‘Something is wrong with this,’ she thought. She leaned forward, wiping her nose with the shreds and clumps of tissue paper she pulled from her purse. The cold bit into the back of her thighs as she sat on the frozen park bench that Saturday morning in the middle of Montgomery Park. She didn’t care. ‘Why do I keep losing moments in my life?’
The fluorescent pink plus symbol burned itself into her memory. It was a moment she thought she would share with an anxious and excited husband. Instead, at the age of 15, she spent it frightened and alone in the bathroom of a Quikie Stop. Positive. Her life was over.
She dropped out of school that year and began working at the store next to the Quikie. The golds and ambers in the prom dresses danced by the window as she rubbed her expanding belly. She had thought she would have looked good in either color, but she could only imagine. Her parents thought it was best for her to leave school for a while.
The moment of her daughter’s birth was overshadowed by a complicated labor and delivery that resulted in her being “put under.” She missed the birth. She didn’t get to hold Juliann until she was two days old due to her reaction to the anesthetic.
All she seemed to do was miss life. Miss. Miss. Miss.
The voice startled her.
“Excuse me, Miss. I didn’t mean to frighten you. These old legs of mine need a little rest. Do you mind sharing?” He motioned with his cane toward the empty end of the bench.
“No, no. Go ahead.”
Juliann’s terrified face had wounded her. “Mom, I’m pregnant!” Juliann plopped down on the bed, her body shaking with sobs, tears wetting the down pillow-top comforter. “What am I going to do?” she whispered loudly to her mother. “My life is over.” Indeed, my dear, indeed.
“Have you always loved cold weather?”
The elderly gentleman interrupted her recollection. Blinking wildly to clear her tear blurred vision, she stammered, “Excuse me?”
“The cold? Surely you enjoy it to be sitting out here today.”
She didn’t want to talk.
“It’s alright,” she sniffled.
He pulled out a pristine white handkerchief and held it out to her. “Here.”
“Oh, no. I couldn’t.”
“Please. It’s alright. You can keep it. I keep extra ‘kerchiefs with me,” he said, patting his jacket pocket. “My grandchildren made me start carrying three a long time ago.”
She forced a smile and nodded her head.
“Do you have any children?”
‘Where is this going?’ she thought.
“Yes, one – a daughter.”
“Marvelous! I have a son and he has three children.” He reached into his back pocket and drew out a weathered leather wallet. He opened it to display a picture of a well-dressed man and three smiling children – two girls and a little boy.
“Jules, Naia, and James. And that’s my son, John.”
She smiled and nodded. “Happy family.”
“Yes. They are a happy bunch. Perhaps the best part of being a grandfather is that I get a ‘do-over’.”
“Yes, a do-over. You see I spent a lot of time working long hours to provide for my family and I missed a lot of time with John. As with many parents, I am sure I could have been a better parent and in a lot of ways I get the chance to be better with my grandchildren.”
“That doesn’t make it better for John, does it?”
“It does. He and I spend a lot more time together now and he asks me different questions about being a dad. Sometimes it even brings up some of the hurt he felt or some of the mistakes I made, but all-in-all, it’s a ‘do over’.” He rubbed his knees a bit then rose to his feet.
“I think these old bones have taken all they can take of the cold. I need to get movin’ or I might not make it home. Thank you for sharing the bench and humoring me a bit with conversation.”
“No problem. It was nice. Thanks for the handkerchief.”
“No problem. Take care and enjoy.”
Then off he went.
Juliann was sleeping when she opened the door. She stood looking at Juliann lying on the sofa. Her daughter was going to have a baby and she was going to get a ‘do over.’ As she left the room, she thought, ‘My losing streak has officially ended.’
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