-*- Friday, April 28, 2017 -*-
-*- Lake Quivira, Kansas -*-
"Perhaps I shouldn't have even went to my father's funeral,"
I said to my two wives, Alexa and Merissa, at the unholy time
of 2:45am on Friday morning. "Then we would not be awake right
now, and trying to pick up the pieces from that argument."
Following Merissa's screech- and profanity-laced tirade
earlier, when she voiced her extreme displeasure for having to
skip my father's funeral after Alexa, Cooper and yours truly
arrived home from it, she ran off in a huff and barricaded
herself in the guest bedroom located downstairs.
"STOP THAT INCESSANT banging!" Merissa cried out at the
very top of her lungs five minutes later. Alexa had been
pounding on the door relentlessly, trying to get our wife
to open up and let us in. Allow us the opportunity to sit
and talk like adults, and figure this horrible thing out.
Solve and sort through our problems like we always did.
Some fairly nasty accusations had been made during the
prior argument. Merissa claimed that she was second-fiddle
in our marriage, a second-class citizen. She was not as
important a piece to the puzzle as Alexa and I were. Merissa
even took it further, later insinuating that that she was not
actually my wife, and Madison (who stayed home with Merissa
during the funeral as well) was not my actual daughter. I
was not REALLY the husband and father, she theorized,
because I was only truly that for Alexa and Cooper. They got
to go to the funeral, while she and Madison stayed behind.
"Merissa, open the fucking door!" Alexa pleaded after
having complied, and stopped banging on the door. "Merissa!
It's us. Please open the door. Merissa, are you okay?"
Upset, Alexa slapped the door with an open palm.
"Merissa, it's us," she continued. "Please open the door!
Jesus, if you get so emotional and upset and something
happens to your unborn baby, I'm going to kill you."
"Lexi!" I scolded her.
"Oh my God. Merissa, honey, are you okay?" Alexa wrapped
her arms around our wrecked, disheveled wife a moment later,
once the door had been unlocked and opened from the inside,
and pulled her against her chest. "Does your tummy hurt?"
Alexa asked, running her hand over and across Merissa's
massive, eight-month baby bump. "Are you okay?"
But it seemed that Merissa could not talk at the moment.
Or she simply did not want to.
"Come on. Let's go inside and have her lay down."
Alexa nodded at me in agreement, then she and I guided
Merissa over to the large bed and had her lay down.
"Merissa, you need to talk to me." Alexa crouched
before Merissa, staring into her face.
Merissa lifted her eyes.
"Good. You need to talk to me, honey. To US. What was
all of that earlier? My God, we talked about this several
times the past couple of days." I went into physician mode,
visually inspecting and clutching Merissa's abdomen for any
signs of fetal stress. "You had us worried SICK these past
few minutes! Please talk to us. Please, Merissa."
"I felt so lonely and meaningless today," Merissa whispered.
"You HAD to go to your father's funeral," Alexa told me an
hour later, as she and I, along with Merissa, were still in
the guest bedroom located downstairs. Back in the present
moment. We had been immersed in a very deep and personal
conversation, and had gotten several things - issues, even -
out into the open, and spoke honestly. Candidly.
"Why did I HAVE to go to my father's funeral?" I retorted.
"My father hated me the past two-and-a-half years. If I go
alone, everyone would ask where you were, Lexi, where Cooper
was. So, you came along. But if Merissa went too, all of
the nosy and meddlesome people in my family - aunts, uncles,
cousins - would swarm over Merissa and Madi like bumblebees,
and try to seek clarification on what exactly our marriage,
our life is. Are the rumors true, is Merissa really my wife
too? Jeremy has two wives? And a child with each of them?"
"It's none of their business what we do in our private
lives, how we conduct ourselves!" Alexa screeched angrily.
"It would have been easier if I just skipped the funeral
altogether," I said. "You and Cooper were getting your fair
share of questions at the funeral, Lexi, and people were
whispering behind our backs non-stop. It isn't fair, it
isn't right. And because we decided to leave Merissa and
Madi behind here at home - because if they went, it would
have created an all-out firestorm - Merissa ultimately felt
left out, unwanted, like a second-class citizen."
Alexa brushed Merissa's hair from her face as she reclined
on the bed. "Oh, honey. We love you so much. _I_ love you
so much. I'm so sorry for everything."
Merissa shook her head. "It was for the best. I see that
now. I'm eight months pregnant, and those people would have
hounded me. Madi is not even two yet. Why allow others to
put thoughts into her mind that our marriage, our family, is
WRONG?" She shook her head again. "Why go through that?"
"Madi is the happiest little girl that I have ever seen,"
Alexa proclaimed, before her eyes flashed with pure disdain.
"How could ANYONE accuse us, make wild assumptions, that her
and Cooper are not being raised correctly? Properly?"
"I don't know, but they do," I responded. "Cousin Ryan
was asking me at the wake how I could have two children
with two different women, and live with them both. He said
Cooper and Madi would grow up... wrong."
"BULLSHIT!" Alexa snapped, now on a total rampage. "Our
situation may be unique, I admit that, but NO ONE can sit
there and tell me that Cooper and Madi are not being raised
in a proper and loving environment! I love both of those
kids more than life itself! I would DIE for them if need be."
"And this is the reason why I say I shouldn't have even
gone to the funeral," I reiterated. "I go alone, I get
bombarded with questions about you, Lexi, and Merissa. I go
with you, you open and subject yourself to my intrusive
family, and you wind up screaming and upset - like now - in
the end. I bring you and Merissa, and it would have been a
tornado. A frenzied storm. I should have stayed home and
skipped the funeral. My dad hated me anyway."
Alexa frowned. "William didn't hate you. He just didn't
understand... our relationship, our marriage."
"How many people in your family actually know, for sure,
that you are married to both of us?" Merissa asked me. "That,
for sure, Cooper and Madi are both your children?"
I took a deep breath. "For sure? Not many. Mom and Dad,
my two brothers, my sister... their wives, her husband. Maybe
some of their kids, I'd guess. But beyond that, it's just
speculation on everyone's part. My aunts, my uncles, my
cousins, other distant relatives... they have come up with so
many wild rumors and assumptions, ideas about us, since 2014.
It all started when Mom and Dad found out the truth about us,
our marriage, and officially cut me out of their life."
"It's not right that there are people in your family who
treat you like an outcast, Jeremy, a circus side-show."
Alexa's voice was flat, emotionless even, and that was how
she looked, like someone had suddenly stolen her will to
feel. "Damn that Ryan. He's not even half the man you are,
Jeremy. Not even half! People, and their zealotry!"
"Which is why I should have skipped the funeral," I again
said, this time holding back a nervous chuckle.
"You shouldn't be precluded from attending your father's
funeral and honoring his memory because of what others may
or may not say or think about you."
"And I shouldn't have been precluded from going as his
wife, and Madi as his daughter," Merissa told Alexa.
Alexa sighed and hung her head low.
"But it was for the best," Merissa conceded. "I see that
now. We agreed two years ago, when we all got married, that
there was going to be some really rough sacrifices we would
have to make in the future. Individual sacrifices." Merissa
pouted and added, "This was the first real sacrifice one of us
was forced to make. It... was not an easy one."
"These sacrifices should not tear us apart!" Alexa whined.
Merissa sighed as well. "It's not going to tear us apart,
Lexi. I said some pretty hurtful stuff earlier, I agree, but
I did not mean it. We've talked about this for over an hour
now. I did not mean it. It was anger, it was the frustration
of being couped up for over 19 hours in this house today.
Madi was in a terrible, fussy mood all day long. She kept
asking where all of you were. She wanted to go out, but I
don't want to drive being so close to my due date. She threw
fit after fit today. And I got sick twice."
"Oh, Merissa." Alexa hugged her. "Oh, I'm so sorry.
Oh, baby... this should have never happened."
Merissa looked at me. "Jeremy, I love you. I cannot
repeat that enough. I love you. You're my husband, and I
love you. And Madi is your daughter just like Cooper is
your son. I'm so sorry I said those awful things earlier.
It... it was the anger, all that frustration, talking."
Merissa reached for her stomach and gently clenched it
with both hands, then she let out a deep, painful moan.
"Honey, what is it? What's wrong?"
Merissa shook her head at Alexa, tears suddenly streaking
down her face.
"Let me get that." Alexa took a wad of tissues and wiped
the tears from Merissa's face. "You know what, Merissa? I
think you need to relax. How about I fill the tub for you?
Let's both get..." Alexa glanced over at me for an instant
and I shook my head, silently telling her to stop.
"I just wish that our families were more accepting of us
and the choices we have made," Merissa managed. "All of us
have family members who do not approve of our marriage! I
have a cousin who still thinks that I would be better off
with Grayson instead of you and Jeremy."
"FUCK GRAYSON!" Alexa exploded. "Grayson beat you up two
different times, Merissa, and put you into the hospital for
three weeks the last time! ANYONE who says that Grayson is
better for you..." Alexa took a deep breath, and tried to calm
down. "I hope that fucker keeps rotting in jail FOREVER!"
"Alexa." I squeezed her hand. "Calm down, honey. Let's
not start going on about Grayson again." I turned and clenched
Merissa's wrist with my opposite hand. "I accept your apology."
New tears cascaded down Merissa's face. "You know I didn't
mean those things about you, Jeremy!" She shot a worried glance
toward Alexa before looking back my way. "You KNOW, right?"
"I do. Of course I do, honey."
"It's just a bad situation we are in with our families,"
Alexa frowned. "For the ones who understand us, like my mom
and dad, Jeremy's brothers, his sister, everything is fine.
It's normal. It just... flat-out sucks because of the ones
who don't, like Jeremy's parents, your brother, Lexi, my
Aunt Becky and Uncle Kyle. It just flat-out sucks. We
should not have to live our lives in ridicule. Why can't
these people understand that all three of us are so incredibly
happy together? Five, counting the kids."
"Six," I corrected her, patting Merissa's pregnant bulge.
"Soon, honey. Very soon. Asher will be here."
"And Asher will grow up and be just as loved and well taken
care of, and doted upon, as Cooper and Madi," Alexa declared.
On the bed, Merissa leaned over and planted a kiss upon
Alexa's lips. "You're going to be just as much a parent and
guardian to Asher as Jeremy and I are. Always remember that."
"Oh, Merissa." Alexa seemed on the verge of tears too.
"It's almost three o'clock in the morning," I announced to
them. "I'm tired. I cannot keep my eyes open any longer. I
am going to bed... we can talk more in the morning."
"I don't want to go to bed," Merissa frowned. "I want to
stay up and continue talking."
"I'll talk with you for as long as you want," Alexa said.
"I watched them lower my father's coffin into the ground
several hours ago," I reminded my two wives. "It was a really
bad, emotional day, and I need to get some sleep. So many
different thoughts and feelings, emotions, memories, that I
have dealt with today. The good times, the bad times."
"I'm sorry for the way I acted earlier," Merissa squeaked.
"Don't be." I stood up from the bed, but then leaned over
and kissed both of my wives flush on the lips. "There is
nothing to feel sorry about, Merissa. We were at fault.
Not you. We should have spoken more in-depth with you about
the funeral beforehand, and how we were going to handle it as
a family. We never meant to shut you out of anything."
"It was my fault..."
"No," I insisted, shaking my head at Merissa. "Don't feel
guilty about anything. About anything you said. I know you
were upset." I squeezed Merissa's shoulder and smiled. "This
will pass. It will pass like all of our problems always have."
"We've argued and fought," Merissa frowned, "but what I
really should be doing, Jeremy, is worrying about YOU because
you lost your father. I acted so selfish earlier." Merissa's
voice was barely above a whisper now. "Are you okay?"
"I'll be fine," I answered. "I have the two most beautiful,
most precious women in the world as my wives. And we have the
cutest, most adorable son and daughter together. I'll be fine,
Merissa. There is so much love and happiness all around me. It
would be impossible for me NOT to be fine... eventually."
"I love you so much, Jeremy, and, on top of everything today,
I hurt so bad because of you," Merissa offered, tears again
falling from her eyes. "God, I was so worried about you today,
your mindset. I love you so much that everything hurt today.
From my eyes to my stomach to my feet, I ached all over."
I leaned over and hugged her close. "I'm so sorry."
* * *
Okay, this HAD to be a dream...
I suddenly found myself in Kauffman Stadium, the baseball
home of my beloved Kansas City Royals, yet there wasn't
another soul in sight. The stadium appeared completely
empty yet there I was, relaxing in one of the three season
ticket seats I had owned from 1997 to 2015. Huh? The lights
were on, and the baseball diamond looked like a green,
shining jewel. I had given these seats up after the Royals
won the World Series in 2015, opting to focus even more on my
two wives, and our two young children. Watching sports was
fun, but my family was far more important and took priority.
Yes, this was a dream. How could I magically appear in
the stadium like this? Like I had been teleported here? I
actually remembered going to bed and falling asleep not too
long ago. Yes, after Alexa and I smoothed over the waters
with Merissa. I remember crawling into bed and pulling up
the covers. Indeed, this was a dream. A vivid one.
I had a hot dog in one hand, my smartphone in the other.
My smartphone rang. Dad? Dad was calling me?
"How are you doing, son?" His voice wrapped itself around
me. I just attended his funeral, right? Obviously, this
telephone call and being at the baseball stadium - where Dad
took me countless times when I was growing up - was a dream,
but I was willing to ride with it. I did not fight it.
How was I doing? Lonely? Sad? Wondering exactly what
happened between us these past two-and-a-half years? Trying
to figure out why I had not spoken to him in such a long time?
"Jeremy, what are you doing at Kauffman Stadium? Your sister
told me that you gave up your season tickets after the Royals
won the World Series in 2015. Why aren't you back home?"
"Home?" I suddenly realized that this was, believe it or
not, an out-of-body experience within the dream itself. I was
in that seat and that person was me, but it wasn't me. What?
Somehow, it was an alternate version of me because I found my
actual self - ME - floating overhead like an apparition. I
could hear every word that was said, feel all of the emotion.
I was living vicariously through that... other me.
"Home, Jeremy. Your home. With your family."
I sighed. "I'm headed that way, Dad. I just needed a
little time to..." Come back here and remember you. Remember
the old days, when we were happy and together, and father took
son out to the ballgame. Because I missed those days so much.
I missed being with my dad. I could not believe he was gone,
dead and buried. I loved him so much.
"What have you been doing for the past week?"
"Uh, you know, working a lot." Planning your funeral,
actually. And it wasn't fun. Why did you have to leave us
so early? "Trying to cope with everything."
"The fact that I died?"
"Something you want to tell me, son?"
I pictured my father sitting in his favorite leather chair,
in his den, wearing a flannel shirt and an old pair of jeans.
"There isn't much to say, I guess. We haven't had anything
to say to each other in a long time, you know."
"What's your plan for the weekend?"
"I don't know, Dad. I'm not sure what Lexi and Merissa
want to do this weekend, if anything. Right now, I'm just
trying to make sense of what this all means."
"What this all means?"
"Life, Dad. Work, relationships, death. I'm trying to
figure out the point of it all." I closed my eyes, waiting
for my father and his 78 years of being on the Earth to
enlighten me. Give me his wisdom, just like he always used
to when times were much better, and so much simpler. Yet I
did not receive any answer. "Dad?"
"I'm still here, son."
"You asked me a question, and I gave you an answer. Don't
you have anything to say in response?"
"I was waiting for you to expound on that answer. I
never knew life, work, relationships or even death, had a
point. We just need to make the best of the time we got."
I kicked my feet up on the seat in front of me. "Good.
Then I guess I am not alone in my way of thinking."
"Jeremy, you're never alone in anything. You know that.
Alexa and Merissa love you to no ends. Cooper and Madison
worship the ground that you walk on. Your brothers and
sister are worried sick about you. Hudson had to practically
tie Janae up to keep her from chasing after you these past
few days. Janae thought you may be under excess stress,
because of the way our father-son relationship..." Dad
stopped, and took a deep breath. "Hudson insisted that you
would be fine, because you have Alexa and Merissa."
"I don't know if I'll ever truly be fine with you no
longer here," I admitted. "But at least with Alexa and
Merissa, and the kids, things won't be as bad."
"You have a new son, and he will be born next month," Dad
said. "And later this year, Alexa will become pregnant, and
she will give birth to a little girl next summer." My eyes
went wide as Dad chuckled. "Oh, I shouldn't say that. Still
getting used to the way things are here. I'm not supposed
to give details about future events like that away."
"Where are you, Dad?" I asked, my pulse pounding. Alexa
was going to give birth to a daughter next year?
"I'm home, son. I'm with my own mom and dad - your
grandparents - your uncle Terry, and my best friend, Danny
Michaels. Wow, I haven't seen Danny in 59 years. Aunt Joyce,
too. It's a different home than what you're used to, Jeremy,
but it's home regardless. And I see everything now."
I stood and paced. "Why did you leave us?"
"It was my time. I understand that now. I'm sorry, son,
for everything. I could tell that your life - what you have
with Alexa and Merissa - was what you wanted. Your heart
wanted it. I saw that, I realized that. But I didn't want
to accept or understand it because of my own narrow views."
He took another deep breath. "But I see it now. I've been
watching this week. Alexa and Merissa love you so much. They
even... love each other. This is what you want, Jeremy, so
I am happy for you. This is what your heart wants."
"Why couldn't you tell me this when you were still here on
Earth?" I demanded to know. "Why does this have to be now?"
I shook my head at him. "This isn't even real!"
"Sometimes things do not work out the way they should," he
advised me. "I know your situation, Jeremy. When I was
young, after I returned from the war and my injury, there
were others who did not want me to date your mother. But I
fought and fought for her and, come to think of it, I even
got a black eye out of it, too."
I sat back down in the ballpark chair. "A black eye?"
"But my love for your mother was worth every painful
second, and I would do it all over again if I could just
have her in my arms right now."
"Mom misses you. She barely made it through the funeral."
"You're a good son, Jeremy, and you always have been. Do
me a favor, okay? It will be many, many years before it will
be time for your mother to join me. This... separation we had
from you, it has really torn her up inside. I want you to get
involved in her life again. Be a son. Let her see how much
Alexa and Merissa love you. Let her see how cute and adorable,
how playful Cooper, Madison, Asher and Brooklyn are. She..."
Dad hesitated, but then chuckled. "Alexa's daughter. The
one arriving in 2018. Will look just like her."
"Whoa..." I murmured in response. Was this really a dream?
Because it damn well seemed like I was actually talking to Dad.
"Let your mother see how happy you are, Jeremy, how good your
two wives treat you. Let her get a glimpse of your kids. It
will take time, but she will eventually come around. She will
come around, and you will be together again. Your mother will
be in your life, and you can close all those wounds together."
"I'd like that, Dad. But I wish you could be there, too."
My father suddenly appeared in the seat next to me in
Kauffman Stadium. Just like that, as if he was a magic trick
or something. "I WILL be there, Jeremy." Dad reached over
and patted my wrist as I dropped my smartphone and glared at
him. "I'll always be there for you. I promise."
I began crying. "Dad!..."
Dad snapped his fingers. Suddenly, the stadium was alive
with energy and emotion. I looked around within my seat,
with Dad sitting next to me. The stands were packed with
fans and everyone was clapping, cheering, stomping their feet.
I looked up at the... OH MY GOD!
It was October 28, 2015. Top of the ninth inning at
Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Game 2 of the World Series.
The Royals were leading the New York Mets, 7-1, with one out
to go. All of the fans around me were going crazy, rabid!
Yet instead of having Alexa and Merissa on either side of
me, which actually happened here at the ballpark that night,
I was with Dad. Just like when I was a kid, growing up.
Just like when he took me to the ballpark every summer.
"I knew you were here this night, son," he told me, as we
stood up and glanced out at the action. "I remember watching
the game on television that night, and feeling such regret of
what our father-son relationship had dissolved into. I... I
wanted... to be here with you, so much, on this night."
When Dad grasped my hand, Johnny Cueto of the Royals threw
an off-speed pitch to Yoenis Cespedes of the New York Mets.
The batter swung, and the ball was lazily lofted into right
field, where Paulo Orlando caught and secured it for the final
out. The crowd went even more berserk. The Royals won the game
and were up 2-0 in the World Series now, and would ultimately
win it 4-1 several days later at _Citi Field_ in New York.
Dad looked my way and hugged me. "Oh, I cried that night,
son, knowing I should have been with you at the ballpark."
He glanced out as the players celebrated on the field. "At
least now I know what it would have been like to be with you
here, if just a little taste of it."
Dad snapped his fingers again. Now, he and I were the
only two people in the stadium again.
"Son, we all come with an expiration date. We just don't
know when our number is gonna come up. But I can tell you
this, falling in love with your mother was the best damn
thing that ever happened to me. Or so I thought, until you
children came along - Janae, Hudson, Carl, you. Maybe she
is better than all of you, I don't know, because without her,
none of you would have ever been born. And in all the time I
was with your mother, she filled my heart to hold me for a
lifetime. And beyond. Hell, she filled my heart until it
overflowed. How do you think I found the strength to carry
on for all those years, and raise you band of nitwits?"
I smiled at the term. When was the last time Dad called
me a nitwit? He used to do it all of the time when I was
younger, when my brothers and my sister would do stupid
things with me, like trying to sled off of the barn roof.
Tears pressed forth again. I was so lonely without my dad.
I had cried daily since he passed away. I was starting to
think that these brutal emotions would stay with me forever.
"Likewise," Dad spoke, "you love Alexa and Merissa the
same way I loved your mother. You love your kids. Do not
let anyone stand in the way of you and your family, Jeremy.
They are too precious, and care about you too much."
"I love Alexa and Merissa so much, Dad. I've never loved
anyone the way I love them. Both of them are always right
there on my mind. I can feel them beside me when I am not
with them. I hear their voices when I am away at work, in
the middle of the day. Dad, am I losing my mind?"
"No, you're not losing your mind. You're in love, Jeremy,
with the two best possible women for you in the world. Love
does strange things to a man." Dad smiled at me. "Give her
a little space, a little time, but go and see your mother
sometime for me. Make peace with her, okay? Do not worry,
son. I will be there with you when you do."
"Dad?" I said, frantic, as he began to fade out.
"Do me one other favor," Dad grinned, rubbing my shoulder
the same way he did when I seriously injured it when I was
15 years old. He continued to flicker and fade before my
very eyes. "Tell Merissa that her dad is watching over her
at all times, and he COULD NOT BE PROUDER of the young woman
she has matured into, and the fact she has found happiness
with you and Alexa." I gasped as Dad disappeared.
And then I bolted upright in bed, pulling myself from that
vivid, oh-so-seemingly-real dream. I was breathing heavily,
and my body was absolutely covered in sweat.
"DADA!" I heard a toddler scream, only to look over and
find 23-month-old Madison rumbling my way. She climbed up
onto the bed and hopped right into my arms, hugging me and
babbling incessantly. "Wuv yoo, Dada!" I glanced at the
digital alarm clock. It was 9:38am in the morning.
"Jeremy," Merissa said with a cheerful, vivacious smile,
emerging from the adjacent washroom looking all fresh and
chipper. "We were all wondering when you were going to wake
up." She extended her hand and held it beside her mouth.
"Cooper, Daddy is finally awake! Come say hi." Merissa
called out louder, "Cooper! Come see Daddy. Lexi!..."
Madison crawled a few feet away from me and giggled, then
tossed a small blanket over top of her head. "Hidey! Hidey
videy!" she babbled. Madison pulled the blanket off and
giggled hysterically at me. "HIDEY VIDEY!"
Merissa gasped at her. "Were you hiding from Daddy? Oh,
you little sneaker! You sneaker!"
I shook my head quite vigorously, attempting to further
wake up and distance myself from that dream. I held my hand
by my side and forewarned, "Uh oh, Madi! It's THE CLAW!
The Claw is coming to get you!" I then latched onto her
little belly and pinned her to the bed. I tickled her quite
relentlessly, which caused Madison to giggle even more.
"Daddy, you awake?" Cooper exclaimed as he rushed into the
bedroom, wasting no time as he too, jumped into my arms. I
hugged my son and held on extra tight as Alexa soon entered
the bedroom and latched hands with Merissa, only for both
ladies to turn and smile at me as I played with our two kids.
Indeed, this life was too precious. Alexa, Merissa,
Cooper, Madison, Asher, even... Brooklyn? I shook my head
again, but soon smiled. Mom. Somehow, I needed to make
amends with her. Would it be possible?
"Hey handsome," Alexa swooned, batting her eyelashes at me.
I chuckled inwardly.
This family had proven to me that ANYTHING was possible...