Summary: The family starts to heal after the loss of Marie, as Adam strives to be strong for his family.
Rating: G (1,310 words)
A Warm Place in Your Heart
Adam opened his eyes. For a few brief seconds, he lay, slightly awake, comfortable and content under his blankets. But then reality set in, and he closed his eyes with a groan.
She was gone.
If only for once, the morning dreaminess would last more than a few seconds before the pain of loss would make itself known again. It never happened before, and Adam was sure it would happen again, many, many times. She was gone.
Adam pushed aside the blankets, glancing for a moment at the space next to him, not surprised to see the bed empty. He got dressed, and then paused, looking at his cuffs. She had put extra stitching on them when she made his shirt. It was for his birthday this past year. Even though he usually liked to save it for special occasions, he found himself wearing it more often now. It seemed to make her feel closer to him.
He slipped quietly downstairs so that his father and brother might not wake. Curled up in her favorite blue chair, Little Joe lay, crying quietly. Every morning it was the same. He crept out of Adam’s bed before anyone was awake, and came down here. Adam lifted him into his arms, and carried him back upstairs to get him dressed.
As he pulled clothing and tugged buttons, Adam thought back to what Doctor Martin had said a few weeks back. “I’m proud of you, Adam. The way you’re being strong, and taking care of everyone, and the ranch business. Just remember to take care of yourself, too.” But he couldn’t. There were too many other things to do. He had offered to put off school, but Ben wouldn’t hear of it. Marie had wanted him to go to school.
Adam sat down, and then wrapped Joe in a hug. “It’s all right, Joe.”
“Do you miss her too?” Joe whispered.
Adam had to swallow a couple of times. “Yes, Joe, I miss her a lot.” He felt Joe’s hands tighten on his arms.
“How long has it been now?”
Adam sighed. “Twenty-nine days. Almost a month. Joe…”
“I know, Adam. You’ve said it before. But I can’t help it.”
Adam thought about what Marie might say, if she were here. There were a few times that Adam had gone to her to ask her advice, and more than a few times she had approached him to offer some. She had a different way of looking at things than their father did, and fairly soon Adam had overcome his resentment, and learned to appreciate her. She always had something kind to say, always had a way of looking at things. As Adam grew older, he had come to view her more as a friend than an imposter, an unwanted step-mother, or a wedge between himself and his father. She was never quite a mother though, even though she mothered him. It was something she realized Adam needed to overcome, he thought, and she gave him space, but also knew when to push him.
“I think I’m going to miss her for the rest of my life.”
Adam pulled him closer. He knew he had to say something, and he just prayed that the right words came out. “Joe…I know you’re going to miss her. We’re all going to miss her, in our own way, but you shouldn’t be sad for the rest of your life.”
“But…how are we ever going to be happy?”
“Oh, Joe…I know…” Adam closed his eyes, and tried to remember what his father had told him, years ago, when Hoss’s mother had died. “It’s all right, to be sad, for a little while. But you also have to think of all the happy things that she did, and remember those things, and carry a warm place for her in your heart. She’ll always be with you, Joe. And she wouldn’t want you to be sad forever.”
Joe was quiet for a few minutes. Finally he whispered, “You’re right, Adam. She wouldn’t want that, probably. She never wanted me to be sad.”
Adam hugged him closer, and then set him down. “Go on, get washed up and go downstairs. I’ll be right out.”
“All right.” Joe left, and then Adam heard him say, “Good morning, Pa.”
Adam stood as Ben came into the room. “Morning, Pa.”
Ben just stood there for a few moments.
“What is it?” Adam asked, worry starting to form.
Finally Ben shook his head slightly. “Nothing’s the matter,” he said quietly. He walked into the room, closing the door behind him. “That’s what I told you when Inger died.”
Adam nodded. “Yes, Pa.”
“You know who told me that?”
“No…I don’t think you ever told me.” Adam sat down as Ben gestured to him.
Ben sat in the chair next to the bed. “Your grandfather said that to me, right before I left with you to go west. He told me to carry a warm place in my heart for your mother, not to carry her on my shoulders. That she wouldn’t want that.” Ben looked towards the window, seemingly lost in his memories. “He was right, of course. And then Inger…and I had you, and Hoss to care for. You were such a help to me.” He looked back. “And now…”
Adam looked at his father, meeting his gaze, and seeing the loss in his eyes. But more than that, there was love, and…and pride. Adam smiled slightly.
Ben stood up, resting his hand on Adam’s shoulder for a few seconds, squeezing it for a moment, and then he left the room.
Adam sank back onto his bed, and closed his eyes, as different feelings washed over him. Sometimes he wondered if Ben had seen what he had done- working hard, trying to keep the ranch running as usual, being strong for his father and brothers…and now he knew. He was glad to know that he had been a help, and that his father appreciated what he was doing.
Adam stood up and went downstairs, where his father and brothers were already seated at the table. They all started breakfast, and after a few minutes, Ben looked up at his sons. “I think today we’ll take a day off. Let’s pack a lunch to have by the lake, and spend the day having a little fun.”
Joe looked a little apprehensive, and Hoss raised his eyebrows. “Really, Pa?”
Adam smiled slightly. “I think Marie would like that.”
A few seconds passed, and then Hoss said, “Remember that time that we were having a picnic by the lake, and Ma lost her footing and fell in?”
Ben tried to hide his smile as Adam chuckled. “Poor Marie. It took months of picnics before we stopped teasing her. And Joe brought back that basket full of frogs, and left them in the great room.”
“I didn’t mean to do it,” Joe protested, but then he laughed. “Ma thought that was funny.”
Ben sighed. “I have to admit I didn’t. Frogs everywhere…for months.”
“She made you laugh about it, Pa,” Hoss chuckled. “Remember the one that found its way into your bed, and it woke you up in the middle of the night?”
Joe and Hoss started laughing, as Ben shook his head with a smile. “She didn’t think at was too funny then.” All three boys laughed, and Ben chuckled. “All right, lets finish eating so we can finish chores and get going.”
Adam grinned at him, and then went back to his breakfast. He knew it would be awhile before laughter was a daily occurrence in the house, as it had always seemed to be when Marie was alive, but right now he just wanted to enjoy the moment. And the memories.
Other Stories by this Author
- That Which Makes a Better Man (by Camera Chic)
- Belonging (by Camera Chic)
- A Question of Guilt (by Camera Chic)