"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
I stood there reading the opening of Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities". I owned a very old copy (circa 1859) of this story purchased from an Antiquarian Book dealer many years ago. I closed the book and placed it in some wrapping before putting it in the shipping case. I was packing up my library for shipment to my new home in California.
My kids were both adults now. That's one of the reasons I sold the farm house outside of Rochester. The other was the fact that I was finished with the cold weather this area of the country could and did produce. There was no longer any reason to live here. I wanted to live out my years in the warmth of the sun and the arms of a beautiful woman. Now that a goal!
My son was a school teacher in North Carolina. My daughter was married and going to make me a grandfather after Christmas. She and her husband had moved to California last year. I guess the warmer weather must have lead to her pregnancy. (Well OK, maybe her husband helped too.)
I had sold the "farm" and was packing up the items that made up my life here. The movers would see to it that my "stuff" arrived in California. All I had to do is mark what I wanted to go and pack the special items.
Most of the furniture went to the new owners. They were a young couple and this was going to be their first real home. I was only taking the stuff in my library and the original artwork on the walls.
The "farm" consisted of about 20 acres of land. It had a large old house, two barns, a detached four car garage, and miles and miles of fencing for the horses. Well maybe not "miles and miles" but when you were the one painting them, they seemed like it!
The place held a lot of memories for me. It was the first place I bought for the kids after my wife ran off with her lover to escape a "boring" life with me. I watched my two kids, the twins; Jackie and Paul Jr. grow to adulthood here. There were the minor injuries, family disputes, along with the many fun times we had while they were growing.
That was over 20 years ago. I guess I'd better take the time to explain. So let's go back to the beginning.
First there was Adam and Eve. (Oops too far back! Lets try again.)
I'm Paul Kohler. I was born in New York State near the southern border. It was a small town where you didn't have to lock your doors and everybody went to their respective churches on Sunday. You know the type of place where the most excitement came from watching paint dry.
My mother was college educated (liberal arts) and I received the benefit of her studies. My father was a shop keeper. He worked hard and supplied us with a full life.
As soon as I was physically big enough she talked my father into music lessons. Now neither of my parents played any musical instrument, so they didn't understand any reason for a woodwind or string instrument, instead they walked into a piano store.
My first thought as a kid was, "How was I going to push one of those things in the annual Memorial Day Parade?" I was very concerned. You need remember I was only 11 years at the time and the electronic age of keyboards was still in the future.
Well the salesman was very good. We went in there to buy a small piano and walked out with an organ. Actually we didn't walk out with it; it was scheduled to be delivered in two weeks. It was "used". A family had purchased it last year but the husband was transferred to another state and didn't want to pay the cost of shipping it half way across the country.
I guess that was the reason we bought it. It was cheap. The store had already made a profit on the first sale so there wasn't the need to make as much the second time around.
I took lessons once a week until I graduated from High School. Plus one hour a day sitting at the keyboards practicing. At first my Mother wanted me to practice right after school, but that cut into my fun time with my friends. My Dad came up with a compromise. If I practiced right after dinner, he would take over my duty to dry the dishes.
I could stop practicing when the dishes were done. Now I wasn't the sharpest stick in the box at that time, but it sounded like a good deal to me because I hated drying the dishes. You see drying the dishes took about 15 minutes, but somehow my father managed to stretch it out to an hour.
It was years before I caught on. By then I liked playing so it was no longer a chore to me.
When I hit my teenage years, I started loving the music played by my contemporaries. I discovered Rock-n-Roll. The only problem is that none of the bands used an organ back then. They basically were nothing more than a few guitars and a drum set. So I had to learn how to duplicate the "sound" with my hands and feet. I got to be pretty good at imitating the various group's sounds.
In my senior year at high school, I was talked into applying to a music school instead of the regular colleges by my guidance counselor. Much to my surprise I was invited to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY to audition for entrance. My organ teacher worked with me on some classical pieces and my technique until it was time to leave for the "test."
By time I arrived in Rochester for my audition I was a wreck. I couldn't sleep, or eat. My hands trembled. I sat on a bench in the hall outside one of the practice rooms where I would either succeed or fail. I sat on that bench with the other applicants. None of us talked to each other because we didn't know who our completion was. We just sat and worried.
When my turn arrived, I walked into the audition room and found three very nice ladies and a PIANO! I didn't play a piano; they require a completely different "touch" from an organ. My hands never developed that "touch".
I looked at that evil instrument and almost started crying. But I was a 17 year old guy and guys didn't cry. I guess I just froze there because the next thing I remember is one of the women saying "Is there a problem, Mr. Kohler?"
I just nodded my head, "Yes",
"Please elaborate. We don't have all afternoon."
"I sorry, but I don't play piano. I'm an organist."
"Am I correct in assuming that you never learned on a piano?" I was asked.
"Yes Madam. I never have played a piano. I started learning on the organ when I was a little kid. I didn't know piano was required for my audition, or I would have stayed home."
The three of them put their heads together and started whispering. Soon one of them left the room and was gone about 5 minutes. When she returned she was all smiles and started whispering with the other two.
"Mr. Kohler Please bring your things and follow us. We have found an organ that is not in use at present."
So the four of us traipsed off to complete my audition. As we walked down the marble halls. I was impressed. The building had been constructed in the early 1900's. That was the period when people built very elaborate structures. Today a corridor would have drop ceilings with florescent lighting replacing some tiles.
But this hall had marble walls, floors, and ceiling. The lighting was provided by antique brass fixtures attached to the walls. The doors were all oak with fancy engraved oak trim. The hardware on the doors was very impressive.
I heard the sounds of music coming down the hall in front of us. We reached a set of oversized double doors which one of the ladies opened. The music increased tenfold. When I walked through the doors I realized we were in an auditorium.
It was beautiful. The seats were all red velvet. There was a huge chandelier hanging from a very ornate ceiling. I later found out that George Eastman, founder of Kodak, donated this theater to the school in the early 1900's.
"The Philharmonic is just finishing up their practice session," one of the ladies commented to me.
Another one added, "It's the jazz ensemble. They play more modern music."
The conductor brought the group to a magnificent crescendo as we stood in a little group at the rear. He added a few words to them about the areas they needed to work on and when the next practice would be. He turned to leave then he spotted our little group heading toward the orchestra pit.
He turned back to his musicians and said, "The school is holding an audition on our organ for a prospective student. We all know how difficult these trials are, so it would be appreciated if you exited quietly."
I looked around and all eyes were on me. A lot of the members were smiling at me and nodding. These great musicians were acknowledging me, a 17 year old kid from the sticks. There wasn't time to bask in their glory. One of the ladies was hustling me into the pit and starting up the great big concert organ.
She got me seated and explained what was where on this monster console. I had never seen something as large as this instrument was. My heart started pounding in my chest. I knew that I would probably fail.
"It's a pipe organ. There will be a small lag from when you press a key until you hear the sound. I hope this doesn't bother you," she stated. "I would like you to warm up first by playing a few scales."
I played the scales a quick number of times. The delay wasn't that bad and I soon got used to it. One of the ladies brought down some sheet music, handed it to me and said, "Play." And play I did. They kept me at that keyboard for the next two hours before allowing me to stop.
I climbed out of the pit and the women thanked me and explained, "I will be notified of my status in the mail within the next two months." They left me standing there. As I started to leave, I heard someone start clapping. The clapping was soon followed by more and more hands. I turned and found I was being applauded by most of the members of the jazz ensemble. They had stayed to listen to me play. There were a few "Bravo's" and other terms of congratulations. My chest swelled because of the adoration. These professionals were acknowledging me as an equal.
The conductor, who had been sitting in the rear of the theater, walked up to me and said, "When you graduate from here, come see me. I think I can find room for you in one of my groups."
Three very long weeks later when I got home from school one afternoon, my Mom said, "The Eastman School called this morning. You have been accepted with a full 4 year scholarship. You start in the fall."
That's how I spent the next four years of my life.
A gust of wind drove the rain against the window snapping me out of little dream world. It was October and Mother Nature was preparing us for winter. It was cold and just plain nasty. I would not miss this weather at all. I was moving to California. Nasty weather wasn't allowed there.
I walked out of my library into the kitchen to make some coffee. Shit! The coffee maker and all the other small kitchen appliances were packed for the move. I opened the refrigerator to get a beer or something, but alas that was empty. But nicely cleaned.
"Damn these movers were efficient," I thought. I guess I wasn't going to get something to drink tonight. I had a fleeting thought that maybe the local restaurant would deliver a cup of coffee.
Ok, it was just a stupid idea.
I started toward the closet to get a coat, thinking I'd walk into the village and pick up some hot coffee when another gust of wind battered the side of the house reminding me of just how nasty it was outside. I decided that maybe I didn't want a cuppa that badly.
I was bored putting books in a box, so I headed for the living room to start removing the paintings I wanted from the walls. Over the years I had developed a passion for the Wyeth family's art work. I started collecting N.C. Wyeth's illustrations. He was one of the great painters whose works were often illustrations for children's books. I had replicas of some of those illustrations on my walls. I later started collection 1st edition childrens books that contained those same illustrations.
My next works to collect were prints of work by Andrew Wyeth, N.C.'s son. Andrew was an artist. He wandered the fields around his home in Chadford, PA painting what took his fancy. He was very prolific.
Finally I acquired a few of Andrew's son Jamie's work. My favorite was "Pig." I saw the original at a museum outside of Wilmington, De. The painting was a larger than life side view of a standing pig. The detail was so good it was as if Jamie painted every individual hair on the animal. I was so impressed that I purchased a copy there. Of course mine was a lot smaller.
I didn't have any originals; they cost way too much money. But I did have a lot of museum issued reproductions. Owning an original piece of work by a famous artist required alarm systems, insurance policies, and lending to them to museums. It was easier to have a good reproduction on the wall than a piece of paper that said, "On loan to the Met," or some other famous museum. The piece of paper just didn't blend with my decorating schema.
On one wall were my awards from the music industry, No I didn't graduate from music school and rocket to the top of the charts with million record best sellers. Let's face it, my voice was just ok, my face was just ok, and organ music didn't really turn on the record buying set. I was never destined to be a star.
But my music education did teach me how to compose both lyrics and sounds. I paired this knowledge with my ability to mimic other musician's styles. I could sit down and compose a Frank Sinatra song that you would swear was written last week regardless of the fact that Frank went to a better place years ago. I didn't fall into this right away. I still worked hard to provide for my family in a small cubical in a dreary office building pushing paper. There I slowly advanced into the ranks of management.
"My family". Boy did that bring back memories of my earlier years.
My mind drifted back to those early years after college.
I graduated from Eastman and set the music world on fire? Wrong! I not only didn't have a job, I didn't even have a prospect of one. A music degree didn't actually set the world on fire. I ended up as a clerk in a row of desks at a midsized manufacturing firm. It looked as if I was going to spend the next 30 years shuffling paper.
I did the things single guys do; go bar hopping, attending football games, bar hopping, attending auto races, bar hopping. I guess you get the idea. The difficult part of bar hopping was deciding whether to go to a bar with a band and compete with a bunch of other guys for the girls there and bar space.
These things were compounded by the fact that the damn bar raised the drink prices as well as charging a cover charge. Or just go to a neighborhood saloon and just drink with friends. Unfortunately since my friends were all guys, I had to visit the bars with bands if I wanted to get laid. And boy I needed to get laid regularly or else I got cramps in my hand.
I was still an under paid clerk with a car payment and apartment rent, so all these extra costs put a strain on my budget. I ended up most nights with the guys drinking cheap pitchers of beer. I only hit the clubs on Friday or Saturday nights, nursing one or two drinks all night and trying to look cool.
It was on one of those Friday nights that I met Mary. She was about 5'6" tall with a body to die for. She was cute, friendly, and really sexy. We danced a lot, and generally hung around the club together just getting acquainted.
It took a couple of Friday nights before I talked her out to the parking lot and onto my back seat. We kissed and messed around but I never got further than first base before she wanted to go back in the club. She got back into the club with no problem because she was a female. I got stopped at the door because I was a guy and didn't have the price of re-admission.
It was another month before I ran into her again. She was sitting at a table with some other couples. She was alone but was being hit on by a few guys, some she danced with and others she declined.
She smiled at me as I walked across the floor toward her, "Hi Paul."
"Hi Mary, Wanna a dance?"
She accepted and off we went to the very over crowded dance floor. We were about half way through the second song when some guy walked up to her, wrapped his arms around her and put a very serious lip lock on her.
I was about to grab him when I realized that she had wrapped both her arms and one leg around him. I suddenly felt like a fifth wheel and headed back to the bar where I left my drink. When I got there, my drink was gone along with my stool and my jacket.
"Shit," I thought, "I never get a break."
As I waited for a bartender to get back to my end of the bar, I spotted Mary and her new friend walking out the door to the parking lot. I guess that told me where I stood with her. I walked back to my apartment freezing my butt off because of my lost jacket. The colder I got, the more my heart hardened against Mary.
I would run into Mary at the various clubs over the next few months. We would acknowledge each other but I'd never ask her to dance or even stop to chat. I spent my time hitting on all the available girls that would accept me. Now I'm not a bad looking guy at 6'0" and 190 lbs. I have dark hair offset by the bluest eyes around. I was told by members of the opposite sex that I was very easy on the eyes.
"You're just a little too shy," I was told,
Well my Mother raised me to not be "Pushy" around girls which I guessed they thought of as being shy. Well now that I think about it, maybe they were right.
One night as I sat out a dance at the bar I heard, "Hi Paul, don't you want to dance with me anymore?" Mary had walked up behind me at the bar.
"I'm just sitting this one out, thank you. I need to keep my strength up. Work tomorrow you know."
"But Paul, I want to dance."
"Mary this club is packed. I'm sure someone will ask a pretty girl like you to dance and then walk you out to the parking lot." I bitterly replied.
She started to reply, but I was already off my stool and heading for the door. She started to follow, but a couple of guys blocked her path and started hitting on her. The last thing I saw was her flirting with those guys as the door closed behind me.
Now Rochester isn't that big a city so it means that there aren't a lot of clubs that feature Dance Bands. I would run into Mary almost every weekend at one of them. We ignored each other. Except that I swear sometimes I could feel her looking at me. It went on this way for another 3-4 months.
It might have gone on this way for years except one night as I was walking back to my truck; I heard a female voice making noises that I usually don't associate with good times. I started toward the sounds looking for a damsel in distress. Along the way I acquired a push broom. I broke the handle into a nice sized club. Now I was ready to play the white knight.
When I heard cloth tearing, a guy's voice crying out in pain, and then the sound of a fist hitting flesh, I started running at the sound. When I rounded the back of a parked car I saw two guys holding a female down on the pavement. One of them was holding her and the other was struggling to get her jeans off over her shoes. It was Mary and I saw the terror in her eyes as she fought to keep from being raped.
My first reaction was to hit the guy holding her in the face with the broom handle. I hit him right on the nose. He fell backward with blood all over his face.
The second guy had stopped trying to remove her jeans and was trying to stand when I hit him across the side of his head. He started down but struggled to get up again. So I hit him again and again until he stopped moving. Actually, someone pulled me off him or I would have probably killed him.
The bouncers held me until the police arrived. After the police sorted everything out, the two guys were taken to the hospital and once there they were charged with attempted rape. I was interviewed by the detective about my actions. After I told him my story, he chastised me about "getting involved" the "possibility of being hurt," and "letting the police do their jobs."
After he got done reading me the riot act, he put an arm around my shoulders and whispered in my ear, "Good job, Son." I later heard these two were responsible for a couple of other assaults in the area.
After the detective was done with me a patrolman asked me where my car was. It seemed that Mary had gotten a ride to the club with a friend and she had left without Mary. She had accepted a ride back to her apartment from one of those clowns. When they reached the back of the parking lot, Mary realized they were going to ride her instead. She clawed one guys face struggling to get away when his buddy grabbed her from behind. If I hadn't come along they would probably beaten her badly if not fatally because of her resistance to their plans.
A police woman brought a blanket wrapped Mary to me. Mary had a pair of badly torn jeans on and part of her bra to maintain her modesty. She grabbed on to me and started crying her heart out. She wouldn't let go so I had to pick her up and carry her to my vehicle. Yeah you're right, "I'm a softie."
The female cop followed along with Mary's purse. The cop helped me open the passenger door and between the two of us we managed to get Mary in my truck with most of her modesty preserved. I didn't have a clue where Mary lived so I took her to my apartment. I figured that I'd settle her down in my bed and I would sleep on the couch. In the morning we'd address getting her something to wear and home.
We never did address getting her back to her home or even me sleeping on the couch for the next week or two. For the first three nights the only way I could get her to sleep was by holding her in my arms in bed. She had nightmares any time I tried to leave her alone. So I stayed with her.
Ok, it wasn't exactly an unpleasant duty holding a half naked woman in your arms all night. But somehow I was able to be the almost complete gentleman (I did peek).
Six months later the lease on her apartment expired. She didn't renew it. Hell she hadn't slept there since before the attempted rape.
There was a knock on my back door at the farm house. My first thought was, "My coffee's here." Then I remembered that I didn't order any. So there went my sudden good mood.
I suspected that my cab back to my hotel room in the city had arrived. I wasn't spending the night in the old house. All the bedroom furniture, the bedding, the bathroom supplies and such had been packed and shipped to my new place or donated to Goodwill.
I went to the door to tell the driver I'd be right out. When I opened the door I got the surprise of my life. There stood Mary, the mother of my twin children and my ex-wife. This was a woman I hadn't seen in over twenty years.
The years had not been kind to her. She was dressed like a bag lady. She had lost enough weight that I'll bet she wouldn't tip the scales at over 80 lbs with all her clothes soaking wet.
Like I said before, "The years had not been kind to her." Her face and neck were a mass of small scars and other old injuries. Her nose looked as if she had been a losing prize fighter, both broken and flattened across her face/
But the most striking feature was the scar that stared near her right temple and drifted across her face until it reached her mouth. The horrifying part was that the scar crossed under the eye patch she was wearing. With one look at the eye patch I realized that the patch had nothing underneath it.
Her eye was gone.
My mind jumped back in time to that phone call so many years ago.
I was sitting in my little cubical when my supervisor stuck his head in and handed me a telephone message. I must have had a funny look in my face because he said, "It's one of your neighbors. Your kids got off the school bus and your wife isn't home so they are at her house," he said.
I made the phone call to my neighbor. She explained the twins were at her house and I should get home to them right away. They were only 6 years old. Something wasn't right. I left and drove home.
When I got to my neighbor's house, Sue Sharp, my neighbor, met me at the car, "Paul, I'm sorry to tell you this but Mary moved out today. Some guys with a small van pulled up at your house around 10:00 and two guys plus Mary carried all her clothes and stuff out to the truck. When they were done, they just drove away laughing and grabbing at each other. They were going at it so hard that I'm surprised they didn't have sex right on your front lawn."
"They left the doors to the house wide open. So after they drove around the corner I went over to your house to lock up."
"It was a mess. All your clothes were thrown around and dresser drawers were pulled out and dumped out on the floor. Jill Daily and I spent the rest of the day cleaning up your house so that the kids wouldn't be panicked by mess."
"Thank you," was all I could reply.
The next few days were hectic. There were lawyer meetings, bank account closings, credit card freezings, and all the things I needed to do to protect myself. The worst part was explaining where Mommy was. I had no idea of her whereabouts so I lied to the twins. I hated lying to them, but I was trying to protect them from the hurt I was feeling. My daughter just cried worrying that her mother was hurt, her brother just sat there stoically with his arms around his twin. I guess that's how twins coped.
It took almost a year, but finally I was divorced. My lawyer could never find Mary to serve her, so we used desertion as a reason for the divorce. There would never be any child support, alimony, asset splitting or visitation rights. As far as the judge was concerned she was dead to us.
I know it takes 7 years to declare a person legally dead. But she was dead as far as our marriage and the children were concerned. That was all that was really important to me.
To pass the lonely hours after I had Jackie and Paul Jr. all snug in their beds, I started playing around with my music again. I started composing and writing lyrics in various styles. I'd sit there in front of my organ and imagine various artists performing and tailor my song to their style.
Over the next six years I got very good. I would play for some of my neighbors and they would claim the song was a Beatles, or Blood, Sweat, and Tears, or some other group but they just couldn't remember the name of that particle song. Internally I would smile knowing that I had created this musical piece of work. And yes, I got very good.
One day I ran into one of my old classmates from the Eastman School. Sam had a few hit albums and a minor amount of celebratory. At the point in time when we became reacquainted, he was in a musical slump. We talked about old times, but the conversation kept coming around to his slump. He just couldn't create anything saleable.
I began to feel sorry for him. We started discussing his "style" and finally went to my house on the pretense of seeing my children. He played his guitar for my kids and I played my organ. We both sang. When I felt that I had his style down fairly well, I played him one of my songs. We then played it a couple of more times until he was comfortable with it.
The next day was a Saturday and I found him in his car in my driveway at 7:00 am. He was as excited as kids at Christmas about the song. He had stayed up half the night and re-wrote some lyrics for it. As I made coffee for me and breakfast for everyone else, he sang "his" song for us.
My kids were impressed. They knew they were watching what was going to be a hit song being created. Sam and I stayed by my organ the rest of the day. If it wasn't for the kids getting hungry, I don't think we would have ever stopped jamming.
By the time Sunday evening rolled around Sam had 10 songs to take back with him. He was on his cell phone with his band setting up practice sessions for the next two weeks as he walked from my house.
It was about a month later that Jackie came running into the house yelling for me to turn on the radio. It seems that she recognized one of the songs Sam and I played that weekend a month ago. The song was climbing the charts. Sam's career was climbing with it.
It was kind of nice hearing my music on the radio even if no one but my kids, Sam, and I knew who wrote them. I must admit that I did get an ego burst out of hearing them.
One night several days later Jackie answered the phone (well it was usually for her anyway) and yelled down from her bedroom to me that the call was for me.
I picked up the extension, "Hello?"
"Hi Paul, it's Sam, Your song is going all the way to the top! I just got a call from our label and they want to do an album based around that new sound. What do you think about that?
"Sam, it's the best news I've had. I'm glad to see that you are on your way back to the top with your new music."
"No you idiot, it's your music! And that's what I'm calling about. I set you up with an agent and he'll be calling you tomorrow. I want to be sure that you receive all the royalties you are due."
"But Sam, those songs were my gift to you, my friend. I don't want to profit off your success."
"Bullshit buddy. This is my gift to you," said Sam.
To make a long story short, it took about three months before the checks started arriving. At first it was like having a 2nd job that paid very well, but they started becoming smaller after about ten months.
Well it was fun while it lasted. Sam and his guys got their mojo back and started creating new music themselves. My help was no longer required.
Early one evening almost two years later my phone rang. This time the phone answering service was at the mall with a couple of her girl friends so I was forced to answer it myself. I suspected it would be a "boy" calling and answered the phone with a message pad in hand.
Imagine my surprise when it was Sam calling for me. "Hi buddy, how's the new house? Have you gotten settled into that new to you "old" farm house?"
"Yes, a little."
"Are you set up for writing new stuff?"
"Good because I have a friend that could use your help."
"What kind of help, "I asked.
"She wants to make a comeback, but needs some music in her old style. She's been trying for the past year but keeps coming up dry. She needs your help buddy."
"Sam, I don't know if I even can work in her style, who ever she is"
Sam told me her name and it was the name of a multi gold and platinum award winner. I was awed.
"Sam, I'd love to help, but remember that you and I sat in my living room and hashed out the songs? She's famous! I don't know how we'll get together to do the work."
"Paul, I discussed all this with her. If you'll help, she'll move in your house for a couple of weeks and the two of you can create beautiful music," and then he laughed a dirty laugh.
"Asshole, my kids will be home. There's "no beautiful music" for me. Only good old fashioned song writing."
Well I did have an extra bedroom.
Sam promised to work out the logistics with her and let me know what was decided.
It wasn't even a week when my daughter handed me a telephone message, "Sam called, and he said to be at the airport at 7:00 am Saturday to meet our house guest. What's up Dad?"
I explained that I had another friend coming to stay and we'd work on some music.
Saturday morning the three of us, me, Jackie, and Paul Jr. were standing outside of the security area at the airport waiting for Sam's buddy.
The kids were both looking over the arriving passengers trying to spot someone who looked like a friend of Sam's when a rather plain looking housewife type walked up to me and said, "Are you Paul KohlerKohler?"
I recognized the voice immediately. You can hide the physical features in baggy clothes, the face behind dark glasses, but you can't hide that beautiful voice from me.
I nodded my head and said to the kids, "Ok guys, She's here. Let's go."
"She" smiled at the kids and said, "My name's Ann. Please call me that."
I watched as my daughter's eyes got wider and wider as her brain processed the voice she was hearing and compared it to what her eyes were seeing. I just managed to get my hand over her mouth before she blurted out a name.
"Ann" this is my daughter Jackie and my son Paul Jr. Welcome to our city. Let's get your luggage and go have breakfast."
My son, a new driver, volunteered to get the car and pick up us at the terminal. That way we wouldn't need to walk "all that way" to the parking garage with "Ann's" luggage, or so his reasoning went. A teenage boy with a new driver's license will agree to do anything he could to drive.
There was one time he wanted to drive to the next door neighbor's house to borrow some milk. His logic, "But Dad, I'll be able to get there and back faster and the milk won't spoil!"
It was a nice try, but I made him walk.
It's no wonder that I'm starting to get a few gray hairs so early in my life.
My advice to you is to move when your kids enter those teenage years and not give them your forwarding address. Trust me, it will be worth it. Well maybe not. But the thought offers some humor at times of severe stress.
Anyway the three of us stood as a little family group while we waited for my son to drive up. Naturally he took the long way around. My daughter and "Ann" stood whispering and giggling together. You would have thought they were old friends the way they carried on.
I had begun to notice over the past few months that my daughter Jackie was hanging around with older women. I would see her walking with the neighbors or talking to her teachers. She was at that age when she needed a woman's touch. As I watched this interaction, I felt a renewed hatred for my ex deserting our children.
I can see where a woman might want to leave a husband, but I could never rationalize why she would ever leave her children. Something must be lacking in Mary. Maybe it was the "Mother" gene.
My son snapped me out of my thoughts by pulling up the curb in front of us and scrapping the right side tires. Oh well he was still learning and tires were cheaper to replace than having human or car body damage repaired. I just wished that he'd learn a little faster. He was hard on cars and my wallet.
That night "Ann" and I sat the kids down and explained why she was here. I made it clear to both of them that no one, "And I mean no one" could learn of her presence at our house. She was just my cousin "Ann" from the west coast to all their friends. I promised them with years of being confined to their rooms (no phone for my daughter and no car for my son).
I guess the penalty threats worked because they were unusually quiet when they went off to bed.
"Ann" watched them trudge off to their rooms and waited for until they were out of hearing range,
"Paul, don't you think you were a little hard on them"
"No!" I declared. "Kids talk first and think later. I don't want your visit here being on the evening news."
"I can see your point and respect it, but I hate to see the kids threatened when they haven't done anything. You appear have done an excellent job of raising them. I saw this after only spending one day with them."
"Thank you, it's been hard. But I never gave up on them like their mother did."
We switched subjects to music and later adjourned to my music room. That first night we worked on her stuff until the sun was breaking over the horizon before calling it quits and turning in to our respective rooms.
One of the fortunate things about teenagers is that they sleep in whenever the chance presents itself. My two were no exception. It was 10:00 am before they started making noise. I got up, partially dressed and went down to attempt to quiet them down a notch. "Ann" needed her sleep. Besides our late night writing session, she was still on West Coast time and probably needs the extra sleep.
I promised I'd cook their favorite breakfast after I took a shower and dressed. A little bribery never hurt. I headed back up to my room.
Thirty minutes later I walked out of my bedroom and into some of the greatest smells I had smelled in this old house. When I walked into the kitchen I found "Ann" cooking breakfast. While it was a bit of a shock seeing her cooking that wasn't the biggest one. My daughter Jackie was helping cook!
Now Jackie never showed any interest in anything related to the kitchen. Hell, I had a hard time getting her to help load the dishwasher. So I almost had as Fred Sanford used to say with hand over heart, "The big one," when I saw this.
"Hi Dad, I'm helping "Ann" make breakfast. The eggs and bacon are almost ready. Do you want a couple of pancakes too? "Ann" taught me how to make the batter from scratch and everything." "Ann" just stood in the background and beamed.
I damn near cried because I was so proud of my daughter's accomplishments and I could hear the happiness in her voice
"I'll have some of everything," I answered.
It was a perfect breakfast if you don't mind extra crunchy pancakes. I ate them with a smile on my face. And you know teenage boys, they'll eat anything.
My daughter was one proud girl. "Ann" and I cleaned up the kitchen while Jackie basked in her newfound glory. I had forgotten how messy new cooks were. It must have taken "Ann" and me an extra half hour to restore the kitchen to some state of cleanliness.
Later in the afternoon when "Ann" and I were taking a break from our composing she said, "Jackie needs a female role model in her life at this point. I'd like to apply for the job if you'll let me."
"Wow! I never even thought about it before. I'd like you to be her mentor but there are problems. First you are only here for two or three weeks, we need to consider her feelings when you leave."
Before I could continue she interrupted me, "Paul, I thought all about those road blocks. First there's the telephone. Jackie and I can talk daily. Second you and I are creating beautiful music here, after I get back home I still need to do a little studio time to clean them up and record them.