Beyond the Borderline Bk. 02byCPBaudelaire©
"It was very confusing at first. I guess I came to accept the truth of you and Mom, but I was extremely uncomfortable with the responsibility that came with knowing what I did, and for a while I was very angry that I had to carry that burden. I was sure that if I let something slip somehow, it would end up ruining our entire family. I blamed the both of you a bit, for allowing me to see you together. While I had somewhat come to terms with you and Mom being together, I was gradually starting to get more and more pissed off. I was working myself up to confront both of you, but Sis came to the rescue. It was Anna who got my thinking turned around." She smiled and sighed. "Good old practical sister. She was unbelievably serene about all of it, except for the initial shock, which I think she was over in a few minutes."
"What was it that she did?"
"Well, she could tell after a few days that it was really eating at me, so she sort of cornered me for a chat. She started out asking me who I knew among all of our friends who had the best parents with the happiest marriage. Of course, I had to admit, it was you and Mom. At that point she asked me "How can anyone argue against that? We should be so lucky in our own lives to find someone we love as much as they love each other. What Mom and Dad have together is nobody else's damn business."
Then she said it was a privilege to have the knowledge and not a cross to bear, as far as she was concerned. It was like she helped me flip a switch mentally, and from that point forward, I was cool with all of it. It was then that I swore two things to myself. I promised myself that I would not settle for any less love than that in my own life, and I also vowed that I would accept wherever and from whoever that love came from, if I was lucky enough to find it... and that I would never, ever have any regrets."
"I'm glad you're sharing this with me, D. We always worried a lot about how to cope with the dangers that were inherent in our relationship. We wanted to be as honest as possible with the three of you, but didn't want to disclose anything before we thought you were ready."
Deirdre smiled and hitched her chair closer to me and we sat in comfortable silence, watching downslope as night gradually and stealthily claimed the lands below us. The lights of Paia and Kahalui slowly bloomed into the dusk as we sat sipping the dregs of our wine. Dee Dee placed her hand on mine and gave it a gentle squeeze, intertwining our fingers, leaning her head on my shoulder.
"Love you, Daddy."
Once again I was struck by how much she reminded me of Mom, both in mannerisms and appearance. As these perceptions percolated their way into my subconscious, they triggered a rush of recollections, which cascaded through my mind like the flowing stream of a flash flood, scouring the dry riverbed of my grief. Snatches of sepia memory replayed themselves behind my eyes like a flickering silent film as I recalled my mother to life again.
I'm not sure exactly how the memories were resurrected, possibly by the presence of her surrogate, my daughter, but their clarity was breathtaking. They ran the gamut from us painting the soon-to-be bedroom of Dee Dee and Anna, daubing paint on each other and giggling like kids to the time we were on vacation together in Italy, just the two of us. I'll never forget the nearly moonless evening as we were walking in the Pantera Contrada of Siena, on the western edge of that fabled city. It was less than a week after Il Palio and the town seemed practically empty by comparison with the preceding week. Cutting through a darkened alley, Mom stopped suddenly and pushed me into a doorway, completely shrouded in shadow. With no fanfare, she unbuckled my pants and proceeded to give me a toe-curling blow job.
Afterwards she said, simply, "Just because I can and just because I love my son," then taking my hand and then leading me back to our pensione on wobbly knees.
Later that night, Deirdre came to me, slipping under the covers, naked.
"Daddy," she said, "I've wanted you since forever, but I knew Momma was your one and only. She knew how I felt, because I told her when I was eighteen. I promised her that I would never do anything to hurt her or you, but I couldn't help what I felt and that nothing was going to change that."
She paused, her head on my shoulder and I could feel her tears, hot on my skin. I was struck speechless by the suddenness of events, unable to move a single muscle.
"Do you remember what Momma said, at the end? What she made you promise?"
"I do Dee Dee, I do, but what has that got to do with anything and why, why are you doing this?"
"That was my agreement with momma, Daddy, that I would take care of you after she was gone, loving you and looking after you, making sure that you were happy. She said nothing in the world mattered more to her than that."
Running her hands on my chest, she kissed my cheek, her chin trembling.
"Daddy, please don't turn me away. I'm here for you, for the rest of your life, if you'll have me. Please, Daddy, please."
Her hands traveled southward and my body betrayed me.
I'm very sleepy now. These recollections have taken more of my strength than I imagined. The things that happened between Deirdre and me, I'm not going to speak of. Not because I'm ashamed, because I'm not. Those chapters of my life have been lived honestly and openly and all I'll say at this point is that I came to understand how difficult it was for Mom, at the beginning of our time together.
In any event, that's not my story to tell, it's Deirdre's. What, if anything, is said about us and the life we shared after that night is for her to decide. Soon, I'll be ashes scattered on the water of Hookipa Bay and it won't matter at all to me, but Dee Dee still has years ahead of her and she should be the one who decides how the rest of this story unfolds.
I'm tired. It's not the fatigue that comes with overexertion or sleep deprivation, but an ache, a strain deep in the core of my soul. I feel that in telling my tale, I have squeezed the last drops of vitality from my spirit and all that's left now is the waiting.
The rest of the family should be arriving tomorrow afternoon, undoubtedly notified by my doctors that time is short and that this old buzzard is not long for this life. I don't think I'll sleep tonight, as I feel that would be wasted time. All I'll do is dream of Mom anyway, something likely to put me in a melancholy humor on the morrow. I would like to be calm and as cheerful as may be, since I will be seeing my first great-grandchild for the first time.
Jason and Fiona's eldest, Marie is only twenty and has been a bit of a trial for her parents, but what can you do? Kids these days...In the end, I guess that one last appearance before the gathered tribes is in order. I'll do my best to present myself agreeably.
The sunshine in the lanai feels wonderful today, warming my aching bones and loosening stiff joints. The up country air of Makawao agrees with me. I hear our children and grandchildren close at hand and I can smell the scent of plumeria and hibiscus from our gardens, lifted on the breeze. A cooling flow of air is rolling off the north slopes of Haleakala, mixing with the omnipresent trade winds, a balm for my parched skin.
I stopped eating and drinking 2 days ago, but curiously, there is no hunger or thirst. Perhaps more strangely, my pain is no longer a concern. I cannot tell if I actually hurt less or now just ignore what my body tries to tell me. Even more startling today is the absence of the ache in my heart that has been present every day for the past two decades. For the first time since that day, I am at peace. I am immersed in my environment, feeling, hearing, seeing and smelling everything around me, alert to the smallest detail, the subtlest nuance or variation in my surroundings. The afternoon sunlight seems lambent on my face as I close my eyes, suffused with a sensation of wholeness and almost breathless anticipation.
It is then I become aware of the scent of simple soap and sandalwood in the air. I feel her soft, smooth hand on mine.
"I'm here, Ricky, my love. I've been waiting for you. It's time to come home to Mom."
A huge thanks to LaRascasse for editorial assistance with this monster. This story was immeasurably improved due to his input. All our volunteer editors on Lit do a largely thankless job and often do not get the recognition they deserve. This was a massive project, which required a lot of his time. Few people would be willing to commit to such an undertaking, especially with a first time author. I am very grateful.