The Hot List Ch. 04byqhml1©
Thanks for reading. For those readers who say I should have put sex in the story, you're probably right. I'll make sure to steam up future offerings, but be warned, I tend to take the scenic route every where I go, you can ask my wife. This is a fairy tale. I put it in loving wives, well, because it's about a guy who loves his wife. I personally have been married three times. My last is in the thirtieth year, I couldn't run her off with a stick.
I've been thinking about it though[just kidding honey].
I shook of my trip down memory lane and went out to the patio, where I sat and watched my wife fuss with her plant.
She looked at me and said "What are you looking at?"
"My beautiful wife, who I love beyond words."
"Good answer." She wiped her hands and sat beside me.
"How did your meeting with Sam go?"
She thought I had met with Sam to review our investments.
" Well, we're not broke yet. How was your morning?"
Jimmie was our son. When the economy tanked his company gave him an option. Move two states away or take a layoff. He checked around, but there was just nothing out there. We had talked Friday, so if he was calling today something must be wrong.
"Everything all right?"
She sighed again.
"We're going to be grandparents again. They're pretty sure it's a girl."
This was good news. They already had a little boy, three. He was our only grandchild. When they moved Pam took it hard. She had bonded with Susan, our daughter in law, so well that when she had Jimmie jr. she was the only one allowed in the delivery room.
Deuce[Jimmie Jr.] adored his grandmother and followed her around constantly. Not being able to see him on a regular basis was hard on both of us.
If you looked under impulsive in the dictionary you wouldn't see my picture. Maybe under dependable or consistent, but not impulsive. Sometimes though, I surprise even myself. I took her hand and started pulling her towards the house.
"Come on. I'm going to check the fluids and belts on your car and go fill it with gas. That should give you time to shower and pack us an overnight bag."
Confusion reigned supreme.
"Why would I pack an overnight bag?"
"Duh, to go somewhere overnight. If we leave in thirty minutes, we can get checked into a nice hotel, have a late dinner at a good restaurant, and still be at Jimmie and Susans' by 9:00.
Unless I get lucky, after all I will be sleeping with a sexy woman."
Her eyes were misting over.
"You got lucky the day you met me. I don't see the streak ending tonight. I wonder if there's room in the bag for my new teddy?"
"If there isn't, leave something else out. Be back in thirty minutes."
She was waiting on the porch when I got back. In the car she was so happy she chattered like a teenager for two hours. Whipping out her new phone[the girl loved technology], she had us checked in and reservations made before we were out of state. She even ordered a bottle of wine for our room.
Her new teddy was breath taking, and I did get lucky. Very, very lucky. Three times, something that hadn't happened in years.
I was still tired when we surprised the kids. We took them to breakfast, and spent a great day visiting. I don't think Deuce left Pams' lap the whole time. He cried when we had to leave, only the promise that we would be back soon and take him home with us for a week calmed him.
We looked at the sonograms. Pam and Susan both cried when Susan said the girl was to be named Pamela Louise, after both grandmothers.
On the way home we talked about the multitude of things in our lives, trivial and important.
Her car was six years old, should we get another? We're low on beer, should we stop tonight or wait and go in the morning? Did you turn on the porch light? I don't remember if we put the sprinklers on automatic, ah well, we'll know when we get there. Where should we go on vacation? Should we invite the kids?
All discussed with the gravity of someone whose lives were so in synch that discussion wasn't really necessary.
Life rolled effortlessly along for a few months. We had new insurance carriers who insisted everyone covered get a physical. Prevention and all that. Pam went for hers before I did. During the mammogram they found two lumps in her right breast and one in her left. Specialists were called in. Biopsies were done. It would take a week to get the results.
Her mother had breast cancer and survived. Her sister didn't.
It was my worst fear realized. Pam was afraid she would lose her breasts and I wouldn't love her. I was afraid I would lose Pam.
As petty as it seemed, my deepest darkest fear was being brought to life. Everyone always thought I was tight with money. That wasn't so, I was afraid of losing the money. I didn't want it for myself, but the comfort it would bring us in our later years. I wanted us to travel to the places Pam wanted to go, to help our children with things. I wanted to gift our grandchildren with help for college. There was so much we wanted to do.
The root of this fear was watching how my parents ended up. They both saved, and lived frugal lives. When they retired they celebrated with a month long cruise. They came home tanned and relaxed. Then dad got sick, prostrate cancer. Despite Medicare and supplimental insurance the bills mounted. They were proud people who believed in paying their bills. Slowly the savings dwindled. My siblings and I pitched in. For two years Pam and I paid the power and phone bills. My brother and sister made the payments on the car they bought just for retirement.
My friend Sam rescued them and their dignity by setting up a reverse mortgage on the house. When my dad passed there was enough left for my mom to pay off everything and move into a small retirement community. We all tried to get her to stay with one of us but she said she wanted her independence. She seemed happy enough, to the very last she could drive and would visit often, but she only lasted two years after dad died.
Susan came and stayed with us for a few weeks. She was six months along, and had Deuce with her to help cheer Pam up. It was a very long week.
One of the happiest words in the English language? Benign.
The health scare had really gotten me thinking. The six year age difference was in my mind, looming larger as we aged. If Pam waited until sixty two to retire I would be sixty eight. Would I be able to do the things we dreamed of? Would she be forced to put her dreams on hold to take care of me? Would we have a good life?
With thirty six years of service to my company, I could have retired at full benefits at fifty five.
Pam had eight more months to be fully vested and could retire but not draw until she hit fifty five. I made an appointment with Sam to review my options.
He gave me his advice.
"Retire now, Will. You'll still be drawing the same pay if you work or not. Your investments with me, Your 401 plans, your savings, and your certificates of deposit make you very, very comfortable. Plus, in four more years social security kicks in. Retire now, and take Pam with you when she vests. Live, Will. Don't end up like Sarah and I."
I agreed, and started making arrangements.
The recession had hit everyone, including our company. Word came down from corporate to trim the workforce by twenty percent. Between manufacturing and office staff, 110 jobs had to be trimmed. I had become plant manager four years ago, so the burden fell to me.
I had a confidential meeting and told them I was thinking of retiring. They were surprised and protested, but at least part of them wanted me to go and make room for the new turks. They told me, also in confidence, that if any one with over twenty five years with the company would get a buy out of six months pay to retire, including me.
Any one with less than one year to vestiture would get the same deal. I did some rough calculations in my head. Pam had eight more months to vestiture, If she took the deal she would be eligible in two months . Plus, she had six weeks of vacation accumulated, If she took it all at once she would have work just two weeks. I knew it would take longer than that to make all the cuts so she was safe. The only drawback was it would be three years before she could draw anything from the program. I'm sure we could live with that.
Corporate agreed with me to promote the night operations manager to plant manager. He was only 38, full of energy and plans, and could lead us into the future. I had an assistant plant manager on day shift, But he was 59 and had less than six months to become vested. He was a good man, but being passed over would motivate him to take his golden parachute.
I had the same meeting with the department heads and asked them to make a list of people who could take the deal and vest, those who had less than ten years of service, and those who were poor workers or had attendance problems.
AS with all companies that size, confidentiality is an urban myth. Rumors started immediately. Pam was worried and knew that I knew what was going on but couldn't tell her. Th allay her fears I gave her a bit of indirect advice.
"All I can tell you honey, is that if they offer you the golden parachute, jump."
I walked my retirement papers through corporate, but had to tell the HR director. This was a little sticky, it just happened to be Pams' best friend. I needed her help anyway with my own plans. She was a professional and wouldn't have talked, but swearing her to the other brought a smile to her face.
Things were moving along. I brought the night operations manager to first shift and promoted his assistant. I put the word out it was to let me concentrate on a special project. That part was true.
The project was planning Pams' retirement surprise. Her grandmother was from Italy, and lived with her parents. She babysat her and her sister while the parents were at work. She learned to speak Italian and English at the same time. All her life she had wanted to go to Rome and look for her relatives, and I always said we would when we retired. Well, we were almost retired.
I had a secret weapon, her grandmothers' bible.
Pam had kept it all these years, and would look at the names inscribed occasionally, wondering if they were still alive. In the old days, especially when babies were born at home, the only birth record would be the name and date written in the bible. They did the same thing for deaths, the name and date. In some states even today these records are considered legal. Many would record marriages as well.
I finally located a sixth or seventh cousin and emailed him pictures of her, her grandmother, and one of her grandmother and grandfather. He was in his army uniform, hugging a young woman who looked like a darker version of Pam. Guido was happy to locate more relatives, twenty seven just in Rome, With more than he could name in the countryside.
Finally, it was layoff day. The employees had been informed, partly to get volunteers for early retirement, partly to prepare them for the worst.
We rode to work together in my truck, I had put her car into the shop for service. We were to pick it up after work. She was pensive.
We had decided that it would be best if she retire. She was worried about feeling bored and useless. I tried to ease her fears.
"Look, honey, if you get bored you can look for another job. Right now, I can think of one project to keep you busy. Susan will be needing company in the birthing room."
She was due in 24 days. Pam had already made plans to be there the week before and the week after. I was going to take vacation and be there by the due date.
We pulled into the parking lot for the last time.
Her eyes were brimming, this place had been part of our lives for thirty years.
"Cheer up, honey. You'll see them all from time to time."
That wasn't so and she knew it. Being laid off had a finality about it. You all say you'll stay in touch, but you never quite seem to have time to visit or even call. Mostly you just drift away quietly, getting consumed by the now of your life.
Once in a while something will trigger a memory and you'll say "wonder how he/she is doing. I need to give them a call when I get time."
Then you go back to the task at hand and the thought slips away.
I gave her a kiss and she went into the offices and I went into the plant.
I knew she was emotionally overloaded and I shouldn't have done it, but right before first break I went out to the truck and got two cups of coffee and a cheese danish. She was sitting at her desk staring into space when I came in.
"Hi sweetheart. I brought you coffee and a cheese danish. Would you like to spend break with me?"
Her head snapped up. She looked at the coffee and the little packaged danish. You don't love someone for thirty years and not learn a little about them. When her chin started quivering I put the coffee down and reached for her.
She leaped into my arms and cried, hard. I sat and put her on my lap, rocking her. And if anyone was concerned that the plant manager was holding the accounts receivable on his lap and kissing her hair they never mentioned it.
Of course by then the dam had burst. Pam had triggered a tsunami of tears, as the predominately female office broke down. Groups would hug, to disperse and realign. It was safe to say no work got done that day.
They had just settled down when the flowers started to arrive. I had bouquets sent to everyone in the office, including the few men. Part to say we appreciate you to the ones who got to stay, partly to apologize to the ones let go.
I took it out of petty cash, what were they gonna do fire me?
Pams' was bigger than most, and came with some packages. I made sure that a few of her friends were around, just in case. I had the packages numbered, with OPEN IN ORDER in big letters.
She opened the box and saw a jewelery box inside.
The note said "read me first"
"My dear wife, some friends of mine recently rated you an 8.5 on a scale of 10. These guys were getting old and I don't think their eyesight is the best. This is my ranking. Please open the box and see if you can figure it out."
Inside the box was a locket and chain made of platinum. The locket had ten small diamonds outlining the heart shape, and one half carat stone set in the middle.
Pam opened the locket slowly. Inscribed was "forever eleven".
Just when she thought she had no more tears they came again. The girls had to put it on for her because her hands shook so much.
"Open the next one." they begged.
It was a large, flat envelop marked fragile. Her hands shook so bad someone else did it for her.
The first sheet of paper was my retirement summary with a note attached.
"Honey, you won't have to worry about sitting around the house getting bored or lonely, because I'll be right there with you, at least until I get underfoot. Hopefully this won't happen for another thirty years or so."
She was becoming numb.
The next sheet out was a map of Rome, with a note, of course.
"This is for you to mark all the places you want to see. The tickets and hotel reservations are in the pouch. We leave ten days after the expected arrival of our granddaughter, and will be gone for a month. It's your dream vacation, my love."
She had to sit, feeling a bit light headed.
The third and final envelop was marked DO NOT OPEN UNTIL NOON. OPEN IN THE PARKING LOT.
It was only 11, but they almost dragged her out the door. Once outside she opened the last envelop. A set of cars keys fell out. This note was short and to the point.
"It's not the one we talked about, it's the one I want you to have. Press the alarm.
She pressed the button and it chirped. She followed the sound until she came to a metallic gray challenger. They had stopped to look at a Chrysler 300, but she fell in love with the challenger. Pam refused to consider it, saying she was too old. The tags said "Pams'"
She turned around in the lot a couple of times. She went back to the car and sat behind the wheel.
With a determined look she got out locked the care carefully and strode towards the plant. Everyone followed her, all pretense of working abandoned.
I saw her coming, and it looked like she brought the office with her. She charged right up to me.
"Damn you Will! There's a special place in hell for people like you."
Shocked would be an understatement.
She smiled slowly, and reached up to brush my cheek.
"It's for people who love someone else to death. But don't worry, sweetie, I'll be right there with you."
In all the kisses she ever gave me, this one came in at number two, right behind the very first one.
She was too emotionally exhausted to drive, so I got to drive her new car home. I knew no one was cooking this night, so I had Chinese delivered.
She would finger her locket, look at the map and the tickets, and walk to the window to look at her car. I finally asked her what she was doing.
"Waiting to wake up."
I scooped her up.
"In order to do that you have to go to sleep.
It's been a long day."
I carried her to bed and undressed her. Did we make love? No, she was asleep before I had her shoes off.
But the next morning I woke finding her at the bedroom window.
"What's wrong babe?"
"Nothing, just looking at my new car. Let's go for a spin."
I started to get up but she jumped astride me.
"First I need to find out something. Is retired sex is as good as I think it's going to be?"
Afterward we took a shower together, the first in a long time. I bathed her gently, stopping to kiss often. I touched the tiny scars from her biopsies and shed a small tear, hidden by the shower. I kissed her faint strech marks, badges of honor from our two children. I would have kissed more but we suddenly had an urge to go back to the bedroom. Flexability fades when you reach your late fifties.
Pamela Louise was born a day early, announcing loudly she had arrived. We oohed and ahhed. Deuce was the least impressed.
We arrived in Rome early in the morning. I warned Pam that one or two of her relatives may come by.
There were 41 people including small children waiting, holding up a sign with our name on it.
I recognized Guido and got his attention. He was grabbing others and pointing us out. We were mobbed, everyone talking at the same time.
Guido became referee and guide. We were booked for 28 days in a nice hotel, and we only slept there six. We were always over at cousin Endo or aunt Marias house or any one of half dozen I couldn't remember the names of. It took Pam about three weeks before her language skills improved. I never got it but had a ball. sixty seven crying relatives were there to see us off. It was the vacation of a lifetime.
Now we spend most summers in Italy. It is surprisingly affordable, especially if you seem to be related to half the population. Pam can speak like a native, I've gotten to the point where I can understand most of it and speak the basics.
The most surprising thing in all our travels was when Pam discovered topless beaches. I was amazed when she took one look, said "nobody knows us here" and dropped her top. Even at 54 she has a nice trim body. Her breasts weren't large to start with and had very little sag. She still gets looks and even got approached once. Whatever she said sent them flying. Now when we go to the beaches she doesn't even pack tops.