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Starting Over at 55 Chapter 06

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DW is 50 Plus & married for 30 years. He once nearly lost his wife in a horseback riding accident. He wondered if he could start over if...

starting-over-at-55-part-6

Jack Opens the Door on His New Life

starting-over-at-55-part-6

Jack left everything in the car and walked up on the front porch of the house. There were several rocks arranged to form the letter S, his Aunt Caroline’s last initial, near the porch steps. Her name - Jack’s mother’s maiden name - was Shaughnessy. The rock two from the bottom end of the S was hollow. Inside it was the key to the front door.

Once the front door was open, Jack started unloading the car. He wasn’t particular about where he put anything. Most of it he just piled in the living room.

The pillowcase full of bed linen he carried to the master bedroom and dropped on the bed. Jack’s parents had taken him at his word. The bed was the single piece furniture left in the house.

When he carried in the cooler containing the few items he’d retrieved from the fridge, Jack was relieved the water left behind when the ice melted was still cold. The cold water meant that the things inside the cooler should still be okay.

The last item Jack retrieved from the car was the coffee maker. Showing that the last shall be first, the coffee maker was also the first thing he plugged in and got working. Jack let the water run some before he filled the coffee maker’s reservoir. While his folks had never had the water - or power - turned off, it had been some time since anyone stayed in the house.

“That’ll be one of the first things I need to do,” Jack said to the faucet. “Get the utilities changed into my name.”

Jack investigated the freezer, noted that it was cold, and the ice maker bucket was full. Aunt Caroline never bought a fridge that served ice and water through the door. Jack was glad she had gotten one with an ice maker. Otherwise, making his iced coffee would have been a challenge.

Going back outside, Jack checked through the Mustang to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything and then locked the car. When he got back to the kitchen, the light on the coffee maker indicated it was ready to brew. Jack filled his insulated cup with ice, added a healthy splash of the flavored creamer, selected a medium blend decaf cup from the dwindling supply he’d brought from the old house, and made himself an iced coffee.

It was when he went to sit down that Jack realized he should have asked his folks to leave a chair or two.

“Maybe I should have told them to leave the kitchen table, too,” Jack said aloud as he leaned against the counter and sipped his iced coffee.

Jack and Branden at the shore years ago.

Jack and Branden at the shore years ago.

Branden Checks on Dad

The buzz of his cell phone vibrating in his pocket informed Jack that he’d received a text message. Receiving the text message reminded Jack that he hadn’t let anyone know he’d arrived on Buzby Beach in one piece. He thought the text was probably from Meagan, but it was from Branden.

Dad. M texted me she hadn’t heard from you yet. Are you on BB? Are you OK?

Jack assumed Branden had either called or sent Meagan a text asking if she’d heard from their dad yet. When he learned Meagan had not, Branden decided to text Jack himself. Jack smiled at the way Branden made it sound like it was Meagan who was worried.

Just got here and got the car unloaded. Easy drive. Wilm traffic was heavy but not bad. How are you doing?

Instead of the text response Jack expected, Branden called.

“Hey, Branden, how’s it going?”

“Hey, Dad,” Branden said. “I’m doing all right. How are you?”

“As well as could be expected, I guess,” Jack replied. “Tired. It’s been a long day.”

“How’s Aunt Caroline’s house?” Branden asked.

Jack looked around and sighed. “Empty. Your grandparents took me at my word when I told them I didn’t need anything but the bed. They didn’t even leave me a chair to sit on.”

“That sounds like Grandpa,” Branden said. “He takes what you tell him quite literally. I guess that’s the engineer in him.”

“I suppose so,” Jack agreed. “So, how're things going with your summer job?”

“It’s better than I ever hoped,” Branden said, excitement evident in his voice. “I figured I’d mostly be just making coffee and filing papers and stuff, but they’ve got me helping out on site and doing real work. Best of all, it keeps me busy, so I don’t have time to, you know, think about things.”

“Yeah, I know,” Jack replied. “I’m glad things are going well. Does it look like you’ll still get a chance to come down before school starts back up?”

“Uh, yeah,” Branden said. “I told Cassy I’d need to leave a week before I had to be back at VMI to go home and see my old man. She said it wouldn’t be a problem.”

“I’m glad,” Jack said. “Well, I guess I need to call your sister. Love you, Branden.”

“I love you, too, Dad. Take it easy okay."

“I will,” Jack promised.

Young Meagan with Branden as a baby.

Young Meagan with Branden as a baby.

Jack Calls Meagan

Jack looked at the clock on his phone. It showed the time as 8:35. He sighed, called up his contact list, keyed the Favorites icon and pressed the picture of the little handset next to Meagan’s name. She answered after one ring.

“Hi, Daddy,” she said. “Does this mean you’re there?”

“I’m here,” Jack sighed, unable to hide the fatigue in his voice.

“Are you okay, Dad?”

“It’s been a long day,” Jack replied. “I'm about worn out.”

“You shouldn’t worry about unpacking,” Meagan said. “Just throw a blanket on the bed and go to sleep. You can worry about housekeeping tomorrow.”

“Nah,” Jack said. “It won’t take that long to make up the bed. I brought the sheets and stuff with me. Besides, I’ve still got a couple of calls to make.”

“Don’t stay up too late, Dad,” Meagan warned. “You need your rest.”

“I won’t, Baby Girl. Don’t worry.”

When he got off the phone with Meagan, Jack called his folks to let them know he’d arrived and reminded them about breakfast in the morning.

“It’s already here on my calendar, Jack,” his mother said.

Jack smiled a tired smile. “I figured it was, Mom. See you in the morning.”

starting-over-at-55-part-6

Jack Makes the Bed, the Only Piece of Furniture Left in the House

Knowing he still needed to call Wanda, Jack decided it could wait until he’d made up his bed. Once that was done, he unpacked the towels and toiletries he’d brought with him.

“At least the bathroom cabinets are built in so mom and dad couldn’t move them out,” Jack quipped to his reflection in the mirror.

Jack washed up and changed into a pair of boxers adorned with the Harley-Davidson logo. They’d been a Christmas present from Branden. An old muscle shirt with a much-faded image of Arnold Schwarzenegger that Cheryl had tried to get him to throw out for years completed his sleepwear.

Jack kept the old shirt despite its wear-and-tear because it reminded him of his best friend from Army days, Pete Crispen. Peter had gone to the desert in a C-141 in full combat gear and come home in a C-5A in a flag-draped aluminum box. Pete had re-enlisted for a third tour with the 82nd Airborne right before Jack left the regular Army to join the NC National Guard and go to college. He’d sent Jack the shirt, which he’d found in the PX at Fort Bragg, as an early birthday present just before his unit deployed to Iraq.

The queen-sized bed in the master bedroom once had a bookcase headboard. Jack figured that since the headboard matched the dresser and chest of drawers, his parents had decided that if they were going to go, the headboard was going with them. The upside of the headboard missing was more space in the room.

The mattress and box spring were pushed flush up against the wall, meaning Jack could sit up on the bed with his back against the wall and use his laptop. He had to use his cell phone as a Wi-Fi Hot Spot to get on the internet.

starting-over-at-55-part-6

Jack Calls Wanda

Jack logged onto Facebook and scanned the list of friends on the right side of the screen for Wanda’s name. Next to her name was the green dot showing she was online. Jack clicked on her name and sent her an instant message.

I’m here. Using my cell as a Hot Spot to get on the internet. Call if you have time to talk.

Back in her apartment, Wanda was about to step into the shower when she heard the ping letting her know a message had arrived on her laptop. She saw who it was from and bit her lip.

Wanda spent the whole day trying to decide what to do when she heard from Jack. More than anything, Wanda wanted to rush down to Buzby Beach to be with him but knew that couldn’t be, not yet. In the meantime, she could keep the line of communication open and maybe someday soon the right time would present itself. Wanda reached for her phone.

Jack’s phone buzzed. Silently congratulating himself on having upgraded to a phone that could do two things at once, he hit the icon to answer.

“Hi, Wanda. I guess you saw my message on Facebook.”

Wanda looked at her computer screen and had a wicked idea. In response to Jack’s message, she typed, Obviously! Duh!

About the time Jack began to wonder if the call dropped, he saw her response pop up on Facebook and started to laugh. It felt good. It had been a long time since he’d laughed.

“You did not call me as soon as you got there,” Wanda scolded him, “if you’ve had time to get your laptop booted up and online.”

“Don’t take it the wrong way,” Jack said. “I waited to call you until I was ready to settle in for the night.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Wanda teased.

“It should,” Jack insisted. “It means I don’t have to rush you off the phone because I’ve got other calls to make.”

OK. Wanda typed into her IM box. That makes me feel a little better.

“Are we going to talk or chat?” Jack asked.

Wanda laughed. “You do realize how silly that question sounded, don’t you?”

“You know what I meant,” Jack said.

“So, how’s the weather down at the beach?” Wanda asked, changing the subject.

Wanda's Offer to Jack

Jack, used to Wanda doing that sort of thing, went with the change.

“It was still warm when I got here. I’ve got the windows open and the ceiling fan on here in the bedroom. Did I tell you that my aunt never air conditioned this place?”

“No, I don’t think you ever told me that,” Wanda answered. “Are you going to?”

Jack shrugged, and said, “I don’t know. Maybe. Or maybe I’ll just put a window unit here in the bedroom. I’ll figure that out tomorrow.”

“Other than deciding on a/c, you got any plans for tomorrow?” Wanda asked.

“Breakfast with my mom and dad,” Jack told her. “Then I’ve got to shop for a chair.”

Wanda laughed. “A chair, really?”

“Yeah, a chair,” Jack answered. “When I told my folks all I needed them to leave me was a bed that’s all they left me, the bed.”

“Couldn’t you just come and get some furniture out of stor…” Wanda stopped herself. She knew and thought she understood why Jack didn’t want any of his old furniture in his new home.

“Yeah, no,” Jack said. “I’ll figure out what will work for me here and go out and find it.”

Knowing she might not like the answer, Wanda asked it anyway. “So, there’s nothing back here you want down there with you?”

Jack missed the double meaning of her question, but Wanda took his response to heart. “Not right now, but who knows, after I get settled in, I may decide I left some things behind I just can’t do without.”

Wanda grasped onto that idea. “Just let me know when. I mean, you know, when you plan to come back up this way. I’ll buy you lunch or something.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” Jack said. “Though it might be a while before you have to ante up.”

“Not too long, I hope,” Wanda said. She wished Jack hadn’t quit his teaching job and would be coming back in the fall.

Jack yawned. “Excuse me,” he said. “Sorry about that.”

“You need to get to sleep, old man,” Wanda said. “I’ll let you go. Take good care of yourself, Jack. And let me hear from you, you hear me?”

“I hear you,” Jack assured her. “And Wanda, thanks, for everything.”

“Any time, Jack,” Wanda said, her voice heavy with emotion. “Anything you need.”

"Any time, Jack," Wanda said, her voice heavy with emotion. "Anything you need."

"Any time, Jack," Wanda said, her voice heavy with emotion. "Anything you need."

Click the link below to continue Jack's story with Part 7.

© 2019 DW Davis

Comments

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 01, 2019:

It will be interesting to see how Jack deals with this new phase in his life. I’m looking forward to the next chapter.