Link back to Chapter 35
A few nights later I was jarred from my sleep by the sound of the telephone. Reaching for the cordless receiver on my bedside table, I peered at the luminous hands of the clock; it was about one-thirty in the morning. In the darkness of the room I pulled myself up into a sitting position and put the phone to my ear; “Hello?”
“Tommy, it’s Becca. You need to come down to the hospital right away”.
“He’s fading fast. I don’t think he’ll last the night”.
“Does Mum know?”
“As soon as you get here, I’m going to go and pick her up. Please be as quick as you can, alright?”
“Do you want me to stop by your place and pick her up?”
“I haven’t talked to her yet; I wanted to tell her in person. I don’t want Mike to be the one who tells her”.
“I can do it if you like”.
“Will you let me do it please, Tommy?”
“Okay; I’ll wake Emma up, and we’ll be down there as fast as we can”.
“Right; see you in a few minutes, then”.
“Okay”. Pressing the ‘end’ button, I turned on my bedside light, got out of bed, pulled on my dressing gown, and went across the landing to Emma’s bedroom. Knocking softly on the door, I called, “Em?”
“What is it?” she replied in a sleepy voice.
“We need to get down to the hospital”.
I heard the creaking of the bed, and after a moment the door opened; her hair was messy from sleep, and her eyes were screwed up against the hallway light. “Is it Grandpa?”
“Yes; Becca says he’s fading fast”.
She nodded; “I was thinking yesterday that it might be soon. Just give me five minutes to get dressed and brush my teeth”.
“Becca wants us to hurry so that she can leave the hospital to go get Grandma”.
“Right – I’ll be as fast as I can”.
Ten minutes later I was backing my car out of our parking spot; it had been raining for several hours, and the water was lying in puddles on the surface of the road. As I put the car into gear and pulled away, Emma took out her mobile phone; “Shall I call Wendy and the kids?”
“Sure – thank you”.
I heard her keying in the number, and a moment later she said, “Wendy – it’s Emma. Sorry to wake you up; Dad and I are in the car on the way down to the hospital and I thought we’d better call you… Yes, Becca called us a few minutes ago and told us he’s fading fast”.
She listened for a moment, and then said, “I can’t see why not”. Covering the phone with her hand, she said, “Is there any reason why Wendy and Lisa shouldn’t come down to the hospital?”
“None whatsoever; Dad and Mum would want that”.
Emma spoke into the phone again; “He says Grandpa and Grandma would want that… Right, we’ll see you down there”. Closing the flap on the phone, she said, “Lisa’s at Christ Church tonight, but Wendy’s going to call her and then go and get her; apparently they’ve already talked about what they would do in this situation”.
When we got to my father’s room we found a nurse standing beside the bedside talking quietly with Becca. My father was wearing an oxygen mask; his eyes were closed, and I could hear the sound of his laboured breathing as we entered the room. My sister greeted us both with hugs and said, “Right – I’ll go and get Mum”.
“Wait a minute, Becs”, I said; “What’s happening?”
“It’s the pneumonia; he’s never really shaken it”.
“He’s not in a coma, right?” asked Emma.
“No – he doesn’t appear to be conscious, but we assume…”
Emma nodded; “I remember”.
“Of course you do”. Becca reached out to give her another hug, and then asked, “Are you going to be all right?”
“I’ll be okay”.
“Becs, does Rick know?” I asked.
“He’s on his way; he should be here before I get back”.
“Wendy’s coming too”.
“Good – I was hoping you’d let her know. I’d better go, Tommy”.
She turned and left the room, and we sat down in chairs on either side of my father’s bed, holding his hands, now and then talking quietly to him, not knowing whether or not he could hear us, but wanting to believe that he could. From time to time I stole glances at Emma; her hair was tied back in a ponytail, her eyes were red from lack of sleep, and I could see the emotion clearly on her face as she watched my father’s tortured breathing.
Alyson and Rick joined us a few minutes later, slipping quietly into the room and moving over to stand beside Emma. When she saw Rick, she got up quickly; “You sit here, Uncle Rick”, she said.
“No, no”, he replied in a quiet voice, putting his hand on her shoulder; “I’ll take my turn in a minute, but for now you stay right where you are”. He glanced across at me; “Has Becca gone for Mum?”
“Yes; she should be back in fifteen minutes or so. Are any of your kids coming?”
“We woke them up and told them but Anna seemed a bit scared of the idea of coming, and Eric and Sarah said they’d stay with her. To be honest, I think they were all a bit scared”.
I nodded; “It’s only natural”.
“I’ll call them in the morning”, said Emma.
We lapsed into silence, Emma and I continuing to hold my father’s hands; my brother moved around the bed to stand at my side, and I saw Alyson put her hand on Emma’s shoulder. After a few minutes the nurse came back into the room, checked the monitors, glanced briefly at my father, and left as quietly as she had come. A couple of times Emma reached out and stroked my father’s emaciated face. “I love you, Grandpa”, she whispered.
Becca and Mike arrived a few minutes later with my mother. I could see the tiredness in her eyes, and as she came around the bed I got to my feet to give her a hug; “You look exhausted”.
“I didn’t sleep. I think somehow I knew this would be the night”.
I stepped back from the bed and she took her place beside my father on the chair I had been using. Taking his hand, she said, “I’m here, Frank, and the children are all here too”.
I put my hand on her shoulder; she glanced up at me and said, “Did you ring Wendy?”
“She’s on her way, but she had to go into town to get Lisa at Christ Church”.
Wendy and Lisa arrived a few minutes later, both of them showing evidence of hasty dressing. By then Rick had taken Emma’s place across the bed from my mother, and Emma and Lisa stepped back into the corner of the room, talking in low tones. Wendy came around the bed to where I was standing; I put my arm around her shoulders, and felt the comforting touch of her hand on my back. “Is Colin okay?” I asked her.
“He’s fine. I told him what was going on and asked him if he wanted to come, but I think he was a bit nervous about the idea of being here when your dad died”.
“I understand; not everyone’s comfortable with that kind of thing”.
We kept vigil at my father’s bedside for the rest of the night. Nurses came in to check the monitors at regular intervals, and a doctor in a white lab coat spent a few minutes in the room, taking my father’s vital signs and talking quietly with Becca. At some point Emma resumed her place at my father’s side, holding his hand, and now and then talking quietly to him.
At about four-thirty Wendy and I went out to the parking lot for a breath of fresh air. The rain had stopped, but the air was still cool and damp and I was glad I had put my coat on. We leaned against the back of a bench, our arms around each other’s shoulders. “How are you doing?” she asked.
“Okay; a bit sad, of course”.
“It’s alright to be sad”.
We stood there in silence for a few minutes, neither of us needing to say anything; I was enjoying the warmth of bodily contact, and it came to me that it had been a long time since I had experienced anything more than brief hugs from people.
She spoke softly; “Your dad’s got his family around him”.
“Yes. I think he’d have preferred it to be at home, but we all knew that wasn’t going to be possible”. I gave a heavy sigh; “It was the same with Kelly. She spent the better part of the last three months of her life at University Hospital in Saskatoon”.
“Is that where she died?”
“Was the family all there?”
I opened my mouth to answer, but suddenly she shook her head in annoyance at herself. “I’m sorry; that’s such an insensitive question for me to ask you on a night like this! Forgive me, Tom; I don’t know what I was thinking”.
“Don’t worry about it. And I will tell you about Kelly’s death soon; there was something really special and unusual that happened at the end”.
At that moment Lisa emerged from the doors of the hospital and walked slowly over towards us. “Am I intruding?” she asked.
“Not at all”, I replied. “Is everything pretty much the same in there?”
“His breathing’s getting a bit quieter”.
“Are you all right?” Wendy asked her.
Lisa nodded; “A bit tired, and a bit sad”.
“I’m glad you’re here”, I said.
“Thanks, Dad”. She shrugged helplessly; “It seems somehow unfair, doesn’t it?”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, I get a new grandfather, and then a year later I lose him”. She smiled at me; “I actually rather like him”.
“Yeah – he’s rather grown on me, too”. I straightened my back, stifled a yawn, and said, “Well, perhaps we’d better go back inside”.
My father died just after six o’clock in the morning. For the last hour of his life we could clearly hear his breathing getting shallower, and eventually it just seemed to fade away into silence and stillness. Emma and my mother were sitting on either side of the bed, holding his hands; Wendy and Lisa and I were standing behind my mother, with Becca and Mike beside us, and Rick and Alyson on the other side of the bed. A doctor had slipped into the room at around five forty-five, and it was he who finally checked my father’s vital signs, looked up at us, and said, “It’s over”.
Becca knelt down beside my mother and put her arms around her, and for a few minutes they held each other; I could hear the sound of my mother’s quiet weeping, and I could see the tears on Becca’s face, too. Emma had gotten to her feet, her face stricken; I moved around the bed and took her in my arms. I felt her body begin to shake and I held her close. “You were with him all night”, I whispered; “That was exactly what he would have wanted”.
I felt her nodding her head against my shoulder. “I wanted to do that for him” she sobbed; “I really wanted to stay with him to the end”.
“And you did”.
After a few minutes, I felt the shaking of her body subsiding; she stepped back, wiped the tears from her eyes with a Kleenex from her pocket, and said, “I need to go out and call the other kids”.
“Are you going to call Colin too?”
“Lisa’s going to do that”.
I felt Becca’s hand on my shoulder, and as I turned to face her she spoke to me in a low voice; “We need to give Mum a few minutes in here by herself”.
“Right. I expect there are some formalities that need to be looked after, aren’t there?”
“Nothing that can’t wait until later in the day”.
Wendy invited us back to her house for breakfast, and while we were there Rick made the initial calls to the funeral director. My father had made most of the arrangements months before, and the staff already knew exactly what he wanted. “Mum and I are the executors”, Rick said to me, “but Jack Marlowe’s got the will. He’s the one who made it up for Dad”.
“I thought Jack was retired?”
“He is, but he’s still got an office and a filing cabinet at our place”. He gave me a wry grin; “He likes to come in and read there a couple of times a week, but he doesn’t interfere with stuff unless we ask for his help”.
“There are some additional instructions that the funeral home might not know about”, said my mother. “Frank wrote them down a couple of months ago. They’re at home in his study; I know exactly where to find them”.
“We’ve got a meeting at the funeral director’s first thing Monday morning”, said Rick. “We’ve got the 15th booked as a tentative date for the service, so that gives us lots of time to make sure all the arrangements are right. But today, the thing we all need is to get some rest”.
My mother looked at him quietly for a moment and then nodded, reaching up and kissing him on the cheek. “You’re right, of course”, she said quietly. “I know I can leave it in your hands”.
Rick glanced around at Becca and me. “Between the three of us, I think we can manage”.
Emma and I drove my mother home to Northwood in the middle of the afternoon; by now she was totally exhausted, and we managed to persuade her to go to bed for a while. Becca had gone into the clinic for a few hours, but she had told us she and Mike would come out in time to help us cook supper.
“Emma and I may as well stay at Mum’s tonight”, I said. “With tomorrow being Saturday, we’ll have the weekend to give her any help she needs”.
“We might do that too”, Becca replied.
Wendy had been standing quietly in the background, but now she stepped forward and put her hand on my arm. “If there’s anything I can do…”.
Becca nodded; “Mum will want you to be involved, Wendy. You and the kids are part of our family; we all know how Dad felt about that”.
I put my arm around Wendy and kissed her on the forehead. “I’ll call you later on; do you think you might come out over the weekend?”
“If that’s alright”.
On Sunday morning Emma and I went to church in Northwood with Wendy and my mother. Emma and Lisa had decided that they would look after Sunday dinner; they had started working on it before church, and Lisa had stayed behind to continue the preparations with a little help from Colin. Rick and his family had told us they would not be out until later in the afternoon, but there were still nine of us sitting around the kitchen table for dinner, including Auntie Brenda who had come out to be with my mother.
We sat around the table for a long time afterwards, talking and reminiscing, and it was about two-thirty by the time we finally started clearing up and taking things back to the kitchen. My mother put the leftover food into containers to go into the fridge, and Becca and I were just starting to do the dishes when my mobile phone rang. I took it from my pocket and put it to my ear; “Hello?”
“Tom, it’s Will”.
“Will! This is a surprise! It must be pretty early there yet”.
“Eight thirty; we’ll be off to church in an hour or so. How are you? We got your email yesterday afternoon; I’m so sorry about your dad”.
“Thank you; it’s tough, but in some ways it’s a relief, too, you know?”
“I know. Do you guys have a date for the funeral yet?”
“February 15th. The date’s booked, but that’s all we know for sure right now; we’re meeting with the funeral home people tomorrow”.
“Listen, Tom – I’ve got a question for you, and if the answer’s ‘no’ then feel free to say so, okay?”
“Sure; what’s the question?”
“Would it be okay if Sally and I came?”
“Came to the funeral? That’s an expensive trip, Will”.
“You let us worry about that, okay? Is your mum there?”
“She’s right here in the kitchen with us; we’re just cleaning up after Sunday dinner”.
“Do me a favour and ask her right now – as long as it’s okay with you, that is”.
“Absolutely”. I put my hand over the phone. “It’s Will”, I said to my mother. “He wants to know if you’d be okay with him and Sally coming to the funeral”.
She stared at me; “I can’t begin to imagine how much that would cost them”.
“I think they really want to do it; he told me to ask you”.
“Can I talk to him?”
“Of course”. I handed her the phone, and she put it to her ear. “Will? It’s Irene. Just a minute while I take this phone where we can talk in private”. She smiled apologetically at me, and then turned and slipped out of the kitchen.
Becca had been listening as she ran the water in the sink; now she turned off the taps, dried her hands, and turned and kissed me on the cheek. “You’ve got the world’s best in-laws, you know”.
“I’ve always known that”.
“Were you expecting this?”
“No, but somehow I’m not surprised”.
“You’ve always been there for them, Tommy; you’ve been to lots of Reimer and Weins funerals over the years”.
“Well of course – I’m part of their family”.
“They obviously feel the same way about you”.
“I know”. I rolled up my sleeves; “Let’s get started on these dishes”.
My mother returned to the kitchen a minute later and held out the phone to me; “Here’s Will for you”, she said.
I quickly dried my hands and took the phone from her; “Hey, Will”.
“It’s all arranged; I’ll book a flight tomorrow. If you guys have room for us, that’s fine, and if not, we’ll look after ourselves. I know things can get kind of crazy at times like this, with relatives coming out of the woodwork and all that”.
“You’ll stay with Emma and me; we’ve got a spare room”.
“Are you sure? I’ve seen pictures of that house; it doesn’t look too awful big”.
I laughed softly; “Don’t you start on my house, Will Reimer!”
“It’ll be good to see you and Emma again, Tom”.
“Thank you, Will; I’m so glad you’re coming”.
“Hey – you’re our son; you know that”.
“I know, but thank you anyway”.
“You’re welcome. Now, I hear you’ve got dishes to wash, so you’d better get back to them. Give Emma a hug for us, okay?”
My father’s funeral took place on February 15th at the Oxford Crematorium. His brothers and sister and their spouses were all present, along with some of their children including my cousin Ann and her husband Mark. Auntie Brenda was there, of course, and a number of my father and mothers’ friends, including Pat Schuster and her daughter Jana. Rick sat at the front with his family, Alyson’s hand in his. Becca and Mike sat beside my mother, and Wendy, Colin and Lisa sat with Emma and me, and Will and Sally. Owen and Lorraine were a little further back in the chapel, and Owen’s father and mother were with them. Toward the back of the room I saw Jim and Kathy McFarlane with Matthew and Alanna; I had noticed Matthew spending quite a bit of time with Emma in the days since my father’s death, but she had not said anything about it to me, and I had not asked.
My mother had surprised me a couple of days after my father’s death by handing me a sheet of funeral instructions in his handwriting. As I had expected, he had not wanted a standard church ceremony, but in a short note addressed to me at the bottom of the page he had said, “Prayers and observances according to your Mennonite religious tradition may be added at your discretion, Tom”. We had asked Jack Marlowe to lead a short memorial service with stories and remembrances of my father’s life, and at the end Emma read a short passage from the Bible, and I led a simple prayer of thanksgiving. Afterwards there was a reception at Northwood; my mother had insisted on making the arrangements for it, and she had hired a catering company to provide a stand up lunch in the music room at the back of the house.
I made a point of talking to as many people as I could at the reception, but I especially enjoyed catching up with my old friend and honorary cousin, Jana Schuster; I introduced her to Lisa, and soon the two of them were chatting away in German. Over by the piano I could see Wendy sitting with Will and Sally; she had taken to them immediately, and they had gradually warmed to her, although I knew it had been a struggle at first for Sally. Wendy and I had talked about this on the phone a couple of nights after they arrived; “It’s perfectly understandable, Tom”, she said. “She can try to think her way through it as much as she likes, but in her heart I’m taking her daughter’s place, and that’s going to be hard for her to accept”.
“But you’ve been quite clear from day one that you’re not trying to take Kelly’s place”.
“I know that and you know it, but it’s taken you a year to accept it, hasn’t it?”
“I guess you’re right. You usually are”.
She laughed softly; “I think you’re confusing me with some other woman”.
“I don’t think so, Wendy”.
Toward the end of the reception Will and Sally came over to the corner of the room where I was standing talking to Owen and Lorraine. Will looked up at Owen and grinned; “I do believe you’re getting taller, Owen Foster!”
“I think you’re shrinking with old age, Will!”
“Oh, that’s been happening for quite a while!”
They both laughed, and Will glanced at the two of us and said, “It’s really good to see you two together again; it must have been great for you to be this close after all these years away from each other”.
“Actually Tom’s been rather busy”, Owen replied. “Especially in the last few months. I’m hoping I might see a bit more of him now”.
Sally glanced over at Wendy, who was standing by the piano talking with Emma and Colin. “Are we going to get a chance to hear ‘Lincoln Green’ before we go back?” she asked; “We’ve heard about you three for so many years”.
“Would you like to?” said Owen.
“We definitely would”.
“I’ll have to check with our lead singer; she’s got a mind of her own, you know!”
“I already checked with her”, Sally replied mischievously; “She said it was up to you!”
“Oh, well then, I expect we’ll make it happen!”
Late the next afternoon we went to the offices of Masefield and Marlowe in Oxford for the reading of my father’s will. My mother had insisted that I bring Wendy with me, which was why we were meeting late in the afternoon, after her last tutorial of the day. As we gathered in my brother’s luxurious office I saw that Becca had brought Mike as well; Jack Marlowe was sitting behind Rick’s desk, and the rest of us took our places on various chairs and sofas around the room.
The will was much as I had expected it to be. He left his share in the house to my mother, and he left educational bequests in the amount of £25,000 each to all of his grandchildren and to Colin, with an additional amount set aside for any grandchildren who might come along in the future. Various smaller bequests were listed, and then the remainder of the investment money was to be divided equally between Rick, Becca, and me. At this point Jack looked up from the document in his hand; “I haven’t got the exact figures yet”, he said.
“I don’t expect there’ll be much after the inheritance taxes”, said Becca.
“No, actually, your father was wealthier than you think”, Jack replied. He told her what my father had told me, about the money he had received from his father and had left in investments. “Inheritance tax doesn’t apply to what he’s left to your mother”, he continued; “bequests to spouses are exempt. For the money he’s left to you three and to the grandchildren, the first £325,000 is tax-free; after that it’s taxed at 40%. As I said, I haven’t got the exact figures, but I’m pretty sure that after taxes and the other bequests, the three of you will be dividing a sum of approximately £550,000 between you”.
There was a stunned silence in the room; from the expressions on the faces of my brother and sister I could tell that my father had not said anything to them beforehand. Becca’s face had gone white; she gripped Mike’s hand and whispered, “Oh my God! I had no idea…!”
“But what about you, Mum?” Rick asked.
“Your Dad and I have had joint bank accounts for years”, my mother replied; “There’s more than enough money in those accounts for me to live comfortably for the rest of my life. Don’t worry, Rick; your Dad and I talked this over very thoroughly before he died”.
Jack Marlowe folded the document in his hands and replaced it in its envelope. “These things take time to wind up”, he said, “so it’ll probably be a couple of months before we’re in a position to actually make any of this money available to you. Meanwhile, if I can be of any help to any of you, don’t hesitate to ask”.
Wendy suggested that I tell Lisa and Colin myself about my father’s bequests to them, and so I invited them to come up to our house after supper. Emma and I had a quiet supper with Will and Sally; I didn’t say anything to them about my father’s will, and they seemed to know instinctively that I didn’t want to talk about it. I mentioned to them that Wendy and the children were coming around later, and Emma said, “I’ll make some oatmeal cookies if you like?”
“That’d be fine”.
“Would you like us to make ourselves scarce for a while?” asked Will.
I shook my head; “There’s no need”.
“Are you sure?”
Wendy and the children arrived at about eight, just as Emma was taking the first batch of cookies out of the oven. Colin came into our living room, sniffed at the air, and observed, “Something smells very good in here!”
“Fresh oatmeal cookies!” Emma replied with a smile as she came into the living room from the kitchen.
I made a pot of coffee and we sat around the living room, talking quietly about the events of the last few days. Eventually Lisa said to me, “You and Mum haven’t mentioned anything about your meeting today”.
“No”, I replied; “We wanted to get you all together so that we could tell you about it”.
“Were there some surprises, then?”
“Not for me”, I replied, glancing at Wendy; “Dad had discussed it with me a while back. I could tell that it came as a surprise to almost everyone else there, though”.
“What did he do, Dad?” Emma asked softly.
“Well, he turned out to be a much wealthier man than I’d known. He’s left the house and all his money from his own business earnings to my mum, and apparently it’ll be quite adequate for her to live comfortably for the rest of her life. Nothing unusual about that, of course, but there’s more”.
I paused, took a sip of my coffee, and continued. “Apparently he received a pretty substantial inheritance from my grandfather when he died eighteen years ago, and he never touched that money; he simply invested it. Out of that money, he left bequests to all his grandchildren to help with their education. That includes all three of you; he’s left each of you £25,000”.
Lisa’s face went pale; “Oh my God!” she whispered.
“That will pay for your postgraduate degree, if you still want to do it”, Wendy said softly.
“I’d be an ungrateful idiot not to do it, wouldn’t I?”
“But why has he left me money?” asked Colin; “I’m not one of his grandchildren”.
“He wanted to include you”, I replied; “He mentioned that to me specifically”.
“Wow – I wasn’t expecting anything like that. It’ll certainly help with my apprenticeship costs”.
“There’s one more thing”, I said. “Dad’s investment money turned out to be a very large sum. Of course, there are going to be inheritance taxes to pay, but when all that’s been taken care of, he’s left the rest to Rick and Becca and me. It’ll be about £180,000 for each of us”.
There was a stunned silence in the room for a moment, and then Lisa said, “Mum, would you please marry this man, or something?”
Everyone laughed, and I saw Wendy’s face flush. “I’m not so desperate that I need to marry a man for his money!”
“No, but it does add to his many other attractions, doesn’t it?”
Wendy gave me a sympathetic glance. “Actually, I think this is going to be a struggle for you, isn’t it?”
I nodded slowly; “You know me well”.
Will and Sally did a few days of touring by themselves before going home. They flew out of Heathrow on the Sunday afternoon a week and a half after my father’s funeral; I drove them to the airport, and after we got them checked in we sat in the café together and had a cup of coffee.
“So”, I said to them, “what did you think of England?”
Sally grinned; “I want to come back when it’s a little warmer!”
“Yeah – February’s not the nicest month”.
“It’s still very beautiful, though”, said Will, “and Oxford’s quite impressive. I’m glad I had the chance to see the place you grew up and the college you went to. And of course the main thing was seeing your mom again, and Becca”.
“Your mom’s amazing, Tom”, said Sally quietly; “I can’t believe how strong she is”.
“She’s not feeling quite so strong in herself. When she’s with the grandchildren she tries to be strong for them, although she doesn’t seem to worry about that with Emma”.
“And Emma’s found herself a boyfriend”, Will observed.
“I think so. She doesn’t say much, and I try not to pry”.
“Glad to see you’re following my good example”, he replied with a twinkle in his eye.
I laughed softly; “You’re my role model, Will!”
“Don’t forget to call and check on her when she’s not expecting it!”
“Oh, I plan to make a real nuisance of myself!”
“What are his plans?” Sally asked.
“Matthew? He wants to change the world, I think”.
“He and Em will be a good match, then”.
“Yeah, but their methodology’s not the same. Matthew’s doing a master’s degree in political science right now, and I think he still wants to get into politics in some form. Em’s more of a ‘change the world by following Jesus’ kind of girl”.
“He’s a Christian too, though, right?”
“Oh yeah, and he’s very thoughtful about it”.
“You like him, then?”
“I really do”.
“So is she going to stay here?” Sally asked quietly.
I shook my head; “I don’t think she knows, Sally. And she’s a smart girl; I think she knows it’s early days with Matthew yet. They haven’t even told me they’re dating, although I suspect they will before too long”.
“It’s obvious how much she loves her cousins”, said Will. “And her sister”.
“That’s been a beautiful thing to watch”, I replied. “Rick and Alyson are really happy about it”.
“You and Rick are getting along okay?”
“Rick and I are getting along very well. Dad and I were, too”.
“You’re going to miss him”.
“I am”, I replied. “For the last year or so, we’d really been enjoying each other’s company”.
“Kelly would have been very happy”, said Sally softly.
We were quiet for a couple of minutes, sipping our coffee, each of us occupied with our own thoughts. Eventually I cleared my throat and said, “Can I ask you guys something?”
“For sure”, Will replied.
“I’m uneasy about Dad’s money”.
He nodded; “I thought you would be”.
“Wendy and I are the same that way; we’re not too interested in accumulating stuff. And while I can’t deny it would be useful to help with housing costs – not to mention trips back to Meadowvale – I still can’t help feeling awkward about it”.
“It doesn’t sit well with your Anabaptist conscience”, said Sally.
“That’s exactly right”.
“So if you chose not to keep it, what would you do with it?” asked Will.
I shrugged; “I don’t really have any developed thoughts on the matter. I guess that’s partially connected to the fact that I haven’t settled in my own mind what I’m going to do at the end of the school year, either”.
They exchanged glances, and Will said, “Are you sure about that?”
“What do you mean?”
He smiled; “This is me, Tom. You can be honest with me”.
“I’m not trying to be dishonest”.
“You and Wendy are in love with each other”.
I nodded; “We are”.
“And you’re a lucky man; she’s a wonderful woman and you’re well suited to each other”.
“I think so”.
“Are you going to ask her to marry you?”
I shook my head slowly; “You’re way ahead of us there. It took me the better part of a year to admit to myself that I was falling in love with her”.
“Because you weren’t over Kelly yet”.
“Because I didn’t even want to be over Kelly yet”.
He looked at me steadily for a moment, and then he said, “But you’re not going to want to leave Wendy and move back to Meadowvale, Tom”.
I shook my head. “No”, I whispered, “I don’t think so. I’m really sorry. It’s not just Wendy – it’s Lisa and Colin, and my mum, and Becca and Mike, and Rick and Alyson and the kids…”
“Your mom’s going to need some help”, Sally observed.
“Yes, she is”.
“It’s okay, Tom”, said Will, putting his hand on my arm. “We’ll miss you like crazy, but you have to do what you think you’re meant to be doing. And it’s pretty clear to me what you’re meant to be doing”.
“Me too”, said Sally, with tears in her eyes, “Although I hate the thought of you and Em being so far away”.
“We hate it too”, I whispered, feeling the emotion welling up inside; “You have to believe that”.
Will nodded; “We do”.
“You guys will always be a mother and father to me. Nothing’s ever going to change that”.
“We know”, he replied, “and because we’re a mother and father to you, we want our son to be happy. We don’t want him to be sad and lonely for the rest of his life”.
“Agreed”, Sally said, taking out a tissue to wipe her eyes.
“We’re always going to be coming to visit”, I said.
“We know that. And if we think you’re neglecting us, we’ll unleash our secret weapon”.
“What secret weapon is that?”
“Beth; she can be pretty persuasive”.
I laughed softly; “Yes she can”, I agreed.
Link to Chapter 37