Bill Todd -- Tim and Sharon
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 Chapter 7

Howie's Suggestion

     Tim was thankful that he didn’t have to identify any bodies. As to the funeral, Sharon said, “It’s now fashionable to have a memorial service in which friends get up and say things about the dead people. I guess it would be okay for Mother, but I don’t want to get into that for Father.”

“Because there isn’t much good to say about him?”

“Not exactly. His law partners and golf buddies will have seen another side of him, and would all say great things. But we, knowing the inner man, would be embarrassed.”

“Maybe they knew the inner man better than we did.”

“I’m assuming that he was mean to you and Mother because he couldn’t help it. It‘d be worse if he were a neat guy who set out to be mean.”

“Yes, I see that. And, then, he did essentially kill Mother.”

“I suppose he kept driving the way he did when I saw him leave the driveway. Mother must have had to endure several miles of it.”

“A period of terror leading up to a climax.”

“Have you been out to the scene of the accident?”

“No. But I know where it is. I passed in the same place when I was a crazy teen-ager.”

“I didn’t know you ever did things like that!”

“I’d just pitched well in a baseball game, and I was euphoric. The feeling of being all-powerful and indestructible.”

“I’ve had my athletic successes, but I’ve never reacted in that way.”

“Boys are a bit different.”

“Does that allow you to understand what Father did?”

“Not really. He was acting out of anger, perhaps hate.”

“That was what we saw often enough. But the objects of all that anger didn’t do anything to deserve it. And that was mostly you, Timmy.”

“I partly got used to it, and mainly kept away from him.”

“It must have really been something in his past. About which we know damned little.”

“The son of a doctor and his wife in a small town in Ohio, both deceased long ago.”

“But he had no stories about it. A doctor is a big wheel in a small town, even a sort of hero. His family members bask in his glory.”

“It’s hard to imagine Father doing that, even at a young age.”

“And, Tim, there are no pictures of him as a boy or teen-ager. Besides which, he never mentioned any childhood friends, or even enemies. He never went back to see the place, or showed us where it was on a map, or anything.”

“So you think it was all a fabrication?”

“I wonder if his father, our grandfather, was really a doctor.”

Tim had an odd feeling in his head, but was then moved to laughter. He suggested to Sharon, “How about a chiropractor?”

Sharon, also laughing, replied, “Anyhow, Tim, I’m not curious enough to hire a private detective to find out. I’ve arranged this nice little non-denominational service for both of them. It’ll be conducted by a Unitarian minister who didn’t know them. We’re not announcing anything in the papers, so, apart from Mother’s friends, there’ll be hardly anyone in the church. The minister will read her favorite poetry.”

“I guess he didn’t have any favorite poetry.”

“The part about mortgage deductions in the tax code?”

“Appropriate, but it might upset some people.”

“Anyway, that’ll be the end of Father. Okay by me.”

      The next day at lunch, Howie asked Tim, “Do you have any good memories of your father at all?”

“I’ve been working on that. He did give me presents, mostly as a little kid. I liked that, and I suppose he probably did, as well. Does that count?”

“I’ve hardly heard of a father who didn’t give his kids presents. He wasn’t abusive was he?”

“Not physically. From the age of twelve or so, I could probably have beaten him up.”

“Did you want to?”

“It was always in my mind that his anger might give rise to physical conflict, but I don’t think I ever welcomed it.”

“I know he was always pushing you to be a lawyer. What happened when you resisted?”

“He’d stomp off, and I wouldn’t see him for quite a while. I really had less contact with my father than lots of kids with divorced fathers.”

“And your mother?”

“A quite nice woman in a distant abstracted way. Totally dominated, unfortunately. She certainly didn’t deserve what happened to her.”

“You might want to dump your father’s ashes down the toilet, and then shit on them.”

Tim, amused, could imagine Howie doing exactly that. He replied,

“I may not be passionate enough for that. But I’ll suggest it to Sharon.”

     Just after a little funeral that wouldn’t embarrass any of the participants had been arranged, Uncle Bob arrived from Kansas. Unlike his sister, their mother, he was folksy, talkative and expansive. One of the airs that he put on was that of an older wiser man to whom the young people should listen attentively. He sniffed at the idea of a Unitarian minister, but then, without asking, put an obituary notice in the paper, giving the time and place of the funeral. Since a great many people knew the elder Hastings, the simple little event was thereby transformed into a mass gathering. When Tim and Sharon objected, Uncle Bob told them that they owed it to their parents to give them a proper funeral. Later, Sharon said to Tim, “I was on the point of saying to Uncle Bob that I hoped to soon be able to give him a nice proper funeral, himself. But I managed to keep my mouth shut.”

“Probably just as well. He might be the one designated to dole out our money, as well as being your guardian until you’re eighteen.”

“No! Mother wouldn’t have done that to us.”

“I know she couldn’t stand him, even though he was her brother. But Father rather liked him.”

“God knows why.”

“Perhaps a certain shared obnoxiousness. Anyhow, it would have been Father who drew up the wills.”

“Aargh! Five months of Uncle Bob!”

“Well, that’s just the worst case.”

     The next day, as Tim was sitting in the café with Audrey, an attractive well-dressed woman rushed up and said, “Excuse my barging in, Tim. I’m Doris Howe, a friend of your mother’s.”

Tim did remember her as he stood and introduced Audrey. Mrs. Howe explained, “I’ve been racing around trying to find you and Sharon, particularly Sharon. Is there some time when we could meet?”

Audrey quickly excused herself, and Doris sat down. Looking after the departing Audrey, she said, “What a lovely girl!”

“She’s my best friend’s girl friend.”

People usually didn’t know quite what to say in that circumstance, and Doris faltered briefly before replying, “I really didn’t want to intrude unnecessarily, particularly since I don’t have much idea how you and Sharon are taking this.”

“You probably already know that we didn’t have very good relations with our father. So we’re pretty confused about that. We’re certainly sad to lose our mother, but, since there’s nothing constructive we can do, we’re just sitting tight.”

“Yes. My immediate reason for finding you is that I seem to have been appointed Sharon’s guardian until she’s eighteen in a few months.”

“Good! We were worried about that, but she’s always spoken well of you. She’ll be pleased.”

“I hope so. I’m not going to be bossy, but I may be able to help with practical matters.”

“There’ll be lots of practical matters. Would you like some coffee?”

As she served the coffee to Tim, there was an unusual look on Madame Auber’s face, a little as if she were helping out at a hospital for wounded soldiers. Of course, French women had historically done a lot of that.

Doris broke through Tim’s thoughts by remarking, “I don’t understand at all what happened.”

Tim told her. The full account. While he and the others had talked about it extensively, this was the first time he had actually laid it out in chronological detail. He finished by saying, “What may, in the end, have sent him over the edge was my flippant remark that I’d be taking tickets at Gate 3.”

“I hope you don’t blame yourself in any degree for his absurd reaction.”

“That was how I always dealt with his anger and contempt.”

“You had to have some defense. It must have seemed better than bopping him on the nose.”

“It might not have been. However, if I’d explained that I was going to punt, and also that I could make lots of money punting in the NFL, he might have reacted differently.”

“Ron did love money. But it’s a matter of how patient we can be with someone who only shows us hostility.”

“I believe saints are known for that. If I’d been a saint at that point, I might have saved my mother.”

Doris, bursting into tears, stood over Tim and hugged him. She then blurted out, “We can only do that with people we love. It was impossible to love Ron.”

Tim did wonder if there had been people who loved his father, but he let it go at that. The coffee tasted good, and he liked being with Doris.

Bill Todd -- Tim and Sharon
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