February 27, 1924
I am alive and well, thank God. I had finished my shift three hours before the collapse of the mine shaft and was asleep. The noise woke me; I rushed to the site but there was nothing anyone could do.
The disaster has played right into Eula’s hands; she has told Caroline that I was killed in the mine. My little girl thinks I am dead.
So many of my friends are dead. Carl Blake, Joe White. John Meadows, my next-door neighbor, has left three young children. What will become of them now?
I cannot stay here. I would be pleased if Louisa could find a suitable room for me. I am more than happy to take whatever sort of work I can find. I have a letter of reference from Col. Roberts.
I hope to hear from you soon.
Saturday, June 25
Tyler’s wedding day dawned warm and muggy. I was glad the ceremony was being held in the morning hours. Pete wasn’t glad – Kevin had been the designated driver for his and Pete’s foray to Ty’s bachelor party, and Pete had come home happy and half-sloshed. They had both enjoyed themselves immensely. Ty was right – Kevin had been a hit.
I asked Jeff to wrap my ankle tightly, intending to leave the crutches at home. At 9:00 we loaded everyone into Dennis’s and Toni’s cars and drove to the Army-Navy Club. The wedding was being held outdoors, then we’d go inside for a brunch reception.
The venue was lovely – lush green grass that we Californians envied, with white slat folding chairs separated by a walkway strewn with rose petals. A string quartet was on our left, playing a piece that I didn’t recognize but thought was Mozart.
As family, we had reserved seats near the front. Pete whispered, “This is Spartan compared to Kent Fisher’s wedding.”
“Ty probably spent a quarter of what Kent and Graham did.”
Pete gave me a sly grin. “Darn. I was hoping to see another doggie wrist corsage.”
I spluttered a laugh.
One of the groomsmen showed Sarah and her family to their seats, directly opposite us. I caught Sarah’s eye and waved; she waved back.
Toni, Aunt Marilyn and Blair’s mother were escorted down the aisle one by one and seated, with Dennis, Cliff, and Blair’s stepfather trailing. Then the groomsmen began walking in. Fortunately they came in pairs, rather than singly. They all looked sharp, in black tuxes and white cummerbunds.
Blair and Tyler walked in together, clutching each other’s hands. Blair looked pale but calm. Tyler looked relaxed and happy.
What a relief.
After the hoopla of the past week, the ceremony itself was mercifully short. The minister said a few words, Blair and Tyler repeated vows, and they exchanged rings. When it was time for Blair to say, “I do,” we all held our breath. When he did there was a palpable sigh of relief from both sides of the aisle.
The minister pronounced them married, and Blair and Tyler turned. Tyler blew kisses tous, and they led the procession out. The groomsmen escorted the mothers down the aisle and we were all free to head to the reception.
We snagged a table as near to the buffet line as possible, then loaded our plates. We hadn’t eaten breakfast, and I was ravenous. Waiters came around with mimosas and we began to eat.
Doug had hung back a little to speak to Henry – probably checking on Tanner’s condition. When he sat down Dad said, “Tanner?”
“He woke up but then began having withdrawal symptoms, and they’ve sedated him. They’re going to try to get him through withdrawal there in the hospital so they can observe him for seizures during and re-evaluate him afterwards.”
Sarge said, “I’d like to see him.”
Doug said, “We’ll go after the reception.”
We thoroughly enjoyed the reception. The food was excellent and the mimosas kept coming. They weren’t very strong, which was for the best. We chatted with Sarah and her sister, and exchanged phone numbers.
Tyler and Blair remained glued to each other’s sides for the rest of the morning. When it was time for them to leave, we went outside and threw rose petals at them. Marilyn and Cliff were driving them to the airport to catch their flight to Heathrow then Oslo.
We didn’t stay much longer. Dad, Doug and Sarge went to the hospital to see Tanner; the rest of us went back to the house. Jeff, Kevin, Pete and I changed clothes and walked to the Metro station one more time.
We were going to say goodbye to Mom, and find our great-grandfather.
We located Emory’s grave first.
WORLD WAR I
MAY 17 1890
AUGUST 16 1981
I thought of the man in the photo, with the half smile and the relaxed stance, now resting beneath my feet. I laid my hand on his stone. “I promised I’d find you.”
Kevin said, “Wesley must have added the last line.”
Jeff asked, “Why doesn’t Mom’s headstone have a last line like that?”
Kevin counted the lines. “Both inscriptions have eight lines. Maybe that’s the maximum.”
We stood silently for a minute. I didn’t know what Kevin or Jeff was thinking. I was thinking of Emory, brokenheartedly writing letters to his little daughter that he’d never mail.
At least he’d had Wesley.
After another minute Jeff sighed. “Let’s go.”We went to Mom’s grave again and gathered around it. Kevin, in the middle, put an arm around Jeff’s and my shoulders and pulled us in; Jeff and I wrapped arms around Kevin’s back. We leaned on each other, once again thinking our own thoughts.
I missed her so much, and I didn’t even remember her. It was no wonder that Jeff and Dad were still grieving.
Finally, without a word, Jeff turned away. Kevin followed. I laid my hand on the stone one more time and whispered, “See you in my dreams.”
About a half-hour after we got back to the house, Dad, Doug and Sarge returned. I said, “How’s Tanner?”
Doug said, “He’s one sick kid. He was shocked to see us.”
Linda asked, “Is he still sedated?”
“Somewhat. He’s groggy.”
Dennis asked, “What did you say to him?”
Sarge answered. “I told him we loved him and we didn’t want to watch him self-destruct.”
Dad said, “I reminded him of the things he’d been good at as a kid. That he shouldn’t compare himself to his brothers. That he has value to us in his own right, not only because he’s Dennis’s kid.”
Doug said, “I told him that when he was released from the hospital, if he wanted to get out of Virginia, he could come to Jacksonville. I’d help him find a job and stay straight.”
I asked, “What was his reaction?”
Dad said, “He didn’t say much. He cried some.”
Dennis said, “Thank you, Dad. Thanks, Dave and Doug. I don’t know what else to do for him.”
Sarge said, “You’ve done everything you can. I reckon it’s your turn to sit with him now.”
“Right.” Dennis stood. “You all will excuse me? I’ll be back in a while.”
Sunday, June 26
The next morning we were up early, loading Denny’s SUV for the trip to Dulles. We said goodbye to Denny at the airport and hauled our bags into the terminal.
We made it through security without glitches. I used my crutches to garner sympathy; we were able to commandeer a transport cart and ride in style through the terminal. We reached the gate for the flight to San Diego first, and left Dad, Jeff and Val there. Kevin, Kristen, Pete and I rode on to the gate for our flight to LAX.
I checked the time – it was 6:30 in California, but I knew she’d be awake – and texted Mel, who was picking us up. Through security, at the gate. Flight on time.
Super. Ammo has missed you. See you in a few hours.
I said to Kristen, “Back to work tomorrow.”
“I know. I don’t think I’ll be very productive.”
Kevin grunted. “I hope things are under control at the station.”
Kristen asked Pete, “Do you get to sleep in?”
“No. I have to be in the writing center for tutoring hours at 9:00.”
Kevin shook his head, looking out the window at our airplane. “Why are we doing this?”
I said, “Flying?”
Pete and I looked at each other. Pete said, “We’ve talked about quitting and moving to Alamogordo. We’re not ready yet.”
Kristen raised an eyebrow. “Have you?”
I said, “Don’t tell Liz. But I’m not going to grow old at YRL.”
Kristen gave me a half-smile. “Don’t tell Liz. But I doubt that I will either.”
Pete asked Kevin, “Do you think you’ll make six more years on the force?”
“I don’t know.”
The gate agent announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll now board our first-class passengers. Please have your boarding passes ready for inspection.”
Pete stood up and slung his bag over his shoulder. “Let’s go home.”