It was a new year but it wasn’t a new life. Things were just as fractured as they ever were.
I started making quilts with fever pitch and it gave me something to occupy my time and my mind.
J*** had done a wonderful thing for me and bought me an incredibly expensive quilter. It made finishing my quilts a breeze but there was always an element of sadness when it was time to finish. It would be finished. There were so many things in my life that seemed to be “finished.”
I had made a quilt for the “Charleston Nine.” Those were the firefighters who were killed in the Sofa Super Store fire. I don’t know what happened to it but at least I made it.
I designed and made a “Purple Hat Lady” quilt. It was unlike anything I had ever made before but I actually enjoyed making it.
I drew all the hats, gloves, shoes and of course, the lady. She has on real earrings and the gloves have rings and bracelets. It’s put away somewhere along with most of the other quilts I made.
When J*** was still in C*********, he was getting phone calls from friends, offering a spare bedroom, a meal or just an ear. Nobody…..and I mean nobody called me to even ask how I was doing, much less offer any comfort……with the exception of S***.
He would call me almost every day. S*** had some demons of his own and we were both in counseling. Sometimes, we would “compare notes.” Mostly though, we just talked.
He would tell me about things he had done and some of them were surprising but he knew that I would never betray his trust. Most of the things he told me will go to the grave with me but not all of them.
One of the greatest compliments I ever got was from J***. I heard him tell somebody that there had never been a torture invented that could make me betray somebody I loved. S*** knew that.
One of the stories that I love to tell about S*** is the “brownie” story. I have told his siblings the story and prefaced it with “for any police officers out there, I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations has run out.”
Our friends from O****** always had a Christmas party. We were considered family, so we were always invited. S*** was considered to be part of our family, so he went with us. It was the last party before J*** and I moved to C*********.
Our friend, C**** had gone all out this year. There were scrumptious meats and all the fixins’. I of course, went straight for the deserts. I noticed that this year, she had put out brownies. I had never seen her do that before.
I started loading my plate up. My daughter, B***** came over and whispered, “mom, you don’t want those.” I asked her why and she just said “you don’t want those.” I asked her if C**** had spit in them. Then I reasoned that they must have been made with booze, so I put them back and just moved on to the next plate.
After a while, I got to missing J*** and S***. I looked all over the house and couldn’t find them anywhere.
I finally went outside and they were out at the swimming pool. J*** was holding on to a pole with one hand and had his head in the other hand, moaning. S*** was holding onto the other pole and let go. There just happened to be a chair there and he landed right on it. He was grinning like the Cheshire cat and said “hey, P****, come over here and sit on my lap.” I went over and “popped” him on the forehead and said “S***! Remember yourself!”
I put my hands on my hips and said “you boys are drunk!”
It was clearly time to get them home so I got somebody to help me get them to the car. I drove them home and got S*** on the sofa and J*** in the bed.
The next morning, I was making coffee and I heard “good morning, P****. ” I said “good morning.” All I could see were these two big brown eyes peeping over the sofa. Then he said “I need to go home.” I told him he could go home as soon as he had a cup of coffee.
He got up and was holding onto the sofa, then the cabinets and then the table. I was thinking to myself “this boy’s going to need more than one cup of coffee.”
He made it over to the sink and was staring out the window. I asked him what he was doing and he said “I’m trying to figure out which one of these cars is mine.”
Years later, he and J*** were talking and they were remembering that night. They laughed and said on the ride home, they thought they were on a magic carpet and I was playing the flute. It was then that I found out what “brownies” were.
S*** was heartbroken about me and J***. I think he was mad at J*** but he loved him, so it was difficult for him.
I had gotten to the point where I told J*** not to call me anymore. I just couldn’t take the conversations. He chatted about nothing and I didn’t want to talk about nothing.
I would take breaks from quilting and go out and look for golf balls. I think when all was said and done, I had found more than two or three thousand. The garage was full of bins which were full of golf balls. I had sorted them by brand and color. At some point, I stopped.
The bottom had dropped out of the housing market and we were basically hosed on the house. It was another time when J*** said “I wish I had listened to you.” He still didn’t want to sell it but I did.
Then in July, I was sitting on the sofa and S*** called me. I answered the phone and he said “hey P****. I had a seizure and I’ve got a brain tumor.” I laughed at him and said “what’d you do….whiff a golf ball and you’re trying to blame it on a seizure?”
He said he wasn’t kidding. I just didn’t believe him and it made me kind of mad that he was saying something like that. I told him that it wasn’t funny and he’d better hope he had a brain tumor because I was going to kill him if he didn’t.
Then I heard the scuttlebutt that you hear in hospitals. I felt horrible. He asked me if I would call J*** and ask him to call him. I told him I would and he asked me not to tell J*** what was going on.
I was in the twilight zone for a minute. I called J***. He wasn’t in his office and I told whoever answered the phone to have him call me right away.
J*** called me and I told him to call S***. He asked me if everything was alright and I said no, but you need to talk to S***.
J*** called me after he had talked to him and I think we were both in shock.
S*** told me the kind of tumor he had and I knew that it was going to be fatal. I was thinking….here’s this guy, who had quit smoking years ago, slathered sunscreen all over himself before he played golf, rode his bicycle across the country and ate about as good as you could…and he gets a fucking brain tumor. Where was the justice in that?
But S*** had a wonderful support system. He had brothers and sisters who adored him and he had friends who loved him. Walking in “the shadow of death” is easier I think, when you know you are loved.