EPISODE ONE: The Varela Family
There were three things he wished he could change in life, and one of them was sitting across from him. Not that he wanted to have married another, but he wished he could have done something to keep her from becoming the frail woman she was today.
Of course, he’d never tell her that. She dutifully worked to be a good wife, to love him with all her heart, and to serve him and their household with a determination that only God could have given her. But there was something wrong in all of it. Something desperate on her part, and he wondered who she was doing this for.
“Jamison, you’re not eating again,” she said, touching his spoon. He looked at the bowl of mush in front of him. Ten minutes ago it had been chocolate cereal, but now he knew he couldn’t eat it.
“I’m not hungry, I guess.” He started to get up, but she held his arm.
“Is it because of the kids?”
“No,” he said quickly. He could tell from her eyes that she didn’t believe him. He sat down. “Well, maybe a little.”
“It’s been almost five years, Jamison. They understand.”
“They don’t understand, Emmy,” he corrected. “They left.”
After years of not being around for his kids as a father, he had tried to make it up to them. As soon as they had gotten old enough, though, every single one of them had left his home, two went off to college, the other to a husband. They didn’t understand, and they didn’t want to forgive him. The only receptive one had been Lyn. But even she had trouble letting it go.
“Honey, they agreed to come down here, which is a first in all the years I’ve asked. That has to count for something.”
Jamison wasn’t buying it. “Lyn and Toby are moving out of state. This is her last birthday in Miami. They’re only doing this for her.”
“You can walk around pitying yourself, Jamison,” his wife said forcefully, “or you can get yourself together and be the father you always wanted to be.”
He didn’t have any words to say to that. For all the frustration and confusion that she brought him, his wife knew what she was talking about. This was probably the last time he would see his kids, and there were a few things he had to make right.
She was just going through one of her moods. The kind where she hated life and everyone in it. The kind where she kept up appearances on the outside, so no one could tell. The kind that lasted for a few weeks before she exploded and then went back to normal.
An explosion was definitely on the horizon. She could feel it creeping in her throat, almost like a cry trying to escape. But it wasn’t a cry. It was pent up frustration, anger, sadness. Loneliness.
Rosemarie sat next to an older gentlemen, watching him play a game of checkers. He struggled to lift the circular black game pieces, but she didn’t help him. Most volunteers helped the elderly at the home with mundane things, but she didn’t. She liked to see them do things on their own. Rosemarie wasn’t mean spirited. Old folks liked to do things for themselves just as much as younger ones did.
Of course, there were the big things that they couldn’t do by themselves, like climbing stairs, or going to the bathroom. But, for some, something as simple as moving a checker piece across the board showed them that they weren’t entirely worthless.
For Rosemarie, volunteering and giving her time to others showed her she wasn’t entirely worthless. If she could make an impact on at least one life, then she knew she was doing something right. And she was making an impact. The president of the home told her every time he saw her how wonderful her presence was and how much the residents loved being around her.
But, for some reason, right now, it wasn’t enough. She was going home for the weekend, and possibly the rest of the week. She didn’t want to go. She didn’t want to deal with Mom or Dad. She knew she would say something that she would regret. That’s how it always worked with her parents.
She was not looking forward to this gathering. The only thing that was potentially exciting was seeing Lincoln again.
“Isn’t this so exciting?” Lyn sat in the passenger seat, dozens of small boxes balancing on her lap.
“Yes,” Toby said, smiling from his seat. “I’m really looking forward to seeing your family again. Especially Lincoln.”
Lyn wrinkled her nose at the mention of her brother. The two had never gotten along as children, and ever since she got married, they hadn’t say a word to each other. Which was just as well. Their conversations had been filled with so much anger and tension that their parents had to step in so that fists didn’t get involved.
No, she wasn’t excited to see Lincoln, but he was her little brother, so there was nothing she could do about it.
“Well,” she said, trying to change the subject, “how long until we get there?”
Toby frowned as he thought. “Maybe two hours, depending on how bad the traffic is. I didn’t want to take the highway, but it’s our best bet if we want to make it there before evening.”
“Thank you, Toby,” she said, reaching for his arm. He didn’t look away from the road, but smiled. She knew he didn’t like the highway. Cars drove too fast on there and drivers had no respect. He took the long way to get everywhere, and she understood his reasoning, but had somehow managed to convince him to change his mind for this one time.
It was her last birthday in Miami, and she wanted to spend it with her family. Despite all the chaos that had existed growing up, she still loved them. Well, all except Lincoln. She wasn’t sure what her feelings were toward him, but they were most certainly not love.
She recognized them as the feelings she had toward her father that had kept her from forgiving him when he asked for it eight years ago. He’d been absent during her preteen years, then just decided to show up when she was sixteen, demanding that she do one thing or another. She had been so upset with him for a while, but in her senior year, she understood what was going on. Lyn understood that he was trying to be a father to her, and she’d forgiven him. She was probably the only of his children that had.
“Toby, do you think our family will turn out like this?”
Lyn adjusted the boxes on her lap. They were presents for her family. Even Lincoln.
“Do you think our kids will be just as messed up as my brother and sister?”
“Well,” Toby said, glancing at her quickly as he spoke, “if they turn out to be like you, they’ll be just fine.”
Lyn didn’t say anything. She knew he wasn’t being sarcastic. But she also knew he was reminding her of the fact that she had some stake in their craziness as well. Toby always kept her in check. It was one of the reasons she loved him.
“Hey, where’s Daniel?”
The room was crowded and stuffy. Lincoln sat on a small couch, squished between two younger women. He wasn’t even sure of their names, but they were Daniel’s sisters, and he hadn’t seen his buddy all evening.
“I don’t know,” the short haired blond sister said, taking a sip from her drink.
“He’s been feeling a little sick,” the long haired blond sister replied. She got up from her seat to refill her own cup.
Lincoln frowned. Too many people had been getting sick. At least four of his friends had bailed on him for this party, all of them claiming to be sick. He wondered if there was something going around in the dorms.
You’re leaving in thirty minutes, so it doesn’t matter anyway.
He was scheduled to start his long, five hour journey to his parent’s house in a little bit, but he didn’t want to go. Why go to a silly little birthday celebration when you could go to livelier celebrations around here? There would be no eligible women down where his parents lived. Lincoln had taken them all.
His way of life didn’t bother him in the slightest. It rustled his father’s feathers, but he didn’t care about his father. It had gotten Lyn mad, but he didn’t care about her either. She had her perfect little husband who did absolutely nothing wrong. She didn’t need to worry about him.
The only one that he actually did care about was Rosemarie. She had made it her task to raise him when their parents had pretty much abandoned them. His mother was off being evil and his dad was busy with his work. But Rosemarie had cared for him. When she told him that his lifestyle was dangerous, he wanted to change. But the temptations were too great, and he decided that, for her sake, he would do his dirty work elsewhere.
He didn’t need to look hard to find any of this work. Here at the parties, the girls just threw themselves at him. It was a little unnerving at first, but he was a quick learner.
Lincoln smiled as he thought of the conversation that would take place around the table once he got home.
Well, son, what have you been doing up there in college?
Oh, nothing much, just having the time of my life.
Really? What are my hard earned dollars teaching you up there?
Oh, just the basics. Once we get through prerequisites, then we can handle the big stuff.
He didn’t feel bad about any of it. Unlike most people he knew, he was incapable of regret.
And it didn’t bother him at all.