Catherine, after much
cajoling, was finally in
“Catherine, it’s not as if we’re unable to care for ourselves. Remember, there’s a whole community that would be happy to help if the need arose. You’ve promised Susan how many times, and always found some new reason not to go. And if I recall correctly, she’s come twice now to visit you. This trip is well overdue. You deserve to go; you need to go. My love, it would please me greatly if you would go and have a wonderful time. If you don’t go, I’ll feel it’s because of me that you’ve not gone. This will be an amazing experience for Jacob also, traveling and seeing new places. You need not worry about us, please,” Vincent said, with love is his big, blue eyes.
“All right, I’ll go if it will make you happy; it’s just that I’ll miss you…all of you. I promise to have a good time and will try not worry. But on one condition – that you all promise to take good care of each other. Right!”
“Right,” they said in sincere unison.
There were hugs and kisses all around. Jacob was waiting in the car to drive to the airport, honking the horn to move her along so they wouldn’t miss their flight. With one more kiss and hug, she left his arms and walked out to the car.
“I’ll call when we get to Susan’s,” she said. But then again, you’ll know, she thought, closing the front door.
I’ll know when you’re there, my love, he thought, as he sent love and happiness through their Bond to ease her trepidations.
“Dad, I can help in the kitchen. William is teaching me to cook, and he said, with my appetite, I better learn,” Charles told him, standing tall and proud for his thirteen years.
“I know I can depend on you, and Charles, I do believe you’re almost as tall as your brother…your older brother, of course,” he said, with a smile and pride in his second offspring.
“Really Dad…Jacob is as tall as you now, or maybe a little taller?” he said with a mischievous grin.
“I believe his is. By the way, where are Jennifer and Joseph?” He paused for a moment and checked the Bond. Hmmm, they’re up in the study being uncharacteristically quiet, he thought. He went up to the study and found them sitting on the floor, looking up at the photo of Catherine on his desk. He could feel their melancholy at her leaving, and decided to do something to put a smile back on their faces and in their hearts.
“Daddy, we miss Mommy already,” Jenny whispered, with a sad look on her pretty, little face. Jenny was usually the speaker for the two of them; Joey just nodded and held his sister’s hand.
“I know, children. I miss her already also, and she isn’t even on the plane yet. I think we need to do something fun today. We don’t want your Mother to feel us being sad, now do we? She wants us to be happy, too, and we should be happy for her. Remember, she’s keeping a promise to Susan, and we all know it’s important to keep our promises, isn’t it?”
“Yes, we have to keep our promises,” they said nodding to their father.
“Perhaps a picnic and swimming at the Mirror Pool, and just maybe, we can talk your grandfather into coming with us. We can pack a lunch from our kitchen, and maybe William has a few cookies he can spare.”
The children jumped up and almost knocked him over giving him a hug. They were ten now. Jenny was her mother in miniature except for her strawberry blonde hair. Joey was a little bigger than most boys his age, and like his brothers, would be tall and broad--shouldered like their father.
Vincent and Charles got all the food they needed packed in an old-fashioned picnic basket. The twins gathered beach towels and bathing suits, and then put everything in a tote bag from their mother’s closet. They all met in the basement at the tunnel entrance and then proceeded to Father’s chamber. Vincent could feel the excitement in them; when his children were happy, he was happy.
As they approached Father’s chamber, he stayed back a few steps to let the children enter first. They all greeted their grandfather with hugs and kisses.
“Grandfather, we’re going to the Mirror Pool for swimming and a picnic, and you have to come too,” Jenny informed him.
“Oh, children, not today. My hip hurts a little more than usual,” he said diplomatically.
“Grandfather, you promised the last time we went, you would come next time. Well, it’s next time, and it’s not good to break a promise,” Joey said, with arms folded, looking sternly at his grandparent.
Father looked hopefully at Vincent, who was leaning against the wall, looking nonchalant.
“I’m sorry, Father. A promise is a promise. It’s not good to break them, I’ve been told, and the water exercise will do your hip good.”
“Oh, all right. I know when I’m being ambushed. Mary, will you find my bathing suit, please.”
They added Father’s things to the tote and left, with Mary smiling at the ambush Vincent and the children carried off to perfection. She knew Father would not break his promise to his grandchildren, and Peter had recommended water exercise for him numerous times with no luck.
“Joseph, why don’t you and your sister run ahead and find a good spot for us to eat our lunch.”
“Ok, we will.” And they ran on ahead, excited that they could pick the spot.
“Dad, I don’t think anyone else will be there. Good spot?” Charles questioned.
“It gives them something important to do. It’s – as your Mother would say – a teaching opportunity.”
Father relished the normalcy his son had in his life, all thanks to dear, sweet Catherine. How I misjudged her in the beginning, tried my best to keep them apart. If I had succeeded, I would not have these beautiful grandchildren and a special son who was truly living a “happy life,” he thought, walking along with Vincent and Charles on either side of him.
When they reached the Pool, Joey had a spot picked out, and Jenny was busy spreading out the colorful beach towels for everyone.
“We need to change into our bathing suits. Daddy, I need privacy, because I’m a girl you know,” Jenny announced to her doting father.
“May I suggest you come over here by these rocks and I’ll stand guard for your privacy. Is that all right with you, Princess?”
“Yes, Daddy, that will be fine,” she said, proud of herself.
Father, looking smug, suggested, “She is her mother’s daughter, is she not, Vincent?”
“Oh, Father, you have no idea. When she’s older, the boys and I are surely in for some interesting times with two beautiful and very independent women.”
The water was wonderful. They were all good swimmers, taught at an early age by Vincent and Catherine. Even Father was having a good time, and his hip wasn’t causing him any problems. In fact, it felt less tight and caused him no pain.
“I guess Peter was correct,” Father admitted. “I may continue this on a regular schedule, and maybe I can get Mary to join me. It would do her good also,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
Vincent just smiled and shook his head.
They all swam, played, raced, and had a fun time. Vincent would dive deep and sneak up on his children just to hear them laugh. It was a priceless gift to him to hear the joy in their laughter and see the smiles on their faces.
“All right, children and Father, everyone out. It’s time for lunch, and then you may resume swimming after a story or two,” he said, toweling himself off and opening the picnic basket.
There were sandwiches, fruit, and lemonade. Everyone ate hungrily, and then rested on their beach towels while their father to read to them. Father was happy for the lunch break, just not enthused with the literature selections. The stories were a bit too light for his liking, but good for the much younger generation.
Vincent decided two stories would give their lunch time to digest before going back into the water. As he closed the second book, he heard from his audience.
“Daddy, Daddy, can we go in the water now?” Joey asked excitedly.
“Yes, you may, and be careful,” he said, as the twins raced toward the water only to crisscross in front of Father.
Father tried to stop. Vincent reached out to catch him, only to have his foot catch on a towel. Father and son went sprawling to the ground with Father landing on top of son. There was a distinctive snap; Father knew at once what it was.
“Vincent, lay still. I’m all right, but I’m afraid you’re not.”
Daddy…Daddy, we’re sorry. We didn’t mean to make you and Grandfather fall,” Jenny said, starting to cry.
“Don’t cry, Princess. I’m ok,” he said fighting back the stinging pain in his shoulder.
He was laying flat on the ground with Father now kneeling beside him. “Vincent, I believe you broke your collarbone when I landed on you. Stay still until I check it more closely. Charles, do you think you can get things organized and get your brother and sister ready to start back?” he asked, thinking, Ah, another teaching opportunity.
“Sure, Grandfather. Come on, kids. Help me get things picked up and packed to help Dad and Grandfather.”
Father and Charles helped him to a sitting position, then to stand, leaning against the wall.
“Joseph, could you help me with my socks and boots,” Vincent asked his worried, youngest son.
“Yes, Dad. I can help you. I won’t hurt you will I?” he asked tenuously.
Hmmm, teaching opportunity. Giving Joey something important to do, so he wouldn’t feel guilty, thought Charles.
Back at the hospital chamber, Father wrapped his shoulder and put his arm in a sling. “Vincent, you should all stay Below tonight and…”
“Father, I’ll be fine. Look at all the help I have. Who could ask for better helpers? And besides, they all have school the next five days, so I’ll be able to rest. Father, please don’t worry.”
“Well, I’ll be up to check on you anyway, although I’m sure Jenny will be keeping an eye on you, as would Catherine, if she was here,” Father said with a smirk on his face.
“Vincent, do you think Catherine knows something has occurred?” Mary asked, buttoning his shirt for him.
“I softened the Bond a little for a while, and I can shield the pain from her. But should she call, I can not lie to her. Hopefully, she’s having a good time and won’t notice anything out of the ordinary.” At least that was his wish, not to disturb her vacation.
After having dinner Below, they all went home to the brownstone, and everyone got themselves ready for bed. They each came in to check on their father and kiss him goodnight.
“Daddy, we got our school clothes out and have everything we need for tomorrow, just like Mommy does. Since Mommy isn’t here, I can be the lady in the house, ok?” Jenny asked.
“I think that’s a wonderful idea, and I know you’ll do a good job in your mother’s absence.”
“Daddy, is there anything you need? Maybe another pillow or blanket or water or anything?” she asked.
“Maybe a glass of water on the night stand would be good. Thank you for asking. That was very thoughtful of you,” he said softly.
“Daddy, I can help you get your jeans, boots and socks off, then get your sweat pants to sleep in. Mommy said they’re comfy. Jenny, we need privacy, because you’re a girl and Daddy’s a boy,” Joey explained to his sister.
“Ok, I’ll get his water while you help him change,” she said with authority.
“Joseph, that would be helpful to me. I don’t think I can quite manage myself. Thank you for your thoughts on my privacy,” he said with a small grin.
After he redressed for bed, he kissed his youngest children, and they went off to bed. He knew they were tired and would be asleep shortly after their heads hit the pillows.
He heard Charles in the kitchen and started downstairs just as the boy started up, carrying a tray with tea on it.
“Dad, I made you some chamomile tea to help your sleep better. Mary said it would be just the thing, and Grandfather gave me some Tylenol for the pain in your shoulder. I’m sorry I wasn’t watching the little kids closer. Maybe you wouldn’t have gotten hurt,” he said softly.
Vincent could see and feel the guilt in his son; he needed to comfort the boy. “Charles, you know what your mother always says. Things happen! No one is at fault, especially you. Please don’t think this is your fault in any way. I’ll just blame your grandfather for falling on me,” he said with a grin like the Cheshire cat.
Charles smiled and looked relieved.
“Dad, Grandfather said you should sleep propped up with pillows. It will cause you less pain and make it easier to get up. He said if you lay flat, you’ll be like a turtle on its back, and you won’t be able to get up easily. I can help you get comfortable, and then I’ll go to bed. What book would you like? Tell me and I’ll get it for you,” Charles said, walking toward the study.
“Charles, I believe I’ll just go to bed. I’m tired myself. Thank you for being such a good and responsible son. Your mother will be as proud of you as I am. You’re keeping your promise to her to take good care of us,” he said with a warm smile and a one-armed hug for his son.
After a few hours of sleep, he arose to walk and ease the pain in his shoulder. He went upstairs to check the children. First the boys. Joey was sharing a room with Charles now, and both boys were sleeping peacefully. “Sleep well my sons.”
Across the hall in her room, Jenny was fast asleep. He picked up her quilt which had fallen off the bed and covered her with it. “Sleep well my beautiful princess.”
He came back down to the study and his favorite old, leather chair. He had intended to read, but instead fell asleep thinking of all of the gifts he had been given because of Catherine. I miss you my love. Very much.
He awoke a few hours later to the sight of his daughter standing with arms crossed and a somber look on her freckled face.
“Daddy, you were supposed to sleep in your bed with pillows, Grandfather said, and you didn’t! How do you think you can get better if you don’t listen to Grandfather? He’s a doctor and you have to do what he says. Mommy won’t be happy if you don’t get better!”
He shook his shaggy head and smiled at the lady in the house. “Jennifer, I did sleep in my bed with pillows, but I woke up and came in here to read for a while. I must have fallen asleep again. I did do as the doctor said, and I will get better soon, I promise…and we don’t break promises do we?” he said, hoping to ease her worry. She’s getting more like Catherine everyday, and I don’t think I’ll ever win an argument with these ladies, he thought, looking at those sparkling, green eyes.
“No, we don’t break promises ever, Daddy. I love you, Daddy,”
Sunday finally arrived and all had gone reasonably well. Vincent rested enough according to Father, and his helpers took good care of him as promised. Actually, Vincent thought, with a little too much care. All the children felt important, and they were proud of their accomplishments. Not as proud as he was of them, though.
They were all up in the study when they heard the front door open. The children ran downstairs to greet their mother and brother.
He waited at the top of the landing for her, without his sling. He had asked the children not to say anything about the accident. He would tell Catherine himself. After hugging and kissing them all, she started up the stairs with that look in her eyes. God, how I missed you, she sent through their Bond.
He enclosed her in his arms gingerly, kissed and nuzzled the top of her head. Then their lips met, and they headed into their bedroom and closed the door.
“Hey kids, want to go out for pizza?” Jacob asked, knowing his parents needed a little hello, I missed you time.
“Yes,” they all yelled at once. He herded them out and closed the front door.
“I missed you. And before you ask, yes, we had a great time.
“Catherine, I missed you also my love, every minute of every day. I’m so glad you had a good time. It made me happy to see and feel you enjoy yourself, and give Jacob a wonderful new experience.”
When they first embraced on the landing, her arms had encircled his waist. Usually he would pick her up in his arms and carry her into the bedroom, but this time he took her hand, tenderly kissed it and led her in, looking into her eyes and smiling. There was something in their Bond that she couldn’t quite discern. He was purposely quieting it.
“Vincent, is there something you need to tell me? Is everything all right? Is Father well? Tell me please,” she asked, starting to worry.
“My love, everything is fine. Father is well. I didn’t want you to worry yourself. I had a small accident. Nothing serious. Do I not look fine to you?” he asked.
“I knew something was going on in the Bond, but I couldn’t quite get my head around it. Tell me, what did this little accident entail?” Catherine asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Come here, sit on the bed beside me, and I’ll tell you all you need…no, all you want to know.” He proceeded to tell her the story while gently rubbing her back to help distract her emotions. “As you can see my love, it was really nothing. The children kept their promise to you. They took good…no, excellent care of me. I believe it is you who always says, Things happen. It was an excellent teaching opportunity,” he said, with a smile and his head tilted.
“Now let me get this right, my love. You need all these pillows because, if you lay flat, you’re like a turtle and can’t get up easily? I think I need to test that theory,” she said, as she tossed all the pillows on the floor and gently pushed him down on their bed.
“Ok Mr. Turtle. We’ll take this slow and easy. It just so happens that I gave Jacob enough money for pizza and carousel rides for the whole afternoon,” she whispered. She tenderly kissed his forehead, his eyes, and his waiting lips, as she started undoing the buttons on his shirt…
“Remember to be gentle…oh, Catherine,” he said, barely breathing.