Just before the door slammed into the frame, she was out the door and stomping down the cement square path heading to her beat up Chevy car. Being a teenager, Richard thought to himself, she was easily roused to a fury; as his wife warned, “With a few words she can be moved to tears, fits, or laughter. She ain’t your little baby-girl anymore, Rich…” Flipping the paper to expand the fold, it made a loud crackle noise as it moved outwards. Though he was gifted a wonderful tablet by his children last Christmas, he was traditional and preferred the smell, feel, and look of a regular New York Times in his hands every morning. Yes, they were correct that it was wasteful and at times frustrating to fold but, looking at the front door, he had dealt with worse.
Running down the stairs at a speed that sounded like he was falling, his son and youngest of his kids made his way for the door but stopped when Richard asked, “Kevin… In a rush?”
Losing his balance as he tried to simultaneously tie his shoe while putting it on, he landing his back hard against the wood tiled wall. Rubbing at his lower back he mouthed the pain and winced at the touch. Getting up from the chair, Richard helped his son up and sat him down upon the first stair; helping him tie and put on the shoes correctly, since Kevin was putting the shoe on the wrong foot the first try. “Son,” Richard sighed, “you are a good kid, but you need to think a bit more and really – slow down. Those stairs are all wood and you could have slid down them to the floor here and gotten hurt worse.”
Nodding in agreement, Kevin said, “Yeah, I know Dad. I will try… I just; well, I slept through my alarm again and Stephanie didn’t wake me up though she easily saw that I was sleeping in my room when she went to the bathroom to get ready today!” Shock on his face and grabbing for his backpack, Kevin stood straight up with the last shoe nearly tied and shouted, “OH MY GOD! Wait! Has Stephanie left yet? She is my ride to school!”
Pulling tight on the double knot, Kevin so distracted by the panic rising his chest he ran past his father and out the door. Though Richard tried to flag him down before he ran out the door to give him some breakfast, Kevin was a blur as he ran pass the dinning room window and across the grass to the end of the driveway where his sister Stephanie was pretending she was to leave him by attempting to back out into the street. Pounding on the hood, Richard could hear Kevin shouting at his sister in an attempt to stop her from leaving him behind.
Looking into the mirror with her hands as her right ear, Jackie, his wife, was adjusting the new silver small looped earrings she purchased for herself the day before, “You know, honey, Kevin acts like you when you were younger.” With great detail, she adjusted her executive suit and skirt; being the head of information for the company HR On Call was a pressing position but Jackie was the type of person who handled stress well; much better than Richard.
Looking over his shoulder he questioned, “…How would you know how I was at Kevin’s age?”
Without much pause, she responded, “Your mother.” Laughing, she pulled Richard up from the floor and hugged him, “Honey, if he is anything like you are as a kid then it is a good sign; since, it tells both of us that he will become like you are now. A very community respected individual, a great father, and a charming husband.” After a soft pressing kiss, she released him and held his hands at their waist. “Now, I too must rush; they get that quality from me.” Snickering, she grabbed her purse and too darted out the door to the garage. Her white S-class Mercedes was shining in the rising summer sun. She kept it smoothed, buffed, and without clutter inside or out of the car. While her car was of higher power and class status, Richard always felt comfortable in his simple Hyundai station wagon, which he jokingly called the family’s “War Wagon.”
His heart leaped into his throat; cold rushing blood ran down from the back of his head and into his limbs. Everything was a panic, but he just floated and then sank further down…
Life in the suburbs had all the thrills of an expected life. Typical home security in the neighborhoods, proud school districts, and common social services for the community such as recycling and trash at the curb pick up with street and sidewalk snow removal in the winters. Their home was a typical 2,500 sq. ft home in suburbia with a two car garage, and four car driveway. When Jackie and Richard married, they agreed that they would live in the surrounding neighborhoods and move away from the city life to have less noise, less danger, and more time to relax as a family. Naïve in thinking as new parents, they didn’t realize that when a child grew up all parents would be pushed away and forgotten; similarly as they did when they were that age too.
However, they never knew the social maintenance cost to be associated in such environments; such as, suburban workplace etiquette, keeping a home with aesthetic glamor, buzz cut flat lawn – no hills, flower blooming circulation, and community involvement. Each day while he worked in his four walled cubical home away from home, he would wonder if he would be better suited and if the children would have adapted successfully even further outside of the city; such as in the rural communities where the closes neighbor might be no nearer than a mile.
The clouds split just above and below the hanging sun giving the look of eyelids to an eye. At the edges, they rolled back like a bed comforter being pulled to reveal the under sheet’s colors. The storm would be nice when it fell over the valley…
Always part of the team, Richard would help provide assistance coaching at all the events of his kids. He cared that they participated at their fullest, and his intention was to provide that fatherly support as a father at home, coach in their activities, and support team as they excelled or faltered. While Jackie, being the CIO of HR On Call, equally cared about the family and the children’s wellbeing, Richard took on the part of the more active parent. At each event, he would paint his face the school’s colors and, at times embarrassingly for his kids, be the human mascot for the children’s sporting events; even at events like chess club.
Within the next year, though, Stephanie was going to be leaving for State and this would take a set of activities off of his already pilled high plate. Though he had felt selfish at times, relaxing at work he would lean back in his chair and just imagine the things he would be freed up to do when those slots of time where given back to him. With his son Kevin, the activities were much less interactive for Richard as an assistance coach. Taking the more aggressive side of his mother, he gravitated to school sports like: wrestling, football, and lacrosse. Usually, to the excitement of Richard, he could just blend into the crowd like the many other parents; but, unlike most the of the other parents, he paid attention to the games progression.
Weightlessness. Reaching the point of float, the frame descended towards the earth below. Wide eyed and grasping the wheel, everything was exercised in hope to slow the decent of the fall and glide to safety.
Not being an argumentative type, Richard’s take on conflict resolution with his kids was to passively engage in the hope the tempers would burn themselves out. Much to his disappointment, he had found after eighteen years of marriage and sixteen years of child raising… he was the only one who practiced calm discussions in disagreements. While he adored his wife, he had hoped that his qualities would have been more nurtured in their children’s upbringing; unfortunately, the loudest one is usually noticed and then mimicked.
Jackie had always played the dominate role in their relationship. First, she pursued him, when they got engaged she proposed to him, and while small framed she even lifted him after they kissed at the altar. When she was giving birth to their first, she directed the nurses on what she needed, told Richard where to sit, and before they left for the hospital she was at work until she was nearer to the last stage of labor. She even drove herself to the hospital but only after Richard arrived at her work and forced her, as best he could, to leave the office.
The wind whistled through the partially opened window on the driver side. The speed of the fall pulled hard against his body; walking back along his cheeks to the elbows of his jaw, his tears made darks spots on his dark purple polo. Clutching his teeth, he frantically pressed the break but there was no turf to hold the wheels in place against the open falling.
Though Richard had always played a positive role in his community and family, he was not motivated by religious beliefs such as karma. Rather, Richard believed that positive health and life benefits were consequences of his generosity being noticed and respected by those he touched. Having a healthy family and enough wealth to support them was all he wished to have. Each morning, he would wake up before his family and sneak in a peak to see his wife and children sleeping. He was full of love for what he had.
Forever focused on his family, starting at the birth of their first, Stephanie, him and his wife decided to opening a college tuition fund for her. As she was fast approaching her final days in high school, she would not go to college with worry like most families and freshmen who feared how they would finance their education. Though he was a little nervous about her beginning in State, being that Stephanie would be much younger than most starting college, at age sixteen during her first semester, he was confident in her adaptability. Stephanie started school at the expected age of five like all other children in her age group, but by second grade she progressed well enough and it was recommended she leap a year. Socially, it was challenging at first but her persistence in needing to be respected by her peers and intellectually recognized by her teachers helped her adapt to the changing environment soon after starting her first semester.
With their second, Kevin, equally stubborn and persistent, his focuses have not been as high as Stephanie’s. Kevin never rushed grades, didn’t feel the need to be praised for brains; rather his bran, and was more focused on contact sports than the books. However, it would be important to note that though more physically focused Kevin still finished all his work on time and completed each course with passing grades higher than average scores of his classmates. No matter what, Richard was always going to be proud of both his children.
“…He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for you are with me;
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me…”
— Psalm 23
As the weight and momentum of the car finally came to a rest at the valley floor, the front end of the car made contact first. The sheer weight and drop broke the frame of the car and pushed the engine compartment and components into the driver and passenger seating. Being the only person in the car, Richard died immediately upon impact. The driver and passenger seating were forced into the middle of the car with him pressed between the crumpled front and the driver seat.
The groceries he was returning home with were scattered in all directions around the car and across the hill side. Car pieces were smashed and split along with the groceries. Though the force was great, the car never ignited. A Highway Patrolwoman would later find the beginning pieces of the tragedy at the top of the elevation. Scattered pieces of his front lights laid strewn before the folded back guard rail. Below, the crumbled hunk of Richard’s Hyundai Elantra Touring would be seen as a small heap of metal at the bottom. Within their home, the family would learn of their loss on the couch in the living room just steps from the stairs Kevin flew down that morning, the front door that was slammed by Stephanie, and the mirror Jackie prepared herself for her day. The words of the police officers would sound muffled. Their busy minds would halt into a slow crawl for the first time.
The next morning, the New York Times would be delivered. Folded in half, it would rest upon the welcome waiting for the reader.