over here and eat while it's hot."
Marge made a Saturday breakfast just like Michele used to do. Eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast and jelly. There was coffee for me and milk for Jimmy. I could not believe how hungry I was. I had a light meal last night but that was the last thing I put in my stomach since noon yesterday. I was starving.
After I was done eating, I started going over in my mind the things I had to do today. Bring clothes to the funeral parlor, get the plots opened, arrange the funeral service. Suddenly it felt like someone dumped a ton of rocks on me. I couldn't think, couldn't move and all of a sudden it felt like I couldn't breath. Jimmy looked at me and suddenly slapped me in the face. All of a sudden, I felt pain in my left cheek. I looked up at Jimmy holding my face and he looked like I was going to skin him alive. I reached out and grabbed him and pulled him on my lap. I pulled his head to my chest and told him, "It's OK, son. I'm not mad. A little startled, but not mad." I kissed the back of his head and set him down.
"Sorry, Mr. Thomas," Jimmy said "I didn't know what else to do."
I patted him on the head and let him know again that all was forgiven. I thanked Marge for the breakfast and told Jimmy that I had something's I had to take care of for the funeral. I saw tears falling from his face when I mentioned that but Marge was quick to comfort the boy. I really didn't want him to add any more stress to him right now so I told them both I would come over for dinner that evening. Jimmy looked heart broken because he couldn't come with me but Marge took care of that. Thank God, the last thing I wanted was Jimmy mad at me. He was going through enough, as it was so, I was glad that things got smoothed over quickly by Marge.
Marge took Jimmy home and I got dressed to begin my day. I got Michele's favorite dress and jewelry. Over 15 years, I had given her a lot of jewelry and she got even more from her mother when she passed away. I found Denise's favorite dress. It was a smaller version of the one Michele would be wearing. They ended up wearing the exact same outfit. This wasn't planned at the start but was something that just happened to happen. My two angels, I thought. How fitting they should be dressed alike. Standing side by side they were identical. Same hair color, same shade of blue eyes and a great smile that could light up the city if we ever had a power failure. I had been the luckiest man on the face of the earth. The two most important women in my life were dresses to the tens. I picked Sean's best suit. He looked so handsome in this. A navy blue suit, white shirt and navy blue and red striped tie. When he wore that suit, he was a knockout. I know that is a term used for females, but that's the only way to describe him. The word handsome doesn't do him justice. After God created this boy, he broke the mould. Suddenly my mind went to Jimmy. If God broke the mould after Sean, he must have done the same after Jimmy's birth. Except for some minor differences, they could have come form the same mould, body wise, at least.
I got the clothes and shoes together, I almost forgot about the shoes. Denise and Sean stayed barefoot most of the time, so that was an easy thing to forget. Michele, on the other hand, would not be seen even around the house without something on her feet. This was her one little quirk. Why, that's something I guess I'll never know.
I made the drive to the funeral home and gave the director everything I brought. I had even remembered clean under garments. My wife and daughter had this thing, you wear your bra and underpants one day only. You don't stretch it into two. Since Michele had made that point with Denise, I did the same thing with Sean. The director said that they were done and asked me if I would like to see them. Against my better judgement, I nodded. I wasn't sure if it would be needed, I even remembered to bring some makeup for the girls. They never wore a lot, but they did use a little.
I saw them on a monitor. Since they were still downstairs, I wasn't allowed there nor did I want to be. I must admit, they did a fantastic job on them. He said that they looked so well, we could have an open casket viewing if I wanted. I told him I would have to think about that since I knew that children would be there to pay their respects to Denise and Sean. On my way out, I told him I would let him know about the open casket issue.
As I was driving around, something led me into the station. It seemed like a refuge, a safe haven for me. I couldn't figure out why I was feeling like this. It was just inside that office where I was told my world came to an end yet, here I was standing inside the building that seemed to hold me like a mother would hold her child.
Just then, Captain Greer walked out of his office and asked what I was doing there. I shook my head and said "Don't know Cap, something just brought me here. I can't explain it. And no, I'm not ready to work yet." I said before he could.
He said something that took me totally by surprise. "Look, Mark. I know the policy for bereavement leave, but I'm telling you take all the time you need. When the city wrote the thing, they never planned on something like this happening. If you need more time, you've got it. The administration can go fuck themselves. Every man here agreed to donate personal, sick and vacation days to you. We want you back, but we want you back whole."
Sometime during his talk, he had put his arm around my shoulder. This was something he never did. He never tried to get this close to the men there. He had to remain professional. Sure, he talked with the firefighters and even joked with them. He even helped them with some personal problems but this was a side of him I had never seen. Maybe he was mellowing in his old age. Who knows?
I chatted with one of the ambulance crews there and tried to catch up on the local gossip, especially about the drunken bitch. No one knew anything about her but they would do their best to find out what they could. My stomach started growling and my watch read 12:15 PM. I knew Marge was expecting me for lunch since it was me who said I would be there. I told the guys I would see them later and they told me not to be a stranger. Before I left, I saw Dave. He just stood there looking at me as if to say, hey...you're forgetting someone. I walked over to him and put my arms around his neck. Yeah, here we are a bunch of macho firefighters and emergency medical workers with arms around each other like we were children.
Dave whispered in my ear "How ya doing buddy?"
"OK," I said. "Better than I thought I would. I make no promises about Monday night. I'm having the wake from 7 to 9 PM. It should be in the paper tomorrow and Monday. They showed me what they looked like. Man, they did a great job with all three. The funeral director asked if I wanted to have an open casket. They look so peaceful, like they are sleeping. I worry about the children who come to say good bye to Denise and Sean. Do you think this will be too much for children? I don't know Dave, I just don't know? They look good, not cut up and bruised but I don't know what to do. What do you think, Dave?"
"Well," Dave answered. "I told the wife how they looked from the accident. I mean no visible injuries and how it seemed they were just sleeping. The kids said that they would like to get to see Denise and Sean one more time so they could say goodbye. We all talked about this for a while and the kids think an open casket would be appropriate. This way, all their friends can say their final good-bye's."
"OK, Dave." I said. That sounds good, I think they would like that. I think...." I lost it at that point. I'm glad Dave was there because I would have kissed the floor. Dave sat me on a bench in the bay. One of the ambulance crew got me something cold to drink. I sat there for a while and regained my composure. Once the cobwebs left and I could think again, I told Dave I was expected at Marge's for lunch. Before I left, Dave handed me a card. He said not to open it until I got over to Marge's and I just shook my head in agreement.
I walked over to my Ram Charger and drove to Marge Lassiter's house. For some reason, the drive only took ten minutes instead of the usual twenty-five. Then I remembered why, it was about 12:30 in the middle of the afternoon. I parked in my driveway and walked over to Marge and Jimmy's. I was about to push the doorbell when suddenly a blonde haired blue eyed cutie was standing there with a grin on his face from ear to ear. I was gone, somewhere between lost and found until.
"Mom!" He yelled, "Mr. Thomas is here."
Suddenly I was back. My ears were vibrating from Jimmy's voice. "Have you thought of using a PA system when you yell, I mean, talk?"
"Oh, sorry Mr. Thomas." Jimmy said giggling. "I didn't mean to blow out your ears. Come on in, lunch is almost ready. What's wrong Mr. Thomas?"
I sat on the couch. I thought to myself, am I that easy to read, or has Jimmy found a way to understand me like 'Chele, Denise and Sean had? I looked and Jimmy and said, "Nothing, son. I see your eyes and I can't help but remember....."
Jimmy reached up and put his arms around my neck and said "I'm sorry Mr. Thomas, I didn't mean to make you cry. Maybe I should just stay away for a while."
Through the tears I said, "No, Jimmy. I don't want you to stay away. Why should I punish you. You have the same eyes as Sean. That's a part of you. You can't change them and I don't want you to. It will take some time, that's all."
Jimmy said softly, "I know what you mean. Every time I see myself in a reflection, I think of Sean. I want to run away every time I see my eyes I hate....."
I put my finger on his lips and said "Hush, don't say that word James Lassiter! That word has never left your lips in the seven years I've known you and you're not about to start now."
He stopped. He looked wide eyed at me and said, "Mr. Thomas, you're like a dad to me. You know what to say and when to say it. Sean and DD were so lucky to have you as a dad. I hear you call me son, but I know it's just a word to you."
I stopped him again and said "Oh no it's not. You are just as much a son to me as Sean was. I don't say that word to just any child, now do I?"
Jimmy thought about what I said and nodded his head no as Marge came in to tell us lunch was ready in the kitchen.
We headed into the kitchen when I remembered the card Dave handed me before I left the station. I took my place at the table and opened the envelope and saw a sympathy card inside. I opened it and something fell out onto the table. I looked to see who had signed the card and everybody from all 10 rescue squads and 19 city fire companies. There must have been over 500 signatures. There was additional paper attached to the card so everyone had a place to sign his or her name. I looked at what had fallen out of the card and I couldn't believe my eyes. There was a check for $5,000 dollars. Seems word had gotten out and even though the fire department and emergency medical services share some of the same buildings, we are not unified with the city. The EMS workers are volunteers. Only 5 supervisors are paid. When someone from either department loses someone or someone loses a family member, they all seem to come together as a big family. I really liked that about these people. I was reading the card and tears started rolling down my face. I felt someone wipe my cheek and when I returned to reality, I saw Jimmy standing there with a tissue in his hand. He was saying something but I couldn't seem to hear what he was saying. I took a mouthful of my coffee and snapped back to what I should be doing.
Marge asked if there was anything she could do to help with the funeral arrangements and I said, "That they had already been done." I looked at her and said, "But thanks for offering Marge, I managed to get that done this morning. The funeral home has clothes and everything. All I need to do is talk to Father Jim at the church to schedule a time for the mass."
Marge said, "Mark, I hope you don't mind but Father Jim called this morning while you were still sleeping and I told him that I thought 10:30 AM on Tuesday would be alright since the wake was Monday. He simply said to let him know. Tuesday and Wednesday were both open and he could open up what ever time you agreed to."
"Thanks Marge," I answered back. "Tuesday morning at 10:30 would be fine." I took another mouthful of coffee and picked up the sandwich she had made. I ate but wasn't really hungry. "Look, there is one thing I could use your help with Marge if you don't mind."
"Anything," Marge said, putting her hand on mine.
God her hand was soft, just like Michele's. It startled me for a moment and spoke "We have insurance policies for the mortgage on the house. Your bank has that. We have other policies for funeral costs. All those papers are in a safety deposit box at the bank. If I give you the key, could you handle that for me?"
"Well," she thought for a second and answered "I can't legally open your box. Only you or Michele can do that. You will need to come and open the box and turn those papers over to me. Before you do that, I recommend you contact your lawyer so he can meet with me about your estate. It's not really a lot of work, but it has to done just right so your don't end up paying a bundle in taxes to the government. As far as the other stuff, once I have the papers in my hand, I will take care of everything for you. Don't worry about a thing Mark."
"Thanks, Marge." I said looking at her with a lost expression. I think I'll go home and lie down for a bit. Yes I will come over for dinner. I know you well enough that you would bring me something if I didn't. I really don't know what I would do without you two." I rubbed Jimmy's hair as I uttered the last part of the sentence.
I bade them farewell and walked across the street to my house. I unlocked the front door, walked in and headed over to the bar. I fixed myself a drink and sat down in my recliner and put on the tube. I put on a college football game. Don't remember who was playing and suddenly, "Oh, shit!" I just remembered I never called the hotel and cancelled my reservations. Damn, I'm gonna get hit for one nights stay. I dialed the toll free number and spoke with the manager. He told me everything had been taken care of already. He sent his condolences and said my credit card would not be charged.
"MARGE" I thought. What would I do without her? We had her and Jimmy over for dinner at least once a month or maybe go out to dinner if one of the single firemen asked her out on a date. She wasn't ready for romance but she still enjoyed dating and the guys that had taken her out knew all this. When the four of us were out, Denise would watch the boys. Denise never said one word about watching Sean and Jimmy. She would have a friend over and they all got along great. I never had to worry when we went out to dinner. I knew I would have to remember to thank her for canceling the hotel reservations.
I started watching the game and my mind started drifting. Once I looked over to the couch to see if Sean was there watching the game. Sometimes he would come in and watch if one of his teams were playing. He and I both loved Florida State University.
The next thing I new it was 5 PM. I shook the cobwebs out of my head and had another sip of my drink. Shit, flat and watered down. I got up and dumped it down the drain and fixed myself a fresh one. I headed into the bedroom to get some clean clothes and head for the shower when I heard the front door open.
"Knock, knock." a little voice, said. "Here's your mail, Mr. Thomas."
"Thanks Jimmy." a voice said coming from the bedroom. Have a seat and watch the tube while I grab a shower."
Jimmy hollered back, "Sure thing, take your time."
I turned on the water and took a sip of my drink while the water was warming. I took off my dirty clothes and stood in front of the mirror. The face seemed lost. Wasn't sure what was going on or even cared. The mirror started to steam up from the shower so I turned around and adjusted the temperature. When it was how I liked it, I stepped in and began to relax as the warm water relaxed every muscle in my body. Everytime I fell asleep in the recliner, I woke up stiff as a board. I guess I can replace that thing now, I thought to myself. I reached for the shampoo and started to wash my hair when the temperature of the water suddenly changed.
"Shit, fuck!" I hollered "Who flushed the damn toilet"
"Sorry, Mr. Thomas." Jimmy said meekly. "I forgot the water goes clod when someone flushes the toilet. Sean used to do that to me at times, just to hear me scream. I didn't do that to you on purpose, I'm sorry."
I stuck my head from around the shower curtain and looked at the boy whose face had fallen flatter than a soufflé and I said "That's OK, pal. I know you didn't do that on purpose. Sorry about the bad words also, just don't go repeating them. Don't need your mother getting on me for teaching you things like that."
"She wouldn't blame you, Mr. Thomas." Jimmy said. "She would just tear up my tail, that's all."
"Well I don't want you learning things that could get you into trouble then." I said rinsing my hair."
I took the soap and started washing my self when I heard Jimmy say "Dinner in twenty minutes, Mr. Thomas. I'll see you at the house. Just come on in when you get there, the door will be unlocked for you, OK?"
"OK, pal." I shouted back over the noise of the water in the shower. I rinsed my self and cut the water off. I quickly got dry and shaved. Clothes on, hair combed and ready in ten minutes.
I sipped my drink and began wondering. Man, every time I hear his voice my spirits soar. Am I letting Jimmy replace my family? Is he really replacing Sean? NO! I screamed in my head. He was your son's best friend, a second son to you. He has made things a little more bearable, though. Yeah, that's it. He's just like Marge. They're there when I need them. Good friends and a little kid who I love like a son. Maybe it will be a little easier Monday night, but I can't put that on Jimmy's shoulders. No, that's not fair. Why do I feel like this? What is it I feel?
I closed my eyes and shook my head to try and rearrange my thoughts. I took a big gulp of my drink. Big mistake it was like wet fire going down the throat. Shit, why'd I do that? Coughing I said to myself "Shithead. That's what you get for doing something that stupid. Serves you right."
Crown Royal and coke. Shit, no wonder it burned! I forgot the Coke! I took a swig of coke out of the two-litre bottle. Made myself as presentable as I could after nearly totaling my throat, and headed out the door.
Just as I reached the door, it opened magically. Jimmy turned to yell to Marge but I covered his mouth with my hand before he could utter a sound. I shoved him inside and closed the front door. He looked at me as if to say, What did you do that for? I said to him "Hey, Jimmy, remember this afternoon? You still owe me for the damage to my ears."
He was standing there with his hands on his hips with what I could describe as a cross between a frown and a smirk on his face.
As I walked past him, I smacked him on his butt and said, "Hey, don't pout. Come on now."
Jimmy could never stay mad nor could he ever pout long when he new I wasn't really mad at him. He stuck his nose up in the air as he walked past me trying to act mad. I reached down and scooped him up in my arms and started to tickle him. After a couple minutes, I had to put him down. This kid could squirm. If I didn't put him down, I was afraid I would drop him. We went into the dining room and Marge showed me where I was sitting. Jimmy pulled my chair out for me to sit. I sat down and he pushed the chair in and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. That was Jimmy's way of saying "I'm Sorry."
After dinner, I had some coffee and watched a little television. Jimmy had taken his shower just before I came over. So when I said that I was tired, two big sad puppy dog eyes from Jimmy stared me at. "Is this going to be an every night affair with you young man?" I asked him.
"Well, ah," Jimmy stammered "I miss Sean."
I picked his chin up with my finger and said "It's OK, pal. It's alright with me as long as it is OK with your Mom."
Marge smiled and nodded that it was fine and I said we would see her in the morning. I made her no promises that I would be going to mass, however.
I unlocked the front door and Jimmy went straight to Sean's room to change. I needed to do some laundry tomorrow because Jimmy's dirty clothes were becoming more that mine. I got into a pair of sweat pants, and made myself a very light drink. More coke that Crown Royal. Before sitting down to watch the news, I saw Jimmy head into my bedroom but he never came out. When the news was over, I turned off the TV, rinsed out my glass, locked the door and went to bed. Curled up on his side sound asleep was Jimmy. He used the toilet but he was so tired, he never flushed. After using it, I flushed and crawled into bed. Just as I had put my hand on his chest, I felt his hand touch mine. I kissed the back of his head and slept like a rock.
End of Part 2
I hope that what you have read thus far is to your liking. Just a reminder that if you would like to make comment on this story you can at : - firstname.lastname@example.org