The Road Not Taken
She was playing soccer on the front lawn with two rambunctious little boys when they drove up.
She kicked the ball so it rolled gently towards the younger of the two boys standing in front of a small net. The toddler made a slow motion fall onto the ball only to have it squirt out from underneath him and roll into the net. His older brother yelled in outrage and fell on top of him and a pint-sized wrestling match ensued.
David sprang out of the jeep and strode over to the miniature combatants. Taking one in each hand he lifted them up and swung them around by the straps of their jean overalls to squeals of delight. "Come on you two donkeys," he said laughing. He carried his precious cargo over to the jeep as Josiah got out.
"Uncle Dave, Uncle Dave!" yelled the older of the two boys.
"What is it Kevin?"
"Whos the man?"
"Hes a friend of Grammas."
"Can we stay?"
"Whattaya say we go see if your Mom and Dad are home yet?" Suggested David as he seat belted his nephews securely in the jeep.
"Mommy home, Daddy home," yelled the younger boy smiling and clapping his hands with delighted anticipation at his parents return.
The two of them stood watching as the jeep back out of the driveway. David smiled and raised an arm to wave while the two little boys yelled "Bye Gramma," as they drove off. The day suddenly seemed very still and very quiet.
He took a deep breath and turned to face her.
She smiled at him a little tentatively.
The awkwardness between them was paralyzing.
She was as beautiful as he remembered. Her eyes seemed to sparkle as she smiled at him. She hardly seemed to have changed at all. A few lines in her face maybe, the once dark shoulder length hair was short now and had turned salt and pepper gray. He didnt see that though. He saw only the vibrant young widow he had loved all those years ago.
"Theyre Beccas boys," she explained suddenly. She hadnt expected to feel so nervous.
"Lively pair," he replied nodding. "Whered they get the blonde curls?"
"Of course "
"Wont you come in?"
Realizing the reason for his reluctance, "Hes not here right now. He went to Albuquerque early this morning to meet Ben and Becca. Theyre due home on a flight from Denver at noon. Thats why the boys were here " Her voice trailed off. She suddenly felt a little foolish talking on and on like that. At the mention of Bens name, she had noted a flicker of something in his eyes. It isnt helping matters, she scolded herself, reminding him of Ben!
He looked down and then away and then back at her not sure of what to do or say.
"Please come inside."
He nodded, "Alright." She turned and led the way into the house while he followed.
She held the front door open for him and closed it behind him. "Would you like something to drink? Coffee? Tea? A scotch maybe?" she asked looking up at him with a playful little smile.
He had to smile at her offer. "Coffee would be fine." The tension between them seemed to ease a bit.
She walked down the short hallway and on into the kitchen at the back of the house. He paused a moment, looking around trying to re-acquaint himself. So much had changed. The layout was familiar but now the home he remembered that was once so attuned to growing children was now one where adults lived. The horizontal row of wooden pegs he put on the wall in the short hallway for coats and school bags was now gone. The walls, once all beige paint, were now wainscoted with rich wood paneling and colorful wallpaper. He took a couple of steps down the hall to get a better look into the living room. The room that had always looked as if it had been arranged by a windstorm was now neat and tidy. It had been fully redecorated. The rugged furniture had been replaced with more stylish pieces. He scanned around the room slowly taking in all the changes until his eyes came to rest on the far wall.
He walked carefully across the room his eyes focused on the wall full of family photographs.
The first picture was familiar. It was of the three older children and their parents before Mark left for Viet Nam. The next was a picture of the four children. Thirteen-year-old Emily was seated between David and Becca, holding her baby brother expertly in her lap. The baby was maybe six months old. Josiah couldnt tell for sure. The older children wore wide happy smiles. Emily looked every bit a young lady. Becca, as always, wore the sunniest smile. Davids smile revealed missing teeth. The baby looked a little bewildered.
His eyes moved along the wall. There were wedding pictures of each of the sisters and their husbands and more recent photos of them with their families. The most recent photo was of David and his new bride. There was a second photo that must have been taken at Davids wedding because David and Sam both wore tuxes. It was of Rosemarys children. The four of them stood arm in arm, the sisters in between their taller brothers. Emily, like David, a little more slender than Becca, but otherwise both women looked very much like their mother had at their age except for their fathers blue eyes. To the left of the two sisters stood David. If it was possible, he was even more handsome than his father had been. His warm brown eyes were bright with the excitement of his wedding day. To the far right was another set of those same warm brown eyes. This young man easily stood three inches taller than his brother did and except for the eyes, he shared no other physical feature with the other three in the photo.
Josiah had to smile to himself, what the photo showed him warmed his heart despite all the traumatic events of the last few days. The brothers and sisters were all laughing. It was obvious they were very happy, that they loved each other very much and there was no doubt they were family. The picture brought sudden unexpected tears to his eyes.
The last photo was a head and shoulders shot of Rosemary and Craig Morales. Rosemary was wearing a veil. It was their wedding picture.
Josiah closed his eyes for a moment. He concentrated on suppressing the emotions the picture was eliciting so he could use his professional skills to assess the man in it. Opening his eyes, he saw a man more than five but not ten years older than his wife. He was of average build. His temples were salted with a little bit of gray. The arm he held his wife with was gentle and respectful. It was their eyes that told him the most. They were filled with such love as they looked at one another.
She had never looked at him that way. He closed his eyes again, this time in an attempt to ward off the pain.
He jumped and turned suddenly at the sound of his name.
"Coffees ready," Rosemary said quietly.
He turned quickly away. "Be right there," he replied, his voice strained.
She turned and walked quickly out of the room and back down the hallway to the kitchen. Once in the privacy of the kitchen she stopped and took a deep breath as she pressed her hands against her cheeks. The look on his face! Hes been looking at the photographs on the wall. Dear God the look on his face! She took another deep breath. Pull yourself together Rosemary! This is a lot harder for him than it is for you!
When Becca telephoned her last Saturday morning to tell her about the chance meeting with Josiah the afternoon before, she had turned Rosemarys world upside down. Becca, as much as she loved her younger daughter, Becca was a scatterbrain and had given no thought to what she was saying when she suggested Josiah visit her. Rosemary had never told the young soldier from so long ago she was expecting his child and now fate had taken that out of her hands. If Josiah were the same man, the shock would be terrible for him and the hurt unimaginable.
There were only so many places in town where he could be staying. Rosemary had telephoned first the hotel and then the motel but by then Josiah had left his room. Where would he go? She wanted to find him before he found out about Sam. She had driven out to the motel that afternoon and was waiting there for him when he showed up at her door.
When she could wait no longer, she left a message with the motel manager, to have Josiah call her when he got in. She returned home to find Sam waiting for her. She knew from his face, something serious had happened while shed been out. He told his mother of the visitor he had had while she was gone and for the first time in fifteen years they talked about his father.
They talked long into the night. Sam admitted to having been curious about his father for a long time. They looked at the few photographs there were of the young soldier; hammer in hand, leaning sideways against the newly finished jungle gym; fishing with his brother and sisters; splashing them at the lake; reading to David. This man he didnt know, who looked so much like him, had run away from him a few hours before.
She marveled to herself, how much like his father her youngest son was. He had a quiet strength and despite what had just happened he seemed remarkably calm. Like the young man from 25 years ago, it took a lot to upset her son . their son. She knew, regardless of how calm he may seem, he was fighting a battle with his own emotions. Sam was determined find out what he could about this man who was his father and he would do whatever it took to meet him.
Their talk had been interrupted in the early hours of Sunday morning when Becca telephoned in hysterics. Ben had been seriously injured breaking up a bar fight a few hours before. Sam stayed with the boys while Rosemary took Becca to hospital to be with Ben. The family physician on emergency duty at the small district hospital recommended a specialist look at the broken arm. The required surgery to set the arm was made more complicated by the concussion. He wanted to send Ben to Albuquerque, but an appointment couldnt be made before Monday.
Then a few hours later Ben and Becca were on their way to Denver. The "patron" from the Roadrunner, whod injured Ben, had arranged for an appointment with a specialist in Denver that evening. The boys would stay with their grandmother and uncle until their parents returned home.
It wasnt until well after shed finally gone to bed that it occurred to Rosemary who the "patron" might be.
The boys found it disconcerting to wake up the next morning and find their parents had left in the night. It took some time for her grandsons to adjust so it wasnt until early afternoon before Rosemary was able to visit to the Sheriffs office.
Officially, Brenda Santiago would not say who the prisoner was, but when asked, her eyes answered Rosemarys question in the affirmative.
Brenda had suspected who Josiah was. The resemblance was, after all, striking. She and Emily Christianson had been two members of a close knit group of friends all through school and in turn she had spent almost as much time at the Christianson home as her own. She had met the young soldier that had rented the Christiansons apartment years ago. Elena, Griff, and Lundy had all been in high school with Sam. Even if Griff and Lundy failed to notice the resemblance and put the pieces together, Elena certainly would have filled them in. But that was as far as it would go. Brenda had a strict policy. The Sheriffs office was not in the business of passing along rumours. Cuatro Esquinas was their home and their job was to protect the people who lived here.
Josiah followed Rosemary into the kitchen a few minutes later and took a seat on a stool at the counter, keeping the counter between them. The little bit of time had given each of them a chance to compose themselves.
She poured them both a coffee. "Still black, three sugar?"
"Ah, no sugar," he replied ruefully, "middle age has proven unforgiving."
"I know what you mean," she said with a faintly wry smile as she set the coffee mug in front of him.
"Rose you look wonderful."
She looked into his eyes and smiled, "Thank you." He still had it, that honest open manner that had made him so easy to talk to. "So do you."
He waited patiently while she returned the sugar to cupboard. She then picked up her mug and blew on the hot liquid before taking a sip. She then set her mug back down and looked across the counter at him. Seated as he was, they were nearly the same height.
"Im glad youre here." She reached for his hand. He pulled his hand away before she could touch him.
She was visibly startled by his reaction.
The awkwardness between them returned.
"Lets take go sit outside on the patio," she suggested.
He paused after he stepped out the back door. The once open space of ill-kept grass that was the backyard was now fully landscaped. The shabby wooden fence was gone and instead the yard was now bordered with extensive gardens, a mixture of shrubs, perennials and small trees. There was brilliant colour everywhere. Still standing in the back corner was the jungle gym hed built so many years ago.
"Its beautiful," commented Josiah.
"Gardening was Craigs hobby."
"Im surprised the jungle gym is still here."
"The children loved it so much, Craig couldnt tear it down. Even after they all outgrew it, Craig suggested we keep it for the grandchildren. He had to replace the odd board but otherwise its stood up well over the years."
She led him along a stone pathway to a patio a short distance from the house. They sat down at the small, square garden table at two sides next to one another.
"David and Becca look well," he said. His mind was groping for a way to open the subject that stood between them with almost physical form.
She smiled and looked down at her coffee, "Emilys fine too, they have all grown up to be fine people."
" including Sam?"
She took a deep quivering breath and looked up at him with gentle, sympathetic eyes, "Josiah I am so very sorry. I never meant for you to find out this way."
He could feel a wave of anger rising within inside of him. "Was I ever supposed find out?" He was surprised by the bitterness in his own voice.
"Josiah please let me "
"Please what?" he demanded. "I dont understand. I wanted to marry you, remember? Never a word, NOT ONE WORD!"
He stopped himself. He stood suddenly, jostling the table and slopping coffee from the mugs onto the tabletop. He strode angrily away from Rosemary across the lawn to the far corner where the jungle gym stood. He grabbed the edge of the raised platform with both hands and leaned into it the structure, head down fighting to bring his anger under control. He straightened suddenly and pounded on the platform with both fists. "Damn!" he swore as he gritted his teeth against the pain that shot through his injured hand. He turned swiftly and leaned back against the structure cradling his bandaged hand in his good one. He closed his eyes and took a couple of deep breaths as he fought for control once again. The painful throbbing of his injured hand gave him something to focus on while his anger dissipated. God be with me now. Take my anger and give me the courage to face what to about come with an open heart and without fear. He repeated the short prayer like a mantra until his anger subsided. After a few minutes he pushed himself away from the wooden structure and stood up straight again. Then he took a deep breath and walked back across the lawn to the patio.
Rosemary had retrieved a cloth from the kitchen to wipe up the spilled coffee and then she sat and waited patiently for him to return.
"Rose Im sorry," he apologized without looking at her as he sat down. "I promised myself I wouldnt fly off the handle."
"Youre more than entitled Josiah."
Looking at her again, he asked, "Rose what happened? Why didnt you say anything? Did you marry because of the baby? I would gladly have come back, you know I would have." A thought suddenly struck him. "Tell me does my son " he stopped and swallowed quickly before asking, " does my son carry his name?"
"No." she replied firmly, almost urgently, "Sams name is Christianson."
"Then when ? Why ?" He shook his head as if the action would help clear the confusion from his mind. Christ, I shouldve taken Chris up on his offer of back up, this is killing me. He looked at her with troubled eyes. "Rose, I dont understand. Why didnt you tell me?"
The look in his eyes almost made her weep, but there would be time for that later. "Josiah, I meant to tell you so many times." She reached over and took his uninjured hand and held it between her own two hands. This time he didnt pull away. She needed desperately to touch him, to provide him some small degree of comfort. This was going to hurt.
"I only began to suspected I was pregnant when your first letter came. In that letter you described the heavy burden life had handed you. You suddenly had so much to take on; Hannahs care; understanding her illness; setting up a home and treatment for her. I knew you well enough to know you couldnt turn your back on your sister and that you wouldnt compromise with anything but the very best you could do for her."
"I also knew, though you didnt mention specifically in your letters, that you had to deal with the fact that you and your father hadnt reconciled before his death." She shook her head at the memory. "You were a very capable young man but even for you, that was a lot to cope with all at once. I didnt think it was fair to add to that burden right away, so I decided I would wait until I was sure to tell you."
"Until you were sure?"
"I was just thirty-five and though I was healthy, two years before I had become pregnant when Mark was home on leave. I miscarried in the first trimester. There was the chance there would have been nothing to tell so I waited."
She tightened her hold on his hand. "There was so much in your letters over those three months that at first I thought Id been right in giving you time to deal with everything. By the end of my fourth month, Hannah was settled in her new home with new doctors, you had a job and were actively participating in her treatment. You had worked hard to set up a caring and nurturing environment for Hannah and set yourself up in a supporting role in her life. Telling you would have upset yours and Hannahs lives again."
Josiah shook his head. "Rose thats a poor excuse at best. Hannah and I moved to Kansas City and then Denver. Moving was difficult for her but she adjusted and shes been better off for it in the long run. You and I, we would have found a way to make it work."
"Josiah, I was very fond of you but I didnt love you enough for marriage."
He pulled his hand away suddenly. His eyes became guarded as his emotional shielding went up again. He watched her warily.
She looked up into his eyes before continuing in a quiet voice. "Josiah, you once told me God sent you Mark. Well, God sent you to me. What you didnt know, what you didnt see was that I was crumbling under the burden my life had become after Marks death. I wasnt used to working full time and caring for three children. The load was too much for me. Everything seemed to be working against me. I had my grief and the childrens grief to deal with. Every minor house repair became a major one. The car never seemed to run. Josiah some nights we had breakfast cereal for supper because I was either too tired or too disorganized to get the grocery shopping done. The second day you were here, I got home from school and there was supper on the table and the homework was done. I almost wept with relief."
She paused a moment turning her eyes from his and looking off into the garden. He watched her now as she focused on her own memories of twenty-seven years ago. "You came out of nowhere, tall, strong, with a air of quiet reassurance. You made it so easy for me to lean on you. You picked up the load around here with seemingly no effort at all."
"You provided the children with a father figure, especially David. He was only a few months old when Mark was posted to Viet Nam and hed only seen his father three times when he was home on leave. David needed what you gave him, a positive male role model. You taught him such simple things like how to swing a hammer and that it wasnt sissy to help with the cooking and laundry. The girls benefited too. You took the kids fishing, you taught them how to swim. You provided them with some of the experiences they were missing and you provided me with a little time to myself and a chance to come to grips with life after Mark."
She shook her head now at the memory and turned her head to look at him again. "It wasnt just the children and the chores you took away the loneliness. That was the worst part of widowhood. I had an adult person to share my day with again. You threw me a lifeline when I was drowning. I became very fond of you, but, for me, it wasnt enough to build a marriage on."
He turned hurt eyes towards her. "But you you took me to your bed." he said quietly. He bowed his head just enough to stare sightlessly at the table. "I was in awe of you. Back then, I would never have had the confidence to make the first move."
"Josiah, there isnt just the loneliness of the spirit. There is the loneliness of the body too. Ive always found a lot of comfort in physical contact. I knew it was wrong but my body missed Mark too. The reassurance of strong arms around me, the intimacy of a kiss, the little quaking sensation from a caress Your caring manner carried over into your love making as well. You were a thoughtful and generous lover. You put my needs ahead of your own. It had been so long since Id felt that special. It was weak and it was selfish of me and very, very unfair to you."
There was a long quiet moment between the two of them. She wiped a stray tear away with the back of her hand. He sat quietly starring off into the garden as she continued. "When you left, I found I had gained the strength to carry on. The emptiness that grief had brought was gone. I felt capable again. I was able to move on, able to cope with the childrens needs again. Even after I realized I was pregnant, I felt the joy a parent should feel at the prospect of a child not panic or fear."
He continued to stare out into the garden for a long moment before speaking. "That doesnt answer my question Rose," he said evenly.
"Your next letter came. Youd registered at SFU. You were finally pursuing a dream. I was afraid you would feel obligated to abandon it if I told you."
"Still not good enough Rose!" He turned to face her again. His voice was tinged with hurt and his dissatisfaction with her answers.
She didnt reply right away. He could see it in her face. She was struggling with something in her mind. After a moment, "There was something else your letters."
"What about my letters?" the bitter undertone persisted.
"Just a minute." She rose from her chair and walked back down the stone pathway into the house.
After she was out of sight he put his elbows on the table and dropped his head into his hands. This was agonizing. It was six days now since he discovered he had an adult son. The shock of that discovery had caused him to seriously doubt himself as never before. Life was supposed to be journey full of experiences and discovery but at fifty wasnt he supposed to have at least a few of the answers? On top of everything else hed had to relive the most painful times of his life and those early difficult days with Hannah. He was tired, tired of the pain, the emotional turmoil and the sense of loss. God help me! Now he felt like a fool. Rose had never said she loved him, he had just assumed. Hed been too young and too much in love to realize that, even for a woman like Rosemary, an invitation to her bed did not necessarily mean a long-term commitment. But that still didnt give her the right to hide his son from him!
He sat up straight again and brushed an angry tear aside when he heard the patio door slide open. She returned with a letter in her hand and a book under her arm.
He looked at the faintly yellowed envelope she held out to him.
He took it from her he looked at her, confusion in his eyes. "You kept my letters?"
"Not all, just a few, I didnt know why, until now. Read it," she urged gently.
He took the letter from the envelope and opened the pages.
It was dated July 17, 1977, ten months after he had left Cuatro Esquinas
My Dearest Rose,
From your last letter it sounds like its been a very busy summer so far for both you and the children.
Tell me with all three children playing both baseball and soccer, why do you have to manage both of the girls baseball teams as well? You could simply be one of those parents who only go to watch the games and give yourself a break for a change.
I know, you cant do that, can you? I suspect youll manage just fine.
I miss you all very much. God love them, I hate to think how much the children have grown and what Ive missed these last ten months. You should be very proud of them. Despite all theyve had to handle it sounds from your letters as if they are thriving.
I hope somewhere in your busy schedule you are finding time for yourself my beautiful Rose. Emily is old enough and responsible enough to look after Becca and David for an hour or two.
I write my final set of exams in three weeks. Hopefully Ill do well. These courses along with credit for my experience in the service will mean Ive completed my first year. It seems like such a long road ahead, working full time, school part-time and spending time with Hannah every other spare moment.
Rose I feel at such a loss sometimes. I entrust the doctors and nurses with my sister and pray they keep open minds and receptive spirits to new ideas for her. I continue to work with the doctors, learning their scientific techniques and then using those techniques along with my own skills. I nurture her mind and her spirit with love and affection and prayer. These are the only weapons I have to fight this illness that has taken the joyful, graceful sister I once knew away from me.
But Rose, night comes and I lay awake thinking of how so little progress was made that day and my heart is fearful. I comfort myself in the faith that there will be improvement if not tomorrow then the next day. The doctors are always cautioning me against being too optimistic. They seem to have so little faith for a profession that relies so much on the human spirit. Then I put my dissatisfaction with the doctors and with the day in Gods hands and turn my thoughts to you. I imagine the warmth of your body against mine, the scent of your hair and softness of your kiss. These thoughts comfort me and I carry them in heart to help me through each day. I miss you so very much.
I have faith that what Im doing is right for my sister and that I will return to you and the children very soon. For now I must rely on Gods love and infinite wisdom to carry me through this.
Be well my lovely Rose.
Love always, Josiah
He read the letter through twice and then slowly set it down on table in front of him. He was stunned. He sat very still, his eyes never leaving the letter. "Were they all like this?" he asked finally.
"Not in the beginning," she replied quietly.
After a moment she leaned forward and put her hand on the letter. "The man who wrote this letter was seriously considering giving himself to god."
He tore his eyes from the letter to look at her. He couldnt disagree with her.
"You had told me that you had once intended to become a priest. More and more your letters sounded as if your heart made that decision, your head just hadnt realized it yet. I didnt know what the right thing to do was anymore. In your last letter, you wrote that you had finally made a decision. That "God had shown you the way" and that you wouldnt be coming back." She shook her head ruefully. "I took that to mean you had decided to enter the priesthood again."
"I knew you too well. Your obligation to a child would keep you from such a commitment. I couldnt marry you and I didnt want to hold you hostage from something you felt so deeply about with a child. So I kept silent."
He shook his head slowly in disbelief. Like so many people when they loose every weapon, every tool they have to fight with, they turn to faith to sustain them. And so had he. Hannah needed so much and he had felt so unprepared and so ill equipped to help her. He had called upon his God again to help him and over time he had slowly regained the faith hed lost when Mark had died. But hed had no idea that this was the message he was sending Rosemary.
He had never again considered the priesthood. It was unlikely such a vocation would have allowed him the freedom to continue his active role in the care of his sister, a role that provided him with a very precious link to her. Later on he found he had a knack for profiling, a "gift" as it were. Such a gift would not have been recognized, let alone developed, in the structured world of Gods service.
"Sam was born the June before that letter came. I met Craig the following September, we were married at Christmas. He was also widowed but he and his wife never had any children. Craig was a good man. A loving and patient man and he was a good father to all of the children." Under different circumstances you two might have been friends, thought Rosemary as she paused once again.
"I never kept the truth from the children. Emily was old enough at the time to realize Sam was your son. Becca and David figured it out eventually. When they asked why you never came to see Sam, I told them the truth, that I never told you about him."
"Does he know?"
"Yes, he knows. Hes always known that Craig was his stepfather and that Mark had died years before he was born. But it wasnt until he was nine years old when he suddenly realized he didnt look very much like the others. I think that was the first time he really understood what that meant. I told him about you, about serving in Viet Nam with Mark and your coming to stay here with us. I explained about Hannah and why you left and that you never knew about him. He seemed content with that at the time."
"Here," she pushed the book she had brought out with the letter toward him, "I thought you might like to look at this."
His eyes dropped down to the book that lay before him. It was a baby album.
There was a frame in the centre of the front cover. Inside the frame was a picture of a smiling baby boy his son.
He looked at the picture for along moment. Then he carefully opened the front cover to the first page. Samuel Peter Christianson was born at 10:10 a.m., Sunday, June 19, 1977, Fathers Day. He weighed 8 lbs., 9 oz. There was a brief comment written in Roses hand under the his newborn picture, "Sam: a joy to his mother; adored by his sisters; and hailed by his brother as the bestest baby brother ever!"
Josiah turned the pages of the album slowly, savouring each one.
There was the expected photographs taken at each birthday as well as all the little events in between that go into making up childhood experiences.
A picture when he was three, holding up a sunfish on the end of fishing line. The caption read "First Catch". He smiled proudly from under the peak of a too large baseball cap. The arm holding the fish was raised so high that his shirt was hitched up in the front enough to show off a round pink tummy above the waistband of his shorts.
One photo when he was eleven years old standing with two other boys and a girl beside go-carts theyd built. Each competitor was proudly holding his or her trophy from go-cart competitions held as part of Fourth of July celebrations.
There was a picture of him playing bass guitar and singing backup into a microphone with another guitarist. He and three other teenagers had formed a band, "Four on the Floor."
He played football in high school, linebacker. Hed been named MVP his senior year.
Hed been an average student academically, capable of much better but lacking the interest to put out the effort.
There were photos of him with different girls he had dated throughout his high-school career. His first "real" date; dressed in costume with his Sadie Hawkins date; and his high school prom date. Josiah had to envy his son his genuine smile and relaxed arm around the shoulders of his girlfriends. He showed none of the awkwardness with girls that Josiah had initially felt when learning North American social customs at the age of twenty.
Throughout the album were a number of pictures of Sam and David fishing. Early on it had become a yearly ritual for the brothers to take a fishing trip together. After David, older by seven years, had gone off the college, they became fishing weekends. David had wanted to pass something he loved, something that Sams father had taught him, on to Sam.
The last picture was of a rather slender twenty-one-year-old in the dark blue dress uniform of a marine.
Josiah tried to speak but found he needed to clear his throat first. "He was very happy growing up, wasnt he?"
"I think so," replied Rosemary with a gentle smile.
"Did he ever think about me, want to know what I was like?"
"I didnt think so because up until last Saturday night he never asked about you again. After you were here we talked about you for a long time. Hed wondered about you a lot while he was growing up but he didnt think he could talk to me about it."
Josiah turned back to the picture where the whole family had posed with Sam at his high school graduation. Josiah stared at the picture for a long time. Everything he had once thought he wanted was in that photograph. A wife, a happy, healthy family
"Josiah, its not an excuse, there is no excuse for not telling you, its only an explanation and I know it doesnt help but I am truly, deeply sorry."
He continued to stare at the family a picture nodding slowly in reply.
"Josiah? Are you alright?" She asked, rousing him from his thoughts bringing him back to the moment. The look on his face was worrying her.
He smiled sadly and raised his eyes from the photo to look at her. "You were right Rose."
She looked back at him questioningly.
"You were right. If you couldnt marry me, what sort of a life would it have been? What options would I have had? Live here and try to cope with Hannah on my own. I barely managed with the best medical science had to offer as it was. Or live in a bigger place where there was better treatment for her and be just some guy who came to visit him once in a while? This way he had a happy family life to grow up in without the confusion of a part-time other father and I was able to give Hannah the best I could without the guilt of short-changing a son " With that his voice broke. Enough was enough. He covered his eyes with his bandaged hand and finally gave way to the feelings that had been building inside of him.
"Josiah, dont," pleaded Rosemary as she got up from her chair and went to his side. Bending over she wrapping her arms around his shoulders and held her head against his. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she held the big man as he sobbed quietly grieving for the lost years with his child.
After a while their tears stopped. He brought his good hand up to rest on top of one of hers. They stayed there, like that, for a long time.
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