Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Chapter XIX


I awoke when I heard a male voice biting a curse off and then gasping in pain.  Sitting up I saw it was Jude over by the lit fireplace trying to stand up.  “What on earth are you doing?” I asked him quietly.

      “Didn’t mean to wake you Dovie. Go back to sleep,” he gasped.

      “What time is it?”

      “About nearly four if my watch can be trusted.” He tried to stand again but couldn’t.

      I got up, more than a little stiff myself, and let him wrap his arm around my shoulders so he could stand up without putting any weight on the hog bit leg.  “Almost time to get up anyway,” I told him.  “Geez, it is chilly isn’t it.”

      “Yeah.  I had the sweats and when I woke up it was cool-ish all right.”  I helped him hobble to the sofa and then turned to leave.  “Where you going?”

      “Need to check the kids.”

      “Already did. I lit a fire up there first. I had to wake up Paulie ‘cause the little girl woke up and saw me and got scared.”

      “Mimi?”

      “Naw, the older one … Tiffany.” He sighed. “They had all crawled into the same bed like a bunch of puppies.  I’ll see if I can swing some blankets somehow.”

      “You don’t need to swing nothing,” I told him, my tone telling him I thought he was being sweet to the little kids.  “Remember, we packed everything here from our house in Florida and barely took anything with us when we left.  I brought back what was left and salvageable from the duplex we were living in out in Phoenix.”  Adding a bit of useless trivia just because it popped into my head I told him, “We paid three months in advance on the rent or the landlord would have probably gone in and thrown it all out.”

      Jude nodded.  “I’ve seen the boxes down in the basement but haven’t messed with them.”

      “There’s boxes in the attic too; cedar trunks with old stuff in them and things like that.  I’ll just need to hang stuff outside to get the smell of mothballs out of it.  And that’s also where Jack and Jay’s clothes are.”

      “You don’t need to do that,” Jude said referring to my words about finding him some clothes.

      “I know I don’t have to. I want to.  Is that a problem?”

      He looked at me in the firelight and came at it from a different direction.  “You’ve … you’ve changed.”

      I shrugged at the obvious.  “So have you.  We all probably have to one degree or ‘nother.”

      “I suppose,” he said carefully.  After a moment he said, “The kids went back to sleep and I locked the old nursery grate over the fireplace.  They should be fine.  You should go to bed.”

      “I almost don’t know what a real bed is.” When he looked a question at me I said, “I got so used to sleeping sitting up in the driver’s seat of the car it almost feels strange to try and sleep horizontally.  And I suppose you threw this afghan over me.”

      “Guilty,” he admitted so tired that his eyes didn’t want to stay open.

      I don’t know why but I started humming, then singing, an old lullaby that Mom had sung as long as I could remember ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aw9B49epS_M )

Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Hush now don't you cry!
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, That's an Irish lul-la-by

 

Over In Killarney,
Many years ago,
My Mother sang a song to me
In tones so sweet and low;
Just a simple little ditty,
In her good old Irish way,
And I'd give the world to hear her sing
That song of hers today.

 

Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Hush now don't you cry!
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, That's an Irish lul-la-by

 

Oft, in dreams I wander
To that cot again.
I feel her arms a-hugging me
As when she held me then.
And I hear her voice a humming
To me as in days of yore,
When she used to rock me fast asleep
Outside the cabin door.

 

Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Hush now don't you cry!
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, That's an Irish lul-la-by

 

Oh I can hear that music
I can hear that song
Filling me with memories
Of a mother's love so strong

Its melody still haunts me
These many years gone bye
Too ra loo ra loo ral
Until the day I die

 

      Half asleep Jude said, “That’s nice. Your momma used to sing that to get us all down for naps.  I remember.  Sometimes I’d give her a hard time just so she’d sing that to us.”

      Quietly so as not to spoil the mood I told him, “Sounds like something you would do.  You were a stinker Jude Killarney.”

      A strange note in his voice, he asked, “Is that my name?”

      Confused by yet another sharp turn in the conversation I asked, “Why wouldn’t it be?”

      He sighed.  “According to Clew my adoption isn’t legal or valid now that Mom’s lies are out in the open.  The man I thought was my father is the one that signed the release of parental rights.  But if he wasn’t my biological father then it doesn’t count.  It invalidates my adoption.”

      Angry at Clewis for a lot of reasons but this unnecessary cruelty quickly boiling to the top of the list I told Jude, “Clewis is jealous. He’s always had a problem because of how rough the divorce was between his mother and Uncle Roe and she made it worse by saying things that she had no business saying that Clewis can’t seem to let go of even after all this time.  Jealous people say things to be hurtful. Uncle Roe considers you his son and you call him dad. I don’t see that anything else needs to be said.”

      “But you never considered us your cousins.”

      “It isn’t like that exactly,” I told him with a sigh tinged with a little shame.  “I tried.  All the drama when I was little made it hard to … to connect all the way … but I should have done better … I will do better.  There’s all sorts of excuses I could give but none would be good enough.”

      “If I’m not really family why am I staying here?” he asked sounding a little lost.

      “Because you are really family of some type and because Uncle Roe put you here which is good enough for me, but if that isn’t enough, you’ve already proven I can trust you.  You should just let it go Jude.”

      Dejectedly he said, “Easy for you to say.  You’re not all …”

      “… alone?” I finished for him when he hesitated realizing he was more than a little off in that respect.  “We’re only as alone as we chose to be.  I lost Dad and my big brothers when I shouldn’t have.  I lost Mom when I shouldn’t have.  They tried to take Paulie away from me when we were first put into quarantine.”

      “They did?”

      “Yeah.  Didn’t last but a day or so but it was enough that I decided I’d never just let that happen again without a fight.”

      “Is that why you collected those other kids?  So you wouldn’t be alone?”

      “No,” I answered.  “That just sort of happened.  They needed … someone.  I was there. Other kids came and went in the group I was taking care of but those upstairs were the core group and the only ones that were left after the others had all been sent to relatives.  Paulie, Tiffany, Bobby, Lonnie, Mimi, Corey … they’re mine to take care of for whatever reason.  I didn’t even have to go looking, they were just there and as a result none of us are lonely.  Maybe God gave me to them so that they wouldn’t be the ones alone.  Hard to say.  All I know is that even if you feel cut off from everyone else, you can choose to be one of us … you don’t have to be lonesome or alone.”

      “You sure Dovie?  I feel pulled in two different directions.   I was all set to … to see if the military would take me or go look for work someplace else if they wouldn’t.  But now you’re here … you and those kids … I … I don’t want to go quite so much because … because maybe you need me around a little.  Or maybe it’s an excuse not to go because here is really where I want to be in the first place.”

      “Then don’t go.  Stay for a while and see if you like it.  That other will still be out there if you find you want to go more than you want to stay.  Stay through the winter at least, let things settle out some.”

      In a confused voice he asked, “Why do you care if I stay or if I go?  I can’t remember us ever really getting along.”

      “We never didn’t get along either … my parents just didn’t want me hanging around those older kids you were always out running around with.  Mom and Dad said that some of those boys wouldn’t believe I was a good girl or that I was younger than them and might not treat me very nicely, so I avoided that whole pack … and you because you were always with them.  It’s not like we lived here all the time you know. But you were there when I asked for help with Reynolds … you were more help than Uncle Roe was.”

      After a pause Jude asked, “Will you sing that song again Dovie?  Just once?”

      Just once turned into three times and by the end of them he had fallen into a fitful but much needed sleep.

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