Monday, December 8, 2014

The Santa Tradition by Diane Burton - Part Two

The Santa Tradition - Part Two
by Diane Burton

   Of all the things James could have said, I didn’t expect that. “What do you mean George wasn’t your father?”
   He let me go. As he walked back to the sofa, I missed his warmth, his strength. He sunk into the old too-short sofa then reached for the yellow legal-size paper on the lamp table. His hand hovered over the paper as if he didn’t want to touch it. I recognized his dad’s—George’s—handwriting. He loved using a legal pad to write the newsy letters he sent to us when he and Mary went to Florida. They always began the same. “Your mother is off shopping . . .” And ended the same way four to five pages later. “Well, your mother is back . . .”
   James picked up the letter and thrust it at me. “Everything was a lie.”

Dear Jamie,

I always thought I would say this to your face. But if you’re reading this, it means I never did. Your mother couldn’t bring herself to tell you. I suppose we should have when you were young. But time flies, as they say, and then she was afraid you would be mad or worse ashamed of her. I begged her to tell you and while she was alive it was her story to tell. Not mine. Never mine.

Now that she’s gone, I guess it’s up to me. I’m not your father. I hate writing that. Worse I hate the man who is. Rather I hate what he did to your mother. Your real father took off after he found out she was pregnant. I’d always loved your mother—ever since the first day I saw her in kindergarten. My God, how long ago was that! She only saw me as her best friend.

Her folks wanted her to give up the baby. She cried on my shoulder that she didn’t want to. I knew then I wanted that baby—you—as much as I wanted her to marry me.

Somewhere in that box of cards and letters your mother kept is information about him. She wanted you to know who he was if you ever wanted to find him.

Maybe that’s why I never told you. Selfishly I couldn’t bear it if you went looking for him while I’m alive. Now . . . Well, it’s your choice.

Know this though—I’ve always thought of you as my own son. How I wish it had been so. You, Jamie, are the child of my heart.

Please forgive your mother for never telling you the truth about who you are. And if you can find it in your heart, forgive an old man for keeping silent.

Love, Dad
P.S. Without thinking, I signed this letter the way I always sign off. Maybe I should have written “Love, George.”

   Stunned by what I’d read, I dropped onto the sofa next to James and let the paper flutter to the floor. I wrapped my arm around his stiff shoulders. For several minutes we sat there in silence. What was there to say? Suddenly, I realized that nothing else mattered—not the cleaning, not the packing. James needed me more than I ever thought possible.
   “How could they keep this from me?” The anguish in his voice tore at my heart.
   “Jamie, he was your father. A father sticks around. He’s there for the good and the bad. The man whose genes you carry wasn’t really your father. George was.”
   Abruptly, James shrugged off my arm, my comfort, and stood. He whirled on me. “Don’t you ever get tired of playing Merry Sunshine? My life has been turned upside down and you give me platitudes.”
   I felt like I’d been stabbed in the heart. That fast, he’d raced through denial into the second stage of grief—anger. I couldn’t blame him. He’d been dealt a triple whammy. Job loss, George’s death, and now this. I’d spoken too soon. He wasn’t ready to hear logic. Holding onto my hurt, I let him vent.
   “I’ll clean out the damn attic. The sooner we get rid of this place the better.” He strode through the living room. When he got to the hall, he yanked so hard to pull down the folding stairs to the attic they sprang back into place with a bang.
   He needed space. I needed to know what to do to help. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I was trying to “fix” him the way he tried to fix me when Mom died. He needed to work things out for himself. That didn’t mean I was going to give up.
   I picked up George’s letter and read it again. I heard the torment he must have felt as he wrote. How I wished he had told James in person. Yet, I understood why he hadn’t. I wasn’t making excuses for him or Mary. I would have to be patient—not my strong suit—and let James find his way.
   If I’d known how hard that would be, I would’ve given him that well-deserved kick in the pants.
   A box landed on the hallway floor with a thud.
   James yelled down, “Throw that in the trash.”
   Finally, he was making decisions. When I got to the stairs, I realized how mistaken I was. Spilling out of the broken box was the Santa suit.

Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of "The Santa Tradition."


Margo Hoornstra said...

Okay. If this installment made me cry, tomorrow's will make me smile, right? Nice job, Diane.

Christine DePetrillo said...

Wow. I can't wait to see tomorrow's. Nice job.

Diane Burton said...

Now, Margo, would I do that? :)

Thanks, Christine. I'm sure you'll both be pleasantly surprised tomorrow.

Patricia Kiyono said...

Oh my, I've got to see how this ends. I can't wait!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Poor guy. Talk about the world caving in! Looking forward to your last installment!

Jannine Gallant said...

I would have said the same thing she did. George sounds like the kind of father anyone would be lucky to have. Looking forward to tomorrow!

Alison Henderson said...

Diane, I think we must be soul sisters. Now I can't wait for the end.

Diane Burton said...

I love your comments. Thanks so much.

KatB said...

I'm almost glad I missed seeing the second installment post, because now I can head straight over to part three. Instant gratification!

Donna Michaels said...

Poor Jamie, George and Meg. They have more than a triple whammy going on. Can't wait to read how they get through it all!