Recovery of a Hero Ch. 06byRoadbug©
Chapter 6: A Friend's Loss
This story is a work of fiction only. Any chance resemblance to actual people or events is purely accidental.
Over the next few days, I had a lot of visitors. All of them came by to see how I was doing and to leave cards and such. Erica was right. I would be busy for awhile just answering all the cards and letters I had gotten while I was in the hospital. Even Dar's Aunt and Uncle came by a couple of times.
Finally, I got up the courage to ask Dar why he'd done what he did to save me.
He said, "I don't have any children and most of my family has moved away from here. I don't get to see my nieces or nephews any more either. You remind me of them and I am willing to die to protect them. I feel the same about you. You gave me more than just help when I first came here. You gave me hope again."
"There's something else that I want to tell you, " he said. "Risking your life for some one else is a gift. A person who gives up his or her life to save someone else has given the greatest of gifts. You don't repay that. I was willing to die to save you and that was my choice. I gave it freely and don't expect or want you to repay me. You are my friend and I wouldn't want to live without that friendship."
"George was my friend in Iraq, and I gave him his life because he gave me his friendship with no strings attached. I couldn't leave a friend to die and if I had it to do all over again, I'd only change one thing. I would have ducked and avoided those 2 bullets. That hurt just a bit."
He slowly walked over to the desk where his new computer was and opened a drawer and took out a small box. Coming back over to where I was sitting, he handed me the box and said, "This was what I got for going after George. I want you to have it now."
I opened the box and saw a medal inside of it. I asked Dar, "What is it?"
He said, "That's the Navy Cross. They gave it to me for saving George. I want you to have it. It doesn't mean as much to me as you and the rest of your family do, so keep it as a remembrance for someone you helped. If nothing else, you can tell your children about it some day."
I looked at the medal again and said, "Dar, I can't take this. I know what these mean to a military man and I can't take it. George got a medal too for what happened, and he put it on the old fire place mantel. He said that it reminded him of what he'd almost lost in Iraq."
"It should," Dar said. "That's part of what a medal is. A reminder and a notice to others that you did something stupid and survived. Most people who earn them did something that a normal person wouldn't even think about doing. But to a soldier, that also means that you did something worthy of respect."
"I can't take this, Dar. It's yours and you should keep it."
Dar said, "I don't need it. I haven't been a real soldier since George was in diapers. I've been out of the military for over 20 years now, and I don't need something like this to remind me of just how stupid I was to run out where someone could and did shoot me. If I had thought it over, I probably wouldn't have done it."
"I think you were brave and knew exactly what you were doing, Dar." I said. "You knew what you were doing and you knew the risks. You're not fooling me a bit about that. You did it because you're a brave man, not because you're a stupid man."
"That's a matter of opinion youngster." He said. "But be that as it may, I still want you to have it. Now you have something that really matters to remember me by when I'm gone. Keep it and remember. Remember an old man who thinks of you as the daughter he never had."
When he said that I got tears in my eyes. Here was somebody who was willing to die to protect me and he gave me the medal for bravery that he got saving George's life. He had told me that he thought of me as a daughter and that he loved me more than his own life and had proved it.
Crying, I just nodded and took it to my little room and put it on my dresser with the lid open so I would see it every day. I would never forget Dar as long as I lived and I would make sure that he new it every day for as long as he lived.
After that, we just sat and watched T.V. for awhile. It must have been about noon when Shelly and Sandra came in. They asked us why we were still in here, and Dar said, "Oh, we were just watching T.V. I didn't want to do anything today anyway."
I smiled and said, "Me to. I just don't feel like doing anything today except being lazy."
"Well," said Shelly, "you have a bunch to do anyway. We have plans for you 2 and your not getting away from us today. We're going out today.
"Yea," said Sandra. "The cousin twins are coming over and we're going out. Your both coming too."
"So what's the special occasion?" I asked.
"You really don't know?" asked Shelly. "It's Dar's birthday today. George told us several days ago, and now we're taking him out. You have to come to, because we know he won't go anyplace without you. So get dressed."
Sandra nodded and then grabbed my arm and started to drag me to my little room to get ready. George came in and did the same to Dar.
When we were ready to go, we went out front. There was a bus waiting for us when we got outside. Coach Coulter was driving, and I saw the rest of the squad inside. Sandra pushed Dar's chair up to it and he got up and slowly climbed the stairs. I followed behind him helping him keep his balance.
When we got on, I saw that the bus was full. There were more than just the junior cheerleaders squad. The Varsity squad was there to, and some others I didn't know well. I'd seen them in middle school but I didn't know them by name.
The cousin twins were in the second seat back, and the first was empty and the one behind the drivers seat was also empty. I sat down in front of Ellen and Nancy with Dar and said hi and they said hi back.
Sandra and Shelly got on and sat behind the Coach. "Get the chair put away?" she asked.
"Yes," said Sandra. "It's folded up and in the baggage compartment."
"Good", said the Coach. "Now we're ready to go."
I asked, "Where are we going?"
"Ain't telling so just wait," said the Coach. "You be patient and we'll take care of the rest. We got plans for a special birthday boy and we ain't telling what they are."
"How'd you get permission to use this bus?" I asked.
"I don't need permission. It's mine bought and paid for. I can use it if I want, so don't worry about it."
That shocked me. She bought her own bus? I asked her, "Why'd you buy a brand new school bus?"
She said, "I got tired of getting junk for you girls so I went and got a decent bus. The ones they were giving to me were all worn out before we even got them. After the last one broke down the first time I used it, I just went and got one myself."
"Wow," I said. I didn't know that high school coaches made that much."
"We don't," said the Coach. "I just do this because I want to. My father left me a bunch of money and when my husband passed away, he left me more. I coach because I want to, not because I have to."
"Well, I 'm glad you are our coach." I said." I don't think there are many who would by a bus just to use for the students to go to games and such."
"Maybe not," She said, "But I love my job. I get to help kids and I get to go to football games and basketball games and get paid for it. That's something else I got from my father. He loved sports, and he'd take me to all kinds of games. I learned to love it too and I love to work with kids, so I went to school and got my certification and got this job. My husband loved it too, and he'd help with events and such all the time."
I thought about how much she sounded like Janny. She didn't have to do what she did either. She helped at the hospital because she wanted to, not because she needed the money.
We had a trust account from our parents that paid us each month and that would continue until I was 18. Then we'd get the full amount in the trust divided between us and would decide what to do with Dads business and the property. I didn't ever have to work if I didn't want to.
"Now I know why Coach Coulter said it wouldn't be a problem with you going to games and such," I said to Dar. "If she owns the bus, she can decide who goes with the squad."
Dar said, "I guess having your own bus helps sometimes if you do this kind of thing for a job."
"I guess so," I said.
Dar smiled and looked out the window while we continued.
I turned sideways on the seat and started talking to Nancy and Ellen. They were great to talk to and always had something to say about almost anything.
"Nancy", I asked, "Can you tell me what's going on?"
"No." She said. "I promised the coach not to. Nobody is to tell you and Dar."
"Now that's mean." I said. "I didn't even know until this morning that it was Dar's birthday and nobody told me about any plans for anything until Sandra and Shelly showed up."
"That was Coach Coulter's plan," said Ellen. "She didn't want anybody to tell either of you. She wanted to make sure that it was a surprise for Dar, and if you didn't know you couldn't tell. She said we all owe him something special for what he did."
"I agree about that." I said. "If it wasn't for him, I'd have drowned."
"That's why the coach said we all owe him." said Ellen. (I'd finally learned to tell them apart. Nancy was right handed and Ellen was a lefty). "She said that you are going to be real important to the Cheer squad because you're a gymnast."
"At least I'm good for something." I said with a grin. "I've been taking gymnastics classes for 6 years. My mom got me started in it by teaching me her stretching exercises when I was 5, and working with me until I was 7. Then she took me to her old coach and signed me up for instruction. I stopped for awhile because of watching Dar, but I plan to start back up again when the doctors say it's all right."
"Cool." said Nancy. "Can I join too? I bet if I sweet talked dad, he'd say o.k. to it and if he's o.k. mom will be too."
"I want to do it too." said Ellen. "If you go I want to go too."
"That would be fun." I said. "The 5 of us together would be great. Tell you what, come over to my place tomorrow or the next day and I'll teach you how to stretch. Dar will help too, I bet. He knows some good ones that even my mom and my teacher didn't."
"Where'd he learn something like that?" asked Ellen.
"He told me that he studied different types of Martial Arts when he was younger. He started when he was 10, he said. He also said that flexibility was just as important for that as for gymnastics even if the exercises are a bit different. You still have to stretch before you start a work out, or you'll hurt yourself."
"I wonder if he'd teach us anything like that?" asked Nancy. "I always wanted to take Karate classes but mom thought I might get hurt."
"You could ask him." I said. "He might, but I bet he'd ask your parents first to make sure it was alright for him to teach you. He asked Janny and George before he taught me those stretches."
"Let me ask first." said Ellen. "If I can get permission, I bet you Uncle Bobby and Auntie Nan would let you too. They always let one of us do something if the other is allowed to do it."
"That might be fun." I said. "I bet we could all take lessons from Dar at the same time. It'd help me get back in shape too after over a month off from my exercises. I'm going to be way out of shape for awhile."
"Wouldn't it be way cool if the whole Cheering Squad got involved?" asked Nancy.
"I don't think Dar would do that for so many." I said. "He might teach you 2 and Sandra and Shelly because your friends, but I don't think he'd want to teach 15 at once. Especially since he doesn't know them well."
"He told me when he was teaching me those stretches that a teacher of Martial Arts is responsible for the conduct of those he teaches," I continued. "If they use the skills badly, then it's the teachers fault for teaching them."
"That sounds strange." said Nancy. "How could it be his fault for something I did?"
"Dar says that part of teaching someone how to fight is to teach them when you should and when you shouldn't. You only use the skills to protect your self or others, and never start a fight. If the teacher doesn't teach that first, then he isn't teaching, he's just training a thug."
"Now that makes sense, kinda." said Ellen. "Your responsible for teaching ethics if you teach something like Karate."
Dar interrupted us then. He said, "If you girls really want to learn what I can teach, I will. But Sally was right about 2 things. You will have to have your parents give permission to me and you will promise me to never use what I teach you for anything but self defense or to protect another."
"I don't teach for competition, I teach to win. You won't ever fight competitively with the skills you learn from me, so if that's what you want then go to a studio. If you want to learn from me then that's what I expect from you."
Then he turned around and looked out the front and said, "I think we're here."
I looked out to, and saw that we were headed to a large Carnival. "Wow," I said. I haven't been to a Carnival since I was 8 or 9."
Ellen said, "Sandra said that too, so that's what we decided on. We did a Dar's Day carwash at the high school to make money for the trip and we even had one of the radio stations send a DJ for it. It was way cool with all the cheerleaders and the jocks working to make money for this. We had so much fun too. Coach Coulter said that if we made enough for the trip, she'd get us there."
"You mean that every body got together to do this for me?" asked Dar.
"Well not entirely, we thought that a trip like this would be fun for all of us, but we decided that you deserved something special too, so we decided to bring you," said Ellen. "So did Sally, so we didn't tell you about it. This is on all of us. Happy birthday, uncle Dar."
That was the first time someone called Dar uncle, and he got a real big smile from it. I decided that if Ellen could call him that then I would too. He was like an uncle to me in some ways. It soon caught on with the other 3 of our group too and we all called him uncle Dar.
That day was a blast. I didn't go on many of the rides, and I got tired easy but it was still fun. Seeing Dar with that big smile of his was great too. I loved that smile.
Dar didn't go on any of the rides, but he still liked to just wander around and he liked the shooting galleries. He won so many of those stuffed animals that even Coach Coulter was carrying one by the end of the day. I noticed that she didn't put it down even when she was eating or on one of the rides. "Got another one," uncle Dar, I thought. He was building up a huge fan club it seemed.
It was late when we packed up the bus and went home. I fell asleep leaning against uncle Dar and didn't wake up until we pulled in to our drive way. Good thing it was a loop so the bus could get back out easily.
Erica was waiting there when we pulled in, and helped get uncle Dar inside and to bed. Nancy, Ellen, Sandra and Shelly got off with us and told me that they were all spending the night with us and already had permission from their parents and George and Janny. I was happy for that too.
We all went right to bed, with the cousin twins in my old room and Shelly and Sandra sharing the other. If I had felt better, I'd have suggested that we all sleep in the basement, but I was too tired for that after the long day we'd had. I was more than happy to just go into the room that uncle Dar had gotten built for me and go to sleep.
The next day turned into one of the saddest since my parents accident. We had all eaten breakfast and gone out to the pool. Dar was reading a book and us girls were getting tans when Nancy and Ellen both got phone calls at the same time. They answered and both started crying almost at once.
When they hung up, Ellen said, "Our parents are gone. Oh my god they're dead." She started crying even harder.
I asked, "What happened? What do you mean they're dead?"
"They went to Redmond for a party last night, and were coming back this morning," said Nancy. "They had a crash on the freeway. They're gone."
Uncle Dar moved he chair in between them and hugged them both. He didn't say anything, just hugged them. Sandra, Shelly and I joined him. We didn't know what to do or say, so we just hugged them.
After a bit, uncle Dar said, "You girls stay with them and don't leave them alone. Sally, go get George and Janny and tell them what happened."
I said, "Ok," and went to get Janny and George. I didn't know what uncle Dar wanted, but he was up to something.
When I got back with Janny and George, Dar told me to go back out side with my friends, because he needed to talk to Janny and George alone for a few minutes.
I went back out side and joined my friends. Nance and Ellen were still crying. I asked them if they had any other family they could call.
Ellen sniffled and said, "We don't have anybody left. Our grandparents are all gone and we don't have any other aunts or uncles. Mom once told me that after having me, she had it fixed so she couldn't have any more children. She and Dad decided that once was enough because she'd had such a hard time. She was sick for months afterwards."
"My mom and dad wanted more, but they just never had any," said Nancy. "They also said that they didn't have any brothers or sisters other than my uncle and aunt. They didn't know if there was anybody else either from their grandparents families. I don't know if we have any relatives other than each other."
Sandra said, "Well you have the 3 of us. We're as close as sisters aren't we? We'll be your family forever."
Shelly and I immediately agreed to that. We were a team and a family even if we weren't blood relations.
Just then, George came out and called Ellen and Nancy in. He told the rest of us to stay outside because he and Janny had to talk to them alone for a bit.
Still crying, Ellen and Nancy went inside. Uncle Dar came back out and sat down. He looked pale and tired.
I asked him if he was all right, and he said, "I'm just tired. I asked Janny and George if they were willing to help the girls out like they did me. I know what would happen if they went into CPS custody, and I don't want that to happen to them."
"What would happen to them?" I asked.
Uncle Dar said, "The first thing is they would probably be spit up. CPS doesn't do much to keep family together in situations like this, and since they aren't sisters they wouldn't have a chance of staying together. CPS would also not tell either where the other was because it's against policy. I'm not going to let that happen if I can stop it."
"What did you do?" I asked.
He said, "I asked George and Janny if they were willing to take them in if I promised to provide their maintenance. The V.A. pays them for taking care of me right now because I'm listed as temporarily mentally incompetent because of that medication. I should get that removed soon now, and I will file to adopt the girls."
"They'll be foster sisters and even if something happens to me they will be able to stay together. Since they'll both be my dependents, the V.A. will take care of them. They'll be together as sisters with an adoption by me and will still have each other."
"Why are you doing this?" Sandra asked.
"Because I care about them as much as I do you. I want them to stay together and this way I can do it. If something like this happened to any of you I'd do the same.
"You really mean that," asked Shelly?"
Uncle Dar said, "Yes. I hope it never happens, but if any of you ever need help, I'd be honored if you came to me. All of you have been my friends, and friends take care of each other."