I do NOT own the rights to EMERGENCY
Dedicated to those who were raised children they did not sire, but treated them as their own nonetheless.
Also thanks to my adopted brother and blood sister who both went over the piece for me.
The wind bellows around my hair as I stand in the city cemetery next to his grave. No one can hear my unspoken words as I stand there silently mourning. Lost in my reverie, with emptiness almost consuming me,.I search for a feeling any feeling, but there is nothing; I am numb. But what can anyone expect when I have just buried the man I loved, the man who came to into my life fifteen years ago, so lost and so alone.
"Mrs. Early," Roy tapped my shoulder. I turn to see the friendly fire chief, once a paramedic, smiling gently. The uncomfortable look on his face due to the fact he and his wife are my ride and they are eager to leave. But also wishing they could allow me more time by Joe's grave.
"Go on ahead, I'll take a bus home." I decline his offer to stick around a little longer, knowing that to do so would make his wife late getting to the airport.
Roy felt obligated out of the respect he had for Joe to make the offer, but it was oblivious he didn't want his wife to miss her flight. "Thanks anyway," I added as I waved them off.
The first time I saw Joe he was wandering aimlessly, dazed, ridged almost as if he were in shock. There was no sign any physical injury, but something must be the cause of the obvious emptiness I saw in his eyes. At first I thought it was just old age or maybe Dementia, but when asked he knew both his name and the year.
He made me promise not to tell anyone where he was, if anyone asked. I didn't know why he would ask such a thing, but I made the promise anyway. The man had a presence about him, an aurora I could feel without even touching him.
More than once, I enquired , why he hadn't said anything, especially when he owned up to being from Southern California and the place he had worked. No matter how close we grew he never answered, not even in the end.
"Momma, don't you think you should leave with us?" Ashley asks nervously, My oldest son, Andrew, stands impatiently by the car.
"You deserve better," not caring what my son thinks.
"I…what?" Ashley answers stunned.
"I said you deserve better, his father was a creep, and so is Andrew. You go, I'll not set foot inside his car." Maybe, if Joe had raised him instead of …. I can't bring myself to speak 'his' name just the thought of it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Without thinking I clamp my mouth closed and swallow. Spitting in a cemetery would be rude and is respectful.
"What's your name?" I asked Joe the first time I saw him.
"Joe, Joe Early." I invited him in to eat at my place, the thought of someone going hungry, when we ourselves were about to eat supper was more than I could bare. I had three children. The oldest, Andrew, was old enough to remember the days before I kicked his abusive father out of the house; the twins held no such memories. The age difference between my son and daughters was great enough that Joe was able to have a hand in raising them. My mind races to the days after the dinner invite.
"Good try, sweetie, you did real good." Joe helped Jen with her tricycle, and then helped Penny with her piano lessons. "There are no monsters in the closet, can't be." Joe had whispered low as if telling the girls a secret as they crawled in bed.
"Are you sure?" Jen asked him with eyes which shouted she needed it to be true.
"Positive, know why?" Both girls had shaken their heads. "I am the one who gave him the eviction notice." It was easy for them to believe him as we'd been evicted from our old house just the month before due to my drop in wages.
We weren't even married, or dating, at that time; he rented the room in my garage. I could not understand why a man would,as my ex would claim, waste his time on brats that weren't his.
The wind had quit blowing, but still I stayed by Joe's grave wrapped up in my own private memories.
"Where are you from?" I'd asked Joe as he leaned back in a chair with a towel around his chest and neck allowing me to give him a shave. I'd have done his hair too, only he didn't have enough to warrant anything but a comb and slight trim around the edges.
"Right now, nowhere." Joe had then stood up and put his hands on the railing.
"People are starting to talk. Maybe, I should move." His hands tightened on the railing as if he didn't trust himself not to throw a punch at the gossipers,it annoyed him that they had nothing better to do than to yank their tongues. The reasons they let their traps loose didn't have to be stated. I knew them all very well. I was from a small town, I had kicked my husband out and now had a stranger, who chose not to talk much to anyone, living in the apartment in my garage. Course, everyone had us sleeping together which was a flat out lie.
"I don't mind the talk. If they are so bored with their lives, let them yak." I'd blown at the strand of loose hair dangling loosely near my nose and swatted at a pesky fly. The talk had been ignored, but his interaction with my girls was not. They liked him, really liked him, and simply by smiling he got under my skin. I'm not sure when things changed. He still wouldn't talk about his past life and I didn't pry. But his whole face started to shine and his laugh grew; that laugh I suspected had always existed, just temporarily forgotten.
"You look beautiful tonight." Joe had taken me dancing something I'd almost forgotten how to do.
"Thanks." I found myself blushing as Joe's gentle manners got me to open up. His laugh was contagious, the gentleness he used with the children was something I had never witnessed with my first husband. I definitely never experienced his arms pulling me gently into his, nor his mouth taking its time exploring mine. No, Joe's touch was nothing like my ex husbands.
"People are saying you are living together in sin, you are never seen alone." My sister, Dorothy, had laid into me. She had the nerve to suggest I tell Joe find another place to live.
"Like I said, let them talk." Joe had taken the girls to dinner, to the park, met with their teachers, did everything their own father should have done, but didn't. The man ignored the age difference factor and asked me to marry him. There were those that said I should insist on knowing about his past, and maybe they were right. All I can say is there was something about Joe I could not pin point, but it was there. And the 'it' told the Spirit inside me he was safe. So, I honestly wasn't concerned in regards to what others said. I only cared about what I had seen, and was still seeing.
Joe finally told me the details on where he used to work as he lay in the hospital. He was so ill we thought for sure he was going to pass on that week. My husband also gave me a couple of names of the people he'd worked with, and I'd been fortunate to find them.
Finding them was a blessing, as Joe got better and we'd had a reunion. The upside it hadn't lasted long. Now he is gone. I think the others would have gladly told me the story of why he'd left Rampart General, but Joe had insisted it stay in the past. And while quite a few tapped their feet, or were tempted to open their mouths, they did not. I am sure it was all out of the love and respect they held for Joe.
"I was lost, honey," Joe finally said as he held me just before his passing as we sat on the couch. Maybe his words to me was his way to clear his mind so he could pass on in peace.
I knew the feeling of feeling of being lost alone when my ex left. That was all I could comprehend, but he hadn't an ex, so my mind didn't grasped what he was saying.
"In my head, darling, I felt as if I no longer knew who I was. I didn't know if I had a purpose any more," He'd tilted my head. "You and our girls gave me my purpose in life back." Bless his soul, even at the end he thought of Jen and Penny as his. My mind quickly flew back to another conversation in regards to the subject of children.
With me now being barren , and knowing most men wanted at least one child of their own. We talked about the fact it was something I could not give him.
"Even without Andrew's attitude and the fact you are past any chance of bearing a child. I am happy the way things are. Besides I'm too old for that anyway." He'd laughed and given me a good solid kiss.
"Well I don't think Andrew will change," a fact I was sure of so far as nothing had happened to prove me wrong.
A bus going by, with the wind turning cold let me know I really did need to go home. Kneeling down I lay a white rose on his grave. "Thanks, Joe for raising my girls as your own. Thanks for being the father you didn't have to be. I have to go now." I then left the cemetery still holding onto the memories of a man who had filled shoes no one else around me had been willing to wear.