Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A boy I once knew...part ten...the finale

The party went on until about midnight, and everybody had a good time. Colleen stayed over and went home in the morning, dropping me off at church along the way. As soon as I entered the church, I could feel s diminished joy. Something was up. As I walked up the stairs, the view of the altar brought the somber mood into balance. There was a large display of white lilies. This particular arrangement was significant in its design alerting the congregation that a member had passed on since the previous Sunday and that arrangements had yet to be made.

Before I could start contemplating who might have died this week, I was suddenly joined by my church-friend Lynn (also not really my friend, but more a friend than Wendy). Lynn was a year older than me and we went to different high schools, but were in the same Sunday school class for the past six years. I had also seen her a bit over the summer at the hippie house. I knew her well enough to be friendly toward her, and she had been at my party the night before.

Lynn and I often sat together making plans for the church youth group or for other church activities. For both of us it was a haven to camouflage our mischievous doings. This is not to say it was false, because it wasn't, but it wasn't necessarily pure. There was an immediacy to the closeness of her body to mine in the pew. Service was not terribly over crowded to warrant this degree of closeness. I was distracted by it enough to not make connections to what Pastor Mark was saying. He was lamenting the sadness we all must be feeling for Sandra having lost James so early in life, and that the phone tree would be in effect later in the week as details for the service became available.. I looked at Lynn and whispered to her asking for clarification of who Sandra and James were. "We'll talk after service," was all she said.

During the benediction, Pastor Mark included those facing challenges and named Sandy. It was at that moment that I remembered I was supposed to see Sandy at church to learn what was going on with Jamie. We stood to sing a final Amen, and the synapses in my brain were suddenly firing on overdrive. Sandra was Sandy. James was Jamie.

I looked to Lynn with hope for her to be able to explain this all away, for her to deny what I knew must be true. I couldn't speak. I couldn't move. I couldn't stem the flow of tears that had began cascading down my face. Lynn took my hand and led me down the stairs and into the pastor's study. Mark was in there waiting for us as Lynn had already conveyed to him a concern about how I might take the news of Jamie's death. She led me to the chair directly across the desk from Mark and then took the chair to the left. we had our Sunday school class in the pastor's study and I was strangely comforted sitting here as my brain was spinning out of control.

Mark spoke softly in a very clinical and matter of fact manner. James had had an episode of his illness that required medical intervention. After he had seen his doctor, Sandy wasn't able to bring him home and thought he was resting peacefully when she finally left him to go home at around one in the morning. James had experienced this several times over the past year and an adjustment to the medication had always overcome his agitation.

Mark had gotten a phone call at 5:30 this morning from the state police. There was an accident involving a tractor trailer on the way into town. The identification found on the victim listed him as the pastor and would he like the courtesy of contacting the family. Mark told me he was as shocked this morning as I was right then at that moment when the officer gave him Sandy's name and number. He knew James was the only family she had. He went on to tell me a few more details and then he let me know that Sandy asked that I wait to see her at the grave side service which would be small and private and held on the following Saturday.

Jamie's funeral was on my eighteenth birthday.

That week was a blur of activity. I have no clear recollection of anything that happened. Did it fly by? Did it drag on interminably? I have no idea. All I know is that Saturday morning found me at a small local cemetery sitting under a huge oak tree watching Billie Mae work the backhoe that was digging Jamie's grave. I was already dressed for the service in a long black dress that fanned out around me as I sat under the tree and wept. I was struck by the cold reality of how much I would miss the quiet charm of Jamie's company, of how little I really knew of him, of how much his presence had meant to me in the short time during which we were acquainted.

I sat there in silence as the backhoe came and went. I was still sitting there in silence as the hearse arrived with Jamie in his coffin. I had no words to say when Sandy was suddenly sitting beside me in her own companionable silence.

Sandy explained to me in detail everything she knew about the accident, starting with Jamie being so agitated in a different way than any previous episode. Something was different and immediate and Sandy knew right away they would be going to the hospital, that is was beyond her scope to deal with on her own. She called his doctor before they left the house and he met them at the hospital. Jamie was compliant enough but also in a near catatonic trance.

Once the doctor determined Jamie was off his meds altogether, new meds were introduced, one a strong sedative, and within thirty minutes, Jamie was asleep and Sandy was filling out his admission papers. That was Saturday night around 10:30. Sandy said she was home sometime after one and went to bed straight away exhausted by the ordeal. the next thing she knew, Mark was at the door shortly before seven with the state police. Jamie was on a bicycle riding toward home when he was killed instantly by the impact of the collision with the truck. No one had seen him get up. No one had seen him leave the hospital. They didn't even know he was missing until she called them to confirm what Mark and the police were telling her. she called thinking they had mistaken someone for Jamie. Jamie must still be asleep in his hospital room.

The service was brief. There were five bodies present in all, Sandy, myself, Wendy, Pastor Mark, and Jamie. Wendy left soon after Mark was done speaking. She had a few brief private words with Sandy and they hugged. Mark was the second person to leave, again, after a private word with Sandy.

Sandy and I sat under the tree as the coffin was lowered into the ground. Soon after that, Billie Mae returned with the backhoe to fill in the grave and by the time she was done, the sun was low in the sky and there was little evidence that someone had just been buried.

I had gotten a ride to the service with Wendy and Sandy offered me a ride back into town. On the way we took the white roses that had been graveside and dropped them on the side of the road where Jamie's death had occurred, not a permanent marker, but a marker just the same.

Sandy didn’t make the turn into the campground but continued on around the corner to the hippie house. The car pulled into the driveway and Sandy killed the motor. “I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like very much for you to join me for dinner.” As we walked into the house, Sandy smiled as I instinctively opened the porch fridge and grabbed us each a beer. I could smell the vegetable soup simmering on the stove and I didn’t have to look to know there was a loaf of bread in front of the open kitchen window. The table was set for one and there was a note leaning against a candlestick. “You have to eat,” was boldly written in the most elegant script.

I went to the shelf and got another place setting down as Sandy brought her bowl to the soup pot. I exchanged bowls with her and then got a knife and sliced some bread. The candles were lit and we both sat to eat in silence.

Once dinner was done I got up to clear away and wash the dishes. This house functioned on simple routine and I had been around enough that the routines were automatic to me. Sandy marveled at this and let out a soft laugh. She then told me to leave it all and just come and sit. That was fine with me because I wanted to talk to her about getting to know her better and arranging a time when we could hang out much as we were doing just then.

That’s when Sandy broke the news to me. She was only there because Jamie wouldn’t move away when their grandmother passed a few years back, and he could not be left unsupervised. Nor could she bring herself to involuntarily committing him to a facility where he would get the care he needed. The only choice for her was to put her life on hold and move into her grandmother’s house.

For the past few years, Jamie had been her only concern, but now it was time to move on with her own life.
The house had already been sold. The moving company was arriving on Monday. She would be back in her own house by the following weekend in Montana. She said she would keep in touch. She didn't.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A boy I once knew...part nine

The rest of the summer wore on in a similar fashion. I saw Jamie pretty regularly on Monday and Thursday, and he popped in at the fire on occasion, though not with any predictability. True to Sandy’s number three rule, we had not entered into a relationship of any sort other than that of friends. Even now when I think of Jamie it is with an innocent fondness, and it seems more than a little odd that I never thought him my boyfriend. In retrospect, It doesn’t seem that Sandy’s rule had anything to do with it.

Labor Day weekend arrived in no time at all. The end of summer brought the end of the regular campground season as well as a return to school and a totally different dynamic to my life. There would be no lawn maintenance on Mondays. There would be no target shooting on Thursdays. There would be no nightly campfires to be stoked and contemplated until the wee hours of the morning.

Cold weather in upstate New York would be descending rapidly, more often than not on the heels of my early September birthday. This year, I would be turning 18, full of new possibility as well as equally challenged by the monotony of small town life and familial obligation. Harsh reality awaited me, right around the corner.

The weather on this end of summer holiday weekend started out much like the summer it was drawing to a close. It was warm and sunny with just the right amount of breeze to keep it from being considered a scorcher. On Saturday afternoon, the tides turned and the weekend was suddenly bleak. The skies went from blue to hazy grey softly enough, only to be revered an hour or so later as gloomy, dark. Almost black. It was early afternoon, but for all intents and purposes it might as well have been midnight. I knew as I drew the chain through the pool fence gate that the pool was closing for the season and no one else would be swimming until the arrival of the following summer.

There was a palpable burden in the air. Before I could walk across the parking lot to the office, the sky broke open. In the few seconds it took me to sprint to the office door, I was drenched. The temperature had dropped about twenty-five degrees in less than an hour and soaked through, I was shivering. My mom suggested I call some friends to come over for an impromptu end of summer party in the game room, and while I made some calls, my dad got a fire going and set up the games to work without the need of depositing any money. He also hauled out the old Motorola turntable.

I talked to Colleen and Tina, both who agreed there was nothing else worth doing. They both also suggested that they would make some calls, and I knew that between the two of them, my mom might regret extending the party invitation. Once I knew there would certainly be a crowd, I took a deep breath and called Jamie to invite him along. I had just seen him a few days before and we had agreed that the phone would be a new way for us to visit, so my call would not be totally unexpected.

Sandy answered the phone after the first ring. I told her about the party and encouraged her to come along as my mom might like the company. Sandy was speaking in very hushed tones. Jamie had just gotten to sleep after being in a bad enough way yesterday that she had to take him to the ER for a shot to calm him. He had seen his regular doctor after that, and had a whole new series of meds to work through and that it might be better if they sorted that out before Jamie and I saw each other again. I was listening as carefully as I could and trying to follow, but this was the first I knew of meds and I didn’t really have a full understanding of what “a bad enough way” was.

Sandy said she would see me in church the next day and we could discuss it further then but wanted to stress that I needed to trust her judgement when Jamie was like this. I realized I was nodding in agreement as Sandy said my name in a questioning manner. I told her I understood and would see her in church tomorrow.

As I hung up the phone, Colleen arrived. She drove a Ford Maverick and seeing kids tumble out of it reminded me of the clowns that exited the small car at the circus. I think there were nine people in her little car. Right behind her was Tina and a few more kids. When I led them to the game room, the fire was roaring and my dad had moved the Stewart’s light bulb oven from the office. Beside it on the counter there were five or six boxes with remnants of various Stewart’s sandwiches and pizzas. I suddenly saw the brilliance of my mom’s party invitation. All of the end of season leavings would basically get consumed and there would be no worry about where they would be stored. There was a pile of chips, a few stacked cases of soda, and a note on the table saying that the ice cream in the chest freezer in the office was also fair game.

About halfway through the early evening, Colleen’s mom showed up with a large birthday cake for me. As it turned out, the party wasn’t as spontaneous as I had been led to believe. When I came back from a trip to the bathroom, I saw that the cake table was also covered with gifts. All for me. I was truly surprised, and to everyone’s astonishment, momentarily speechless.

Before we close out the month...

right now. Just this very moment. I am sitting here eating cherries, and I finally feel as if life has returned to post-vacation normal. Of course this anniversary vacation took us to the Pacific Nothwest, and normal is now different. It is full of new possibilities while still having plenty of room for old dreams amongst the new.

As we crossed a few more states off the map, our awareness of normal shifted, as did our appreciation of the Life is Good mantra. Life. Is. Good. With each adventure we embark on, this is made clearer,an association is added to our never ending list of things for which to be grateful. Ultimately, we are discovering, that the only thing that needs to be on that list is this very moment. Right here. Right now.

Thank the Universe for cherries at work on a Tuesday afternnon.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


It required more than a capital v. It's a big one and it's a tenth anniversary present to ourselves all rolled into one, though I suspect there might still be anniversary presents aling the way throough the actual date(That's July, we like to start these things early.

I have been mannic as all get out for the last two weeks or so, vacation officially began at 2 pm yesterday.

Part come.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A boy I once knew...part eight

The summer went on in its normal fashion of my days being filled with life at the campground, chores, friends, campfires each night. I went and helped with Kay's yardwork each Monday afternoon and would then have some time with Jamie, usually joining him for soup and bread for supper if nothing more. On Thursday's I made every effort to go shooting with my dad and more often than not, Wendy was there to rescue me, but always a woman of few words.

I saw Jamie on average those two times a week and sometimes more. On the odd occasion when I would see him in town, he was extremely shy, or maybe just cautious as I was usually with my father. One weekend night about halfway through the summer, I was sitting at the campfire and I saw a familiar form with its long braid walking up the road from the river.

I was surprised to see Jamie as he sat down opposite me. Nobody else was there yet and the office was across the parking area, far enough away that we could talk safely. Jamie said plainly enough that he wanted to see me. He said he was beginning to learn that seeing me calmed him. Reflecting upon that, it occurred to me that he did seem a little aggitated. I told him to come take the seat next to me. I was glad that we had no guests that I had been flirting with that week, so no one that might join us at the fire would make the situation uncomfortable for either me or
Jamie. We sat together watching the fire for a short while and I told Jamie that if either of my parents came out I would just introduce him as one of my friends from town. When I thought about it, I felt Jamie looked young enough that neither of my parents would question who he was, but if they did I would just say he was Sandy's brother and leave it at that. My mom would likely think it was my friend Sandy, not hers.

I learned that Jamie and his sister had dinner with people who lived two properties away. I knew that on the river end of our property, you could see the side of their house through the trees. He told me Sandy would be there until 11 or so, but he could easily walk home as it would take him the same seven minutes it took me the first night we had soup. Jamie's memory for subtle detaill, and the way he introduced it into normal conversation was always very innocent and charming to me.

There was a comfortable silece between us as we watched the fire. I had to pee and told Jamie that I would be right back and I asked him to please not leave. When I came back outside I brought the fixings for s'mores. I saw right away that we had been joined by a few people. There was a couple I didn't know who must have registered when I was on pool duty. They had shower stuff with them so I knew they wouldn't be long. There was also a boy of about 10 who because he talked a lot, we knew was sent to get a bag of ice.

As the boy began pointing out every constellation he knew, the couple excused themselves to the showers. Jamie looked at me and smiled, obviously amused at the contrast of this boy's chattyness to our previous solitude. I took it as a cue to collect the boy's dollar and get him a bag of ice. Once the ice was on his lap, he said goodnight, but not before a brief litany of all the things in his experience that were as cold as the ice was.

Through the visitors and the conversation, I let the fire die down enough that I could safely leave it. I told Jamie to head back down to the river but to sit on the rocks and wait for me, that I would be just a few minutes behind him. I then went inside and retrieved a journal that was part of a project from my Sunday school class and a blanket, and told my mom that I thought the full moon's light would be good for writing down at the river and that I would be quiet upon my return. She told me to just pop my head in her room to let her know I was in before I turned in to bed.

When I got to the river, Jamie was sitting cross legged on my rock of choice. He was perfectly balanced and at ease. I stood there a few minutes watching him before he spoke. "I can tell that's you without looking. There's a soft vibration."

I walked over to Jamie and took his hand. I told him we weren't quite at our destination. On the property to the right there was an old dock. All the paths to it were totally overgrown, but one was still passable because I used it frequently enough. You just had to know it was there. The dock was where I would often sit and read when I had free time in the afternoon, so even though it had been long neglected, I knew it was structurally sound.

I dropped the journal on the side of the dock and spread the blanket for us to sit on. Jamie sat with his legs stretched out in front of him and crossed at the ankle. He was leaning back with his palms slightly behind him supporting the weight of his upper body. I stood for a moment looking at the full moon and stars and taking in the solitude of the river at night. It was so peaceful. Then, I sat straddling Jamie and facing him, sliding my hands into his hair and drawing his lips to mine. His lips were so soft. It didn't take but a moment of this to once again feel his cock hardening as it nestled between my legs. As any time this had played out previously, we remained fully clothed.