Time heals all wounds, though the healing process is rarely easy or simple. Much more often it is the application of the antiseptic, the bandaging, the slow knitting together of bones and the rejuvenation of flesh – in short, the parts of the healing process – that emerge as the true agony. Long after the memory of the wound has faded, recovery goes on and on, an endless repetition of days – sometimes painful, sometimes numb, and then sharply and suddenly the pain again – this is the ordeal of healing.
Temple went back to work, glad that she had a routine to return to. Getting out of the house, back to the hustle of activity in City Hall – these would be excellent distractions. But as it turned out, while her body went through the motions, her mind was free to worry.. and worry it did. And of course, her thoughts were always on her children. Their father was gone and his absence was like a gaping hole in their lives. Again and again, she wished she could somehow be enough for them, but of course that hole could never be filled. Not by her, not by their friends, not by the lovers and children that might come along over the years. They would always have the burden of missing their father. It was up to Temple to be their mother, strong and supportive enough that they could go on, even carrying that burden.
Only rarely did she let herself cry over Hunter. She gave so much of her energy and emotion to her family, to getting them through this, that there just wasn’t much left to spare. But she couldn’t forget him, and for a while it seemed like everyday, for a moment or two, that she wasn’t equal to it. Like the weight of having to carry it all alone might just come down and crush her.
Like their mother, the kids were greatful to go back to school.
Marisol watched her little brother carefully, always wondering how he was coping. For his sake and though it was hard, she tried not to cry or be weak in front of him. When she had to do it at all, she cried alone.
Nevertheless, while sadness was pervasive the family did all try to make the best of things. For instance, family dinners become more frequent than ever. Mari and Temple eventually became very open with each other, and even Malcolm began to come out of his shell and talk about his days at school more.
But Mari still worried that her brother was withdrawing from them. Though he would talk about homework and field trips and what he’d had for lunch, still it seemed as though he was just going through the motions, day after day. Malcolm and Marisol used to enjoy their special bonding time every morning on the bus, where away from their mother Malcolm would open up and chatter animatedly about everything he’d been thinking about. But nowadays the ride to school was spent in silence.
Mari was worried; she didn’t want her sweet little brother to keep her at arm’s length forever. She wanted to find a way to make him feel better.
After a lot of thought, Marisol decided she would suggest that the family hold a funeral for Hunter. He’d already been buried in the cemetery, but a get-together of some kind with friends of the family to remember and honor Hunter might make them all feel better.
First, she brought up the idea to Malcolm, asking him seriously how he would feel about having a funeral for dad.
Not looking up from his waffles, Malcolm shrugged. It seemed to Mari, though, that under his outward indifference, Malcolm really did seem to like the idea. He seemed a little happier, anyway.
Next would come the much harder task of suggesting the idea to Temple, but Mari made up her mind to do it that evening. She wasn’t sure if her mother would react with sadness or anger, but Mari certainly hoped Tmple would be understanding even if she didn’t like the idea.
Though the suggestion certainly surprised her, and immediately she knew that the occasion itself would be extremely hard to face, Temple did understand that having a memorial of some kind would be good for the kids, particularly Malcolm, and so she agreed.
Later on that night, after both Mari and Malcolm were in bed, it struck Temple how strange it was that she never thought of holding a funeral party before now. She worried that Hunter would feel ashamed of her negligence. Not for the first time, she couuld almost feel him looking down on her, but unlike the times before she thought that now he must be angry and hurt that she didn’t think to give him a memorial service. Having one now, though it might not ultimately appease Hunter, would surely go a long way toward making it up to the kids.
And so, a few days later the party was held. Temple herself cooked the meal as the kids finished their homework, so that they would all be ready once their guests arrived.
The event turned out to be larger than even Marisol was expecting. Her mother had many friends from work and some of hers and Malcolm’s school friends came over as well. For the next several hours, everyone milled around the Crosswell living room, discussing their memories of Hunter. Even Malcolm found himself talking candidly with a few kind-faced adults.
At one point, Marisol found hereslf seated on the couch with a woman she had never met before who introduced herself as Sandy Mayor.
Curious, Mari asked Sandy how she had known Mari’s dad.
Sandy revealed that several years ago, Hunter had helped her when her and her husband’s house caught fire. Hunter, though he told his family he was out fishing, spent an entire weekend helping Sandy’s husband Tom rebuild the family’s garage where the damage had been worst.
Mari was shocked and touched that her father had done something so selfless and never even told his family. It made her wonder who her father had really been. To her he had always just been ‘dad’, but clearly he had been a lot of things to a lot of people. Mari felt happy, but she was also a little sad at the thought that maybe she hadn’t known him as well as she’d always thought.
Meanwhile, as Temple was walking around thanking everyone for coming, she was shocked to spot her old boss, Heather Crosby. Heather had never been very friendly to Temple once she discovered that Temple had flirted with her boyfriend (now her husband), and though years had passed since then she was still pretty frosty on the rare occasions that they saw each other. So what was Heather doing at Hunter’s funeral?
Knowing that she couldn’t just ignore Heather, Temple forced a smile onto her face and went over to talk to her one-time friend. To Temple’s eternal surprise, Heather’s chilly attitude was completely gone. Suddenly she was warm and apologetic, and revealed that she had been so upset when she heard the news about Hunter’s death. It had been then that Heather had realized that she had been petty when she stopped being friends with Temple when Temple flirted with Hank.
Heather said she was ashamed of how she acted and asked if Temple could possibly forgive her.
Practically speechless, Temple replied that of course she would. After all, it hadn’t been all Heather’s fault. Really, it had all just been a big misunderstanding. Heather was gracious that her apology was accepted, and launched into a big speech about how she had gone to grade school with Hunter long ago, and what a kind and generous man he had always seemed to her. Temple and her children must miss him terribly. It was at that point that Temple broke down and cried on her new friend’s shoulder, the emotion of losing Hunter but gaining Heather back as a friend all just a bit overwhelming.
Heather said again and again how glad she was over their renewed friendship, and let Temple cry herself out on her shoulder. She swore to always be there for Temple going forward, to make up for all the time that she wasn’t.
With everyone’s emotions running high inside the house, it wasn’t that surprising that Malcolm soon found himself outside alone. He scuffled his sneaker in the dirt, lonely and a little depressed. It was so easy for mother and Mari to talk to all those strange people, but Malcolm didn’t like to tell a stranger how he felt. He didn’t want to talk to a stranger about how he missed his dad.
Malcolm wasn’t alone for very long. Another boy had been brought to the service; Dexter had been forced to come with his mom, who worked for Miss Temple. Dexter and Malcolm were in the same Art class at school, and though they were both a bit shy they had talked enough off and on to know that they liked each other.
The two boys talked for a while, and at some point Malcolm started to try to explain how he’d been feeling lately, how sad he felt about his dad’s passing.
Dexter was very understanding, and even provided some unexpected help. Dexter explained that he himself had been adopted by his mom and dad, and had never even met his biological parents. Malcolm had never known anyone who’d been adopted, and was nervous to ask more about it, but Dexter was good-natured and happy to answer all Malcolm’s questions. The conversation that evening, and many conversations on many other days after that, helped Malcolm realize just how lucky he was to have known his father, even if it was only for a relatively short while.
After the funeral, everyone seemed to feel much,much better. Malcolm was still fairly quiet, but after all that was his nature. He was certainly happier and less stressed out at home and at school, and truly began to blossom as he and Dexter became inseparable best friends.
For Temple, it felt as though an enormous burden had been lifted off her shoulders. She was able to engage much more at work, and returned to her regular habit of climbing the ranks – the point where she was eventually elected Governor of Riverview! It was a new title with new and weighty responsibilities, but for the first time in a long time Temple felt more than up to the challenge.
She even got a new makeover more befitting of her new title.
Most importantly of all, perhaps, she felt that Hunter, wherever he was now, must be happy with her again. When she was alone, she could sometimes feel his presence, always silent but warm and loving.
She even began to sleep better at night; therenewed sense of being closer to Hunter made the pain of missing him much easier to handle.
She also began to spend much more time with Heather, and the two women became quite close as they realized how well they really got along, and how similar their personalities were.
Marisol, like her mother, felt relieved of some invisible weight that she hadn’t realized had been holding her down. It filled her with joy to see her mother and brother so happy.
One day Heather suggested to Temple that they should get together – nothing special, just a simple girls’ night. Temple said she’d order a pizza and invited Heather to come over that evening. When Heather arrived at the house, it was clear that a ‘simple girls’ night’ wasn’t all that had been on her mind — she had some news to share!
After years and years of trying, she and Hank were finally having a baby – their very first, and more than likely their only child since they were both advancing in years. It was a veritable miracle and Heather was bursting to share the news with her best friend.
Temple was thrilled for her, and so happy they renewed their friendship in time to celebrate it together.
But as it turned out, sharing the news of her impending motherhood wasn’t the only reason Heather was there. All of a sudden, she and Marisol leapt to their feet and started twirling noise-makers. “Happy Birthdy, Temple!”
Caught completely off-guard, Temple burst out laughing. It WAS her birthday, though she hadn’t wanted to broadcast it (what woman wants the world to know that she’s getting older?), but the effort they had gone to to keep the celebration a surprise was touching and she couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear.
Malcolm clapped and laughed along too; it was the happiest Mari and Temple had seen him in a long time.
Everyone was having a wonderful time at the impromptu birthday party and Temple felt her age catching up with her at last. It came over gracefully, and she smiled gently when the transformation was complete. It was high time, after all, and she wasn’t ashamed. Everyone grows old, and she is more than happy with her family and her life.
That night in the privacy of her room, Temple talked to Hunter in her prayers. It was something she’d never done before, never having been a very religious person, but something about growing older made her nostalgic to see his face again. Was he still proud of her? Did he miss her? Was he watching over their children? Did seeing how far Mari and Malcolm had come, how they were both blossoming so well, make him as happy as it made her?
A few days later, Malcolm woke up with the most extraordinary feeling coursing through his body. What was this? Somehow he just knew and the sudden excitement of it made him grin: it was his birthday at last!
“MOM! MARI! IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!”
The girls had been out in the hall waiting to come in and surprise him with cake and presents, so when they heard his yelling they both burst out laughing and rushed into the room.
While Mari took pictures for the family album, Temple clapped and cheered for her son who was finally making the leap from child to teen. What would he look like? Would he still be her sweet, smart, quietly remarkable little boy?
When it was all over, Malcolm stared at himself in the mirror. Who WAS that? He couldn’t recognize himself at first. He looked a little closer at the tall, handsome young man and scratched his head. So did the young man.
“WOOHOO!” shouted Mari, and the silence was broken. All three laughed and Malcolm blushed brilliantly.
Temple glowed. Her son was as handsome as she could’ve wished, and his features were the most perfect blending of herself and her husband. Surely Hunter was looking down on the family right now, and surely his heart was bursting with pride.
(Author’s Note: WOW, what a long chapter! Hope you’re still reading! Anyway, join us next time when Malcolm gets a makeover, Mari meets a man, and probably some other stuff will happen too! XoXo, LLB)