The Sailor's Stories

1045 Chapter forty five – The Sailor’s Awakening.

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Looking out the kitchen window that cold dark morning, I couldn’t help but smile into the mug of hot tea I was holding, trying to get some warmth back into my fingers, all the while waiting for the fire, that I just lit in the family room, to permeate it’s heat throughout the house. I was smiling because I was happy. I was happy because at last, the snows looked like they’d stopped, even though there was a decently solid looking white blanket out there, and a pretty one at that. But what it was really about, was the holidays. This was my time of year, a time I truly cherished…, but like always at this time of year…, it was time to take stock.

JJ had slotted nicely right back into his family, as if he’d never really been gone at all. We did do our best in those first few days not to mention what had happened, but of course if he wanted to talk about it, there was no choice. He really was sweet, smart and sometimes overly too sensitive, but all in all, an all round good kid. It always amazes me how someone you only just met, could have such a profound impact on your life…, but then JJ did kinda have that effect on you, one that I’ll never forget.

As soon as we landed that day, we were met by a teary eyed but smiling Reggie. Even in that state, all the kids were showered in the kind of grandmotherly love that only she seemed capable of providing. I’d kept her in the loop while we were gone, and she’d most certainly had not been idle in our absence. Thanksgiving was a total blast and it was all her…, we all have our favorite holidays, Easter, Christmas, July 4th…, Thanksgiving was Reggie’s. I could remember her telling me that once, she always said it was because she had so much to be thankful for.

For years I had no idea what she meant really, but I think I started to see it that year. I did have high hopes for that year, but after what happened you just never know, right? The day itself though, turned out just like the rest, and we all had a very special time. The boys and I did our traditional thing, spending thanksgiving at Reggie’s, where she fed us like the world was ending. The only real difference with the experience this time, was the four extra places set at that table. I think that in the end, we were all thankful for that. Good food…, football on TV…, good company…, what more could any sane being need in life?

The season was in full swing now, and with Thanksgiving out of the way, it all went rather quickly. During the lead up to Christmas, Cabe got JJ enrolled in the same school as the others. Though, it was decided by all concerned, that he should take those last few weeks before the holidays, to properly recuperate. To tell you the truth…, I think in a very mischievous way, he was rather too happy about that, but then none of us really pushed it anyway.

With a little to-ing and fro-ing…, I even managed to get him in to see Karen. With his winning smile, and all too present personality, the two of them became fast friends. Though she always seemed to end up doing that, or at least she did with us, I don’t think she quite understood the term ‘Professional Detachment’. He had quite a few sessions over those weeks, and I think it did him the world of good. It was going to be a long road, but somehow I just knew he’d get there. In fact, all too soon, things seemed to be back to that sort of normalcy that just fits like your favourite pair of old jeans…, all snug and warm.

Thinking about it all now, you couldn’t help but see the validity of it…, even though there had been some moments over the year, that had been seriously touch and go for my family…, there’d been no great injuries, no serious arguments, and everyone was at least fit and well. They were all pretty happy too…, for the most part that is. Which when dealing with three teenagers in close proximity…, that’s nothing short of a minor miracle.

The thing is…, in quiet moments, contemplation turns into a very interesting past time…, or a really bad habit…, I’m still trying to figure out which. That is how it always seemed to strike me anyway, and it’s something that gets me into a good deal of trouble sometimes too. This time though it just had the effect of tempering that early morning happiness. Oh sure, we had our friend back, and our extended family had grown exponentially over the year…, but the one that concerned me most, was the one who lived with us.

Happy is indeed a selfish emotion, I do realize that…, but I won’t apologize for how good I felt that morning, standing at the kitchen sink. Even though, within that happiness my thoughts were clouded with some recent and upsetting history. I’ll tell you this…, just when you think you know someone…, right when you think you have them all figured out…, they’ll surprise you, and when it’s someone you love…, sometimes they’ll do it in the most heart-wrenching way. Still, watching the snow through the kitchen window, I took a quiet moment to reflect on the night before.

You see, the tradition with my family, had always been to wait till we were all together to decorate the tree on Christmas eve. Strange I know, but it was just one of those quirky things we did. Even for those few brief years, when Dad was at sea, we still did it that way. We made sure to take plenty of photos to send to him though, knowing full well, how he hated being away from us, especially during those times. Having done the same thing myself, I had personal experience on the matter, but those pictures always brightened up the day for him…, just like they did for me when it was my turn.

I’m digressing though…, so back to the tree. Like I said, it would stand for days on end, almost bare, the only concession to the norm, being some poorly strung lights. Then when the boys came to live with me, it seemed that, that very first Christmas all those years ago, that my sister had carried on the tradition in her own house. So all told, we did too and that continues to this day. That night though…, on the eve of his first Christmas as a part of our family, Carl was a little withdrawn. To be fair, coming into someone else’s well worn traditions, like he did, would freak anyone out, but it was like he wasn’t even sure what to do…, or where to put his feet.

After about an hour of watching him try his best to do what he thought he should be doing, he just seemed to give up and went to sit on the sofa. He had tried, and tried really hard, but the defeat in his eyes was as obvious as a Mack-truck jack-knifing it’s way to oblivion. What made it worse, was that with every passing minute that same defeat was transferring itself onto his usually happy, and very sweet face like it was written in giant magic marker. All too quickly it became obvious, that this kind of family thing was foreign to him. The poor little guy was looking just so sad and sorry for himself. Gently and quietly, I asked the boys to go get some more decorations from the garage. They knew like I did, that there weren’t any more out there, as we’d brought them all in already, so they understood my intent straight away and made themselves scarce, while I went to sit with him.

We didn’t talk for the longest time, just content to sit near each other. Almost like we were just enjoying the company, or something…, which of course I was. I kept looking his way though. It’s not like I was intentionally staring at him or anything, I just couldn’t keep my eyes somewhere else. He was in pain, I knew that because I could see it clearly…, the problem was…, I wasn’t sure why. After a while though, I felt like he needed a little extra, and fearing he didn’t have the wherewithal to do it himself, I lifted my arm onto the back of the sofa. Nothing could be more of an open invitation, and it was just for him. He instantly understood it’s meaning, and happily scooched over to rest against me. All that was left for me to do, was to slide my arm over his shoulders, pulling him in close.

There simply wasn’t a need to do anything else, or at least not immediately anyway. I felt it more important that he spoke first, if he wanted to that is…, rather than me possibly jumping to the wrong conclusion. For the longest time, he was all quiet and still. I didn’t even know he’d been crying. But I quickly found out, when his body was wracked with a sudden sob and he started to shake, that was just far too much for me. Even though he’d gotten so much bigger, since he’d first moved in, I still pulled him onto my lap hugging him as deep into me as was humanly possible. I couldn’t stand it any longer, I had to say something…

“Oh God Kiddo…, what is it…, what’s got you so upset…?”

“This…, everything…, I dunno…, it’s all so much…, I just don’t feel like I’m good enough…”

“Good enough? … For what…, what could you possibly not be good enough for?”

“For Dale…, you…, this family…, I love you all so much Cam…, but him especially…, so much it hurts just to be around him sometimes…, then he smiles and all that hurt just goes away…, but…, but, I know I’m not good enough for him…, and you guys…, this whole family’s like that too…, especially you…, it’s just all too much…”

“Christ’s sake Carl…., how could you think that…, I mean seriously…, you mean everything…, to all of us…, I admit…, it took me a while to warm up to you…” I said as I put a finger under his chin to lift it so that I could see his eyes…, and he could see into mine…, “Honestly Kiddo…, I don’t think I could love you any more now if I tried…, you and the twins are my whole world…, I’d die if anything happened to any of you.”

Man did I really do it that time, I think I went a little overboard as the water works started again with a newer and greater fervor. In all truth, I think that the concept of love, or at least, our concept of love, is what was so foreign to him…, so much so, that he simply couldn’t process it all. Once again it showed how his father and brothers had done such a number on that sweet boy over the years. There was so much damage there, that now he couldn’t even recognize just how special he really was. By the time his tears petered out, it was almost time for a new shirt, but I didn’t care…, the fire was warm, and he needed me…, much more than I needed that shirt. Once he’d calmed down some, I thought I’d take this from a different angle…

“What brought this on kiddo…, what made you so upset in the first place…?”

“I dunno…, I really don’t…, I mean…, everything was cool…, we were all having loads of fun…, then I just thought about how it used to be…, like…, with my mom…” He shifted his weight a little, so that he could snuggle further against me.

“She was a lot like you…, she always made Christmas so special for us…, even that last year when she was sick…, but then she died and it was like Christmas was just another day for my family…, like they didn’t want it anymore or something…”

He’d slid his face back against my chest, and went quiet for a moment, like he was trying to steady himself, by absorbing the love I was showing him. Over the years, I’d gotten pretty good at what I was doing, so I just let him collect himself, while I started to softly stroke his back. Time stretched into minutes, but neither of us were anxious, and I think he was really starting to get quite comfortable. When he finally spoke again, it was accompanied with such sadness that I started to leak a little…

“I tried for the first few years…, but dad just kept yelling at me for it…, like it was my fault or something…, after a while…, the best I was able to do, was a small tree I made myself in my room…, was almost like that was all I had left of her…, and I…, I couldn’t give it up Cam…, I just couldn’t.”

What could I say to that…, what could anyone say to that…, I was stunned…, speechless. This sweet kid had so much hurt just sitting below the surface, that he could put any volcano to shame when it erupted. The problem was, was that he was so good at hiding it, that you never knew when it was gonna come out. I’d been trying to make everything so good for him this year too, thinking that it would be hard being away from what little family life he had left. But I had no idea what I was actually doing to him….

“I’m so sorry…, I didn’t know…, I really didn’t…, do you want us to stop…, just say the word kiddo and I’ll take you anywhere…” I said, pulling him even closer.

“No…, no…, it’s not that…, you guys just love each other so much…, it’s hard to think I can fit in there sometimes…”

“You fit Carl…, trust me…, you fit like you wouldn’t believe…, there was always a little something missing before you came along…, I mean…, we were happy, but it was like we were just three guys living together…, it was you that made us a family…”

“Really…?”

It was true and I’d meant every word of it. Must have sounded pretty convincing too, as I heard the soft tears and sniffles of two little boys that just happened to be leaning against the back of that sofa. Pulling his face up to look into his eyes again, I winked at Carl, but I don’t think he’d heard the others.

“Why don’t you two little shit’s put another log on the fire then come over and join us?” I said a little loud, so that I knew they’d hear me.

Two very sheepish, blond headed teary green eyed boys, got up from behind the sofa and did exactly that. We spent almost another hour there huddled together, providing each other as much comfort as we could, but before long it was getting late. No one argued that night when I sent them up to bed, we were all pretty drained anyway, but hey…, there’s a first for everything right? I gave them about fifteen minutes to get themselves ready then I followed them up making sure that they’d brushed their teeth, before tucking them in. It was a little strange with Dale and Carl though. That was always the second to last thing I did every Christmas eve, tuck in the boys, but I’d never done two at once like that…, and I have to admit that I was a little jealous of them right then.

With the kids out of the way, I put on my most favorite Christmas movie…, it was a Brit one…, I loved it so much…, and I think this year it was actually better than all the times I had watched it before. I could certainly relate with that Irish guy…, that’s for sure. With the antics of the ensemble in the background, I finished up the tree, getting it just how mom used to like it. It was a pretty cool feeling actually, I just knew this Christmas was going to feel different…, somehow more real. Taking a moment to admire my handiwork, I then set about the last task of the evening…, presents.

Of course none of that changed the fact that the morning was still dark…, desolate…, bleak even. I finally broke out of my funk, finding that it couldn’t do anything to change my happy mood either. After all, Carl had seemed a lot happier when I tucked them in, so I was really hoping against hope I guess that the day hadn’t been ruined for him. Mind you, it was only seven in the morning, so only time would tell. The sun hadn’t even had a real chance to come out yet anyway, and the wind was getting up too, as there was some obvious little flurries of fresh powder making pretty swirls in the air, pushing it deep into the corners of the windows. Kinda like those old school greeting cards. I could still feel him out there somewhere, it’s nothing solid that I could nail down, just a subtle hint on the air that he was…, stalking, skulking in the shadows.

Even then…, it really couldn’t be all that bad…, could it? From every turn, every dark shadow, you can feel his cheery gaze…, almost as if he’s looking into your very soul…, like when those little hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Every now and again you catch yourself doing that double take thing, thinking you can see a subtle glimpse of red on white. Of course you can’t really see him, it’s just a trick of the light…, because really…, he’s far too good for that anyway. But you could feel him…, and then if you stand in a place long enough, in one spot…, you could almost hear the slight tinkle of a bell, or the soft scratching of quill on parchment…, after all…, there was still that list to check.

The snow was pretty cool really…, I liked it, over the weeks the first snows of the winter season had really set in and we were all walking in that ‘Winter wonderland’. I really love this time of year…, there’s just this special feeling in the air…, one that makes anything seem possible. Even standing at the kitchen sink, cradling that mug of hot tea. It was like a barren wasteland…, all fresh and new…, stark white sheets covering and masking even the smallest detail. Throughout my musings I noticed that we were in the process of getting another light dusting. The snow falling in a slow lazy way, obscuring further, that which made up my back lawn. After that first real bad storm that we’d had weeks ago, what followed was just that, dustings…, but it was enough to keep up the levels. You couldn’t even make out where the hot tub deck stopped and the grass began.

Everyone knew he’d be coming, after all you can’t have one without the other. Unlike every other year though…, he came in fast, so much so that we were all totally unprepared for the dumping we had. For sure…, Jack Frost had made his presence known, and in a big way. Of course, now most of us were stuck inside, to keep out of the biting chill, but Cabe and his family were going to brave it. They were due later in the day, and were going to spend the afternoon and probably most of the evening with us. Standing there savoring my hot early morning beverage…, I was beginning to wonder if they’d make it at all.

The morning though…, the morning was just for us. Enjoying the warmth and closeness of our not so nuclear family. A quiet few moments in front of a roaring open fire, opening presents, the smiles, the happiness, Corey playing Santa as he always does. Eating the breakfast of fried ham, hash browns, and the honey flavored pancakes I was about to make a start on…, that’s all I needed this morning. Simple pleasures maybe…, but the only ones that really counted that day.

With the whole house smelling of pine, from the real Christmas tree, and the soft melodic tones of Christmas music playing throughout…, I was in a certain kind of heaven let me tell you. As yet, the house was quiet, the kids not up yet…, but that was soon to change…, of that I have absolutely no doubt. If Thanksgiving was Reggie’s holiday…, then Christmas was mine and I revilled in it.

Having said all that…, I really don’t know how they do it where it’s warmer…, to me, the snow just kinda added to the whole scene. It couldn’t be a proper Christmas without snow! I couldn’t help but think that as a pair of soft little arms slid around my tummy from behind. I must have gotten old…, I never even heard him come in, but I knew who it was before I even looked…, after all…, only one of my boys wears pj’s with any kind of regularity.

“Merry Christmas Carl….”

“Merry Christmas Cam…, how’d you know who it was?”

“Like you even have to ask,” I said with a hearty chuckle, and turned inside his grip to put my own arms around him and look into his now once again sweet smiling face…, “Help me with breakfast?”

“Sure…”

By the time the others had awoken and followed their noses, Carl and I had everything laid out on the coffee table in the family room. His eyes lit up, like a million candle power lighthouse on the shores of some far flung peninsula, when he first laid eyes on all the presents waiting under the tree. But it was the stockings that held his gaze the longest…, especially his…, after all, there was a large roll of papers sticking out the top…, that would get anybodies curiosity up, wouldn’t it? I saw what he was looking at as soon as I followed him through the door that first time. At the curious glance over his shoulder, that he threw my way, I just smiled, winked, and said…

“Wait for the others…, all will be revealed.”

And revealed it was…, but not just then. Corey and Dale had arrived, and I almost did a double take…, they were both wearing flannel pj’s. If I’d known that ahead of time, I may have been a little wary that morning in the kitchen. They were all looking pretty cute actually, Carl had his red ones on, the ones with the footballs, Dale was in green, with presents, and Corey…, who had surprised me the most, had light blue with Snowmen. Must have been a cold night then…, he never would have been seen dead in them otherwise, I thought, as I chuckled to myself.

Usually I’d let the boys have their stockings before breakfast, but I didn’t want it to get cold, and I knew there would be a lot of conversation over that roll, so I made them eat first. There was nothing sadistic about it, but I have to admit, I did get a bit of a sick thrill out of watching them squirm with anticipation. After what seemed like only seconds, there was three clean plates…, though the food had barely been touched, and I could no longer stand the looks I was getting…, so I said…

“Have at it boys.” And leaned back against the sofa.

Corey played his role with reckless abandon, while Dale sat there in awe. They always did that though, so it was nothing new. Carl was the odd man out there…, at first, he didn’t seem overly concerned with his rapidly growing piles of presents, he just made his way quickly to the fire place…, and his stocking. Not even taking the thing down, he just slid the paper roll out. The poor kid must have read it at least twice, after opening it, before he showed any signs of emotion, and I admit that I was getting a little anxious myself, but when a single slow tear tracked it’s way down his face, he looked over to me…, and looking me right in the eyes….

“I don’t…, I…, does this mean…?”

“Only if you want it to kiddo…”

“I do…, oh god…, I so do…” He said, as he vaulted the coffee table into my waiting arms.

“Merry Christmas son.” I whispered into his ear.

“Merry Christmas…, Dad.” He said into mine.

Written by bigct/Octavius

May 30, 2010 at 17:21

9 Responses

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  1. I really have enjoyed your writing. Thanks for doing it. I will be watching for your future works.

    Brian

    May 31, 2010 at 07:36

  2. Well, like P.T. Barnum once said; “Always leave them wanting more”… Wonderful finish to a fantastic story. You know how I feel about it. You did yourself proud by this one, CT. Looking forward to more in good time. Talk to you soon.

    dawngreeter

    May 31, 2010 at 16:55

  3. Thanks for the wonderful story . I’ve been with you since nearly the beginning but have never posted . Everyone else was saying pretty much what i would have wanted to say , but since this is the last chapter , I did want to take a moment to thank you . I have checked back every day in hopes of finding a new chapter , and when I did , it was always a thrill . Your an excellent writer and I will watch for further works from you . Cliff

    Toowriter

    June 1, 2010 at 02:09

  4. CT I’d like to add my thanks for this very heart warming chapter.Being born in Europe my mum always kept up the tradition of Xmas Eve as you would be fully aware the only thing missing in both of our countries as that snow was the only thing that was never a possibility no matter how hard mum tried that was the only thing she could not deliver – every other thing was delivered in abbundance. A real pine tree – for me it could never be Xmas without one. One goal in life that I would still like to achieve is to experience at least one white Xmas – was to young to rememder it before we moved to Australia.
    Thanksgiving – great concept.
    JJ glad all is well.
    Sad – cause I want more – but one off many things I give thanks for is what you have already given us.
    Regards Stef

    Stef

    June 1, 2010 at 16:15

  5. ahhh the second reading of it and I still cried when it was warranted (which was often) laughed some and LOVED it all
    Thanks again for writing!

    Beach

    May 9, 2012 at 07:36

  6. you should be ashamed of yourself! making grown man cry

    james

    September 16, 2012 at 03:22

    • Um… I’m not sure whether to be insulted by that or not. But, I’m gonna assume you liked that the chapter. So thanks…

      Octavius.

      bigct/Octavius

      September 16, 2012 at 03:32

  7. sorry!! absolutely you should take it as a compliment, i am sitting here with a box of tissues trying to read the computer screen, thankfully i am at home by myself at the momment

    james

    September 16, 2012 at 03:36

    • Oh I see… well thank you very much then. It’s always nice to know you’re appreciated and I appreciate you taking the time to read my story.

      Octavius.

      bigct/Octavius

      September 16, 2012 at 03:40


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