Which One?-Part 7 (Image:Hooping-cool no matter how you look at it)

Rogers’ death was a devastating blow to Joanie and her remaining kids. The loss itself was bad enough but the shameful circumstances surrounding made it an especially difficult—if not traumatic—event in their lives.

That said—Joanie was never one to delude herself. The marriage had been little more than a façade for years. The caring and intimacy had been fading even before Rogers Junior’s death. After that Joanie and Rogers senior were little more than housemates. In the last months of his life, Joanie spent most evenings when her husband was home, watching him drink himself unconscious. It also later emerged that Rogers  had been seeing at least one other woman during that last year.

Kristin and Mark handled their father’s death much better than their mother thought they would. Both had known for years what their parent’s marriage really was like and what their father was doing. As difficult as it was—to a very real extent—the death of Rogers senior was a relief to the entire family.

Finances were never a problem. Joanie was an expert at managing money and Rogers’ pension and social security plus a solid, conservative portfolio of investments meant she would be comfortable for the rest of her life. There was no need to maintain the large house where the kids had grown up. It was sold and the proceeds placed in a trust fund for the education of the four grandchildren when they came of age.

Joanie took a modest apartment in the same complex as Ruseen—another old friend—in fact she lived just across the hall from her. Ihey routinely had supper and spent several evenings a week together.

Still a beautiful woman with a figure most women in their twenties would love to have, Joanie did not lack for male attention. About a year after Rogers’ death she began keeping company with the family dentist—Phil—a widower and the employer of the hygienist who had died in the wreck with her husband.

All the information I just related did not come out of that first call—it emerged over time. What I did learn to my deep disappointment in that first call, was Joanie was engaged to Phil—in fact a date for the wedding had been set.

By the time we got around to talking about the engagement, the mood of the conversation had improved considerably—there was even the occasional bit of levity. By that point in the exchange the mood was relaxed and pleasant but I still was talking to Mrs. Brown—not Joanie. We talked for over an hour.

“Well, I guess I’d better let you go Joanie,” I said feeling deeply unsettled and hollow—darkness filled my heart. That connection to love was so close and yet so incredibly far away. If only I had called a year earlier. I was swept with a sense of self-piteous rage—tears filled my eyes, spilling onto the computer keyboard in front of me.

“Yeah,” Joanie returned,” it was really great hearing from you. I’ve wondered for years what ever became of you.” She went on to say she always imagined I’d be living in a cabin up on the side of a mountain somewhere far from any city, running a trap line and hunting for food. She laughed when I told her I lived in a gated community and was a vegetarian.

“Well,” I said again, “it’s getting late—I think you said Ruseen is waiting supper for you? You told me you don’t use a computer—do you mind if I write you occasionally?” I said, trying not to sound too pitiful.

“I think that would be OK,” she replied and gave me a mailing address and made sure I had the phone number right. I felt like I was tearing my own heart out but I made myself say, “Goodbye Joanie.”

Again—as earlier—there was a moment of silence as I waited for her reply.

“Goodbye—Orion,” she whispered in a suddenly entirely different voice. Other than when she said I “didn’t sound like Orion”—it was the only time she spoke my name. It was like someone else had taken the phone.

And in that whispered goodbye—I finally heard it. I heard my Joanie.

End part 7

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