Saturday, January 5, 2013
Same Time Next Year
Chapter Forty One
Same Time Next Year
Butch Haley waited patiently in the airport. Because of airport security in recent years, he wasn't able to watch the plane make its way to the gate.
He remembered his father coming home from week long business trips. His mother would pile him and his brothers and sisters into the station wagon and make the one hour drive to the airport where they would all stand at the window with their noses pressed against the glass watching the plane pull up to the gate. It seemed to take forever until the doors were opened and the passengers walked into the terminal. Dad always greeted them each with a big bear hug before he picked their mother off the ground and swung her around. He wished he could do that with Beth today, but he knew Megan, his fifteen year old daughter would be mortified. He had a hard time convincing her to come with him to greet her mother.
The truth was, he didn't trust her being alone in the house for the two plus hours it would take to get from home to the airport and back. Beth was right to be concerned about Megan and the boy she was hanging around with. Whatever his name was, he thought to himself. Maybe he couldn't remember it because he didn't want to. He couldn't understand what Megan saw in this kid. He was tempted to buy him a belt since his pants were always sliding down over his shorts. How could anyone walk around like that? What was that thing suppose to be that grew out from his chin. The kid looked like a billy goat. The tattoos and earrings didn't help to endear him to Butch either.
What ever happened to that sweet little girl who used to run to the door when he came home from work and greet him with big hugs and cookie flavored kisses? The young girl who would dissolve in laughter when he told her a silly joke or tickled her toes while she played with her brothers on the floor? When had she turned so sullen? Beth said this was a phase she was going through. How long could a phase last? He looked over at her standing away from the crowd madly pushing buttons on that darned phone she never let out of her sight. I want my little girl back, he thought to himself as the passengers started appearing.
“Beth, over here,” Butch called out when he saw her.
“Butch, am I ever glad to see you. I missed you all so much.” Beth looked around and saw her daughter completely absorbed in her latest text messaging. Beth threw her arms around Butch and kissed him hello. She didn't care if she embarrassed her daughter. She missed her husband and was happy to see him.
“Most of us missed you too, sweetheart,” he said as he glared at Megan.
Megan put her phone in her purse and walked over to her mother. “Hi,” was all that came out of her lips.
Beth was full of chatter on the way home. Megan heard her say the whole family would be going to The Merryweather next summer. She rolled her eyes and went back to texting.
“Where are the boys?” asked Beth. At least they wouldn't treat her like a pariah, she thought.
“Brady wanted to come but his game is today. Cody offered to drive him while I came to pick you up. Brady is pitching today, if the traffic cooperates we will be able to make it for a few innings. That is if you aren't too tired from the trip.”
“Oh yes, I want to see him pitch. He told me when I called that Coach Bryant told him he'd be on the mound this week. I'm so happy for him. It was nice of Cody to go to the game. He's proud of his little brother, isn't he?”
“Was that shot meant for me?” came a surly voice from the back seat.
“Well, what do you know, there really is a live person back there. I hope we didn't disturb you with our chatter, Megan.” Beth said sarcastically.
“So, did they think you were fat?” Megan said with just a hint of pleasure.
“It didn't come up for discussion,” Beth lied. She wasn't about to tell Megan about her little spat with Brenda on the first day. It was long forgotten.
“Megan, apologize to your mother. That was a hurtful thing to say,” said Butch shaking his head.
“That's alright, Butch. I was worried about the weight I have gained. I tried cutting back on my food intake this week, but we all overindulged in sweets. Even Brenda, who brought seven suitcases filled with size three clothes.
“Can you believe, I actually ran with her in the mornings? She slowed her pace so I could keep up. I found I really enjoyed running. I'm thinking about joining the gym when I get back and settled. Darlene's husband had a stroke several months ago. Darlene said he was a little overweight and didn't exercise at all. After the loss of his job, the stress and his physical condition were factors that led to his illness.”
“That sounds like a good plan. I think I'll join you. I could stand to get in better shape. I understand exercise helps relieve stress too,” said Butch as he glanced in the rear view mirror.
Brady's team won the game thanks to Brady's pitching. He was happy to see his mother and happy that she was able to see his pitching debut.
The summer passed quickly and Cody was off to college for his freshman year. Beth was sad the family, as she knew it, would never be quite the same.
Brady's team ended the season by going to the state championships. They didn't win, but they were happy just to qualify. Brady missed his brother, but Butch was there to help him practice his pitching all through the winter months.
Megan's boyfriends changed, but they all looked the same to Butch. He never bothered to learn any of their names. He was afraid her fingers would be nothing but nubs in twenty years thanks to the constant texting.
“Does she ever actually speak to anyone?” he asked Brenda one day. “I know she doesn't often speak to us.”
Butch and Beth did join the gym and both of them made an effort to eat healthier. It worked. They both lost weight and felt years younger. It gave them an excuse to do something together that didn't involve the children. They found they enjoyed running and started each day with a run before breakfast.
Spring arrived and plans were being made to spend a week at The Merryweather. Cody was finishing up his freshman year and would be working at the fast food restaurant where he worked all through high school. His boss already told him he would give him the time off for his family vacation. Brady was excited when he found out the resort had a pool and a lake where he and his dad could go fishing. Megan refused to go saying she would run away from home if they made her go to that stupid place. She was sixteen and Butch thought it was high time her phase came to an end.
“Megan, we are going to Camden Corners. If you wish to join us, you will put a smile on your face and keep it there. If you choose not to share one week of your life with your family, you may do so, but you will not be welcome in our home again.”
Beth was appalled. Butch didn't make empty threats. She had to admit Megan had put a strain on the entire family. Beth had visions of her living in a commune with Tyler or Tyrone or whatever the latest kid's name was. She prayed Megan wouldn't walk out the door that very day.
Nothing more was said and on the day they were leaving for Camden Corners, Megan carried her suitcase down the stairs, put it in the van and sat in the back seat with her phone in her hand ready to text.
“You won't be needing this while we are gone,” Butch said as he took the phone out of her hand.
“Give me back my phone, Dad.”
“I believe this is my phone since I pay the bill for it every month,” he marched back into the house and put it on the kitchen counter. He then checked to make sure all the appliances were off and the doors and windows locked. He sat behind the wheel and smiled at Beth.
In the back seat sat his daughter even more sullen than she usually was.
“Did we turn off the coffee pot? I don't remember doing it,” said Darlene Powers when they were about an hour away from their home.
“Yes, dear,” said her husband, Curt. “I turned it off. Even if we left it on, it turns off by itself.”
“Are you sure you are alright driving? Travis can take over if you are getting tired.”
“Darlene, what is wrong with you? I've never seen you so nervous.”
“I'm sorry, Curt. I am nervous. This is such a long way for you to drive. You are still recovering from the stroke, I just wonder if you are rushing things.”
“The doctor told you yesterday there was no problem with my driving. Don't you believe him?”
“Let's just change the subject. Who wants to count cows?”
“No Mom,” said Angie, “you always win that game. You can count faster than any of us.”
“Why don't we count the bugs that are splattering on the windshield?” Travis piped in.
“Travis you are so annoying. Now I'm going to be looking at those bugs all the way to Camden Corners,” said Angie.
“Before we check into The Merryweather, we'll stop at a car wash. We wouldn't want your mother's friends to think we brought the whole insect population to Camden Corners with us.”
“After the car wash can we get something to eat? I'm starving.”
“Have a cookie, dear. That will tide you over until we get there.”
“He has eaten them all, Mother. I don't know where he puts all the food he consumes,” said Angie.
Darlene thought about last year when she made the trip by herself. What a difference a year made. She was driving a borrowed BMW and worrying that the girls would know she was broke. It didn't take long before she told them the truth.
Curt was doing so well. He still had some weakness, but he was almost back to normal. She trembled thinking of him lying on the floor of the garage after the stroke. She thought she'd lost him. Even after he regained consciousness, his whole left side was paralyzed. Once the shock of what happened to him wore off, he was determined to overcome the paralysis. He worked diligently and now, almost eighteen months later, he was well on the road to a complete recovery.
The family was doing better financially too. Curt was rehired in his old job. As part of his therapy, he began building furniture. It had been a hobby for several years and with all his other activities in the community, he had given it up due to lack of time. His friends and neighbors had been so helpful to him and the family, he began making small tables and bookcases as a thank you. His work was very professional and before he knew it, he was building hutches and china cabinets for those people plus others who had admired his efforts. He was amazed at the price people were willing to pay. The people who purchased his furniture thought they were getting a bargain, so everyone was happy.
Curt knew how lucky he was. The ordeal had not been easy on his family. He would be forever grateful to them and to all those who saw him through his fight.
They arrived at The Merryweather. Angie and Travis were impressed with the resort. They thought it was going to be a stuffy old place when they heard the building had been around for a couple hundred years. They were happy when they saw there were many kids their age splashing around in the pool. Others were water skiing and jet skiing in Camden Lake. They later found out many of them were residents of Camden Corners and were more than willing to have the visitors join them.
Beth and her family were the next to arrive. Beth was determined her daughter was not going to ruin their vacation. She was tired of trying to cajole Megan out of her constant horrible mood. She introduced the entire family to Darlene's family. Cody and Angie hit it off immediately, they talked about freshman year and how happy they were it was behind them. They agreed to meet at the pool after they unpacked. Brady caught a glimpse of a some boys playing catch by the lake and was halfway in the cabin to find his swim trunks until he realized they were still in his suitcase. His father caught him by seat of the pants.
“Hold on buddy, let's get everything in order and then you have the whole week to do whatever you want.”
Travis carried in the luggage and noticed the girl they introduced as Megan. If she's as good at smiling as she is at sulking, she could be cute. There were many other cute girls by the pool, he wasn't going to waste his time with one that obviously preferred to be alone.
Monica came running down the sidewalk. “I'm sorry I'm late,” she cried. “The baby was sleeping. She can be pretty grouchy when she doesn't get enough sleep.”
Unpacking duties came to an end when Beth and Darlene saw Monica with her daughter.
“Meet Merry Lynnette Lawrence. We named her after The Merryweather. Since we met here, fell in love here and conceived her here, we thought the name fit.
“Monica, I can't believe you have a baby,” said Beth. “You look like a natural. Where is that handsome husband of yours?”
“He's unloading the van. I can't believe how much one little baby needs. We could have stayed at our house, but we thought it would be much more fun to be here with everyone. Here comes Jonathan now.
“It's so wonderful to see you again. Beth, you look fabulous. Darlene, Curt looks great, how did he manage the drive here? I know you were worried.”
“He did fine. I worried for nothing. I'm good at that,” she laughed.
“Here comes Brenda with her new family,” said Beth. “What a doll little Allison is. Brenda looks so much healthier than she did last year.”
“Seth is a handsome devil,” said Monica. “I'm so happy the billionaire is out of her life. Look at the difference in her in just a year's time.”
“That is quite a difference, she's pregnant,” said Darlene.
The friends hugged and squealed like school girls. They introduced the men and they all hit it off. The only unhappy member of the entire group was Megan Haley.
Everyone was settled in their cabins. Brady Haley had joined the boys playing ball. Cody and Angie were riding jet skis. Three year old Allison Barton was introducing her favorite doll to baby Merry.
“Allison is going to be a wonderful big sister to the new baby,” said Darlene. “Do you know if this one is a boy or girl?”
“No, I'm scheduled for an ultrasound when we get back. I honestly don't care. Last year at this time, I never thought I'd be a mother with a baby on the way. I owe it all to you girls. You made me see my life was a train wreck.”
“Brenda you would have seen it for yourself before too much longer. I think you were ready for someone to suggest you were a very unhappy rich lady,” said Monica.
“What did you do with all those skinny clothes?” said Beth. “I was so jealous, I couldn't have gotten my left leg into some of those dresses.”
“You really look great, Beth. I didn't want to mention weight since the subject was not a pleasant one last year,” said Brenda. “Everything except the outfits I bought right here in Camden Corners went back to Randall along with the fancy luggage. The only thing I saved out of that marriage were the mink bedroom slippers. I knew my mother would love them and I was right. She wears them every morning no matter what the weather.”
“You look better too, Brenda. I'd forgotten how pretty you are with a little meat on your bones.”
“My mama has meat on her bones?” said Allison with a surprised look on her face. They all laughed at the adorable little girl.
“Megan doesn't look very happy,” said Darlene. “I know those teen years can be brutal. Angie went through a rough patch too.”
“A rough patch, I could handle. Megan has been like this for well over a year. I was afraid Butch was going to disown her just before our trip here. He has reached the end of his rope with her. The latest pity party is because he took her phone away and left it at home. I have spoken with her counselors and our pastor and everyone tells me she will snap out of it. I hope they are right. Luckily, she has kept her grades up through it all.”
Travis had been watching Megan from the pool. There was something about her that intrigued him. He had seen his share of pouty girls through high school and tended to ignore them. He got out of the pool, grabbed a towel and went over to the bench where she was sitting.
“The kids around here are awesome. Wouldn't you like to get your suit on and come in the pool with us?”
“I'm good,” Megan said without smiling.
“Who are you peeved at? The world or just one person in particular?”
“What's it to you?”
“Hey, I didn't want to come to this little town either. It was something my mom wanted and after what happened to my dad, I try to see their side of things. I'm glad I came, I think it's going to be fun. I'll leave you alone, if that makes you happy.”
“What happened to your dad?” Megan had heard her mom say something about her friend's husband, but she was too busy texting to pay much attention.
“My dad had a stroke. It happened when we were having an argument and I thought it was my fault. Mom and Dad both said it wasn't, but I'll never get over feeling guilty.”
“Why would it be your fault? That's a medical condition, not something someone else causes.”
“You don't understand. I told my dad I hated him and the next thing I knew he was on the floor. I thought he was dead.”
“I hate my dad too. He made me come on this stupid trip and then he took my cell phone away. This place is lame. I just want to go home. Why do you hate your dad?”
“I don't hate him anymore. About three years ago, I was looking at bikes. My dad told me when I turned sixteen he would help me buy one. He said he would give me half the money if I saved the other half.
“I mowed lawns, I shoveled snow, I saved all my money from my paper route, I even baby sat for the little monsters who lived down the street. It took me over a year but I finally had enough. My birthday was only a month away. I would go to the bike shop every day after school just to make sure the bike was still there.
“I came home one afternoon and Dad said he wanted to talk to me. He had been laid off from work two months before and couldn't find another job. It never entered my mind that it would be a problem for him to come up with his half of the money. When he told me he was going to have to renege on our deal because he had to help Angie buy a car for college, I couldn't believe it. I threw a fit. I told Dad I hated him, that he was a lousy father. That he couldn't even keep a stupid factory job. I started walking out of the garage when I heard him fall. I turned around and he was on the floor. One side of his face was drooping and his arm looked like it wasn't even attached to his body. I yelled for my mother. She called 911 and the ambulance came. Mom rode with him in the ambulance, and Angie drove us to the hospital.
“He wasn't dead, but when I saw him, I thought he would never recover. He looked almost grotesque. He couldn't speak. He just looked at me and I thought it was because he blamed me for what happened to him. It didn't matter, because I blamed myself even more.
“It took him many months to recover. He has made almost a full recovery because he worked so hard at it. His physical therapist said he had never seen someone so determined to return to the way he had been. I was proud of my dad. I watched as he struggled day after day. He was always cheerful and never complained about the pain he was in. Ed, his therapist showed me some exercises to help him with and I worked with him after school and on weekends. I start college this fall and I'm planning to go into physical therapy. I want to help people like my dad.”
Megan was fascinated with Travis's story. “Did your dad ever forgive you?”
“He never blamed me in the first place. Money was pretty tight, but once he started to build furniture and was able to start work again, he promised he would buy me a motorcycle.”
“Did he buy it?” Megan asked.
“No, after all that happened, I decided I really didn't want a motorcycle after all. It reminds me of all my dad went through.
“I didn't mean to get into all that, Megan. I'll leave you alone.” Travis got up to walk away.
“Travis, thanks for telling me that. Maybe I'll get my suit on. It's getting pretty hot out here,” she smiled the biggest smile Travis had ever seen. He was right, she was very cute.
Beth looked up and saw Megan running toward her. She was afraid something terrible had happened until she saw Megan smiling.
“I love you, Mom,” she said wrapping her arms around the back of her mother's neck. “I'm changing into my bathing suit. I'll see you later.” Butch was at the putting green with the other men. She ran up to him and hugged him too. “I love you, Dad,” she said before she disappeared into the cabin. She stepped out in her bathing suit and ran to the pool.
Beth was tempted to tell her not to run, but held her tongue. She tried not to keep glancing in her daughter's direction, but she couldn't help it when she heard laughter coming from the pool.
Bruce walked up to his wife. “Do we dare hope we have our little girl back again?”
“I have my fingers crossed that the phase has ended.”
Travis asked his dad if he could borrow the car. He was going to check out the college here. The local kids told him they had a fine medical program. He and Megan were going to get some information. Travis thought he might transfer to the university after his freshman year and Megan could begin after graduation next spring.
Megan told her mother, “Of course, I'm going to study nursing. You know I have always been proud that my mother is a nurse and I want to follow in your footsteps.”
Beth had never heard her say that before, but was very pleased to hear it now.
“Bruce, I don't know what it is about Camden Corners, but it truly is a magical place.”
“I agree, I like the Powers boy, he knows what belts were invented for.”
“The fearsome foursome has decided to make this little vacation a yearly event. How do you fellows feel about that?”
“Funny, we figured you would be suggesting that and we are all in agreement. We are booked for the same time next year.”