The House that Tom & Susie Built

“Oh, to be more patient!” Susie sighed as she got ready for bed that night. If only Tom could see my point! I don’t want to be a nag but he needs to make some changes — for the good of our home.

For one thing, he could say ‘No’ to some of these pleas for help. Like this morning when Uncle Jim called. Could Tom do a few repairs for Grandma?

“Yes, we love Grandma,” Susie had countered, “but any of your cousins could help her. They just say they’re too busy; well, we’re busy, too! We’ll never get our own house finished if you’re always helping this one and that one. Say ‘No’ this time!”

And had he listened? No. Then he wasn’t home in time for dinner, either, and the children became whiny and hard to manage. Irked, Susie grumbled at him after he did get home until he snapped back at her and stomped out to mow the lawn. The girls stood looking at her in wide-eyed silence until she shooed them outside to play. And Javon started to fuss.

Susie warmed up a bottle for him. “I guess I should apologize,” she told Javon as she fed him his bottle. “But maybe your daddy will think about this, too, and see that charity begins at home.” She brushed away the feelings of guilt.

Javon fell asleep and she started to vacuum, but she found resentment a bitter companion and was very thankful when Tom came in to say he was sorry. She apologized, too, and they both agreed that they wanted a happy home.

That night Susie whispered a prayer into her pillow. “I do want to be a good helpmeet for him, Lord. But there’s so much to do around here and the children need their Dad and… Well, You know it all. Please help us.” Then weariness overcame her and she fell asleep.

Next thing Susie knew, she and Tom were walking down a long road that stretched out ahead of them, then started to curve.

As they walked along, she had a sense of years passing. She glanced at Tom and saw with surprise that he had a cane in his other hand and was leaning on it a lot. She saw the grey in his hair and knew that hers was turning white, too.

Suddenly from around the bend in the road a man came toward them. With a spring in his step and a cheerful hello, he beckoned them.

“You must be the Reeds. I’ve come to show you your new house.”

She and Tom looked at each other in surprise and delight. The man, who seemed to be a real estate agent, led them around the next bend. Beside the road they saw a lovely new cottage.

Susie gasped. “Is this ours?”

“No,” the agent replied, “this is the home of John and Linda Thomas.”

Right then an elderly couple opened the door and waved at them. It was indeed a couple they knew from their congregation, but they were both very old now.

“Well, they certainly do deserve that neat home,” said Susie. “They’ve been so faithful in the church and such a good example to us all.”

The man smiled. “Yes, they’ve been building well all these years.”

They walked along farther and passed other houses, some looking very good and some rather ramshackle. One place wasn’t much more than a heap of crooked boards tossed together. The couple outside were bickering with each other.

The agent shook his head. “Even in old age some folks are still trying to decide whose fault it is.”

“I hope we don’t have them for neighbours,” Susie said curtly.

A few miles later the agent stopped beside another house. “And here we are, folks. This one is yours!”

Tom and Susie walked over to the house and eyed it dubiously. The siding had some jagged edges, a few boards were put on at odd angles. The door frame wasn’t quite straight.

“This is ours?” Tom sounded puzzled. He studied it up and down, and wandered around to the back, leaving Susie alone with the agent.

Susie examined the house and said to herself, “Somebody sure made a mess of things!”
The man seemed to read her thoughts. “It has been fairly well built. A few flaws here and there, but most of it is quite sound.”

He opened the door and Susie followed him into the cottage. Floor tiles were missing here and there. The fireplace stones stuck out at odd angles; amazing they didn’t tumble down!

“Oh, there must be some mistake,” she protested. “This can’t be ours!”

“Madam, I assure you, there’s no mistake,” he answered politely. “This is the house you and Tom have been building all these years. And you’ve done a halfway decent job, too. Some really good materials here.” He rapped on the wall. “Most of the subfloor is good wood. Most of the studs are in place, though some are a bit warped. Most of the roof is intact.”

“But…we would never build a place like this!”

“This is indeed your work, Mrs. Reed. What you have here is what you’ve put into your marriage all these years. You reap what you sow, you know.”

He pointed to the floor tiles. “Most of the time you and Tom have spoken to each other with respect — but not always.” Then he indicated several holes in the ceiling. “You and Tom have patched up most of your quarrels, but not all of them.” He waved at the gaps between the wall and the ceiling. “Times when each of you insisted on getting your own way. A bit was lost in your building. Selfishness is such a thief!”

Susie examined the fireplace with its stones askew and he explained. “These are the times you’ve accepted each other’s faults charitably — or complained angrily. They’re all here, just as you’ve stacked them.”

Susie cringed. What he was saying was too true. Sick at heart, she walked into the kitchen. The cabinets looked attractive, except that some of the doors were warped.
She didn’t dare ask, but he told her anyway. “Most of the time you’ve been honest with each other, but not always.”

Susie blushed, remembering a few of those times. “If only we’d known it would all show up like this,” she wailed. “How can we ever live here?”

The agent drew himself up in a huff. “That’s not my problem, Mrs. Reed. I’m only the agent of Time. My job was to bring you here and I have. All these years you and Tom have been building your old age. And may I remind you that when you were young you thought these things were good enough. ‘About like other couples,’ I believe you said then.”

He walked over to the entrance. “If you’d wanted something better now, you should have started years ago. Remember the old proverb: A wise woman buildeth her house, but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.”

Susie hung her head in shame. “If I’d only known I was building I’d someday have to live with…”

“Perhaps you could still make a few repairs,” he suggested cheerfully as he opened the door. “And now, good day, Mrs. Reed. I have others to bring to their houses, too, including your children. They’re married now and are building their own homes.”

“My children! What kind of houses will they have? If only they could see…”

“No doubt they will be following the example you’ve left them, so their houses will be half-ways decent, too,” he assured her. Then he stepped out the door into a whoosh of wind and was gone, leaving Susie standing there contemplating his last words.

She turned around to look over the house again and a wave of despair overcame her. How many repairs could they make at this late date? She sat down in a chair and began to sob.
Then Tom was beside her and his arm was around her. “It’s all right, Susie. Don’t cry. We’ll do what we can.”

Suddenly she was sitting up in bed, with Tom’s arm around her. “It’s all right, Susie. Don’t cry,” he was saying. “You must have had a bad dream.”

Susie nodded, then thought again. “No, I’ve had a very good dream. and I hope I’ll remember it for a long time. She leaned on his shoulder. “Oh, Tom, I’ve been fussing so much about getting this earthly house finished and I’ve been neglecting the most important one!”

Mrs. Lot Muses

My conjectures of what Mrs Lot might have thought and felt. Based on the Biblical account given in Genesis 19:1-26

Mrs. Lot Muses

He’s a good man, my Lot. He’s always been a good husband and father; I have no complaints about that. He treats our servants well, pays them fair wages. He’s donated to various charities over the years; offers beggars a handout ever so often; never kicks stray dogs. And he’s always been kind to strangers coming into Sodom. (Which is what has gotten us into the mess we’re in now.)

He’s well respected in town, too, I’ll have you know. Every day he sits in the gate with the other elders and his advice is appreciated. Whenever a difficult situation arises in regard to our city, the town fathers will seek Lot’s counsel. They say they can expect Lot to come up with viable solutions because he has a good understanding.

So I really shouldn’t complain, but tomorrow morning I’m definitely putting my foot down. I don’t want to risk ever having this happen again. Never again will I spend a wild night like this one!

As I said, Lot has always been kind to strangers. Sometimes he brings home company on short notice and I try to go along with it and not complain. Well, this morning, he tells me, he was sitting in the gate with the other ‘grey beards’ and in walks these two young fellows, looking around like they have obviously never been here before.

Something about them appealed to Lot – and I have to admit they seem to be very fine young men – so apparently Lot jumped up and invited them home for supper. He said they were talking of just sleeping in the street tonight and, as I said, Lot has a good understanding of the way things work around here. He was afraid they’d get mugged – or worse. (I must admit, there are some really strange people in this city.) So rather than see them sleep in the park, he told them they can spend the night with us.

Anyway, Lot comes into the house this afternoon and tells me about these two men he’s asked home, wondering if we could treat them to our hospitality and good cooking for supper and could they stay the night? I must confess I was rather flattered and didn’t mind sharing our space. Innocent as I was, I didn’t foresee any problems. In fact, such handsome young men might even make good sons-in-law some day, should they decide to settle down here.

So Lot brings them into the house and shows them to the guest room where they can stretch out for awhile if they wish. Then Lot instructs the servants to get them anything they need. After this Lot comes to me and he whispers in my ear, “I think these fellows are angels.”

I didn’t take this very seriously at first. “They’d better be,” I whispered right back. “Remember we have two beautiful daughters at home and we don’t want any hanky-panky.”

(Mind you, it might almost serve him right if something did happen and one of these fellows ran off with Beth or Sue. Our poor daughters are getting teased constantly these days by all their friends because they are still so innocent.)

You know how smart young folks can be once they get wise to the facts of life. The other girls torment our daughters, telling them they’ll grow old and wrinkled and still be single because their prude of a father won’t ever let them out of his sight. I remind them that their other sisters found good husbands and they will, too, but teenagers are so eager to experience everything. It’s hard for them to wait for someone that suits their Dad.

Back to my story. These young men settled down in the guest room for a couple of hours and then we called them for supper. At the table they seemed nice enough, and I tried to make a few suggestions as to how they might spend the evening.

I told them the Gomorrah Generation Singers are going to be performing tonight and they might want to take it in. (Gomorrah being a city just down the plain from ours an we have a lot to do with each other.) “This group is world-famous for their talent and harmony. You won’t hear any better.”

The one young man looked at me and said, “I have already heard music infinitely more beautiful.”

“Oh,” says I, somewhat taken aback. “Do you have some really good singers where you come from, too?”

“The music is heavenly, an angelic choir,” he answered. Then he sighed, seemed almost as if he were homesick. “Compared to them your singing groups are like clashing cymbals.”

I’ll confess I was a little miffed at his dismissal of our local talent. After all, I myself have heard some beautiful sounds come from this choir – and the musical arrangements are out of this world. Incredible talent, I’d say! He didn’t have to brag up his own country so much.

To be continued tomorrow…

 

Not Such Bad Luck

Once upon a time in far-off China, there lived a farmer who had only one son — one precious heir to whom he would leave his small property. The farmer also had one horse. One day this horse managed to get out of his corral and ran off.

“Such bad luck!” the neighbors said to the man.

“Don’t speak too soon,” said the farmer. “How can you know if this is really bad luck?”

The neighbors were really surprised the next evening when the horse showed up with a dozen other wild horses following him. He led them into the corral and the farmer’s son quickly ran and shut the gate.

When they saw that he now had thirteen horses the neighbors congratulated the farmer. “This is such good luck for you!”

“Don’t speak too soon,” said the wise farmer. “How do you know this is going to be a good thing for us?”

Some days later the son attempted to break one of the wild horses, but the wild stallion would have none of it. He bucked frantically and the young man fell off, breaking his leg.

Neighbors shook their heads when they saw the injured son. “You were right, old man. This has been very bad luck.”

“Don’t speak too soon,” the old man calmly repeated. “How can you be sure of that?”

A few days later a local warlord came through the village and ordered all the able-bodied young men to come with him to help fight in his war. But when he saw the farmer’s son hobbling along, he shook his head. “This boys is of no use to me.”

So the farmer’s son was left behind because of his broken leg. The other young men who were forced to accompany the warlord in his conflict were never seen again. The farmer and his son rejoiced over the “bad luck” that turned out to be their biggest blessing.

There are times in everyone’s life when something constructive is born out of adversity.  – Lee Iaccoacca

Part of the Family

Part II

Tyler ran into the park, avoiding the playground where other boys would be having fun with their dads. Instead he followed the path that led down to the creek, to watch the ducks and swans swimming.

Suddenly he stopped. There on the path ahead was the Canada goose. He had never been able to get this close to it before!

He watched as it pulled at strands of grass and ate them. I’m going to chase it into the water and watch it swim, he thought. In the water the goose was really neat; it looked like a sleek grey boat with a long black flagpole.

But the goose would not be chased. It waddled over to the edge of the creek, right in front of a duck family that was swimming around in the water gobbling up bugs, and there it stood, calmly watching Tyler with his tiny black eyes.

Tyler stepped closer and waved his arms to shoo it into the water. But the goose just raised its wings, stretched out its long neck, and honked a warning.

“Silly goose!” he shouted at it. “Get in the water and swim.”

The goose stood its ground at the edge of the creek, eyeing him warily.

Maybe if I had a stick, Tyler thought. He looked around beside a nearby bush and found a long one. But when he waved the stick at the goose, it stretched out its neck again, hissed and flapped its wings as if to say, “Look out, kid!”

A little girl came skipping along the path with her mom and dad following behind her. “Why are you trying to hit that goose?” she asked.

“I just want it to get in the water. I want to watch it swim, but it won’t go.”

“Do you see that duck family?” the man asked. “That’s why it won’t go in the water.”

Tyler looked at him, puzzled.

“This is a father goose–a gander,” he explained. “He has no family of his own, so he’s adopted this duck family. He always stays near them, watching that nothing hurts them. He’s put himself in between so you can’t get near them.”

“But where’s the ducks’ dad?” Tyler asked.

“We don’t know,” the lady answered. “He just went away–or maybe he got sick and died.”

Tyler nodded, feeling a lump in his throat. He knew all about dads getting hurt and dying. He studied the gander until the lump went away.

“But why does he stick around when he’s not their real dad?”

“Maybe he’s just lonesome and wants to be part of the family,” the man replied. “Maybe he sees that the mother duck needs his help to take care of all those busy babies. What do you think?”

For a minute they watched the many duck babies zipping this way and that to snap up water bugs. Yes, she might need help to watch over them all.

“This gander will fight anything that tries to get near his family,” said the dad. “When he flaps his wings and hisses at you, he means, ‘Look out! One more step and you’re in for it!’ His wings are strong and could give you a few good bruises and if he grabbed your leg with his beak, you’d feel it!”

“But if you want to watch him swim, go sit down a bit,” he suggested. “Once he knows the ducks are safe, he might get back in the water and join them.”

The people walked away. Tyler threw away his stick and sat down to watch; pretty soon the gander did waddle into the creek and swim over to the ducks.

As he watched the unusual family, a thought came to him. What if one of the ducklings decided he didn’t like the gander and tried to chase him away? Tyler smiled as he pictured a tiny duckling chasing a big goose.

“Like you’re doing to Paul?” The words popped into his mind, surprising him, but he realized this was the truth. By refusing to like Paul, by being crabby to him, he was trying to make Paul give up and go away.

So why did Paul stick around? Was he lonely, too? Tyler knew about lonely, about the ache inside that never went away since Dad died. Many times he wanted to cry and there was nowhere to go with his loneliness. If he told Mom how he felt, she might cry, too, and that was worse. Did Paul sometimes feel like that? Did he want to be part of their family so he would not be alone anymore?

Did Mom really need Paul’s help to raise her family? He thought of one little duck trying to look after the whole family. Silly! The gander obviously could do a much better job. He was big and brave enough to stand up for them.

Maybe Paul feels like that, too, Tyler thought. Maybe he thinks we need him. He sat and pondered the idea. And maybe we really do, he finally decided.

Tyler jumped up and started for home. Paul would be there now and might play ball with them. Maybe they could be friends. Paul wasn’t Dad, but having him there might not be so bad after all.

The End

Part of the Family

Tyler tried to slip away unnoticed. No luck! Cassie looked up when she heard the gate open. “Where are you going, Tyler?”

“To the park.” Tyler scowled at the squeaky hinge.

She came over to the fence. “You should stay here. You know Mom said Paul’s coming over.”

“Paul might play ball with us,” five-year-old Tisha added. “That’ll be so much fun!”

“I don’t like Paul!” Tyler kicked angrily at a tuft of grass.

Tisha’s eyes opened wide. “Why don’t you, Tyler? He’s nice.”

“I don’t like him!” Tyler repeated. “He’s not my dad and he can quit acting like it.

“Our Dad is gone, Tyler,” Cassie reminded him quietly. “Mom says we need accept it.”

Angrily Tyler shoved his hands in his pockets. Maybe they could accept it, but he never would! They should have their own dad like other families did. There never should have been an accident. Or Dad should have gotten better after. He never should have died and left them alone. It wasn’t fair!

And now Paul was coming over, talking with Mom, smiling at her. They said they’re going to get married. Mom would forget all about Dad! Paul was so friendly to them, too, trying to win them over. Tisha was totally on his side already. She would never even remember Dad. Everybody would forget Dad.

“He thinks he can take Dad’s place,” Tyler grumbled, “but he never will. I wish he’d just go away and leave us alone!”

He turned and ran for the park, ignoring Cassie’s call to come back. She thought because she was twelve now that she could tell him and Tisha what to do. That wasn’t fair, either. He could look after himself; he was almost ten. He could help look after the family, too. They didn’t need Paul. Why didn’t he just beat it?

Conclusion tomorrow….

Restoring Grandpa’s Clock

Colleen frowned at her brother Tom, then sighed. “I still think you should just ask her for it instead of trying to steal it. I can’t see how you can help but get caught. Is that clock really worth so much to you that you’d stoop to theft?”

“It’s the principle of the thing, Sis. Auntie just claimed all Grandpa & Grandma’s stuff and took it home with her, just because she lives close. And she’s going to hoard it until the day she dies. All the stuff they wanted to give us will be passed on to her children.

“You can’t really call this theft exactly; it’s more like restoring our inheritance. I know Grandpa wanted to give me that clock; he told me several times. One time when I went there he was chiseling my name on the back, so everyone would know. And I’m sure Auntie’s not blind. So she’s just keeping it. Period.”

Coleen shook her head sadly, remembering the Lone Star quilt Grandma promised her that she wasn’t going to get, either. But she wasn’t going to go steal it. “And when she sees it’s missing? If I’m there right at that time, how can I help but be implicated?”

“She won’t even know it’s gone. You know how cluttered Auntie’s house is. You could lose a Saint Bernard in there.”

Tim ran his hand through his hair and outlined his plan again. “I’ll be driving the company truck. You know the old lane to the pasture, not far from Auntie’s place. There’s a that clump of chokecherry bushes; I’ll park behind those and take the path through the woods. When you see my truck sitting there, you just go ring her doorbell and chat her up. Ask her about her garden. You’ll be with her the whole time, so she’ll know you didn’t take it.

“If she sees my truck and guesses I was around, I’ll say I was tending to an emergency nearby. She has no right to have that clock. It’s mine and I want it.”

The next afternoon Colleen drove out to Auntie’s house at the designated time but her nerves felt like a swarm of grasshoppers and she felt a tension headache coming on. She saw the Apex Roofing truck as she passed; it was well-hidden from the road.

Slowly she turned into Auntie’s driveway, but she made up her mind as she came to a stop that she’d ask Auntie for Grandpa’s clock on Tom’s behalf, even if doing so would implicate her in its disappearance. She couldn’t bear to see her brother become a thief over such a trifle, though it was an heirloom.

She walked up to Auntie’s door, dread in every step, a prayer in every breath. She shouldn’t be doing this. How did she ever get roped into it? But she had to protect her rash brother somehow. Surely God could work something out for them.

She rang the bell and Auntie came to the door right away. “Colleen!  How nice you came. I was just about to have a drink.”

“I… I was driving by and thought I’d stop for a minute,” Colleen began. “I know we haven’t been together since Grandpa’s funeral and I was thinking it’s high time.” The word “time” reminded her of the clock and she winced.

“Well, I’m so glad you’ve come!” Auntie gushed. “Come join me for an iced tea. Yes, when the folks died I was so overwhelmed with it all, all the arrangements, being executrix… Then I had to have the house cleaned out within two weeks.

“You did?”

“Yes, it was sold privately, you know, and the new folks wanted possession right away, so I just gathered up all Mom & Dad”s stuff and brought it here. I’ve finally gotten up courage to sort through it. I was so happy when I found a list your Grandma made; she’d rolled it up in an old slip in her undies drawer.” Auntie rolled her eyes. “Easy place to find it, right? It’s a list of things they wanted each of the grandchildren to have, and I see you should be getting that Lone Star quilt she made years back. Now I can give it to you.”

“And the clock Grandpa carved…?”

“O, that has your brother’s name on it. Dad said several times that it would be Tim’s someday, so I’m planning to give it to him next time I see him.”

“Wow, Auntie, That’s super. You know, he came along with me today, sort of, but he wanted to…was going to…wander through the woods a bit. But I’ll give him a shout. He’ll be so happy to know he’s getting Grandpa’s clock. Maybe you could pour us both a glass of iced tea while I go find him.”

Colleen hurried outside and headed down the path to the woods. But before she called Tom’s name, she looked up to heaven and waved. “Thank you, God!”

Grandma’s Birthday Party — Part III

Concluding chapter:

Still holding Joyce’s arm, Steve turned to Brian. “We’re not having Mom’s 80th Birthday ruined by a squabble between you two. Dad’s coming in a few minutes. Can you just cool it long enough for us to get his feelings on the matter.”

“They’re here,” Darryl announced.

The doorbell rang and Rick & Emily walked in, followed by Grandpa.

Rick waved. “Hi, everybody. We’ve brought Grandpa, so you’d better be on your best behavior now.”

Grandpa slowly walked into the room and Rick closed the door behind him. Then he stepped over to Uncle Steve, his father, and whispered something in his ear. Steve frowned.

Hugs and kisses were exchanged all around, but it seemed to Todd that Grandpa wasn’t his usual self. Had he caught wind of the argument, too? As Jim & Jenny hugged Grandpa, Todd caught the glimmer of a tear in the old man’s eye.

Then Grandpa looked toward Brian and Sylvie and smiled. “So, everything set for Mom’s birthday party? The Seniors Centre is spoken for, the cake’s ordered, the guests invited.”

Brian flushed. “Uh…we were just discussing that last part. Joyce was to invite the guests and she thinks…uh…she decided not to… ”

“Come, Dad.” Cassie took his arm and led him to the recliner. “Let’s all sit down and then we can discuss all these details. Let me get you some iced tea first.” She gave a sharp look at her brother-in-law in passing and he followed them into the living room.

Soon everyone was seated in the living room. Grandpa inspected his three children in turn as if picking up some bad vibes. “Now, what were you saying, Brian? Joyce decided what?”

Joyce started. “My brothers left it to me to put the announcement in the paper, but I feel strongly that we shouldn’t throw open the doors for everyone and his pup. You know there are always so many who come just because it’s a party and there’s free food. People Mom wouldn’t even know.”

“I wanted to spare her that, so I thought it best if we’d just phone the ones we want to come,” she said, leaning back into the sofa cushions. “But Brian doesn’t see it that way and he’s being so stubborn about it.”

Brian turned to his dad. “You and Mom are friends with half the people in town and goodness knows how many more out of it. We’ve already phoned all your special friends, but we’d decided an announcement in the paper would take care of letting everyone else know. That was to go in last week.” He gave Joyce a sharp look.

“So what if a few extras come,” he continued. “However… It’s almost too late now. But the thing is, Joyce went ahead and decided this all on her own.”

“It’s not such a big thing really,” Cassie said, handing Grandpa a glass of iced tea. “We’ll just phone a few more folks…”

Brian thumped the arm of his chair. “Which we wouldn’t have to do if Joyce had just done what she was supposed to in the first place! It IS a big thing! She can be so…so positive that she’s right. Nobody can tell her anything.”

Grandpa digested this for a moment to digest, then he laughed. “Say, this is just like old times. You two used to have some real rows when you were tikes. One would say ‘Yes’ and one would say ‘No!’ and you’d go at it for half an hour.”

He looked out the window as if gazing back over the years. “But you’d sure stick up for one another, too. Why, I remember the times, Brian, when you’d beg your big sister to take you to the park because you weren’t able to go there by yourself. Even if she had something else she wanted to do she’d take your hand and off you’d go together… You had complete faith in her back then; you knew she’d stand up to them if the big kids bullied you.”

Brian cleared his throat and looked at his shoes.

“Remember the time a stranger offered you a ride. He had this cute little pup in his car and he wanted you to come along home with him because he had a boy just your age. You two could play with the pup, he said. When Joyce saw you heading for that car she came running and dragged you back, screeching so much everyone on the block turned to look. That stranger laid quite a bit of rubber on the road getting out of there. Her being right paid off that day; if it wasn’t for her you might not be with us today.”

“I can dimly recall that,” said Brian softly.

“I remember.” Joyce chuckled. “You were furious when I wouldn’t let you go play with that boy and his puppy.”

“I guess you understood the situation a lot better than I did. Thank God.”

Their father nodded. “Yes, Thank God. And, Joyce, remember the time when you and Brian went swimming at the pond, then you got that cramp and went under. I don’t know how Brian managed to drag you out, being so scrawny at the time, but he saved your life.”

Joyce nodded soberly. “That’s right.”

“We thanked God many times over for that one, too.” Then Grandpa chuckled. “And when you were in grade eight you almost tore your hair out trying to pass geometry. Your brothers both patiently explained it many times until you finally got a handle on it.”

Brian grinned at her. “Pie are square.”

“And remember when we got our first computer, the year you started high school, and Brian figured the thing out lickety-split. So that’s who you called every time you crashed the thing. Now you work with one every day.”

“I still call on him when I have problems,” Joyce admitted, smiling at Brian.

“And Brian, I think Joyce gave you your love of good books, ’cause she was always reading to you once she learned how herself…though you probably don’t recall those times.”

“Yeah, some.” Brian nodded at Joyce. “I think you kept it up until I was in third grade or so. Then you helped me get my grammar straight.” He laughed. “You never dreamed I’d be an editor someday.”

“Well, enough reminiscing,” said Grandpa, setting his drink down. “We have a party to plan. And we want to make it the best one yet.”

He was quiet a moment. A tear trickled down his cheek. “Because this is going to be the last one.”

Joyce gasped. “Dad! What’s wrong?”

“We didn’t want to spoil the party, so we were planning to gather the family together afterward to tell you all together, but I just can’t hold it in anymore. Mom saw the doctor a few days ago. He says she has acute leukemia. He gives her about six more weeks in this old world.”

There was a collective gasp. Tiffany threw her arms around Todd. Brian, Joyce, and Steve embraced each other, all of them in tears. Then the cousins were all hugging one another and Grandpa, each other, their aunts and uncles.

Aunt Cassie squeezed Todd’s mother and whispered, “They say the family that plays together stays together. In this case it’s the family that weeps together.”

Sylvie nodded as they watched Brian, Steve, and Joyce hugging each other. “Thank God,” she murmured.

Grandma’s Birthday Party — Part II

Jim eyed his mother-in-law, then his Uncle Brian. “Tornado — Red Alert, “ he called out. “Everybody to the basement!”

Brian stopped mid-stride and looked around, then out the window. “Tornado? What are you talking about? The sky is clear.”

“The atmosphere in here looks pretty stormy, Dad.” Todd looked from his father to his aunt, then back again. “The way you came marching in here, you look like a thundercloud about to zap somebody.”

Brian glared at his sister. “Well, somebody here needs zapping. Maybe they’d get hit with a little common sense.”

Aunt Joyce bristled. “If anyone here needs common sense…”

Brian gritted his teeth. “Your aunt has taken it upon herself….”

“I don’t want Mom’s party turning into a free-for-all. And if you weren’t so obstinate, you’d admit I’m right.”

“A free-for-all?” Jenny repeated.

Brian stuck out his chin. “Of course you’re right, Joyce. You’ve always been right, ever since we were kids and I tried to correct some crazy idea you had.”

“And you never would admit it when my idea was better!”

“Whoa, you two,” Todd interrupted. “Would one of you care to explain what this is all about?”

“Your Aunt Joyce has ruined Grandma’s birthday.”

“I’ve saved it from being spoiled by a bunch of party-crashers. You’re too stubborn to…”

“Mom,” Jenny demanded, “what exactly did you do?”

“It’s what she didn’t do,” said Brian. “Without consulting any of the rest of us, she decided to NOT put the announcement in the newspaper. Now nobody knows about the party.”

Everyone looked at Joyce. “You didn’t?” said Aunt Cassie.

“No, I didn’t. Do you know how it works when someone announces a party. Everyone who’s ever so much as said hello to that person — and a lot who haven’t — show up for the free eats.”

“But how will Grandma’s friends find out about it if we don’t announce it?“ Jenny asked.

Brian clapped her on the back. “Finally someone’s talking some sense! That’s just what I said.”

“We can get a list of their friends from Grandpa and Grandma,” Joyce explained. “Then we’ll call the friends and personally invite them. That way none of them will miss the party because they didn’t see the announcement. Plus, their friends would appreciate a personal invitation a lot better.”

“Hmph,” said Brian. “Mom and Dad know practically everyone in town. Do you know how much phoning we’ll have to do?”

“That’s right,” said Uncle Steve. “You really should have talked this over with us, Joyce.”

Joyce plopped her purse onto a chair. “This is a family affair. We don’t have to invite everybody in town. And this way people like the Tanners won’t show up to spoil the evening. I’m doing this for Mom’s sake.”

“The Tanners have known Mom and Dad for years! Folks will want them to come. Where’s your head, Joyce?” Brian threw up his hands in frustration.

“I know you’re good friends with their son, Brian. But the Tanners have a drinking problem. At the Franklin’s golden anniversary last month at the Seniors’ Center, they came bringing their bottles with them. They spiked their punch in the cloakroom and got pretty tipsy.”

“Well, we don’t want that.” Tiffany paused. “Do you really think it would be a problem?”

“No!” Brian declared.

“Yes,” Joyce countered.

“You’re just being paranoid — and you’re letting your wild imagination ruin Mom’s birthday celebration.”

The cousins looked back and forth from Joyce to Brian. Then they looked at each other and shook their heads.

“Now Brian, let’s not overreact here.” His wife squeezed his arm gently. “The party isn’t ruined. We’ll just start calling people.”

Brian snorted. “No, if Joyce wants to do things her way we’ll just let her. But we’re not going to be there.” He gave his two sons a pointed look, daring them to disagree.

“If you’re going to be like that, we won’t be there, either!” Joyce snatched up her purse and headed toward the door.

Uncle Steve grabbed her arm as she passed. “Just a minute, you, two.”

Grandma’s Birthday Party

Part One:

“I think it’s so great that you still have your grandparents,” Tiffany said to Todd as they walked up the steps to his Uncle Steve’s home. “And a family that gets along so well — not everyone has that.”

Todd nodded. “Yeah, we have a lot of reasons to be thankful. We’ve been able to celebrate Grandma’s birthday every year, but this one will be the party to end all parties.” Todd and his wife were joining the family this evening to plan some last-minute details of Grandma’s eightieth birthday coming up in four days.

Uncle Steve opened the door just as Todd reached toward the doorbell. “Hello, nephew. Hi Tiffany. Glad you could make it. Come on in. Darryl, Jenny and Jim, Matt and Shelby are here already.”

Tiffany glanced at Todd and he whispered in her ear. “You’ll remember Matt & Shelby when you see them. He’s Uncle Steve’s son; they were at our wedding, but moved to BC two months later. Jenny is Aunt Joyce’s daughter; she and Jim live in Nova Scotia.”

Aunt Cassie swished by in her long dark skirt. “I’ve set out punch and snacks on the kitchen counter. Help yourselves when you’re ready.”

Todd and Tiffany walked into the living room and exchanged hugs and greetings with his brother Darryl and the cousins gathered there.

Jenny gave Tiffany a big hug, saying “Now I finally get to meet Todd’s wife. Welcome to the family. I see you two are being fruitful and multiplying. Congratulations.”

“Thank you,” said Tiffany. “I’ve really enjoyed being a part of your family and am looking forward to meeting the rest at Grandma’s party.”

“We all are. But are you going to be there? Mom tells me your baby’s due in a couple of weeks — which means any day now.”

“I hope Junior can wait a bit — at least until the next day!”

“Yeah,” said Todd. “We’d be disappointed to miss Grandma’s big do. Mind you, not TOO disappointed.” He put his arm around Tiffany and winked at Jenny. “If we’re in on another birthday party instead.”

Jim laughed. “You wouldn’t want to miss that one, I’m sure.”

Todd grinned, then glanced back at Jenny again. “Your Mom not here yet?”

Jenny shook her head. “I don’t know what’s keeping her. Your Dad and Mom are coming, too, aren’t they?”

Todd shrugged. “I’m sure they will. I thought they’d even beat us here.”

Jenny frowned. “You know, Todd, I’m getting wind of a little difference of opinion between my mom and your dad. I heard her talking on the phone yesterday evening — I think it was to Uncle Brian — and she seemed pretty upset about something. I’m hoping this blows over and doesn’t spoil Grandma’s special day.”

Todd’s brows arched. “My folks haven’t said anything to me. Can’t imagine what they’d quarrel about – especially right now.”

“Well, your dad can be pretty stuck on his own ideas sometimes.”

Todd bristled. “If I recall correctly, Aunt Joyce can be pretty insistent at times, too.” Tiffany nudged his arm.

“Well, yes, she can. I have to admit that.”

Aunt Cassie caught the last part of this conversation in passing. “I hope they can set aside their differences for Grandma’s sake. I’ve been looking in on her more lately; it seems she’s not as strong as she used to be. I was surprised how pale she looked last week.”

Jim nudged his wife. “Here’s your mom now.”

They all looked out and saw Joyce get out of her car, holding a cell phone to her ear. She appeared to be having an angry conversation with someone, waving her arms at times.

“I hope she wasn’t talking like that while driving.” Jim’s tone was reproachful.

“And here come Brian and Sylvie,” said Cassie as Todd’s father and mother got out of their car and stood on the street.

“Dad’s talking on his phone, too.” Todd saw his father run his hand through his hair impatiently. “He seems pretty upset. Why aren’t they coming in?”

“You don’t suppose they’re talking to each other, do you?” Tiffany asked.

Todd frowned. “When they’re only fifty feet apart?”

“I hope not,” Jim added. “They both look like tornadoes about to touch down on someone. Maybe us.”

They watched Joyce shut her phone with a snap and stuff it in her purse. She shot an angry glance at her brother, then hurried toward the house. Aunt Cassie rushed to open the door.

Todd’s father shut his phone at the same moment and rammed it into his pocket. He turned to his wife to discuss something with her.

Joyce charged into the house. Her eyes fastened on Todd and she hissed, “Your father is a pig-headed imbecile!”

Jaws dropped all over the room. Aunt Cassie gasped. But before anyone could answer, the door banged open and Brian marched in, his trembling wife in tow.

To be continued…


 

This is Part One of my reply to the Write 101 Day Fourteen challenge:

Think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force. How does that make you feel?

Forgotten Again

Old man, alone now,
buys his own gift,
pays for his own
dinner on Friday–
with a glass of cheer–
at an obliging restaurant.
He can’t wait for Father’s Day
to discover he has been
forgotten again.

C. Goodnough

I’ve reblogged and slightly changed this. I’ve written it as fiction — yet I’m thinking it’s sadly true.