Just as I returned home from a hard day at work, my cell phone went off. The caller I.D. checked out to be dad. “Hello.” I answered.
“Travis?” A small voice replied. My heart pounded. I knew that voice all too well, Parker. “Is this Travis Rain?”
“Yes it is. Is this Parker?”
“Yup.” He answered in reply. My heart was pounding heavily in my chest. Why was my son calling me? Did something happened to dad? I gulped hard, waiting for him to say something.
“What’s up Parker?” I finally asked after waiting for him to talk.
“Well. . . um. . . You see, Christmas is coming up, and well. . . um. . . “ He was quite nervous, I could tell. “Ummm. . . .”
I started to chuckle. He was trying to ask me something, I just knew it. “Spit it out Parker. Just ask.”
“For Christmas, all I want is to see you. So, I was wondering if I can spend Christmas with you in Bridgeport?”
I was stunned, even though I was expecting it. “Well, I’d be honored if you came to stay, but you have to ask grandpa. Okay.”
“Ummmmm. . . .” I could just imagine him looking around.
“Parker, does grandpa know you have his phone?” Crap, please say yes.
“Well. . . “
“Parker?” I said in the most fatherly grown-up voice I could muster.
“No. He’s out back. I kinda stole it today. Are you mad?” I could tell he was a bit afraid.
I chuckled. “No. Go get grandpa, and I’ll talk to him. Okay?”
“Okay.” I could hear wind rustling as he walked or run. “GRANDPA! PHONE!”
“Who is it?” I heard my father call out.
“Travis!” Well, at least my son was honest. “He called. He wants to talk to you!” Okay, well not totally honest. I chuckled. “He’s coming.”
“Parker, you little liar. You called me!”
“Shhh. Don’t tell, please. I’m not suppose to call you.” Parker whispered.
I heard the phone being handed over. “Travis?” My dad answered.
“Hey dad.” I wanted to rat out my kid, but I just didn’t have the heart. “I was wondering. . . Well, Christmas is next week, and I thought with grandpa being sick that you and Parker could come up and visit.”
Grandpa Thomas had just gotten diagnosed with liver failure and stage four cancer. It was heart breaking to hear, but not a huge surprise. He smoked four packs a day and drank most of his life, yet, I was thoroughly crushed by the news. The doctors started him on Chemo, but with his liver, he just couldn’t handle it. He only has a short time to live. Now that I think about it, this was a perfect opportunity to have dad come up and visit grandpa one last time.
“Huh? That’s interesting. That’s what Parker’s been asking for, for about two months. . . Christmas with you, that’s all he wants.” I smiled. “Let me ask you, did he call you?”
“No.” I lied. Hell, I have to protect me son. “I called and then he asked. But still, it would be nice for you two to come down and see grandpa.”
“Liar. I noticed my phone was gone this morning. Buuuuut, you are right, it would be nice to see dad. We’ll come visit for the weekend. We’ll be up there Friday. We do have to leave Christmas night though, your mother wants Parker over that weekend to.”
“No problem.” I resisted the urge to moan. I hated that my son had a relationship to the woman that kicked me out of the house because I knocked up Rose. Bitch! We said our goodbyes and hung up. Only after the phone call did I really realize what was happening, I was going to see my son.
I immediately had Sally come over. She walked in and was ready to jump me. “No.” I pushed her off. “I need yours and Mark’s help.” She looked stunned. I had never mentioned her husband before. He was my landlord, and I was doing his wife. Talk about being stupid.
“Why do you need his help?” She cut me a glare. She was not pleased.
I took her hands and looked at her. “I need a place to store some furniture so I can redecorate for a Christmas party. My dad and Parker are coming to visit for the holiday.” I gave her my puppy face, in hope she could get Mark to help me move out some furniture.
“Are you serious!?!” She yelled excitedly. “Of course we’ll help. I’ll have him come by and the two of you can move the furniture into our guest room and then I’ll go buy you some Christmas decorations. You can borrow our folding chairs and table too, if you want.”
“Heck ya I want. I’m having everyone over.” I hugged her and then we started to kiss, and one thing led to another and we were back in bed.
It had taken the entire week, but Sally, Mark and I got the apartment set up for my family. I had a beautiful tree fully decorated. I had bought a ton of gifts for dad and Parker. I even got some “Santa” gifts to put out. They were nicely hidden until Christmas Eve night when Parker would head to bed.
It was Christmas Eve when I was setting the last of the decorations up. I heard the buzzing sound from my console, indicating I had a visitor. “Yea?” I answered.
“It’s us, let us in.” My dad talked through the intercom. I took two deep breaths and pushed the button. “Eleventh floor dad. Apartment 114.”
I stood and waited for the knock on the door. My heart was pounding. The moment had finally arrived where I had to face my own son. I tried to breath. I was scared shitless. The knock on the door made me jump at first. I turned the knob slowly and opened the door. Dad smiled and held out a few bags for me to take. I sat them on the counter while him and Parker walked in.
Dad was snooping around. I walked back and he smiled. “Nice place you got here.” He said. We shook hands.
“Thanks. I like it.” I looked around. I had grown to love my apartment, especially in the last few months with Sally in it.
Parker stood back and just stared at me. I waved and he hid behind dad. “It’s okay Parker.” He said. “This is Travis.” Parker peered out from behind dad. Dad moved out of the way, and started to walk towards the couch.
I smiled at Parker. “Hey.” It was all I could come up with.
“You don’t have a TV.” He said to me.
“Nope. Don’t need one, when I have lots of books to read.” And lots of women to sleep with. “You like watching television?”
“I like to watch movies. There’s suppose to be a really cool James Bond marathon this weekend.”
“Bond, huh? Is that why your dressed all snappy?” He nodded. “You like spy flicks?” He nodded again. He was shy, I could tell. He didn’t look up at me. “Would you like to sit down and we can talk spy movies and Indiana Jones?” His face lit up like the Christmas tree. He didn’t realize I knew what he was into.
“You like Indiana Jones?” He asked with a huge grin.
For a while the two of us sat on the sofa next to dad and just talked. Dad read his book he brought with him. He was trying to give Parker and I time to bond. I was thankful he kept his mouth shut. This is what I had been wanting for a long time. I could feel my depression lesson as Parker and I chatted. It turns out that Parker loved movies, and he was totally in love with spy movies, shows, and novels. He also loved adventure movies, especially Indiana Jones. His two favorite movies were, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and From Russia With Love. “So, I take it Sean Connery is your favorite actor?”
“No. Just my favorite Bond. He’s the only Bond worth watching, really. My favorite actor though is in a medical show, but I loved him in International Thief. Jacob Right, he’s so awesome! Did you know he did his own stunts in that movie?” I looked over at my dad, he just grinned.
“Actually I did. Did you know. . .” My dad looked over at me and gave me a dirty look. I raised and eyebrow, Parker didn’t know. “Did you know I heard he broke two ribs during the scene where he jumps from the museum to the top of the semi truck?”
“Yup, and he broke his arm when he was rolled off the bike.” Actually that was his stunt double, but I wasn’t going to hurt my uncle’s precious image.
We talked a bit more about Uncle Jake and his idiocy when it came to filming, all the while keeping his identity a secret. Finally my dad put his book down and looked up at the clock. It was super late. “I think it’s getting late for a certain young boy. I wouldn’t want Santa to skip out because he wasn’t asleep.” He nudged Parker.
“But, grandpa! We just got here!” Parker whined. I kept my mouth shut.
“Parker, you know the rules. It’s way past your bedtime. Now off to bed.”
“It’s okay, we’ll see each other tomorrow.” I reassured Parker.
He looked up at me, “And where am I suppose to sleep? You only have one bed.”
“You can take the bed, grandpa and I will sleep out here. Besides, Grandpa is used to sleeping on the sofa.” I grinned towards my dad. He narrowed his eyes.
Parker stood and looked at the tree. “Fine. I’ll see you in the morning then Travis.” I didn’t mind him calling me Travis. I knew I didn’t deserve being called dad. Parker looked up at hid grandpa, “Are you gonna tuck me in?”
“I’ll be there shortly. Go brush your teeth.” Parker gave him a pouty face. “Parker! Go brush your teeth and get ready for bed.”
I watched Parker storm into the bathroom, slamming the door. “PARKER!” Dad yelled. I just sat there, not knowing what to say or do. My dad laughed and shook his head. “So much like his father.” He laughed and look at me.
I smiled. “Well, not really. I’d at least would have sworn at you before slamming the door.” I joked, which got a laugh from dad. Parker came out in his pajamas. Dad and him went behind the room separator and I listened to dad telling Parker a short spy story and then a goodnight kiss was shared. I wanted to cry. I should be the one doing that for my son. It hurt watching them.
Dad cracked his book back open.. “Whacha reading pops?”
“A cookbook on stuffed turkey for tomorrow.” He sat the book back down. “I figured I cook for dad. He’s never tried anything I’ve made.”
“Well, what if I wanted to cook? This is my place after all.”
“Do you know how to cook?” I put my head down. I sucked at cooking. I could made a microwave meal and that was it. “That’s what I thought.”
We sat there in silence for a while as he finished reading. I watched as he put the book down on the side of the sofa. I finally asked him the question that was bothering me. “Does he really not know about Uncle Jake?” I whispered.
“Nope. That’s my big Christmas gift to him. I’ve already called Jake and told him. He’s gonna come in and surprise him.”
“Cool. . . . Well, I guess I should do the Santa thing.”
Dad looked at me with a questionable glance. “You bought him gifts?”
“Of course I did dad. He is, after all, my kid.”
As I sat out the toys I heard the kitchen sink go on. Dad was cleaning. “Dad, what are you doing?”
“Your kitchen is disgusting.” He said turning toward me. “I’m just cleaning it so I have a decent kitchen to work in tomorrow.”
“Whatever.” I shrugged my shoulders and continued on placing a few more toys. Dad and I both could hear Parker’s snores, so I was pretty sure he didn’t know what I was doing or what we were talking about. Dad finished up and walked back to the couch. He kicked off his shoes and took off his shirt and pants. He was in a black undershirt that I knew well and his ugly green boxers. He looked down at the gifts, “Your spoiling him.” He said to me.
“He’s my kid, I have a right to spoil him.” I smiled, shedding my clothes as well. Dad laid on the sofa, whereas I took the floor. I turned off the lights in the apartment with a small remote I always carried. “Night pops.”
At the crack of dawn dad kicked me awake. “Merry Christmas.”
I smiled and sat back on the sofa. Yawning I replied, “Merry Christmas. How’d you sleep?”
“Better than if it was my couch. This thing is comfy. Wish I had it when you were younger.” He joked and I laughed. “So, tell me Travis, are you really happy here?”
“Yea. I love it here. I love my job as bank manager. I have a shitload of friends. I have a few girlfriends I see. I It’s really nice here.”
“Girlfriends? As in plural?” I bit my lip and tried to hide a smile. Really I had one girl in my life, Sally. But I think it would have been worse if I told him about the affair. My dad was really old fashion compared to the rest of his family. “Really Travis? Haven’t you learn anything about sex BEFORE marriage?”
“Yea. I use protection, and typically they are on birth control. Don’t worry dad, I haven’t knocked anyone up. . . again.” I smiled.
“Travis.” He sighed. I could see the frustration in his face. I knew he was disappointed in me. “I really had hoped you’d grown up a bit. I know all about the drinking, and I didn’t mind, but this. . . “ He shook his head. “Travis, just promise me you’ll be careful. I couldn’t take it if another kid was hurt.”
I only nodded.
I heard a moan coming from my bed. “Shhh, dad. I think I hear something.” I said quietly. We both listened to the restless noises coming from the bed.
“I think he’s up.” Dad whispered back.
“CHRISTMAS!” We both heard Parker scream and in seconds he was out from behind the separator. “IT’S CHRISTMAS!” He told both of us.
“Yea and look, Santa manage to get inside the apartment.” I pointed to the floor where the gifts were and my dad gave me a slight smile.
“So, what did Santa bring you, Parker?” I asked. He started to rummage around the tree to look at all the toys.
“Oh wow, an Aston Martin car! That’s the one 007 drives!” He continued to look around and see all the cool different toys I, er, Santa, brought him. We then started to open our gifts. “Grandpa can I give him my gift now?” He asked.
“Sure.” Parker grabbed a small square box and handed it to me. “I made it.”
The tag on the package read, “To dad, From Parker.” I wanted to cry. I carefully tore the wrapping paper, he obviously wrapped the gift as well, and found a small painting he did. “Oh wow, thanks Park.”
“Do you like it?”
“I love it! In fact I’m gonna hang it up in here and never take it down.”
I got loads of stuff from dad. He gave me a digital picture frame for Christmas. “Rod put some photos on there for you.” Dad said. “Some from the wedding and some of Parker.”
When Parker opened my gift to him, he screamed. I bought him the Quantum Solace poster. It was way too cool not to buy him it. He wrapped his arms around me. “THANK YOU!” My dad looked at the poster and shook his head, I don’t think he liked it, or he just thinks I’m spoiling Parker too much.
I wrapped my arms around him as he hugged me. “Your welcome bud.” I wanted to cry, but I kept my cool. I didn’t want him to know how much I missed him. Dad started to cook breakfast while Parker and I talked more.
“Parker, come wash up!” Dad yelled as he started to cook over the stove.
“Why?” He moaned. Dad shot him a look. I whispered to Parker to just do what he says. “Fine!”
I walked over to the kitchen and watched as Parker washed his hands and dad cook. “You know I could have cooked dad.”
He busted up laughing. “Sure you could.”
“What are we having anyway?” I asked, hoping he was making my favorite.
That’s when dad decided to show off for me. “What else would I be making?” He asked tossing a pancake behind his back and catching it.
“Show off.” I told him, but a smirk managed to grow from my face. He laughed at me as he continued to cook my favorite meal. “What kind of pancakes you makin’?”
“Apple, straight from the orchid too.” That didn’t surprise me. Dad always cooked with his own crops. “I brought you some fruit and vegetables too. They’re in the fridge.” My mouth began to water. I may have hated the garden but I sure loved my dad’s crops. They were so good. His apples were amazing. Always perfect.
The three of us sat and ate breakfast. I hadn’t had a warm cook meal like this since I left the safety of dad’s house. The pancakes were beyond amazing. I moaned as I ate and Parker laughed at me. “Told you he’d like them Park.” Dad said. I nodded as I jammed another mouthful of food in my mouth.
“Well, I still like your bacon and eggs a whole lot better grandpa.” He was picking at the pancakes.
I reached over the table and tried to grab one of his pancakes, he smacked me with his fork. “Hey these are mine!” He moved over to the other end of the table and stuck his tongue out at me.
“Hey, if you aren’t gonna eat them, I will.” I said and sat back down. Dad just laughed at the two of us.
“I can make more Travis. You don’t have to go steeling his food.” He told me. I nodded.
I started to pig out on another helping of pancakes and my son stopped eating. Dad was use to my behavior. “That is so disgusting!” Parker cried out. I stuck out my tongue full of food and my dad stopped eating, he was also disgusted by this. “Eeeewwwwww!” Parker cried out.
“Travis!” Dad yelled. “Will you stop grossing us out. Geesh, your just like a kid.” I smiled and chewed my food. Dad took our plates and went to wash them. “Parker go get dress and brush your teeth.” He called from the sink.
“Do I have to?” My father didn’t answer, he just turned and gave him a serious look. “Fine.” My son had a problem taking orders from dad. I wondered if he always was like this, or if he was doing it cause he was at my place. I really hoped he wasn’t acting out for me. I didn’t need him to be a pain to dad on my behalf.
While my son washed up and got dress and used the only bathroom in the place, I waited and started to chat to dad about Parker. Then my phone rang, it was Jake. “Merry Christmas man!” I answered the phone.
“Ho. Ho. Ho. Or should I say, man she was good last night.” I busted up laughing. “How’s your morning going?”
“Great. Parker loved his gifts from Santa. I got a painting from him. So what time you guys plan on getting here?”
“Noon. Dad wants to eat early so he can head to bed. He’s really tired nowadays. So, do you think Park will freak when he sees me?”
“Oh man, he’s gonna die. His favorite movie right now is International Thief. Ever heard of it?” I laughed.
“Yea, yea. Not my greatest, but still. David said that he took Park to see it like four times.”
“Yea, I think dad misses his little brother.” We both laughed and dad looked over at me. “Did not.” He said. “Parker wanted to see the movie, not me!” I laughed. “You hear that Jake?”
“Yea, well tell him I missed him to.” We laughed again and my dad stuck his tongue out at me.
After we all got dressed and cleaned up dad decided to snap some photos of Parker and I. Parker and I both grew antsy as he continued to snap photos. “Dad, enough already!” I finally cried out.
“Just one more, please.” I gave him a dirty look and then smiled. As soon as the flash went off I moved in and tried to take the camera. “Okay, no more.” He said as he hid his camera.
“Can I go outside and play grandpa?” Parker asked. “Please?”
“No, Parker. There’s nothing to do outside and this city isn’t like Riverview, lots of weirdoes out there.”
“I’ll take him out dad. What do you say Park, grab the football and we’ll go toss it and leave Old Mr. Grumpy Pants to his cooking?”
“Okay!” He cried out and picked up the ball from under the Christmas tree.
I know I hate the outdoors, but I have to say, I loved playing catch with Parker. It reminded me when I was his age tossing the ball with Uncle Mike. We tossed the ball all morning. As we tossed the question that I was dying to avoid finally came up, “So, how come you left?”
I caught the ball and held it. I had no clue what to say. I still didn’t have a good reason and I could tell he was hurt. “I . . . um. . . Hmmm.” I was lost for words. “All I can say is that I am really, really sorry.” I threw the ball back.
“Me too. Grandpa says you left to fulfill your own dreams and though you love me, it wasn’t in my best interest to leave. Grandpa says that I should learn from this by following my own dreams, no matter how crazy they are.”
“You should. I did come out to chase a dream, although its changed since. What’s your dream Park?”
“I want to be an International Spy for the SIA and travel all over the world!”
“Now, I could see that.” I said as I tossed the ball. “You want to be like 007, huh.”
“Yea, but I want to be called 009!”
“Your just saying that cause your ninth birthday is coming up in a couple of months.” I laughed. He nodded and smiled from ear to ear. “Well 009, time to head inside and check on grandpa. You know your great-grandparents and great-uncle are coming over.”
“Really? That’s so cool. Grandpa Thomas calls me all the time. I’ve always wanted to meet him.”
Shortly after Parker and I headed inside we heard the buzz from the console and I allowed our guests in the building. A few minutes later and the door swung open. “Honey, I’m home!” Jake called out his normal greeting to me. Parker froze and dropped his plane he was playing with and slowly turned his head. Everyone’s eyes were at Parker. “Hey kid? Have I seen you somewhere? Like in a movie or something? No?” Parker’s mouth dropped. “Hey Travis I think he’s speechless.”
I rounded up Parker and stood him in front of his great-grandparents and Jake. “Parker, this is you Great-Grandma Lonni, your Great-Grandpa Thomas, and your Great-Uncle Jake. Everyone this is Parker.” Parker was still staring at Jake with his mouth wide open.
“Hey Parker, how’s it going? You do any exploring recently? Cause I need someone to go on a mission and find this red diamond.” Jake started to quote his own movie and Parker just turned red. We all laughed and he ran to hide behind dad.
As the evening continued and dad made the turkey we all visited one another. Grandpa watched dad cook and stuff the turkey. The two talked in the kitchen. My grandpa’s health still dwindled, and he looked more yellow than the last time I saw him. Jake and I stood around and talked. We mostly talked about girls. He asked me about Sal, he was the only one who knew about the affair I was having. Yet every time he tried to bring her up, Parker would walk over and try to say something to Jake, but he was too afraid. Grandma finally took him and talked to him. I hoped she was explaining about Jake. “Sal’s in Sunset Valley with Mark and his family till the New Year.” I finally said to Jake. “So, none for me till next year. Yeaaah!” I joked.
“I could always hook you up man. You know with a chick a bit more available?” He asked.
“Not right now. Sal and I have an understanding. Plus, I don’t need a girlfriend right now. Too busy at work. Sal gives me what I need, when I need it.” I winked. Jake laughed. Dad called everyone to the table. Dinner was ready, FINALLY!
We allowed grandpa to have the honor in carving the turkey. Everyone gathered around the table. Parker said grace just moments before grandpa took his carving knife and just stood there. “Christmas is a time of joy and laughter, its also about family. I know I don’t have much time left here, but I am thankful that I got to see one last Christmas, and I got to be with my two boys, my grandson, my great-grandson, and my beautiful and wonderful wife. Lon I love you.”
Everyone said “awww” and then laughed.
“Now before I cut this beautiful bird, I have something to say to each of my boys. David, I know the last time I gave you advice you were dragged away kicking and screaming to the Marines, but this will be different.” We all laughed, “David, as you grow older I want you to remember Travis. I want you to forgive and forget his wrongs. I did with you. And I have loved you more and more as I aged. Just remember to love your children, no matter how stupid they are.”
We all toasted to dad.
“Jake, just be happy. Forget about Rose and live your life happily for me.”
“Will do pops.” Jake held his glass of sparkling cider up to grandpa. There was no alcohol on the table. It was a first for the family. Everyone was sober for once.
“Travis, even though I still want to smack you, I am glad you came here. You’re a wonderful man despite what your father thinks. You are more like him than either of you realize. All I ask is for you to stop being an idiot and find in your heart to forgive yourself. I want you to find happiness in this world and I want you to find real love and not lust.”
I turned red in the face. Jake had probably told him about Sally. I still held my glass up to my grandpa. I loved him more than he knew. He helped me out a lot since I moved to Bridgeport and if it wasn’t for him, I would have probably killed myself.
“Now for my great-grandson. Parker, as you grow up you’ll discover that the Rain men have issues. I want you to be the first to make an effort to just let them go. I don’t want you to suffer like the rest of us here because of some mistake you made. Go after your dreams and find it in your heart to forgive your father. He’s a great man, once you get to know him.”
Parker looked at me and smiled. “I forgive him and I love him.” This time I allowed a tear and my dad rubbed my shoulder.
“Lonni, I just have to say, thank you. You married me and saved me from my own demons. I love you.”
“I love you too Tommy. Now cut the damn turkey, I’m starving!” We al laughed and grandpa carved the turkey and handed everyone a plate.
We all sat around and ate our Christmas dinner and chatter ensued. I pigged out and listened as dad and grandpa talked about dad’s garden. I don’t know why he never called it a farm, it was more a farm than a garden. I guess he just figured since he didn’t have a lot of land that he didn’t like calling it a farm. I paid attention, but kept my head down so that no one could see the tears in my eyes. Grandma noticed and bent low towards me as she ate, “It’s okay Travis, you know. Cry away. Let it all out.” She whispered.
“I am.” I told her as I tried secretively to rub my eyes. “I’m gonna miss him.” I whispered back to her. She nodded.
“So, your actually my uncle?” Parker said a bit loud. “You. Jake Right. You really are related to me?”
“Yup. And I know all about you. I hear you love the movies. Maybe someday I can take you to tour the studios with me. You could meet some of the actors I work with.” Parker’s mouth dropped and he look over to dad.
“Grandpa?” He asked with a puppy face.
“Sorry bud, but grandma is having Ally and Rod over tomorrow night and you are going to be there, we are going to be there.” Dad said with a bit of distaste. I knew he couldn’t stand being around Uncle Mike.
“Crap! I –”
“PARKER!” Dad, Lonni and I both yelled. He covered his mouth, “Sorry.” He said.
“Parker, I want you on the sofa for ten minutes after you finish your dinner. You understand me?” Dad said really pissed off. I still felt a little lost when dad punished my son. It felt odd being around them. Parker nodded and looked as if he was going to cry. “Like father, like son.” He whispered to me. I tried not to smile, but I couldn’t help myself.
Dad stood and gathered the plates from everyone and made Parker sit on the sofa. I could only watch Parker and feel a bit bad for him. Poor kid.
Just before everyone started to leave dad took out his camera and asked Lonni to take a picture. Jake and I moved the tree over a bit so we could all stand in front of it and take a good picture. Dad, Parker, grandpa and I stood and waited for the snapshot. Jake didn’t want to be put in the spotlight so he stayed out of it. “This should be your guys’ thing.” He said. Dad promised to send me a copy of the photo. It was the first and last time four generations of this family would be together.