The Sailor's Stories

1034 Chapter thirty four – The Sailor’s Awakening.

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Usually it doesn’t take much to bring me back, after I have gotten into one of these states, but what it does take is often quite interesting. Every time I get here, it’s the little things that bring me home again, or at least it always seems to work out that way. And more often than not, it’s the things that seem so small, almost insignificant in the grand scheme of the world…, especially to those that have never fully experienced them. In this particular case, it was the love of my nephew. Even though I had upset him a great deal, hurt him, angered him, humiliated and embarrassed him…, he was still there, still taking care of me. I have no idea what it was, that I could have done in my life, to deserve this kind of love, but the evidence of it was unmistakable…, the blanket, the fire…, the mere fact that he cuddled up next to me on that windy night so I wouldn’t be cold. Why I kept getting into this state, however…, that was starting to really concern me…, there was something dark and insidious eating into my soul of that I was sure, something that I had no idea how to find, let alone fight.

Knowing that at least, was enough for the moment, I was sure I still had time to deal with whatever it was, well…, that was the plan anyway. For the moment, my boys were my primary concern, if I was to be totally honest…, it had always been this way. Without any conscious thought on my part, I just knew that everything I had was theirs…, but in the beginning, had I really been old enough to make that kind of judgement? When all this happened I was not much more than a child myself. Sure I was twenty six, but I was a single guy in a high stress working environment…, I could barely look after myself, let alone two small boys! Not too mention the fact that I had already seen far more than any man could really live with, or even begin to process. The question of, ‘Am I really ready for all this?’…, even with everything I had already been through, just wouldn’t leave me alone…, it was still there every now and again.

The truth is, I wasn’t ready…, I wasn’t ready for any it…, I wasn’t ready to lose my parents, to lose my sister, and I definitely wasn’t ready to lose the only one I had ever loved…, really, the boys were all I had left in this world. At the time, I had not long gotten out of the hospital and was just getting over the death of one of my team-mates…, someone that I had trusted to the ends of the earth. I was finding that particularly hard, given that he had died to preserve my life. And given that I still hadn’t gotten over the loss of my parents, and then not that much later, my lover. I had no idea how I was going to get through it at all.

That light that was supposed to be at the end of that tunnel, seemed mighty dim from my point of view, but then, when I looked into their eyes that night, I just knew I would have to find a way…, that I would have to try. I loved them so much, even then, I couldn’t bare the thought of losing them to a system that had the habit of letting kids fall through the cracks. So I pushed everything else way down deep into the back of my mind. But I was so scared…, no…,  I was petrified, that I would let something slip, that something from my past would boil over and consume us all, that some fatal flaw in my make-up would force a mistake that I couldn’t bring any of us back from.

All I ever wanted was to see them safe, to watch them grow, to see them flourish and prosper. I would do anything to keep them safe and happy, after all they had been through already…, I really did owe them that much…, but in the end, was that enough? If someone had said to me all those years ago that by the time I was in my thirties I would have three teenage boys to look after, I probably would have decked them…, or at the very least laughed in their face. It’s true that I have always wanted children, I just thought it would be on my terms, not someone else’s.

Don’t think though, that for even a heartbeat, I would have done anything differently, given the same set of circumstances…, it’s just more the question of where would I be if things hadn’t gone the way they had. Would the kids be any different if their parent’s hadn’t died…, would I? If Shelly and Sean hadn’t been killed all those years ago, where would the kids be now? It’s really hard to see them in a worse place, but I often wonder if it wouldn’t be a better one.

Oh yes…, my boys…, in the end, that’s what made it all worth it, I really did know that. But then again, I find that I can’t help but wonder in those times that I’m scared, tired, alone, vulnerable, or emotional…, what if things had been different? Don’t get me wrong, like I said, I wouldn’t have changed those last few years for anything in the world. But sometimes…, just sometimes, that shitty nasty little voice that lives in the back of your head would start whispering at me as it picked apart my life, and I would think about the where’s, the whys, the maybes and of course the worst ones of all…, the what ifs.

Where would I be if Mark hadn’t died…, would we even be together after all these years? Would we be happy? What if my parents had listened to the pleas of the boys and stayed the extra night at my sister’s? Would they still be around, and if Shelly and Sean had still died, would my parent’s be looking after the boys instead of me? Maybe, just maybe, I’m not the right guy for this gig? And why does it seem that I’m always alone in this thing? Am I destined to be alone? Looking at it seriously, I know that every parent goes through these things, that they all have these feelings and fears, but I had so little experience in what it meant to be a dad, that I had no way to know how to properly process my way through them all.

My life, and the many things I have done with it, have been foremost on my mind lately. I mean, like I said…, what is it that I really have to offer? I have got a wide and varied range of talents and skills that have served me very well over the years. Some I was trained to do, often painstakingly, and some that I have picked up on my own. But, none of them even come close to being chapters in the great book of parenting. Though I tried very hard to keep my work and my home lives separate, I can’t help but think the reasons I keep screwing things up lately, has a lot to do with that very same inexperience at being a parent…, even after all these years, what the hell do I really know about being a parent?

Most people get the chance to grow into parenthood, the chance to start from the beginning. That’s not to say that mistakes aren’t made, and often, but when kids are young, the mistakes are usually easily repaired, and the adults learn from the experience…, I had none of that. I was thrust into this thing, totally unprepared…, the Navy had spent a great many years and a lot of money on my training, but all that training, certainly never covered this situation.

I have always tried to do my very best by them…, I’ve tried so hard to raise them to be good boys, strong caring and productive members of society. But then again, have I done enough? Have I done too much…, I really don’t know. It’s a well documented fact that children flourish under the rearing hands of both parents, but I’m only one guy. Sure Reggie has always been there to help out, to give that all so ‘Interesting’ feminine perspective, but then again, she has always made a point of taking the back seat, as if she knew that in the end it was my choice. That’s not to say that we didn’t argue about it sometimes, but she has always respected my judgement…, even if she didn’t agree with it.

Every day though, I could see more and more of myself in the boys, my values, my strengths, even my weaknesses. It was almost as if they were seeing the world as I saw it, thankfully though, albeit with their own personal bent…, but in the end, it was my worldview all the same. What worried me about that…, what truly had me more than a little concerned was…, who the hell said I was the right kind of role model? I dealt in absolutes, in death for a living…, it has, I am ashamed to admit, given me a rather bleak outlook on life.

If they hadn’t come to me that night, if their parents hadn’t been taken from them…, Corey would still be Corey, of that I was almost certain, nothing much ever seemed to really faze him. Still, that boy was really worrying me right now…, primarily, because he had accepted the events on the Marneus…, it took him a while, but he accepted them. No child should ever have to see something like that…, that and the fact that I almost got him killed, that he didn’t appear to be irreparably damaged was nothing short of a minor miracle. Once again though, it had been my fault…, if he hadn’t been so concerned over me, he would never have been in that situation in the first place.

Dale…, well, he would have been a happy kid I think, well rounded, smart…, still on his way to a bright future. But being gay is not a choice, no matter what people think. That he knew at such a young age, really has kinda cemented his path in life. How he would have coped around his staunch Irish Catholic father though, is another matter entirely. The poor boy would probably have been stuck steadfast, in the closet a lot longer, whether he would have been happy about that, is anyone’s guess.

Then there is Carl…, where would Carl have been if the boys hadn’t come to me. I don’t think that he could’ve changed his path any more than Dale could, but would he have seen it if not for him? I had only seen his brothers in passing over the last few months, but I could easily recognise the type…, marines in the making every last one of them. To be quite brutally honest, Carl would make a damn good one too, if he so chose…, but he was decidedly more delicate than his brothers. He had a strength to him, that couldn’t be denied, I could see that in the way that he held onto and protected Dale…, but it was a different kind of strength, one that he definitely didn’t get from his father. Would he have survived into adulthood unbroken? If he had stayed with his family, I really couldn’t say…, with me though, I had to admit…, he had a chance.

This is why I seldom drink, you see? Because every time, I always seem to get into these maudlin, over thinking, self deprecating episodes. The whole situation was getting rather uncomfortable anyway. It wasn’t the closeness that was bothering me, though that was about to get a whole lot more embarrassing any minute now…, no…, it was the actual position that we were in. I can tell you this, if given the choice between a nicely made bed, and a cold sandy beach…, it’s the bed every time. There was also the small matter of the fire being somewhat dead, the heat from it almost gone. Not too long ago, the wind had picked up as well, so much so that it was starting to tug on the edges of the blanket, and I felt that I could no longer successfully hold it down enough to keep the warmth in. All of this running painfully through my head, adding to the small hangover I had built, from the session of the previous evening, was conspiring to make me cramp up and chill.

Even though we had said that we would watch the sun come up together, Dale had been up most of the night. The exhaustion that comes with that kind of worry had finally taken it’s toll on his small young body. There is no telling when he had drifted off, but the soft gentle deep breaths I could hear from him were unmistakable. I was still getting more and more uncomfortable by the minute, but even then I wasn’t ready to let him go. Without a word, I slid up and around onto my backside, so that I was sitting on the beach instead of lying on it, pulling Dale along with me. He wound up nestled between my legs, leaning back against my chest. He must have been really out to it, I realised, as he didn’t even stir when I moved us. Having pulled the blanket around us, in a sort of cocoon type tent, still hanging on to the edges, I slid my arms around him hugging him tight, my chin resting lightly against the top of his head, my nose pressed into his soft blond hair. He was so peaceful, his breathing deep in a sound sleep, as if he felt that nothing could touch him. Which of course was true…, I wouldn’t allow it.

I must have sat there for several more hours, just holding him tight, as the sun was well and truly into the sky, and the day was beginning to warm when he finally awoke. Hearing the change of pitch in his breathing, I looked down at him, still nestled in my embrace. I managed to put on a brave smile, just as he shifted his head back onto my shoulder, and stared up at me. With the worry no longer needed, I couldn’t help but notice that some of the hurt had slid back into his eyes. Hope is the first step on the road to disappointment…, this has always been true with me, and it seems I had unwittingly taken that first step…, in fact if I had to be honest, I think I took that road at a full sprint last night. More fool me I guess, why are things never as easy as you want them to be? Still, that’s never stopped me from trying…

“Morning Kiddo…”

“Mmmmm…, morning Uncle Cam…” He said, stretching out as much as he could in my arms…, all the while trying desperately to stifle a yawn, before rubbing the sleep lazily from his eyes. “What time is it?”

“About 0900 I think…, you hungry? You wanna go up to the house for something to eat?”

“Not yet…, um…, can we talk first?”

‘Can we talk?’…, three words that should never be put together into a sentence. Words that when followed by a question mark, could have unstoppable, catastrophic consequences. I’ve never liked that phrase. I hated it when my parents said it, as it usually meant punishment, or something equally sad. It scared the shit out of me when Mark said it, especially when the first time had led to our initial separation. He’d said it again, right before he told me about West Point as well, that sneaky bastard…, I still haven’t really forgiven him for that one. So it is understandable when I say…, nothing good ever comes from ‘Can we talk?’. Every time I heard that phrase I involuntarily winced, and this time was no different. I recovered quickly, as I usually did, but I still think he caught it…

“Ah…, sure kiddo…, what’s on your mind.”

He was quiet for a moment, but his eyes never left mine. He was almost contemplative in his silence. Me on the other hand, my mind was in turmoil…, spinning over all the things he could possibly want to say, but in the end, what he said was…, unexpected….

“You…”

“Me?”

“Yeah you…, Uncle Cam, you really scare me sometimes…”

“Oh God…, you’re scared of me?” I was truly horrified, as tears brimmed over, before streaming down my cheeks.

“No…, shit no, please don’t cry…, oh god I’m sorry,  I didn’t mean it that way…, honest!” He said, as he pushed his arms through the blanket till they rested around my neck. “I’m not scared OF you, I’m scared FOR you…, you’ve been so on-edge lately…, and I’ve been so worried…, we all have…, are sure you’re ok? Should I call Karen or something?”

When he said that, he let go with his left hand, and reached up to brush the tears from my face. That gesture alone shocked me…, he had done it in exactly the same I had done to him so many times. I think it was that that finally pulled me out of my funk. It was so much like a cold slap to the face. This little boy was so worried about me, that he had taken on the role of the parent. If I thought I was too young for it, what the hell must he be thinking? Once again I marvelled at how I could have let this happen? I know I’ve done it before, but what else could I do? In that moment I swore silently to myself, and to all three of them, again, that I would once and for all get my shit together! If that meant going back to the headshrinker, then so be it. Though maybe Karen wasn’t a bad idea, however, I wasn’t about to let this wonderful little guy feel that he was responsible for doing that for me…, this was something I had to do myself.

“You don’t have anything to be sorry for short stack…, I’m the one that should be sorry…, I really fucked up yesterday…, for that I am truly sorry…, you have every rite to be pissed at me…, I just have to hope that you can find it in you to forgive me…”

“I love you so much Uncle Cam, but you can be such a dick sometimes…, you know that?”

“What!?”

His eyes went a little wide at my response, as if he had only just realised what he had said…

“Probably shouldn’t have said that, huh?”

“Probably not…, but I’ll let it go this time…”

“Um…, thanks…, but, I already have you know?”

“What?”

“Forgiven you.” He said, as he put his arm back around my neck, and nestled into me again.

Holding him tight, I looked out over the water, not saying anything for a moment or two. I needed a little time to get it stuck in my head. I know I had already made the promise to myself, but I had to wait for that to sink in a little before I could voice it. It didn’t take long…

“I’ll get it sorted kiddo…, I promise you that…, but there’s something I really need to do right now…”

“What?”

“This…” I said as I grabbed the left side of his hoodie, it’s always the left side…, and wiped away what was left of my tears, before I blew my nose.

“Ewwwww…, yuck Uncle Cam, that’s disgusting!”

“It is…, isn’t it?” I said, with a devilish grin. “But it does make us snot buddies!” with the laughter bubbling up inside me.

“Dude…, that’s so wrong!” Dale said, with a mirth filled grimace.

I couldn’t help it any longer…, I fell back in fits of laughter. Not knowing what else to do I guess he just decided to follow me, and we ended up rolling around on the sand, laughing our heads off, for the longest time. The wind was still strong and threatening, so after a little while, now that the comfort of the blanket was gone, we collected up all of what we had and walked slowly up to the house. It wasn’t the longest walk I had ever taken, I think that was yet to come, but it was one that I enjoyed. My boy’s hand in mine, a smile on his face…, really…, what more could I want or need?

______________________________________________________

This is a good one that seems to fit this chapter rather well…

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This is for my own “Mark”, and though he will never hear it, I would like to dedicate it to him as this story is as much his as it is mine.

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Written by bigct/Octavius

March 11, 2010 at 15:32

5 Responses

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  1. Another great chapter and so introspective. Have had the same feelings with someone I raised once. Wasn’t my own but needed Uncle there. Very scarey, when your not prepared for it. Keep up the good work and writing. NMDave

    NMDave

    March 11, 2010 at 16:23

  2. Another great chapter. Raising teenagers is not an easy job; whether they are your flesh and blood or not. I have many fond memories of spending time with the teens I knew through the years. Unfortunately, I have some really painfull ones, too. C’est la vie! Would I do it again? You bet. All the “I hate you’s” are forgotten in a smile, hug and an “I love you”.

    Dawngreeter

    March 12, 2010 at 02:16

  3. Wow this was really a good story. I hope you keep writing it. I am sorry Corey seen all that. That would really scare me to see my Uncle do those things on the boat. I think it might make me scared of him, even if he did love me a lot like Cam loves the twins and Carl.

    I can’t wait to see who you name from my name. Thanks. You could use Jasper to if you wanted not JJ. Up to you. Hugs JJ

    JJ

    March 16, 2010 at 01:49

    • No Worries dude…, I just hope you aren’t disappointed.

      Octavius.

      bigct

      March 16, 2010 at 10:52

  4. I hope this is the turning point for Cam. He has had enough pain in his life already, it’s his turn for some happiness.

    As usual a terrific chapter! Am still glued to your story, just short of time to read! Sorry about that.

    Biki

    March 18, 2010 at 17:57


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