Hi All...I haven't posted on lit.org yet, so I thought I'd give it a shot. This is also on the forums. Thanks for reading...amie...
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He was tired. The end of the day seemed only a figment of his imagination, so when it finally arrived, all he could do was recognize he was tired. There was no semblance of thought running through his head. Only the creeping recognition that the day had drained him, and he was thrilled that it was over.
The morning was a blur, even as it was happening. Sam's house was full again. Its bedrooms hadnít been filled since his kids were all in high school at the same time. They were well graduated from high school and college, now, and Kimmi had two little ones of her own. Brad had flown in from Dallas, and Kelley took a few days off of schoolóshe was a kindergarten teacheróto come home for the weekend and half of the week.
The house was still bustling around the slumped man, but the sources were only his kids, grandkids, and his wife Jean.
"But I don't wanna sleep in the basement! It's scary down there," was the whine of Kim's son Zack.
"You don't have to sleep in the basement. You're sleeping in the pull out bed in the living room with Lilly." Kim's voice was strained from the day and the fatigue that invaded her body.
"But I don't wanna sleep with Lilly! She's a girl!"
"Don't argue with me now. Just go brush your teeth and put on your pjís." Her patience was gone.
"Mom, do you have any extra towels anywhere? The linen closet's empty," Kelley called from the bathroom that separated her room from Kim's.
"Oh, damn. I think I left them down in the dryer. I'll go get them." Jean's stress showed through in that simple slip of 'damn.' She never cursed when the kids were around. It didn't matter that they were fully grown adults.
The funeral had been hard on all of them, but for Sam it was entirely exhausting. He bore the grief of his family on his shoulders as well as his own immense pain of finally being orphaned. His mother had held on long, much longer than anyone had expected, but it could not last forever. Sam knew this, but he still found it difficult. It seemed that no matter what age he was or how peacefully his mother had died, there remained a terrifying sense of abandonment. He had his wife and three children to cling to, but they were dependant on him rather than he dependant on them. He was now the oldest of the family (his own siblings included); he was the lonely one at the top of the living family tree. All of this responsibility and his own burden of loss squished him into the recliner, seemingly forcing his body to flatten on the brown and tan shag carpet. He wanted nothing more than to disappear into twenty years ago and repeat the succession of events, never achieving this moment.
His ride was a rusty blue station wagon that he got for one heck of a deal from his brother-in-law. His kids were getting to that age, and he had finally been able to quit the three jobs he was juggling because he was hired at the mill. It was just the beginning of Sam's perfect life, free from any catastrophes. Brad would get into a car crash that would put him in the hospital for a couple of months when he was sixteen, but that drama was only a fleck compared to the grander scheme of things. At this precise moment, things were looking up, and Sam had no idea just how far up they would fly.
He was not young by the standards of his children, but he was not old. He still liked to go grab a drink with the boys after work, and the boys at the mill were proving to be a group worth his time. Jean, his wife, even came out now and then, and they had an income that allowed them some comfort for the first time since the kids were born. They still had to stretch it here and there, but Sam was grateful that he only needed to work one job and would actually have some time to spend with his family. He had felt like he missed out on so much until that point.
There was a noticeable change in his personality, a change that Jean had noted with delight many times.
"This is the man I married," she would say when Sam thought of something for the family to do together. They laughed more than they fought, a welcomed change, and the quarrels were over petty issues. Already, the issue of which bill to pay and which to neglect for a little while longer was obsolete, and that left for a much more pleasant and relaxed atmosphere.
It was a simple time when Sam was responsible enough to have his family throw all of their dependences upon him, but when it got to be too heavy, there was still an older tree to lean on.
Sam began to get up to move to his and Jean's bedroom, but as he stood, he lost his balance and couldn't find anything to grab before he fell back into the chair. He tried again, slower with his fatigue that made him feel like an old man for the first time in his life.
"You okay, hon?" Jean asked, noticing Sam's stutter.
"Oh yeah. These old bones just aren't what they used to be." Sam forced a smile and a bounce to his voice for the sake of his wife. He didn't want her to see her husband crumbling. He just wanted to make it to his room and sleep the next three days away before he would head back to work for four twelve-hour shifts. There he wouldn't have to worry about supporting anyone because there would be no one to support. The guys would ask him about the funeral, how the kids were doing, but then the conversation would proceed as normal. His grief would be forgotten, and he would be able to go on with his self-pity without the worry that there was someone near who needed him to be strong.
Jean came into the living room after bringing the towels up to Kelley.
"I think your sister's coming over tomorrow," she said. "She wants to go through the box of your mom's things that the nursing home sent over."
"I looked at it already. There's not too much there. Just a few pictures and clothes." Sam was finding it nearly impossible to hide his grief from his wife, and her comforting eyes made him ashamed that it was she comforting him rather than the other way around.
"I thought it would be nice to have lunch together anyway."
"Thatís a wonderful idea." Sam smiled and kissed his wife on the cheek.
They were married directly out of high school, and Sam's mother was instantly taken to Jean. Sam knew it was because they were nearly the same person. They say a man will always marry someone who reminds him of his mother. Jean was just that, and his mom loved her almost as much as he did. They were friends, and Jean began to spend her time while Sam was at work with her mother-in-law.
When Jean was pregnant for the first time, Sam's mother gave her more advise than her own mother who lived across the state was able to, and Sam turned here as well when a mood swing hit that he simply could not understand. She was the rock early on, and it continued that way through the early death of his father and the birth of their other two children. Even when Sam stopped asking for advice, there was always an image of support that rested on the shoulders of that woman.
"It's amazing how much you miss something once it's gone, isn't it?" Sam was talking to himself though Jean was in the same room. He hadn't meant to exclaim so much out loud.
"That seems to be how it always works." Jean's voice held its comforting level, and Sam couldn't help but wish he didn't have the three extra days before he had to go back to work. Tomorrow would have suited him nicely, and he wouldn't have to worry about his thoughts being overheard when he didn't mean them to be. The noise of the paper machine always drowned out anything that he said.
"You should go to bed," Sam said, briefly touching the arm of his wife. "It's been a long day."
Jean looked at him as if to say, You should too.
"I'm just getting a little water from the kitchen. I'll be up in a minute," Sam answered her eyes.
Jean left, and Sam sat at the island in their kitchen like a broken man. He leaned heavily on the countertop as though he would sink right through it at any moment. Images of the last fifty-five years flashed through his mind: His mother's feigned pleasure at the extra strong 'cowboy coffee' he made for her one mothers' day; Jean's tearful eyes as she said I do; each child's birth and then moments of childhood; his first day at the mill when it was all so foreign and loud, but was now familiar and as soothing as a lullaby. None of it would have been possible without the knowledge that there was someone who knew more than him there to guide him. He felt as though nothing would be able to make sense now that that figurehead was gone.
Sam sat at the island a while longer, wallowing in the painful pool he had been thrown into. The house was growing quiet. Brad had been in bed for quite sometime; he was the first one to sleep. Kelley finally made it to her own bed once the towel problem was resolved, and Kim managed to get both Zack and Lilly to compromise in a sleeping arrangement. Sam thought he was the only one awake, and decided it would have to be that way from now on. While everyone else lay in comfort and peace, he would keep a vigil in case they should awake with a strong sense of need.
He sat in silence for a long time, unable to move his body from the stool, swirling the glass of water in front of him. The light from the kitchen glowed brightly into the darkness of the living room, and Sam was roused from his musings by the sound of little footsteps. Soon Lilly appeared squinting in the light of the kitchen.
"Grampa?" Her little voice was that of a mouse.
"Lilly Dilly, why are you still awake?" His voice was not confrontational at all, but rather a gentle hum.
"I can't sweep, Grampa." The little girl rubbed her green eyes that were a mirror of Sam and his mother. His mother had always called them two pee holes in the snow, but she told him to be proud of those pee holes and show them off as much as he could.
"Okay," Sam said with a sigh as he lifted the little girl into his arms. "How 'bout you and grandpa go sit in grandpa's special chair and rock for a little bit. Okay?"
The tiny brown head nodded and rested on Samís shoulder. He walked blindly into the living room, a path he had taken for years and no longer needed his vision to accomplish, and sat with his granddaughter in the old brown recliner that had been his father's. Lilly was asleep almost instantly, and Sam sank into a quiet rest under the light weight of her body.
There are many things you have to do in life, but you cannot ignore the roses. When they demand to be seen, one simply has no choice but to go to them.