A Fool Stumbles Into Love Ch. 04bycarvohi©
Imagine a little girl, a precocious happy pretty little girl, in her very own backyard on her very own tricycle pedaling around and around on the gravel driveway where her daddy parks his car. It's late March and the wind is howling. It's that time of year, one of the waning days of another cold dark winter, and 'the old man' wasn't quite ready to surrender his icy grip to the warm embrace of spring.
The little girl, a raven haired emerald eyed beauty has on her heavy wool coat, knit mittens, and tight fitting little cloth hat, earflaps protect her from the brisk chill that whips across the yard. Her powerful child's legs are pumping the pedals for all they're worth. There's nothing like a new tricycle on a gravel path, on a blustery day, on one of the last days of winter.
Faster and faster she goes, around and around on the driveway. Tiny hands hold the handle bars. Occasionally, she pretends to warn oncoming traffic of her approach, just like her daddy does in the big car with his big horn. She reaches to the right and squeezes the tricycle's wee traffic bell. Look out other tricycles; driver coming through!
Overhead the heavy low old hanging branches of an aged maple waved their ponderous arms carelessly in the frigid late afternoon air. When summer comes those broad limbs will be covered with protective leaves that will shield the little maiden from the harmful rays of the hot summer sun, but as yet no leaves have grown to provide that caring shelter. The old maple is still somnolent, sound asleep; waiting for spring's ripening time. It's still March, still winter.
Then a particularly powerful gust of wind muscles its way across the yard. The low hanging limbs of the old maple groan; bend and, curl in response, but this time one of its aged old branches fails to return to its natural habitué. The old limb, partly rotted with age, riddled with insect detritus, cracks, breaks, and falls.
The little black haired cherub below barely hears the threateningly powerful burst of the breaking limb. Down it comes in a swift and deadly arc; down it sweeps, crashing fiercely in response to the wind, its age, and gravity, down it crashes on the innocent cyclist below.
The limb, by all normal standards would be considered small, manageable, but for a tiny child of scarcely twenty pounds, it is a behemoth, a leviathan. The pulpy colossus swings down and lands with a powerful crump on innocent legs, vulnerable thighs, unprotected knees. The cherub lets out a terrifying scream; first in surprise and fright, but soon in horrifying agonizing pain. Her little legs have been crushed under the awesome power of nature's unforgiving fists.
Her mother hears the crash, then the pitiful screams. She dashes to the door. Aghast she sees her hearts desire, her splendid reason for being, splayed pathetically under the merciless limb. She screams in terror, and runs to her only child; her single precious claim to the future.
She rushes to the scene of holocaust. Unable to remove the formidable object from her helpless child she flees inside and calls 911. The difference between her angel's life and the brutal claim of a portion of cold sodden late winter earth is rooted in the time it takes for the paramedics to arrive.
With speed the medical personnel arrive. The offending limb is cut away. The hapless lass is bundled into a waiting ambulance and hurriedly trundled off to the nearest hospital.
For days her fragile life hangs in the balance; by a single slender thread her soul dangles above the maelstrom. The shock, the pain, the trauma, the horrendous injury all take their toll, but the energies and dedication of noble doctors, tireless paramedics, and compassionate nurses draw the lamb back from the abyss.
What's left is the pathetic remnant of a once vibrant vivacious little human being. Doctors are brought in, specialists consulted, tests, medications, surgeries, and therapies are recommended. The bills mount.
For two young parents with no insurance, no savings, and few prospects the task ahead is daunting. Their little girl, their single claim to immortality, has become a wasted piece of human debris. More than a few doctors and nurses glance downcast at the delicate, misshapen little angel. They shake their heads in despair. Her chances are thin, the future grim. She'll need constant, around the clock care, medicines, and therapy, and money, lots of money.
There is no money, resources, all resources are gone. Dad takes two jobs. Mom has to find work, but if mom's out of the house struggling to find the revenue to cover the exorbitant costs of pain and recuperative medications there'll be no one home to provide the care their little darling desperately needs.
Across town, twenty miles away, another man's daughter, another little girl has run afoul of a bad crowd. She's learned the lessons of bad company, and earned the reputation that follows. Pregnant and alone except for her widower father she faces the hard choice of putting her baby up for adoption; selling her tiny boy to strangers to escape the approbation of a hard hearted condemnatory community. Or the alternative, the more arduous choice of keeping her little creation and raising and loving him herself, a choice perhaps more daunting than giving him up.
With her father's support she chooses to keep the precious little life she created. She keeps her baby.
But her decision drives her to distraction; unforgiving neighbors, high minded clergy, hypocritical teachers, and gossipy peers ostracize the young mother. She drops out of school to raise her baby. Still she clings to hope. She earns her GED, attends community college and obtains a nurses license, but no one will hire an ill-famed woman, a girl with the reputation of harlot.
Her only recourse is to move away or find someone willing to take an inexperienced ill starred young nurse.
The destitute young family with the crippled little girl is informed of the needy young caregiver. A compact is made, an arrangement reached. The little girl will receive a nurse's care, but the young nurse must be allowed to provide simultaneous care for her own, by then, six year old boy.
The nurse, the impoverished parents, the crippled little girl, and one singular preschool boy are all flung together. For better or for worse their planets have aligned.
For six months, from April though November, the young nurse provides the care. The overwhelmed parents provide a dingy downstairs bedroom and what money is left after the bills are either paid or renegotiated with a soulless bank.
And the little boy; the little boy is himself a lonely isolate. He appraises the piteous little fledgling, and assumes the role of guardian, hero, partner, fanciful protector, and restorative angel.
For six months, all through spring, summer, and into the fall the little boy shares his time, his life, his regenerative vigor, and his imagination with a fragile angel always on the edge of eternity. The tiny raven haired cherub gives the lonely little outcast a reason to face each sunrise. He learns to care, to protect, to deflect, and offer hope. The little girl gives him purpose.
For the sweet broken little girl the boy is a gift from God, her reward for innocence and perfection. He gives her a reason to live. He becomes her beacon, her light, her incentive to carry on. With his support, his nurture, his vision she retains the will to bear the unbearable, endure the unendurable. Through him she acquires strength, resolve, resiliency.
Together, with nothing but their imaginations and a few discarded pieces of cardboard, string, and a handful of mislaid Popsicle sticks they carve out a fantasy world all their own. She becomes his lady fair, his princess, his Maid Maureen, someone to be adored and greatly loved. She is the good fairy who must be guarded and protected from the evils that surround her; the grotesque trolls disguised as sympathetic therapists and the fiendish gnomes pretending to be caring doctors.
For her he becomes prince charming, her noble hero; her protecting knight, the courageous Cal, the champion who gives her hope, the determination to persevere, to go on.
They live in a frail little world of make believe. It is bounded by an old bed, a cluttered kitchen, a dirty sofa, a gravelly drive, and a rickety old gazebo. The gazebo becomes her castle, its rails her walls, the gravel drive its protective moat. Throughout the summer she sits in a wheelchair while her Arthur, her Lancelot, fends off dragons, demons, and reality. They cling tenaciously to their make believe empire, their pretend kingdom. Through their belief in their dreams and that innocent child's love they have for each other they are able to defy the grim realities of each pain filled day.
One day new doctors come, this time with an ambulance. A charity has taken up the little girl's cause. She is to be taken away, far away to a hospital that specializes in the incurable and the impossible.
The little girl is uprooted from her painful but protected cocoon. One day while young Cal is away at school she is separated from her child guardian, her hero still too young to be called even a youth. She cries, she pleads, she begs, but her soul, her savior must never see her again.
With time, through pain, years of repeated surgeries and countless hours of therapy the little girl forgets the tragedy of the falling maple, she forgets her magical kingdom, and she forgets her brave undersized hero. She grows, she fights, and she survives, but the misery, the suffering, and the love she experienced is all lost, blanketed in forgetfulness.
Then what became of the little boy; that stalwart little soldier, the proud and brave little knight who'd battled all the forces of evil for his ebon haired green eyed fairy queen? He was told the angels had come for his maiden, that God had summoned her home. He cried, he ranted, he railed against that God who had stolen his darling away. But she was gone; gone from his life forever.
In time he forgot too. He forgot the long spring, summer, and fall when he was the hero, the knight, stalwart defender of the helpless and weak. Like the little girl, he grew up.
Who could have dreamed that years later, twenty years in fact, that same little boy, now a young man, would have a best friend badger and cajole him into going to a tavern to meet some insipid girl; a trite, superfluous piece of tinsel. Yet that simpering insincere young woman brought a friend, another young woman, a young raven haired emerald eyed beauty; a sweet precious darling with a long forgotten past, a deeply guarded secret history of pain, of suffering, and of loss.
After twenty years and an eternity of confusion; two lost children who were just twenty miles distant for so many years, stand on a rickety old porch and wave as the young woman's mother drives away to take a promised short vacation. Both young man and young woman are oblivious of their common past; yet they stand on that old porch, hard against an old gravel drive, above the abandoned footers of a long discarded raggedy old gazebo, just outside a downstairs bedroom that had once been the scene of so many shared horrors and miseries.
There they stand. See them now. They're waving at Maureen's mother while surrounded by the artifacts of their long forgotten child's fantasy civilization. What happens next? What does the future have in store for the young maiden and her one time prince?
The couple were standing on the old porch, Cal had his arm around Maureen's shoulders, "We've got the footers." He looked at the sky. It was late, but not so late they couldn't squeeze something in.
He smiled down at Maureen, "How would you like to go out in the boat for a little while?"
She rested her head on his chest. She took one hand and wiped his cheek affectionately, "OK."
Neither changed clothes; they walked down and jumped in Cal's grandfather's truck. It wasn't far to get to Cal's to get the boat. They hooked it up, and sped on down to the put in. The water looked calm, serene, under an azure sky.
Cal had the boat in the water in no time, and soon they were gliding down the river. Cal was desperate to show Maureen the old cemetery; the same one he'd shown Sandy. He wanted to show her the graves before Sandy or any of her friends let it get back to Maureen that Sandy had already seen it. No way was Sandy going to 'one up' Maureen on anything; no sir no 'show ups' for Sandy.
Maureen sat in the rear of the boat with Cal while he steered it down the channel. She let her left hand rest idly on his thigh. She was enjoying the late afternoon August sun, the crisp spray as it splashed up on her face and arms. She took delight in the warmth and comfort that came from just being with Cal; besides she had a hunch where he was taking her.
Sure enough they got down to the quiet sandy strip near the secret cemetery. He drove the boat up on the sand, jumped out, pulled it up further, reached in and handed Maureen out of the boat.
He'd been in a hurry and forgotten a blanket, "I'm glad we're able to do this. I just wished I'd remembered a blanket."
Maureen accepted his outstretched arm, clambered out of the boat, and pressed herself against him, "That's OK, blanket's not important, I just like being with you."
Her comments always made him feel bigger and taller than he really was, "I like being with you," he said.
He hesitated then added, "I know it's only been a few days, but I can't fathom what it was like before there was you. Does that make any sense?"
Maureen, arm around his waist, gave him a tight little squeeze, "Not at all. I feel like I've known you all my life."
Cal didn't say anything; he leaned down and kissed the top of her head.
Maureen had to break the moment, "Tell me, have we ever met before?"
He blew the comment off and pulled on her hand, "Come on. I want to show you something."
Maureen knew what it was. She answered, "Sure."
Together they walked along the narrow sandy path. They were careful to avoid the sharp spikes of the razor grass. He led her to the end of the path up to the four graves. He pointed, "Look! There!"
Though partially obscured by grass and sand she saw them right away. She left his side and walked up; leaning down when she got close enough she wiped away some of the sand and muck that covered the inscriptions. Though they were worn and weathered she could still make out the words, "They're quite old. Looks like two parents and two children."
Cal got up behind her and squatted in the sand, "Yeah, that's what it looks like to me."
Maureen read and re-read the dates on the stones. She read the brief commentary on each one, "It's sad isn't it. It's obvious by the dates, both children predeceased their parents."
Though Maureen couldn't see him he nodded, and then added, "I thought that too."
Maureen spun around slightly allowing her butt to rest on the soft sand, "You come here very much?"
Cal was still staring at the graves, "Not often, sometimes when I want to get away I come here. I wonder who they were, what they talked about, maybe what they wanted. I mean what the children might have wanted, and what their parents might have wanted too."
Maureen had been watching him. He looked pensive, maybe sad, "Your mother and father are dead aren't they?"
Cal didn't take his gaze off the graves, "My father's not dead. He lives in town. Has a nice house, a wife and family." He stopped talking.
She asked, "Your mother? What about her?"
Cal looked at Maureen, "My mom's dead; died when I was in the second grade."
Maureen looked back at the graves, "Do you remember much about your mother? When your father and mother divorced?"
Before Cal could answer she added, "Don't say anything if you don't want to. I don't mean to pry. Please don't take it in the wrong way."
He touched her arm, "You're not. I just remember she was young. I thought she was beautiful. She was a nurse you know."
Maureen fumbled around a little to be turned facing him better, "I didn't know."
"I think my mom had kind of a hard life. I was illegitimate you know. The man who got her pregnant comes from a pretty rich family. People in town sort of blamed my mom for me; they made it harder for her."
Maureen watched his expression grow increasingly sad as he talked, "My mom once told me there's no such thing as an illegitimate child. God made us all with something in mind."
Cal was watching her talk, but she wasn't sure he was listening.
She added, "I never went to church much, but I read the Bible a lot when I was little, sort of had to I guess. I kind of wasn't supposed to grow up, I've kept it up since I've gotten older."
He gave her a thoughtful, then a bemused look, "Has it done any good? Reading the Bible?"
Maureen continued, "I think God makes each of us with a purpose in mind. There's a reason we're here. He puts us here, and we're supposed to find out what that purpose is; then we try to live up to it."
Cal didn't feel that way, "I believe in God Maureen, but I don't think he cares what happens to us. He just made us so he'd have something to do. Like he build a set of trains, and now he just watches them go round and round."
Maureen took his hand and put it in hers, "Oh no you're wrong. That clockmaker stuff is all just bullshit."
Cal didn't interrupt Maureen, but he thought it was the first time he'd heard her cuss.
She continued, "God made us because he loves us. I mean God is perfect, he doesn't need to do anything, but we sort of complete him. Then again, we have free will, and we live in a world where things can just happen, like for no apparent reason."
Cal took his hand out of Maureen's. He looked skyward, "I'd like to believe there's a God up there. I mean, you know, one who cares whether we live or die."
"No," Maureen corrected, "It's not whether we live or die, we all die sometime, it's how we live, what we do with what we've been given, and how we handle the things that happen to us."
Cal felt a little put off, a little crusty at what Maureen was saying. It didn't fit into a lot of what he'd convinced himself to believe, "Then why does God make bad things happen to good people? My mom was good, but people were mean, then she was killed, killed by a drunk driver."
Maureen could see he was having some problems with what she was saying. She wasn't sure what to say. She wasn't even sure of her own faith sometimes. She did know that out there, out there somewhere was all this love, enough love for everyone, "I know God doesn't plan good or bad things. He can't make people be nice. He doesn't prevent bad things from happening, but he offers us choices. And I believe, I really truly believe, he gives us things when we need them. We just might not see them when they're there."
Cal wasn't mad at Maureen, but the things she was saying were making him angry. He didn't mean to lash out, "Oh yeah. Give me one example in your life when God intervened. I mean when he gave you something when you needed it."
Maureen grabbed his hand back and squeezed it real hard, "You're here now aren't you?"
"What like I saved your life or something?"
Maureen felt a little hurt. He didn't understand, and she wasn't good at explaining this stuff, "I don't know exactly. You might have. I was alone; then you showed up."
He interrupted, "Like you needed to beat somebody at pool?"
She wasn't going to quit on this or on him, "The first time I saw you in the tavern. It was like I looked in your eyes and saw you. Really saw you, who you are, who you were."
She could tell she had his attention now, and thought things were getting too heavy. She giggled, "I mean there you were, standing there, all stupid, gullible, and needy." She reached up and squeezed his cheek, "I could tell right away you needed somebody. You needed somebody to tell you what to do. You needed a shepherd, and I guess I needed a sheep."