How a young man deals with becoming a new father, then receives some unexpected help.
| Jason walked throught the woods, angling toward the railroad bridge that spanned the Rock River, his mind weighed down with deep and ponderous thoughts. He spared little attention to his path, only enough to ensure his arrival at his destination. When it was thinking time, like it was today, Jason always headed to the railroad bridge. It was his refuge when the time came to consider the important decisions in his life, and true to form, he was headed there today.|
By all rights, this should have been a good day. A fantastic day! Two days earlier, his four years of hard work, constant study, and dedication towards his goals had culminated in his graduation from college, and the degree that might very well determine his future. He was in love with his high school sweetheart, and she with him, and yesterday she had accepted his proposal of marriage. His parents were so happy about his graduation, that they had dipped into their meager savings and bought him a sporty little car ( which was just sporty enough to make all his old high school friends jealous) in celebration of his achievement. Everything seemed to be going his way, and he should at this very moment be as happy as he had ever been in his life: should have been. That was, however, until he had agreed to give Sarah a ride to her doctors appointment this morning. That, he realized, is when everything began to fall apart!
When Sarah had first asked him to drive her to the appointment, he had been only too happy to argree. It was SO good to be back with her again. He had really missed her those last six grueling months at school. He wanted nothing more than to spend time with her, despite the fact that agreeing to take her meant that he would have to get up at an ungodly hour to do it. He was a little surprised when he picked her up that she was not her usual bubbly self. She seemed quiet and withdrawn as she settled into the passenger seat of his new car. She kissed him perfunctorily on the cheek, then subsided quietly into her seat with her hands folded together in her lap. This wasn't like her at all! Sarah was one of those girls that everyone in Milan liked. She was sweet and bubbly, and not pretentious at all, even though most thought she was the prettiest girl in town. She was always happy and laughing, joking around, and bouncing like a butterfly from subject to subject with great energy. Not today however! With a mental shrug, he pushed his feelings away and decided that she must be feeling really poorly, thus the visit to the doctor.
They drove to the doctor's office without a word between them, though they held hands, and by the time they arrived Jason was feeling a little concerned. It wasn't like Sarah at all not to utter a single word for the entire length of the 2 mile ride to the doctor's office, not even when she was feeling poorly. "Well," he thought, "maybe this visit to the doctor will lay her fears to rest and she will return to her old self." Thus reassured, he parked the car and they headed hand in hand up to the front door to old Doctor Edwards family practice. Theirs was the earliest appointment of the day, so the waiting room was empty when they came inside. Nurse Edwards, the Doc's wife, motioned for Sarah to come up to the front desk, as Jason took a seat and began looking through the magazines for something decent to read.
He had no memory of how he had arrived, so deep was he lost in thought, but Jason was surprised to look up and find that he had arrived at the bridge. He stepped up onto the narrow walkway and headed toward his favorite thinking spot; a place where he had to carefully slide around to the river side of one of the girders, and where there was just enough room to sit comfortably with his legs hanging out over the water below. In no time he was settled in, and immediately his thoughts returned to the events of this morning.
After about twenty minutes, he heard the door between the examination rooms and the waiting area creak open, and looked toward it expecting to see Sarah stepping through. Instead, he was surprised to see old Doc Edwards; with his long craggy face and distinctive bushy white eyebrows set over piercing blue eyes. The Doc was a fitness nut, and even though he was now over seventy years old, he always moved with a spry grace that always amazed Jason. With a few short strides he had moved close, taking the seat next to the young college graduate.
"It's good to see you again son," said the Doc, "I hear you've gone and gotten yourself engaged!"
Jason smiled hugely. "Oh, come on, Doc! Everybody knew that would happen eventually. Sarah and I are made for each other. I just figured that now that I have my degree, and am finished with school, now is as good as any. Why wait?"
Strangely the Doc replied, "Indeed! Why wait? In fact, that is why I've chosen to step out here and talk to you." He coughed, uncharacteristically, looking ever so slightly uncomfortable for a moment.
The Doc looked at Jason very seriously for a moment, and Jason had no idea what the expression meant. "Tell me," Doc began, "are you aware of the reason Sarah had to come in and see me this morning?"
Jason shrugged. "Not really, Doc. She didn't say anything about it when she called me last night, and this morning she was really quiet. She hardly said anything at all. I just assumed it was lady problems."
Doc Edwards nodded his head briefly, as if in agreement. "Well,....you might say that I suppose." He paused for a moment, then let out a long sigh. "Jason, the reason Sarah came in this morning was to find out if she were pregnant. She'd taken one of those drugstore tests, but came to me today to get confirmation. I came out here to tell you that she IS pregnant. I talked her into letting me tell you because I could see that she was having difficulty with it. She is afraid of how you will react, especially considering that you just proposed to her yesterday."
Jason was stunned! In truth, he hadn't really considered the reason for today's visit, but this was the last thing that he had expected! For long moments, his brain just seemed to freeze up. He struggled to understand what had just happened, and his mind seemed to be having trouble grasping what he had just heard. He wasn't even sure how he felt about the news, nor did he have any immediate thoughts on the matter as his brain struggled to cope.
Doctor Edwards, a concerned look on his face, patted him on the shoulder and said, "I can see that this has come as quite a shock to you son. Why don't I give you a few minutes to process the information? I'll go check on Sarah, then come back in a few moments. You just think about it." Rising, the Doc headed back towards Sarah, leaving Jason alone to digest what he hard just learned.
Without realizing that he was even doing so, Jason rose, mere seconds after the doctor had left, and moving as if her were in a trance, walked out of the doctor's office. He realized much later that this was a horrible thing he had done, leaving Sarah to wonder about his reaction, and afraid that he was taking it badly. These thought never entered his mind as he walked woodenly out to his new car, put the key in the ignition, and drove out of the parking lot. In fact, later on, he could remember nothing of what he was thinking in those moments when he was driving away. Nor could he remember picking any particular destination as he drove. Though it wasn't a conscious decision, anyone who knew him could have told you exactly where he was headed. Straight to the bridge, to his thinking place.
Now, as he sat there, legs dangling loosely over the water, his mind began to clear. Suddenly, he was deluged with thoughts, almost too many to handle. Why didn't Sarah tell him about this yesterday? What was he going to do now? He had just graduated from college and didn't even have a job yet, for God's sake! He didn't even know if he wanted kids. What if he was a horrible father? How was he going to pay for this when he didn't even have a job? Where were they going to live? Where were they going to get the money to pay for the wedding and honeymoom, let alone all the stuff they were going to have to buy for a baby? All these thoughts and more thudded through his mind, and in a gesture of purest frustration, he raised his face skyward and screamed at the top of his voice. This isn't fair!
Afterwards he took several long, deep breaths, as his thoughts finally seemed to slow. For some reason his thoughts wandered back to his childhood. All things considered, it had been a good one. He'd had plenty of friends, been fairly popular, and had been deeply in love with Sarah since the third grade. Granted, his father had hardly ever been around, but that was because he'd had to work hard to support his family and it had been that hard work which had paid for Jason's college education. He knew that his father loved him, though he did wish that he had been able to come to more of Jason's sporting and school events. He couldn't imagine anybody having a better mother. His mother was a good cook, and was much smarter than his dad; in fact, both his parents had often said that Jason had gotten all his smarts from her. All throughout his childhood he had always been able to talk to his mother about anything, even girls. She had also been there for every sporting event he'd ever participated in. She was his greatest fan.
It was as he was thinking all this that he was distracted by the sound of someone approaching. He looked up and saw a lone figure walking toward him, carrying some fishing poles and a tackle box as he came on to the walkway leadin to where Jason sat. As the figure moved closer, Jason realized that he knew him. It was an old childhood acquaintance and neighbor of his; Terry Forman. Terry was slightly retarded. Jason had never really been friends with him. This was most likely due to guilt. Though he knew it was wrong, Jason had never quite had the guts to go against his friends when they picked on poor Terry. He had always felt bad about that, and so avoided him. As a result, he'd never made any effort to become friends with him. The most he'd been able to manage was an occassional smile, or a few nice words when nobody was within hearing distance.
By the time he'd gotten within 30 feet or so, Terry finally noticed him. The young man's face lit up in a huge smile. "Hi Jason," he said happily, "Remember me? I'm Terry from over on Elm Street." He stopped some five or six feet away and placed his poles and the tackle box on the walkway. Raising on hand, he waved vigoursly at Jason. "Did you come up to do some fishin too?"
"No Terry," he said. "I come up here because this is my thinking spot. Whenever I have some serious thinking to do, I come up here."
"I'm not good at thinkin," was the reply, "on account a I'm a ree-tard!" He bent and picked up one of the fishing poles and waved it with a smile. "But I'm really good at fishin though!"
Though laughing was the last thing he felt like doing, Jason couldn't help but chuckle at the enthusiasm of the young man/boy who stood before him. On a whim, he patted the metal girder next to him, and said, "Sit down Terry. We haven't talked in a long time. What have you been up to?"
Terry held up one hand as if to say wait a minute, the picked up one of the fishing poles. Taking his time, the young man bent over and reached into the tackle box, pulling out a bobber, which he expertly attached to the line about 3 feet above the hook. Reaching down again, he pulled out a huge fat dew worm and carefully affixed it onto the hook. Moving a little clumsily, he clambered over the rail, and in a few moments was sitting safely next to Jason on the girders.
"A whole lot of stuff has happened to me since you went away to college, Jason," he began, "I grageated from Special Ed at school, and I got married too!" A huge grin split the young man's face. "You don't mind if I do some fishin while we talk, do you," he asked, "cause I sure do love fishin!"
Numbly, Jason shook his head. Married! It had never once even occurred to him that someone like Terry would be able to get married! He looked at the young man for the first time since they had been children with some measure of respect. Well, good for Terry! After all he had been through as a child, Jason was surpised to discover that he was genuinely happy for him. As he thought this, Jason realized that this had happened despite his own lack of trying to make that happen. Though he had never participated in the teasing, he had stood by many times while his other friends picked on Terry, and he felt suddenly very ashamed. "I'm really glad to hear that Terry!" he said. "You deserve some happiness."
"Well that's good, cause I sure am super happy. I really love Lisa, and she loves me. She's the best wife ever!"
Though he really was happy for Terry, this declaration made Jason begin to feel like a real heel. He had always thought that he felt the same way about Sarah. He had loved Sarah most of his life, and had always known that there was nobody else for him but her. He too felt that Sarah would be the best wife ever! Yet here he sat, having abandoned the only girl he'd ever loved at the doctor's office! What must she have thought when she came into the waiting room to find him gone? Now he felt even more ashamed than he had moments before. Oh god! She must have been crushed!
Just as Jason realized this, Terry spoke again. "And guess what else, Jason, just guess?"
Absently, his mind still on Sarah, he answered, "What's that Terry? Haven't got a clue."
The young retarded man smiled his biggest smile yet, and said simply, "I'm a daddy!"
Now THAT definitely caught Jason's attention! "Y-you're a what?" he stammered.
"Yep," Terry grinned. "I have the most bootiful little girl you ever seed! And guess what? She ain't even a ree-tard like me! Can you believe it?"
Terry was a father? Wow! Jason was stunned.
"And she is gonna be a whole year old next month," Terry went on. "She can say some teensy words, and last week she started walkin. Ain't she great!"
Jason nodded. "Sound like." He paused, then asked. "So you really love her, huh?"
Terry looked at him for a moment as if her were crazy. "I HAVE to love her." he said simply. "Me and Lisa made her together. She comes from us. And she's really pretty, and really smart. She's a regular old miracle!" The smile returned as he fiddled with his fishing pole for a few moments.
"Is,...is it hard to be a dad?" Jason asked softly.
Terry thought about it for a moment. "Well, sometimes. I don't like it much when she gets all poopy. But most of the time she smells really nice. She's really fun to play with too. She smiles and giggles all the time," he explained, leaning over as if to reveal some deep confidence. "And when a baby laughs, ya just gotta smile. You can't help yourself. Especially Lilly! She really loves her daddy. She dont never call me no names, or hurt my feelins. An she cries when I have to go somewhere, so I know she misses me. Except for my momma, nobodies ever done that for me before. I really feels nice."
Just at that moment, Terry's fishing pole jerked violently, and the bobber disappeared under the water for several seconds. "Woo wee, I got me a bigun!" Terry exclaimed.
As Terry fought the valiant fight with his fishy foe, everything seemed to suddenly fall into place for Jason. What had he been worried about? He loved Sarah! He wasn't about to abandon her now, when she needed him most. This baby was a part of both of them, and as he thought about how much Terry enjoyed being a father, for the first time since finding out about it, he began to feel a little excited himself. He was going to be a Dad! So what if a baby came into their lives a little sooner than expected? It would still be his and Sarah's together. He had already asked Sarah to marry him before he knew, and it wasn't like he was going to stop loving her just because she was pregnant! He realized then what a fool he had been.
As he turned back toward Terry, he could see him pulling up what looked to be about a 3 or 4 pound Bass. After a short struggle to remove the hook, he held up the fish proudly. "Look what I got Jason! Ain't she beautiful?"
Jason smiled back at Terry. "That's great buddy! Nice fish!" He paused for a moment, gathering his thoughts. "Listen, Terry, do you still live with your mom, or do you have your own place now?"
"Yep," he answered. "We live with momma. She loves Lisa and Lilly too."
"That's great man! Look, why don't Sarah and I, and you and your family, get together some time and have a picnic? What do you think'?"
As Jason stood, Terry looked shocked for a moment, then gave forth a brilliant smile. "Gee, Jason, that would be great! Momma always liked you, and me too, so I know Lisa and Lilly will."
"Cool. It was really good seeing you again Terry. I'll call you sometime soon," he said as he clambered quickly over the rail and onto the walkway.
"Where ya goin, Jason," Terry asked.
"I have to go see Sarah," he called over his shoulder, already beginning to run down the walkway. "Right now!"