The Father's Son (@Jim Sano)

 

Chapter 1

 

            He was not sure why he found himself in the very spot he had occupied as a young boy more than thirty years earlier.  He stood in the rear of the small church, lit by the dim glow of light entering through the multicolored stained glass windows, with the faint aroma of burnt wax candles he had long forgotten, and a summoning quiet he sensed himself struggling to resist.   The church, built in the late 1800s by local fishermen and Italian stonecutters from the quarry across the harbor, was barely large enough to hold a hundred people.  As a child, he remembered thinking that the wooden structure had beams and supports that looked like the spine of a ship, and wondering if the altar in the front made of gray and pink-colored granite came from the town quarry.  Now standing with his back to the last pew, with the wood-carved statue of Mary in front of him, he could feel his eight-year-old hand securely in his father’s rough but gentle grip.  He was looking at Mary’s gaze and gentle hands as his father spoke to him, “David, whenever you are lost or need to be strong, always think of Mary.  She trusted in God’s plan for her.  She knew he would give her the guidance and strength she needed to follow it.”  There was something about remembering his father talk about trust that broke the spell, and his grasp slipped from his father’s.  Shaking his head, David felt out of place and quickly exited through the side entrance into the late afternoon sunlight that was so brilliant it took several seconds for his eyes to readjust, even behind his Tag Heuer sunglasses.

            In front of the tiny church, he stood atop of what still seemed like a steep hill looking over the harbor and islands of the humble fishing village of Stonington, Maine.  The sight was nothing less than breathtaking with the rugged coastline, the ocean water dotted with pine treed islands, the silhouettes of Isle of Haut and Camden in the distance, and the harbor now teamed with lobster boats and old schooners docked for the night in the calm waters of the protected inlet.  There was a spit of an “island” called “two-bush” because of the number of bushes on this otherwise barren rock, and off in the distance, he could hear the fog horn from the Mark Island lighthouse.  As he walked down the steep grade of the road, he passed by so many unchanged sights flooding him with memories he had long ago buried deep, and he thought, forever inside himself.  The smell of the ocean air, the clang of the rigging slapping against the aluminum masts of the sailboats, and the rhythmic sound of the waves lapping against the rocky shore made as much an impression on him now as it did each summer he had come to this small town for vacation until that last year.  His father had taken him by the church before they were to travel home, and little did he know it would be one of the last times he would see him.

            In the center of the village, he passed the local newspaper office, two art galleries, Bartlett’s grocery and liquor store where he picked up a bottle of merlot wine and crackers and cheese, the library where people were sitting on the small stoop, and a used book and art shop where he spotted his companion from this six-hour journey from Boston.  With two gift bags in hand, she glanced up and an infectiously big smile came over her face as she waved and shouted out, “David!”  In the late afternoon sunlit, her striking blond hair, oval shaped sunglasses, and a brightly colored sundress that hugged her long and shapely form, all helped to make certain she was no town native.  David held up the bottle of wine and smiled back as he approached her, meeting in front of the Inn on the Harbor where they were staying for the next two evenings.  Before Jillian could ask him whether he was successful with his mission, David placed his arm around her and kissed her lips in a way that caused her to forget her question.  David was as handsome a man as she had ever met.  He stood six feet tall next to her five foot nine height, with dark brown hair, a masculine but welcoming face, an athletic body and a pair of striking brown eyes that captured her attention the first day they met at the office. 

            Jillian remembered her question but waited to ask as they walked up the steps to their room at the inn.  The inn was a simple and quaint place to stay, and while nothing close to the hotel accommodations David stayed at as a sales executive who traveled extensively, it was, most likely, the nicest room in the small town.  Spacious with a fireplace and a bundle of wood for the fire, the room had a magnificent view through a large set of windows, and a French door that opened onto a small balcony.  Two comfortable chairs positioned to look out over the harbor and a table where the wine, cheese, and crackers sat to provide a welcome refreshment on a late afternoon.   The ocean breeze had chilled the air, and David arranged the logs and kindling to light a warming fire.   Jillian stood at the window’s enchanted scene and the sunlight dancing like diamonds on water, “David, you know, it’s kind of funny.  After only a few hours here it feels like there is something very peaceful and drawing about this place.  It’s unlike anything I’ve experienced before.”   Before she could continue, she felt David’s arm reaching around her waist and she turned into his body.  The combination of her feelings for David and the slow and pleasurable kiss created an almost overpowering sense of being in this moment for Jillian.

            David and Jillian had gone to lunch and dinner several times, but she was quite taken when he had asked her to go away for the weekend.  Now here, she was gazing up into the eyes of the man she had only dreamed of getting to know a few short weeks earlier.  She initiated a kiss that let him know how very much she desired to be with him.  His lips drifted down the smooth softness of her left cheek, and he took in the attractive scent of her skin just under her ear as her face nestled against his chest.  She breathed in deeply the smell of hiss shirt he had been wearing since they started their journey that morning.  Jillian stepped back about two feet and let down the straps of her sundress off of her shoulders, letting the dress fall to the rug floor.  She slowly removed her bra and panties and stood in front of him with the view of the harbor behind her.  David did not notice the sunlight but only how beautiful a woman Jillian was.  Her skin was fair, soft, and smooth. Her legs were long and shapely, her hips and waist perfectly proportioned.  He smiled as he took her beautiful form in, but when his gaze moved to her striking emerald green eyes, she felt a little self-conscious and playfully took two strides and jumped onto the bed and under the sheets.  They both laughed and he undressed with the warmth of the fire to his back.  His body was even nicer than she had imagined, proportioned, athletically toned and just the right amount of hair on his chest and legs to be masculine but not the grizzly bear look of her own less than loving father.  David was gentle, fun and passionate as he made love to Jillian, and, for that moment, it took him to a different place that seemed to transcend everyday life.  Jillian smiled, experiencing a profound sense of closeness and peace as she lay her head on his chest and drifted off.   David’s feelings of excitement and passion had ended quickly, and he lay there again feeling little emotionally, just as he had with other women over the past several years since he had separated from his wife and children.

            Jillian must have slept for forty-five minutes while David’s mind felt uncharacteristically scattered with long buried memories of his childhood racing in and out of his thoughts.  When she opened her eyes, she noticed that the fire was reduced to embers as she felt the length of her body comfortably next to his.  She lifted her head to see his eyes opened and grinned.  He smiled back, “Nice nap?”

Her eyes opened wider with a surprised response, “Was I the only one sleeping?” He chuckled, and she gave him a hug and kiss, “Well, I hope I won’t be eating alone too!”

David responded, “I have reservations for you at a charming restaurant down the street a-n-d I might be persuaded to join you.”  She pulled the pillow from under his head and promptly hit him with it as she got up to scamper to the bathroom.  He caught a glimpse of her backside and just smiled thinking of how many times at work he had wondered how pleasing a sight that might be.  He thought, sometimes reality does exceed imagination.

            Dressed for dinner, they made their way down the wooden outside steps to the road and strolled past several buildings before they arrived at the Atlantic Restaurant.  The early evening sun was contemplating how brilliantly it would set that evening and the breeze off of the ocean felt cool, filling the air with a salty fishing harbor smell that revisited David’s senses.  All of his senses were telling him he had walked these roads a hundred times before in a former life, except that he knew too well that it was this life but many years ago.  They were seated by the window at a small table with a flickering candle in the center and a delightful view of the sunset colors on the inlet waters.  He ordered a bottle of local Maine wine while they decided if they should be refined in their choice of meals or support the local lobstermen by putting on plastic bibs and being incredibly messy.  Their bibs, crackers, picks and wet wipes came with their wine and fresh baked biscuits.  Jillian asked, “David, were you able to meet with everyone this afternoon to make the arrangements for tomorrow?” 

            He delayed his response as he reflected back to earlier that afternoon when he entered the Colby-Duke Funeral Home, a large Victorian just outside of the center of the village.  He arrived an hour early and John Colby had just come back from clamming on the south side of the island while the tide was low.  He hoped to clean up before David arrived, but didn’t make any apologies as he wiped his hands on the towel he was carrying and extended his right hand, “You must be David?   I’m John Colby, and I’m so sorry for your loss.  It’s always difficult to lose a parent. I believe your dad had already passed if I remember correctly from our phone calls?” 

David nodded, “Yes. It’s good to meet you, John.  I appreciate your coordinating all the transportation, paperwork, and arrangements for tomorrow.”  

John replied, “Not a problem at all.  That is what we’re here for, and we want to make sure we take care of everything you would like for the services.  Would you like to see her first or discuss the final arrangements?”  David sighed and said he would prefer to complete the arrangements.  He filled out the questions of the final paperwork and without hesitation, wrote no name for his father:

 

      Decedent’s Name:  ANN ELIZABETH KELLY

      Cause of Death: HEART FAILURE

      D.O.B.: APRIL 1, 1934

      Place of Birth:  STONINGTON, ME

      D.O.D.: AUGUST 13, 2002        

      Place of Death: LYNN, MA

      Spouse: DECEASED

      Children: JAMES PATRICK KELLY (DECEASED), ROBERT MARK KELLY, 

                      ABBEY MARIE SULLIVAN, DAVID JOHN KELLY

      Siblings: MARIE KELLY (DECEASED)

 

            Marie Kelly was Ann’s twin sister.  They were born on Easter Sunday, and Marie was the April Fools’ joke that year because no one was expecting twins.  Marie was born with a rare lung disease that often kept her home in bed when breathing was particularly difficult.   Ann and Marie were remarkably close, even for twins, and with no other siblings, they enjoyed each other’s companionship more than any friend from school.  Their parents, John and Carol Kelly, had immigrated to the United States from Ballymena, Ireland, an urban city in Northern Ireland just outside of Belfast.  Ballymena was predominantly Protestant, and both brought up Presbyterian and had not always enjoyed a positive experience with their Catholic neighbors.  They had emigrated in the late 1920’s for better opportunities in America shortly before the market crash of ’29, so life remained simple and poor for the Kelly clan.  When Marie’s condition had worsened to where she could no longer attend school at the age of ten, Ann would bring home her books and papers and teach her “everything she needed to know.”  Ann was more than heartbroken on that summer day in August when she entered Marie’s room with a freshly picked bunch of forget-me-nots, and she was barely breathing.  The local doctor had only just left and informed her parents that her time was very near.  Ann sat with her in bed and promised that she would never leave her side, but before the sun had set Marie had drawn her last breath.  Ann’s mother had to pull her reluctantly out of Marie’s room, and with tears streaming down her cheeks and body shaking, Ann asked, “How could God do this to Marie? She’s only twelve years old!”  Over time, her sorrow had given way to anger and the inability to forgive God for not taking care of Marie.  At Marie’s funeral, Ann made a solemn pledge to be buried with her, and be with her always.  That was one promise she was determined to keep, and now David was making certain she did.

            Jillian reached out to David, drawing him back from his drift back in time, “Are you okay, David?” 

David nodded his head several times, “Yes. Yes. I’m sorry.  I was just thinking about something.  What did you ask me?” 

She looked at him sympathetically and said, “Never mind, right now. We have a few serious lobsters to get through here,” as the waiter made room for the shell bowls, lobsters, corn and homemade potato salad.  David helped Jillian crack open her first whole lobster, and showed her how to use the smallest lobster claw to pick out the meat, something he had learned as a boy from his Irish railway worker turned lobsterman grandfather.  They enjoyed their wine and a messy but very tasty meal topped off with warmed local wild blueberry pie a la mode. After an arm-in-arm walk around town, they went back to their room and made love by the rekindled fire.