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First Year After
Our Love, After Dad Died
By M.R. Leenysman
Copyright 2016, M.R. Leenysman
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December 20, 2012
“Drew. Drew, honey, wake up,” I half-heard, drowsily responding with mumbles.
Mom grasped my arm, to shake me awake, and said, “Drew, please, wake up.” The pleading tone of her voice gave me a chill, and I opened my eyes.
“Mom? What? What time is it?” I couldn’t see my alarm clock, as Mom was leaning over my bed, blocking my view of it on my dresser. I saw no light through my windows, so it had to be early.
“About 6, I think. Drew, I’ve got bad news.” More chills, and I was fully awake.
“What, Mom? What is it?” I asked.
“It’s your Dad. He… he d-died in his sleep.”
“Wha? Died? When?” I asked, my head full of questions I could barely put words to.
“I think maybe around 1 this morning?” she asked herself, clearly not sure. “He went to bed early, complaining about that cold, and I came to bed around 11, and he was asleep and breathing a little heavy, but I chalked that up to the cold. Now, I’m not so sure. But a half-hour ago, I rolled towards him in my sleep, and his arm… his arm was cold, and that startled me awake. He wasn’t breathing, and his arms are already stiff, and it takes about 4 hours for rigor mortis to set in. I called 911, and they had me try CPR for a while, until the EMTs got here, and they finally declared him dead.”
“Mom, I… I’m so sorry. Do you think it was his heart?” Why the how mattered to me in that moment, I’ll never understand. Maybe I just wasn’t ready for the bigger questions, and could wrap my mind around that one.
She sighed. “Maybe. That, or another of those damned blood clots.” Dad had suffered two heart attacks in the preceding three years, as well as a pretty scary week earlier in the year when he was in ICU with pulmonary embolisms, blood clots in both lungs. He’d done six months of blood-thinner treatment, and we thought he was in the clear. “We’ll have to wait for an autopsy to be sure. The coroner’s team is on its way.”
I couldn’t think even half straight. “His body, it’s still in the bed?”
Mom pursed her lips, and said, “Umm, no. The 911 operator had me pull him to the floor to perform the CPR on him, so that’s where he still is. Why do you ask?”
“I think I want to see him, before they take him away. I can hear how morbid that sounds, even as I’m saying it, but I do. Not the way the funeral home will make him look, but how he really wound up looking. I don’t think it will feel real otherwise. Do you understand?”
Mom ran her hand through my hair, “I don’t need to, honey. Whatever will help you deal with this. Come on.” She stood, and waited for me to get out of bed.
“Um, Mom, I kinda went to bed naked last night. So, could you wait for me in the hall?” I’d started sleeping in the nude the summer after I graduated high school, but I’m not sure my mom realized it in the moment. I was now 21, in the middle of my Junior year of college, home for holiday break. I also didn’t want her to see the dried cum on my pubes, since I’d masturbated the night before, while having phone sex with my girlfriend Patti.
“Oh. Sure, honey.” She turned and walked out, closing my door behind her.
I got up and quickly threw on the t-shirt and shorts that I’d been wearing before bed, shut off my alarm so it wouldn’t go off and then a police officer escorted me into the room to see my Dad, the “scene” not having been cleared by them yet. It irked me that they were treating this like a potential crime, but realized they were just following their procedures.
There really isn’t much to say about seeing a dead body, of someone you loved, who you had just talked to 12 hours before. It no longer really looked like him, in so many little, indescribable ways. I whispered, “Goodbye, Dad. I love you, and promise you I’ll be there for Mom,” and turned away and went back to the hallway, where Mom was talking with the deputy who had been dispatched from the Medical Examiner’s office, as she was telling him the funeral home we would be using. He shook my hand, before taking my place in the bedroom as a couple other men carried a gurney up the stairs. It all felt like a scene from some crime drama on TV, making it seem unreal again, despite having just seen my Dad’s body.
I hugged Mom to me, and asked “What do we do next?”, already trying on my “Help Mom” hat.
She rest her cheek on my shoulder for a moment, her nose by my neck, before saying, “Phone calls. Family, friends, his boss, mine at the hospital. But both of our phones are still in the bedroom, and the police won’t let me back in to get them yet. Can you get yours, and we can at least start with your grandparents?”
I got my phone, and pulled Mom’s parents up in my contacts list, and brought it to Mom, then watched, as she broke the news to her parents. I didn’t know how she was staying so calm. Her call to Dad’s parents was longer, and she finally broke down crying, and I took the phone from her and talked with Grandpa Dave, as Grandma Marion had also broken down crying, perhaps triggering Mom’s tears. Grandpa told me that they’d be over as soon as they could get there, about 20 minutes, and he’d call Dad’s two brothers on the way.
I took Mom back into my arms, and let her cry into my chest. My own tears weren’t coming. Even though I wasn’t feeling terribly strong, I knew strength was what my Mom needed at the moment. So, stiff upper lip and all that.
She finally pulled away from me, wiped her tears and started down the stairs and I followed her. It was weird seeing the Christmas tree in the living room, surrounded with gifts, and the thought popped in my head that many of them would have Dad’s name on them, either as giver or recipient. Merry Frickin’ Christmas To Us. I followed her to the kitchen, where she started coffee. She turned to me and said, “This is going to be a long day, and we better start getting ready for a full house. Drew, can you get a pack of muffins out of the freezer, and we’ll warm them up?”
I went out to the big freezer in our garage, and got out two packs of chocolate muffins, figuring that one wasn’t going to be enough, and brought them back to the kitchen, just as the Medical Examiner’s team came down the stairs with the gurney with Dad’s body in a bag, and the last police officer on the scene told Mom that they were done in the bedroom, offered his condolences again and they all left. I popped open the plastic around one pack of muffins and tossed them in the microwave, then ran up the stairs to get fully dressed since company was coming, then grabbed both Mom’s and Dad’s phones before heading back downstairs, so Mom and I could make more phone calls to deliver the bad news.
I was in the middle of a call to Patti to give her the news when the doorbell rang. Grandpa Dave and Grandma Marion. The first of the family to arrive, but hardly the last. The rest of the morning was a blur, making calls, receiving others offering condolences, more family arriving. Hugs I could have gotten lost in, if I dared let myself. Grandma Anna and Grandpa Scott, my mom’s parents, her older sister Maria, my Dad’s younger brothers Tony with his wife Mimi and my teenage cousins Angie and Carrie, and Dave Jr. with his girlfriend Antonia, my girlfriend Patti, who lived 35 miles from us, and my high school buddies Duke and Kenny who grew up a couple of blocks away. A same-day wake, if you will.
Flowers were already beginning to arrive from various out-of-town friends. I felt like I was constantly answering the door, when I really felt like finding a corner and just hiding in it. But my promise to Dad was already in effect, and I wasn’t about to make my Mom have to handle this duty.
The only minor conflict of the day came from Grandma Marion. “Tina, were you thinking about Evergreen Cemetery for the burial? Dave and I have plots already bought there, and they should still have openings in our area.”
Mom responded, “Actually, Tom and I decided a few years ago that we both want to be cremated, and have our ashes scattered at several different locations.”
“Oh. He never told me that.” Grandma answered, her tone one of clear disbelief.
Mom clenched her jaw, before answering, “It’s not something even we talked about a lot. But we did have our talk about matters like that, one night in the hospital after his second heart attack, and wrote our locations down.”
Grandma let it go at that, but everyone could tell she was disappointed.
Gradually, people began to leave after dinner, saying they’d see us again either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I couldn’t imagine what that would be like without Dad, but didn’t say anything about it. Patti gave me a long kiss, and said, “Anything you need from me, just ask,” before she left for her family’s home.
Finally, it was just Mom and I, and we were both beat. We climbed the stairs, headed to our bedrooms. But Mom just froze at the doorway to hers, looking at her bed.
“Are you okay, Mom?” I asked.
“Okay? No, Drew, not even close. I… I don’t think I can do it. I don’t think I can sleep in that bed tonight, not the one he died in. Can… can I sleep in yours?”
“Sure, Mom, I’ll sleep down on the couch,” I offered.
She shook her head and said, “No, don’t do that. I know this will sound silly, but I don’t think I can sleep alone tonight, either. Will you share it with me, please? Maybe hold me if I need to cry? You’ll have to wear something to bed, though.” She chuckled at this last statement. It was maybe the only time I’d seen her smile all day.
“Of course, Mom. Whatever you need from me, just ask. Let me get changed, and I’ll open the door when I’m decent.”
I quickly got changed into sweat shorts, keeping the same tshirt on, and by the time I was done, Mom was waiting in the hallway in a nightgown. We climbed in on opposite sides of my queen bed, and lay facing each other. I reached back and turned off the lamp on my night stand, and said, “Good night, mom.” Normally, I’d have followed that with “Sweet dreams”, but didn’t think it appropriate tonight.
A couple of minutes passed, and she started to cry, and whispered to me, “What are we going to do without him?”
I pulled her to me, letting her cry into my chest once more, as I thought of how to answer her. Finally, I said all I could think of, which was, “We’re going to do what Dad would have wanted for us. We’re going to survive this, grieve, then we’re going to find ways to be happy even while we still miss him.”
This slowed her tears, and they gradually stopped. “Thank you, Drew. You don’t know just how much you sounded like your Dad just then. That’s exactly what your Dad would have said. I love you. We’ll get through this.”
“I love you, too, Mom. Try and sleep.” I continued holding her the whole night, in case she woke scared or crying again. She didn’t, but I didn’t get much sleep, watching over her.
Christmas Eve, 2012
I’ll skip over most of the next few days, of mortuary visits, life insurance claims, notifying Dad’s lawyer to start probate work on his will, and preliminary planning for a memorial service that we couldn’t even schedule until the Dallas County Medical Examiner had released the body to the mortuary. More calls, more flowers.
Mom asked to share my bed again each night. She wasn’t crying any more, and I was able to relax more and get my own 40 winks.
Christmas Eve we usually spent with Mom’s family, so we packed up the gifts we’d bought for them, and headed to her parents’ home in Arlington, 35 minutes away.
It was a somber night, as much as we tried to get into the Christmas spirit with music and favorite Christmas movies. We had dinner first, then exchanged gifts, including a few that still had Dad’s name on them as sender. Aunt Maria and Grandma Anna and Grandpa Scott had bought gifts for Dad, but weren’t sure what to do with them. Mom and I opened them, and they were both gift certificates to local restaurants, so I kept the smaller one from Aunt Maria, and Mom kept the other. We eventually wished everyone a Merry Christmas, and headed home.
The first tear I shed since my Dad’s death finally rolled down my face when I had to set my Dad’s Christmas stocking aside before helping Mom fill hers and mine with the little goodies that she’d already bought for the purpose before his death, to hang on the little hooks that had been set up when the house was decorated weeks before.
She saw it, and reached over to wipe it from my cheek and said, “You don’t have to be strong all the time for me, Drew. It’s okay to cry for him.” She took my hands in hers and gave them a squeeze.
“I know, Mom. The tears just haven’t been coming, and it’s not because I’m feeling strong, I think Dad’s lending me his strength, so I can be there for you.”
She gave me a look I couldn’t figure out, and said, “Thank you for that, honey. Merry Christmas.” She handed me a small wrapped box. “This is something your Dad wanted you to have, and I thought it was more appropriate for tonight, than for tomorrow. Open it.”
I opened the wrapping, and inside the box was a case, with a DVD-R with a computer-etched label that said “Drew 1992-2012”. I looked at Mom, and she said, “Put it in the player.”
I did, and a combination photo slide-show and various videos played, of me at different ages, mostly with my Dad in them or filming them, going fishing, or tossing a football, that kind of stuff, through high school graduation, and a couple of me moving to college, stuff from the past summer. At the end, was a video of him, talking to the camera.
“Drew, you’ve always made me proud to be your Dad, and I know I’ve not always been the best at saying it to you, so I wanted to make this DVD so you’d have no doubt. I love you, son, and I’m proud of the man you’re becoming. Merry Christmas.”
The tears were streaming down my face as I pressed Stop. I looked at Mom and asked, “Did… did he know he was about to die? Is that why he made this?”
Mom also had tears in her eyes. “Honey, I don’t think he specifically knew, other than having a sense of his mortality driven into him over the past few years. All he told me was that he wanted knowing how he felt about you to be your best gift this year. I definitely know he wanted to see the look on your face when you watched it.”
I wiped the tears from my face and said, “I’d give back every gift he ever gave me, even this one, if I could have him back for even just five minutes, so I could tell him I love him, too. I can’t remember the last time I told him, and that makes me sadder still.”
Mom hugged me, and said, “He knew, honey, he knew. And in case you haven’t heard it enough from me, every word your Dad said on that DVD goes double for me. I don’t know how I’d have gotten through the last few days without you.” She kissed me on the forehead, and said, “Ready for bed? Or do you want to set out cookies for Santa?”
That made me laugh, and lifted my spirits tremendously. We decided to turn on Christmas CDs on the downstairs stereo up real loud, went up to my bedroom, kept the door open, listening to the music fill the house, until we fell asleep.
Christmas Day, 2012
When I woke, Mom was gone from the bed, and I could smell both coffee and bacon in the air. The music had been turned down, but was still playing. I got out of bed, and went downstairs, and said, “Merry Christmas, Mom!” and actually felt the spirit of the season finally. Maybe the Christmas music playing on repeat all night had seeped into my soul, maybe Dad was helping me again, I don’t know. I was just glad to be glad, if you will.
“Merry Christmas, honey! Bacon’s almost done. Do you want scrambled or over easy today?”
For a moment, I could hear Dad’s typical answer of “Over Easy” in my head, so that’s what I told my Mom, without telling her why. We had a nice breakfast together, actually singing some of the Christmas songs together that we knew so well, until I figured it was a good time to tell Mom about a decision I’d reached.
“Mom, I’m not going back to campus next month. I know there’s going to be so much that has to be done here with Dad gone, and I don’t want you to have to do it alone.”
“You’re not quitting college! You’re not!” she shouted.
“No, I wouldn’t do that. Not to you, not to Dad, not to myself. I know how important my education is. What I can do, though, is call tomorrow to explain the situation to whoever’s manning the phones in the Dean’s and Registrar’s offices over the holidays, and see if I can get switched into the online versions of most or all of my classes this semester, so I can do them from here and not fall behind. Glen, from my dorm Freshman year, had to do the same thing when he broke both legs in that car accident, remember? He was in leg casts for three months, and still took his courses, and then finished his Associate’s degree that way.”
We finished eating, and cleaned up our dishes. Mom seemed to be stalling, and I understood why. Neither of us was really looking forward to opening the gifts from Dad. Finally, I had to say, “Mom, Dad’s gifts aren’t going away, just because you’re tidying up the kitchen. He would say ‘They represent my love for you two, so get to it.’”
She chuckled. “He would say it, just like that. And you’re right, I’m stalling.” She took a deep breath, before saying, “Okay, let’s do it. We can leave the stockings for later, no surprises there, since you helped me fill them.”
Most of my gifts were typical, video games, clothes, a couple books I’d told my folks I wanted. My dad had written inscriptions in both: “Merry XMas 2012, Drew! Love, Mom & Dad.”
Searching under the whole tree, Mom had only one gift under it from Dad, but it turned out to be a wowzer - a beautiful tennis bracelet, with both diamonds and rubies. Mom had tears in her eyes as I helped put it on her wrist. “A beautiful bauble, but not as beautiful as the woman wearing it,” I whispered, remembering something Dad had said a few years earlier, when putting a necklace he’d bought her around her neck.
“You remembered that line of your Dad’s?” she asked, putting her hand to my face.
“Figured I’d use it on a girlfriend of my own some day, when we got to the jewelry stage. Patti and I are almost there, but not quite, given what I can afford. Never figured I’d be using it on my own Mom. If Dad were here…” I couldn’t say any more.
She gave me a quick kiss on the lips, and said, “If your Dad were here, he’d be proud of you for helping to make this day easier for me. I love you.”
“I love you too, Mom.” I shook myself, trying to regain my Christmas spirit, and said, “Well, that’s the gifts from you and Dad to me, and from Dad to you, all that’s left are mine to you and the ones we each got for Dad. Let’s start with yours.”
I handed her the two clothing boxes I’d wrapped the day before Dad died, and she started opening. Both were new sweaters, one in blue, the other red. She looked up at me when she’d opened the second one. “Patti helped you pick these out, didn’t she? They’re both beautiful.”
“Yeah, she suggested half-a-dozen different sweaters in the store’s online catalog, then challenged me to pick the two that I’d like to see her in, not what I thought would be ‘mom-appropriate’. Do you really like them?” I asked. “I got Patti another in the same style as the blue one, but in a light green color, and a different style in a gray color.”
She nodded, and said, “Love them, and love that they’re from you even more. So that just leaves Dad’s gifts. Drew, bring me the ones I got Dad, please.” There were just two, and one was obviously a clothing box. After I handed them to her, she set the clothing box aside, saying, “This won’t fit you, because you’re taller than Dad, but it ought to fit your Grandpa Dave. This one, I want you to have instead,” handling me a smaller box.
It was a new Seiko watch. I checked, and there was an inscription, ‘For All Our Hours Of Pleasure - Tina’ I actually blushed, making Mom laugh. “Mom? Are you sure you want me thinking about that inscription every time I look at this watch?”
“Well, you can always focus on the hour that we conceived you!” she joked.
“Not sure that makes it easier, Mom! I’ll just have to ignore that it’s there. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, sweetie. If it really bothers you, we can get another back for it.”
“No, Mom. It represents your love for Dad, and there’s no way I’m throwing that out. I just have to remember that, and not let it embarrass me.”
My final gifts to Dad were first editions of a couple of my favorite books, to add to his collection of firsts. Not real old ones, but ones I could afford to get. Mom opened them, and smiled. “Your Dad would have loved these. You know he wanted his collection to go to you, Drew. His will even says so.”
“I know, he told me that, when you got your wills drawn up. I... just didn’t think it would be so soon.”
“Neither did I, sweetie,” she said. “Even with the medical scares he had, I thought the doctors had a handle on it all. But sometimes God has other plans, both for the dead and the living. We just have to assume God sees something good to come from this, and figure out what that is.”
“I guess. I’m going to hit the shower and get dressed for Grandma’s.” I grabbed my pile of gifts and headed to my bedroom to drop them on the bed, picked out a new shirt and jeans from among my gifts, pulled briefs and socks from my drawer and set them on top, then headed into the bathroom right next to my room, and took a quick shower. Getting out, I dried off with a towel, then took a quick peek around the door to see if the hallway was clear, draped the towel over the rod on the back of the door and made the quick dash into my room. Naked. Winding up right in front of my Mom, who was standing wrapped in a towel next to my bed. “MOM!” I shrieked, trying to cover myself. “What are you doing in here right now?”
“Why aren’t you at least in a towel?!” she countered, coolly. She tossed me the briefs I’d set aside on the bed, and said “I’ll close my eyes, you put those on.”
I pulled them on, and said “Okay, half-decent. So, again, why are you in here?”
“Some alarm on your phone was blaring, so I came in to turn it off. Sorry if I embarrassed you.” She started to walk out of the room, but as she passed me, she leaned close to me and said into my ear, while glancing downward, “Patti’s a really lucky girl,” then kissed my cheek before exiting.
“MOM!” I felt like my whole body was blushing.
I finished getting dressed in my new clothes. As I came out to the hall, I could hear Mom’s shower running, so went downstairs and tidied up a bit, while I waited for her to get ready. Finally, I heard her coming down the stairs.
And she took my breath away. “Mom? You look fantastic!” She was wearing the blue sweater I’d gotten her over a pair of jeans, and it looked fabulous on her. It was both snugger and showed more cleavage than her usual wardrobe, every one of her curves highlighted.
“As good as Patti would look in it?” she asked.
“Don’t tell her this, but I think it looks better on you than it would her. She doesn’t, um, have your, um, chest.”
“Let her give birth, and that will change. It did for me. 21 years later, and I still think of these as ‘Drew cups’, because I was a B before you came along!” she said, while putting both hands over her bra and squeezing a little bit.
“Oh, I did not need that mental image, Mom.” I said, shaking my head.
“What? Didn’t realize I had breasts?”, she said, chuckling.
“I’m done talking about them -- this, Mom. Ready to load up for Grandma’s?” What I couldn’t say was that not only was I aware she had breasts, really nice ones, but finding out that her bras were somehow my namesakes left me imagining being them, snug against her breasts.
Lunch and gift exchange at my other grandparents’ home wasn’t too notable, except for everyone trying a little too hard to be merry instead of sad, and occasionally the sad slipping through in patches anyway. It felt more than a little fake, producing emotional distance at just the time I wanted to feel closer to everyone. More clothes, more gift cards.
Eventually, Mom and I excused ourselves, and came home to have a quiet dinner with each other, during which we discussed getting Mom a new mattress the next day, emptied our Christmas stockings, and went to bed together, for what we thought would be the last time.
December 26, 2012
I guess it was inevitable. I was actually surprised it hadn’t happened before then. I awoke that morning to find Mom’s body spooned behind me, her breasts pressed into my back, and her hand draped over my hip. And my cock was hard as a rock, with her fingers just in contact with it through my sweat shorts. Her fingers weren’t moving, just resting against it. Her breathing indicated she was still sleeping. Between spending nearly every waking moment with her and her sleeping with me every night since Dad had passed, I hadn’t had any good opportunities to jerk off at all, so having morning wood didn’t surprise me much. But Mom touching it in her sleep? Oh. My. God.
The only way I could figure out to get up without waking her was to roll onto my stomach, which of course dragged my mom’s hand across my ass, then slip my leg over the edge of the bed so I could finish sliding out from under her hand. Mom didn’t stir.
I grabbed a fresh pair of boxer-briefs and went into my bathroom, locked the door behind me, and got in the shower, and started soaping and stroking my cock immediately. I was picturing Patti going down on me, her tongue swirling around my head, and then pictured fucking her, but just as I was shooting my wad against the tiles, the image of my Mom in the towel from the day before popped into my head, and my orgasm actually intensified, when I would have thought it would stop me in my tracks. ‘What the hell?’ I thought. But I dismissed it as being connected to my Mom having been in contact with me right before the shower. I finished my shower, putting the clean briefs on before going back into my room.
Mom was awake and sitting up in the bed as I entered my room, tossing the dirty sweat-shorts into my hamper. She chuckled, “Decided not to flash your Mom again, huh?”
“I’m so sorry about that, Mom. I really thought you were either downstairs or in your room.”
She smiled. “Drew, relax. It’s not like I’ve never seen a penis before. Or seen yours, for that matter. Or did you think your Dad changed all of your diapers when you were a baby?”
I really didn’t want to keep discussing my cock, so just said “I guess not.”
We went to the Mattress Warehouse that morning, and bought a new King mattress, and headed to another store to buy new sheets, pillows, comforter, the works. Mom didn’t want anything that had touched Dad’s dead body around any more. We ran a couple of other errands, before heading home to wait for the mattress delivery. Patti called, and we arranged to meet for dinner that night, after I checked with Mom to see that she’d be okay alone, only to find that she was making plans with a couple of her nurse friends who both had the night off.
I also made my phone calls to the University, and was told the dean would get back to me about my online plan.
Over dinner with my girlfriend, I recounted everything that had happened since I’d last seen her the day my Dad died. She thought my “nude encounter” with my Mom was hilarious, and got a chuckle out of the inscription on Dad’s watch, now on my left wrist. I left out telling her about my morning wood and what happened in the shower that morning.
“Oh, I wish I could have seen your face!” she said, giggling.
“Oh, it gets worse,” I said, grimacing. “As she was leaving the room, she puts her mouth to my ear, looks down at my crotch, and tells me ‘Patti’s a really lucky girl’.”
“Oooh, I am that, big boy. So she managed to get a good look at your package, I take it?”
“Yeah. I wasn’t entirely sure then, but she confirmed that she saw it this morning.”
She loved the sweaters I’d gotten her, and asked how my Mom liked hers. I told Patti that Mom had said she loved them, and had worn the blue one on Christmas Day, and I told her she looked really nice, and that I looked forward to seeing Patti in hers.
She was less happy when I told her about my plan to do the next semester online. “But if I’m on campus, and you’re here, we’re hardly going to see each other. It’s not like I can request the same kind of switch just to be closer to you.” We went to a college about 500 miles away in Kansas City, but were surprised when we met as Freshmen that her home wasn’t that far from mine, just 35 miles as I said before, making visiting each other over the summer fairly easy. So the longest we’d been apart since we’d met two years earlier had only been about a week.
“I know I’ll miss seeing you every day,” I said, “but it’s not really any different than if we lived further apart and couldn’t see each other much over summer break. Couples survive that, so I think we can survive this, with Spring Break together in the middle. And it’s just this semester. I do know that it wouldn’t be any good for me, you, or my grades for me to be there and spending all my time worrying about how my Mom’s doing back here. You can understand that, right?”
She pouted a little, before saying, “Understand it, yes. Like it? Not a bit. Okay, new subject - what do you want to do for New Year’s Eve?”
“I’ve been thinking about it,” I said. “I just turned 21, but you’re still 20, and I never liked any of the under-21 clubs around here. My Mom said she’ll let me host a small party at our house, and even let those of us who are only 20 have some wine or beer, so long as she gets everyone’s keys so nobody drives home. That kind of limits the party to the number of beds and couches we have, so I was thinking, you, me and my friends Duke and Kenny, plus my Mom, and Costco pizzas and beer. My Mom will even let you sleep in my room with me. What do you think?”
“Sounds fine to me. I’m not real big on the club scene, myself. Too much risk of GHB or something like that being slipped in your drink even in the non-alcoholic clubs.”
Back home, Mom had the new bedding all set up, and I wished her a good night’s sleep and sweet dreams, then went to my own bed, and got to sleep nude once more.
Around midnight, I heard Mom shout “No, No!!” several times. I got up, pulled on shorts, and rushed to her room, opening the door just as she sat upright in bed, a hand to her head.
“Nightmare?” I asked.
“Yeah, pretty bad,” she answered. “Kinda fuzzy already, but I remember being next to your dad’s body again, and suddenly he sat up and black ooze came from his mouth and I started screaming for him to get away from me. I woke up just before his hands would have reached me. Uggh!” she said, shuddering. “Drew, I know I’m imposing on you, but would you mind sleeping with me one more time? I didn’t have a single nightmare this past week that I’ve slept in your room, and I think it’s because you were beside me, making me feel safe. We can do it in this bed, which ought to give you more room.”
“Mom. Whatever you need, I’ll do. It’s okay.” I slipped under the new comforter and top-sheet on what had been Dad’s side of the bed, and settled in, and soon fell asleep. If Mom had any other dreams, they didn’t wake her.
New Year’s Eve, 2012
Mom successfully slept by herself the next nights. However, I actually found it harder to sleep without her by me. I think I was on edge, listening for signs of another nightmare that never came. If she had any more bad dreams, she didn’t mention them to me.
On New Year’s Eve, around 8 PM, we started our party. Mom came downstairs, wearing the same blue v-neck sweater, over new slacks, looking even better as she’d put more effort into her makeup and hair than on Christmas Day, even if it was just for a party with my friends..
When Patti arrived, she was wearing one of my gifts, which was the same style sweater, but in the light green color, over a pair of faded jeans. She dropped her overnight bag by the stairs, took one look at Mom and said, “At least Drew had the sense to buy us different colors, Tina. Can you imagine if we’d shown up in the exact same sweater?”
Side by side, they both looked fantastic in the sweaters, although I did have to give the edge to my blond mom’s greater curves, versus the way Patti’s sweater color highlighted her bright auburn hair. Not that I had any intention of telling either one of them that. Mom showed off her new bracelet, and Patti’s eyes shot to me, giving me the clear message that she expected jewelry from me sometime soon.
When Duke and Kenny showed up, their jaws dropped. “Mrs. B, looking foxy!” Duke said. “And Patti the foxette!”
Duke never has had much of a filter, even sober. Drunk, he could be even worse. This could be an interesting evening. I could only say, “Dude, that’s my Mom and my girlfriend!”
“Lucky times two, man,” he answered. Kenny’s smile told me he agreed, although he was keeping his mouth shut.
Mom and Patti decided to drink wine, while us guys decided to drink beer. There was close to a case of Sam Adams and Heinekens already in our spare refrigerator in the garage, so we would be set. Mom collected everyone’s keys, but said, “I know I’m giving you all a place to crash tonight, but take it easy, anyway. I don’t feel like starting the New Year cleaning up any vomit. We understand each other?”
She got a chorus of yeses, as I opened three beers, handing the guys theirs. I proposed a toast, “To Tom Barnes. The best Dad, husband and friend anyone could ask for. We miss you.” We all took a sip, thought about Dad for a minute, then got into the business of having fun.
“That was nice,” Patti told me, a few minutes later. “I could tell your Mom didn’t want to bring the party down, but I think she really appreciated the way you acknowledged your Dad.”
We turned on the stereo, while Mom heated up a couple of the pizzas, and we started in on a game of Pictionary, Patti and I against Duke, Kenny and Mom, and we won handily. Of course, Duke kept throwing out these wild sex-related guesses, to almost any clue. Mom was laughing at him, rather than being offended, so I didn’t say anything to him about it.
After refreshing drinks and having more pizza, Patti and I fast-danced to some of the songs on the stereo, and Kenny and Duke took turns dancing with my Mom. When a slow song came on, we all sat down again for another round of Pictionary, with Patti and Mom switching teams. Mom and I won, again because Duke was throwing out these crazy guesses, keeping the night’s mood light in his unique style.
We turned on the ABC New Year’s show at 10, and watched the ball drop in NYC at 11, then switched over the the Big D NYE show after that, and counted down again at 12.
I gave Patti a long kiss at the stroke of midnight, then almost had a heart attack when I saw Mom kissing Duke in almost the same way, then Kenny, too. I quietly asked Patti, “Any idea how much my Mom’s had to drink tonight?”
She walked me over to where the wine was, and the bottle was about half-empty. “This is the third bottle tonight, and I’ve only had three glasses myself, so she’s maybe had twice that much, maybe a little more? Over the course of four hours, it’s not a huge amount, but she certainly seems to be loose right now.”
“Yeah, I just hope Duke and Kenny aren’t getting the wrong idea from those kisses.”
Duke came to talk with me soon after that. “Man, I hope you’re not upset with me over that midnight kiss. I had no idea that she was going to do that. I’ve been trying all night to keep the mood light, to keep everyone laughing, because I know how hard it is to get through this season when you’ve lost someone. I’m sorry if I took the sex jokes too far.” Duke had lost his Dad when he was 15, so I knew he was talking from experience.
“I’m not angry with anyone, you’ve helped Mom laugh tonight, and I do appreciate that,” I responded. “I’m just a little concerned with Mom’s behavior. She doesn’t usually drink this much. I am glad you talked to me about it, though. We’re cool, and you can tell Kenny the same thing.”
“It was pretty hot, though. Your Mom is a damned good kisser, even if she is a little tipsy.”
“Duuude! I didn’t need to hear that about my mom!”