Family Reflections

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


This story is about a family that goes through some serious trials and tribulations and comes out on the other end of it all strong and better.

Submitted: August 02, 2018

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Submitted: August 02, 2018

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FAMILY REFLECTIONS

FAMILY FICTION

BY JOY DARNELL

 

 

As I stood looking out the Diner window memories of my family and the past year came to my mind. So many changes. Some good, some bad. But that is the way life is, ever changing.

 

My family is, my mother, Rosemary. My father, Richard. My sister, Riley and my brother, Rocky. I am Regan. My parents are divorced so we have a step-mother, who prefers to be called, a friend, Gina.

 

I recalled one particular day in my final year of college that completely changed the lives of my family members forever. It was one of those changes that looked frightening and dark at first but in the end turned out to be a cloud with a silver lining.

The day began just like any other day of the week. My brother and sister were being dropped off at school by my mother and I was starting my shift at the Diner early. I had two night college classes that night and was thinking about my homework. I had less than three months and I would finally have my degree in business management.

Just as I settled into work, my boss signaled to me that I had an important phone call. When I picked up the phone it was the city police telling me that my mom had been in a car accident and was being transported by ambulance to the hospital. The Officer assured me that her injuries were not life threatening but that I should get to the hospital as quickly as possible because she still had some serious injuries. He explained that another driver had ran a red light and hit my mom’s car on the driver’s side. I asked about the condition of my brother and sister, but apparently the accident had occurred after they had been dropped off at school.

I hurried from work to the school and picked up my brother and sister. When we arrived at the hospital mom was already in surgery. One of the surgical nurses came out and spoke with us. She told us that mom had suffered a broken back, pelvis, and three ribs. She also had some deep lacerations on her legs that would need cleaned and sutured. She assured us that surgery was going well and that when mom was done she would be transferred from recovery to the ICU overnight. We would be able to see her for a few minutes in the ICU. She warned us that mom may not be lucid due to the anesthetic and pain medication she had been given.

Late in the afternoon the same nurse came and took us into see our mom. She looked pretty beat up and was very sleepy, but recognized us. I was exhausted from spending the day at the hospital and from filling out a mountain of paperwork for mom’s admission to the hospital so after our visit we went home.

The next morning I returned to the hospital. An Officer that was on the scene of the accident was there checking on mom’s progress. He was very kind and told me that the other driver was okay and was insured so all of mom’s medical expenses would be covered. He told me that the other driver was very apologetic and concerned about mom. The Officer gave me his card with his number on it and told me to call if we needed anything.

As I sat with mom in her room my head was buzzing with all the things that I needed to do. I needed to work out some sort of scheduling system to deal with the household chores, visits with mom, work, and all of our schooling. I didn’t want any of us missing any more school than need be and work was essential. My income would be the only one coming in until mom recovered and was able to work. Not only was the sole income but my mom and I had plans to buy the Diner we currently waited tables at.

Ruth, the lady who owned the Diner had recently decided to sell it. Ruth was at an age where she was ready to retire. Mom and I had saved every spare penny so that with a small loan from the bank we could purchase the Diner from Ruth. That loan was due to come through the bank any day now. How I hoped that mom’s accident would not have an ill effect on the status of that loan.

Mom and I had such high hopes of purchasing this Diner. In ninety days, with the bank loan we would be set to take control of the Diner. At that same time I would be finishing my degree in business management and be on full-time with mom. We both knew that owning this business would give us the financial security we needed to put my brother and sister through college.

As I sat thinking of ways to make ends meet while mom recovered, it occurred to me to call my father, Richard. My father remained very involved with his children and was on good terms with our mother. I knew he would be upset if I didn’t let him know that Mom had been in an accident and was now in the hospital.

 

 

 

My parents had married young. Mom had just graduated high school and Dad was in his second year of Pre-Med, when mom found herself unexpectedly pregnant with me. For the first seven years mom worked hard at the Diner to help put dad through Medical School. When I was seven years old, mom gave birth to Riley. Then two years later, Rocky came along.

 

I remember my childhood being idyllic. Mom and Dad were very social and fun loving. From my view they appeared to be very much in love. As their children, our lives were filled with friends, laughter, and fun. All of my friends, especially, my long time friend Megan, said we were the perfect family.

Things began to change in my senior year of high school. At first the changes were subtle. But as time went on things heated up and there would be loud arguments and days of silence between my parents. Soon dad announced that he was moving out. He filed for a divorce and mom went back to work for the Diner. In the divorce settlement, my Father was very generous with my mother and us. He wanted mom and his children to have the house so we still live there. Dad never missed a single visitation with us and since the divorce was friendly, now and then he would just drop by to say hello and give us hug.

Our Dad re-married two years ago when he met a nice Estate Attorney. They dated for a year and then married. Gina is a kind lady and encourages our Dad to spend time with us. Often, she will come with dad when he picks up my brother and sister for a weekend or an outing. Gina and Mom respect one another and are on friendly terms as well.

Dad and Gina are expecting their first baby. We are all excited to finally meet baby, Cameron Leeland McMurray.

 

When I reached my father by phone he was very concerned about mom and promised that he and Gina would be coming to the hospital to see mom the very next day.

 

As dad and I sat in the waiting room outside mom’s room the next day, I explained the business of the loan for the Diner with him. I was so grateful when dad offered to loan us the money we needed. He also opened a bank account in my name so that in case any unforeseen expenses came up while mom recovered that I would have easy access to cash.

 

That evening, I called my fiance, Brice. He was very concerned when he hadn’t heard from me for two days. I explained all that had happened and he was very comforting. We had been dating for two years now and the relationship was serious. Brice had given me an engagement ring for Christmas. He said we could have as long as an engagement as I needed. He knew that I still had to finish night school and help mom open the Diner.

 

That night in my bed I couldn’t sleep. Thoughts of my family were again in my mind. This time, the thoughts were about just how far our family had come since those first few tumultuous years right after my parents divorced.

My dad has always been a very handsome man. He keeps himself in good physical shape and dresses impeccably. This tends to attract women to him, some good, some not so good. Such was the case with Dad’s first girlfriend after the divorce. “The Terror” as we called her behind her back. The Terror’s real name was Jennifer. Jennifer was a beautiful woman on the outside and at first seemed perfect for Dad. But as time went on she began to change and turn ugly inside and out. She was extremely jealous and vindictive. She came along on every one of Dad’s visits with us. This was not really a problem but she made sure that we were aware the Dad belonged to her and she made us miserable on every outing. There were many snide remarks made by Jennifer to us behind Dad’s back. She made it real clear to both dad and us that she didn’t feel Dad needed to spend anything on us on an outing or shopping trip as he paid child support. If we asked for anything, later in private, Jennifer would berate us for it. We learned to just not ask.

I remembered the painful “prom shoes incident.” I had asked dad for money for prom shoes. Jennifer waited until we were alone and hissed at me, “What does your mother do with all the child support your dad pays her?” I was at that rebellious age and hissed right back, “I guess she pays the bills and buys food!” As I was replying dad walked in on the scene. Jennifer turned to him and said, “See, I have tried and tried with this child, nothing is ever enough. She always wants more and more and more.” Dad didn’t take me out to shop for those prom shoes instead when he hugged me goodbye at mom’s he slipped me some money.

The end of Dad and Jennifer’s relationship happened when Dad invited us on a week’s long vacation to Yellowstone Park with him during the summer break. Jennifer, of course, tagged along. She complained and grumbled the whole way there. Once we arrived at the hotel she told us to unpack, get a shower and go to bed because her and dad were going out on the town. She also threw in that “maybe tomorrow we could all go out.”

After a year of the this same nonsense in some form or another Dad blew up. He told Jennifer in no uncertain terms that he had planned this vacation to spend time with his children and that’s what he intended to do. Jennifer tried to cling to his arm as she often did to get her way but our father shook her hands off and told her to stop manipulating his time. We had a great time with dad that week. Jennifer on the other hand, spent her time pouting in her room or off shopping alone. When we returned home, she packed every single thing she had at dad’s house and left. As far as I know, Dad has not seen or spoken to her since.

When dad began dating Gina we all held our breath for the first couple of months. We were ever grateful to find that Gina was her own person and nothing like the clinging vine, Jennifer.

 

Mom’s time after the divorce wasn’t much better. It was during that time that mom began drinking. Not a day went by that she would come home from work without a bottle of wine in hand or a twelve pack of beer. She would finish every drop before bedtime. Mom also began to date at this time. His name was Thomas. He would often come over in the evenings and bring even more alcohol into the house. They would both drink until they passed out.

Even though mom did not miss a shift at work she would often be hung over and sick the next day. All of our bills started becoming past due, the house was a mess, meals were no longer cooked. Mom and Thomas would stay up most of the night drinking and being so loud that we couldn’t get any rest. Riley and Rocky’s grades at school began to reflect what was going on at home as they dropped. One day Riley’s school principal called the house to speak to mom and I picked up the phone. The principal was concerned and questioned why all of a sudden Riley’s grades were dropping and she was now nodding off in class. I pretended to be mom and assured the principal that I would get to the bottom of the problem. Rocky was spending his time hanging out with some older rougher boys in the neighborhood. He began to talk back and be disrespectful to show off for them. Because I was trying to take care of the things that mom was lacking in, like the housework and childcare, I was so tired all of the time. My schoolwork was suffering and I felt dead on my feet at work. I knew I had to take control of this situation and find some sort of solution.

I remember calling a family meeting at the kitchen table. Mom was there but didn’t attend this meeting because she was passed out on the couch.

I started the meeting with my siblings by sympathizing with their lack of sleep and lack of home as it used to be. But I also told them that we had to pull it together and do what we needed to do. We needed to sleep when mom was at work, then do homework right after that. I told them that I would be rearranging my schedule so I could be at home with them as much as possible. I warned them that if we fell apart and dad were to find out about it, we could possibly face having to live with him and Jennifer. It wasn’t easy but the threat of Jennifer worked. Riley’s grades came back up and Rocky went back to hanging out with his old buddies.

The relationship between mom, Thomas, and alcohol came to a screeching halt late one night when Thomas opened my bedroom door and tried to crawl into bed with me. Thankfully, mom had not drank herself into a stupor and heard me when I screamed. She came running just in the nick of time. She ordered Thomas from the house and warned him to never come back. That very night mom dumped every ounce of alcohol down the kitchen sink.

Thomas did not go easily. Mom ended up needing to get a protection order against him. But from that moment on, she never brought another date into that house. Mom stopped drinking and after while became the mom we all knew and loved again.

Ironically, I also remember, how I was so afraid that mom would drink and drive and end up killed in a car accident. Or worse, that she would get into the car with a drunken Thomas and die in a crash.

 

 

Mom was in the hospital for another two weeks and was then transferred to a Rehabilitation/Nursing Center. Her doctor felt that she would benefit greatly from intensive re-hab. He also felt that if he sent her directly home she would possibly try to do too much and slow the healing process or even injure herself more.

 

My siblings and I visited mom daily. I noticed that each day she had fresh flowers in vase, a box of chocolates, or some other little treat. When I asked her about these things she told me that the officer that was on the scene of her accident, Ben, stopped by nearly everyday and brought her little gifts.

After about two months at the Re-hab Center I noticed that despite visits from us, Ben, and her friends mom seemed depressed. She was making progress with walking again, starting out on a walker and graduating to a cane, but she missed being home. Her doctor told me that very soon she would be walking without assistance and would be able to return home. He also told me that depression sometimes followed accident victims that were not able to return home right away. He said that he would monitor the depression but he felt that in time it would pass.

We continued to visit mom each day but the visitor that she looked forward to the most was Ben. She said they enjoyed many things in common and talked about them at length. She also liked the fact that he was thoughtful with his gifts.

We often crossed paths with Ben at the Re-Hab Center, so after a while he was like an old friend. He began to stop by our house to check on us. At times he would spend an evening with us. He would help Riley with her homework or play softball with Rocky. Some nights he would share a meal with us and we would all enjoy a lively talk around the table.

 

Because Dad had made the loan for the Diner possible, it now belonged to Mom and I. Ben would often bring his fellow officers in for lunch. Business was good. I hired Riley to clear tables and since Rocky hung out there a lot I found small odd jobs to keep him occupied as well.

 

Riley and Rocky were still spending the weekends with Dad so I had time to spend with Brice. We were now planning our wedding for New Year’s Eve.

 

Soon I would graduate from night school and Mom promised to attend my graduation whether she was able to walk at that time or not.

 

One evening I called another family meeting at the kitchen table. I told Riley and Rocky that I felt Mom was becoming depressed. We tossed out ideas of what we could do to cheer her up. Finally, we all decided on a picnic.

 

In the next week I got busy with our plans. First, I cleared the picnic with the Re-hab Center staff, then I texted or called all of mom’s friends with an invitation to join us.

On Friday, I took a day off work so I could do all the cooking while the kids were still in school. Ben stopped by and asked what he should bring. “Just yourself,” I told him. Gina and Mom’s friends also offered to bring food but I assured them that I would have plenty.

Early Friday morning Ben stopped by with two big bags of groceries. He asked me if I would mind sharing my stove with him. He wanted to make his “Almost Famous Potato Salad.” I could tell Ben knew his way around the kitchen as we worked side by side cooking all day. We laughed and joked the whole day. Ben even helped me with the dishes.

The next day Ben again showed up bright and early. He started the corn on the cob, while I soaked in a bath and got the kids up and moving. Ben even had the forethought to put the corn in an insulated bag with a bowl of melted butter.

As we were loading all the food into our cars I noticed a bottle of champagne chilling in a bucket of ice in Ben’s car. I turned to Ben and asked, “What’s this?”

He said, “If everything goes as I plan we will all be celebrating later on.”

I teased him and said, “Oh? Are you going to be our new Daddy?”

Ben smiled and said, “Your Mom has some good news to share with everyone today.”

I made a quick stop at the Diner for an extra large cup of coffee to go. Mom had complained endlessly about how awful the coffee tasted at the Re-hab Center. I had to hurry though as I had cheesecakes in the car. Strawberry Vanilla Bean was Mom’s favorite so I had made her one yesterday. I also made the kid’s favorite, Birthday Cake. I knew the cheesecakes would be hit as everyone loved them. I couldn’t make them fast enough at the restaurant.

 

After everyone had eaten I went inside to warm mom’s coffee and to bring the cheesecakes out. Ben followed me in to help. He was so nervous that I had to ask him if he was okay. I tried to distract him by telling him that everyone loved his potato salad and corn on the cob. When I saw that he was so lost in thoughts that I had to repeat myself twice, I told him in a joking manner that the Police Department would be eating picnic leftovers for a week. He just nodded at me like I was speaking a foreign language.

 

After dessert and coffee, which mom was very pleased with, she announced that her doctor had been in that morning and was releasing her to her home in two weeks. While we were all cheering and congratulating mom, Ben slid up beside her and pulled a small box from his pocket. He presented her the box and said, “Will you marry me?” More cheers went up as she said yes. Ben pulled the champagne from under the table and we all toasted them. Even Riley and Rocky had a sips in their cups.

 

When everyone else had left except me, the kids, and Ben, Mom thanked us with tears in her eyes. It had been a long journey for all us.

 

I told mom that I thought Ben was a wonderful man. I let her know that he was adept in the kitchen and was considering stealing him from the police department for the Diner. Ben overheard us and laughed. He said at least he knew what he had to look forward to after he retired.

 

Once we had all the cars loaded and were leaving mom pulled me off to the side. She told me that she knew how hard it had been on me with the added responsibilities since her accident and she appreciated everything that I had done. She told me that she had really enjoyed the cheesecake but had loved the coffee. I promised her a whole pot of coffee and a whole cheesecake in two weeks.

 

I guess if I were asked what I learned from all of this I would have to say, life changes, minute by minute, day by day. All you can do is pray for the best outcome and lots of coffee and cheesecake.

 


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