Bobbi Ann Johnson Holmes

Pretty shoes, princesses, and granddaughters…

Sorting through posts from a now defunct blog, I came across this entry I’d written on February 10, 2013. I decided to share.

I resist the temptation to re-sock my granddaughter’s feet after she tugs off the knit footwear. It is amazing she kept them on all night and throughout breakfast. The fact we are in Kodiak, Alaska in winter, and it is snowy outside, makes no difference to her. After all it is warm in her house.

I try to convince her slippers are more comfortable than the pretty dress shoes she insists on wearing, yet I quickly realize my notion of comfort is not hers. When I arrived, she was wearing a red patent leather pair, each shoe adorned with a red ribbon rose. One of the gifts I brought her from Arizona was a glittery purple pair, which immediately became her new favorite. A couple of days ago her Grandma Marcie sent her pink patent leather shoes with bows. The pink ones are now her favorite. After all, they go with her tutu.

Did I mention she loves wearing a tutu? After she removes her socks mid-morning, off comes her pants.  Oh, she leaves on her underpants, but any leggings or outer pants are removed. If given a choice of what to wear in the morning, chances are she will ask for a dress. Yet, she feels a tutu is a suitable alternative.

My granddaughter is just three months shy of her third birthday. As she clomps around the house in her pretty patent leather shoes – no socks – wearing a colorful clean knit top, a tattered pink tutu, with cartoon Disney underwear peeking out from beneath the ragged netting fabric, she tells me she is a princess, and I believe her.

Our granddaughter has quite the fascination for princesses. I suspect she has every Disney book and movie pertaining to princesses. She has the Disney princess figurine collection and the larger dolls. She can tell you which one is Belle, Ariel, Beauty, Jasmine and a few others I am not familiar with. She can spend hours chattering away with her princess dolls, speaking for them as she creates her own imaginary world of make believe.

I suppose there was a time in the 70s I might have been horrified at the thought of my granddaughter having such a fascination with princesses. Yet, I am probably more a feminist today than I was 40 years ago, and frankly, I see nothing wrong with her love of all things princesses.

As long as my daughter and son-in-law haven’t signed her up for Toddlers & Tiaras (something they would never do) I see nothing wrong with Addison’s princess phase. I learned over thirty years ago—when our son was a toddler—that young children simply like what they like.

I am not concerned our granddaughter will grow up believing the only way to find true happiness is by snaring Prince Charming. I suspect the examples set by her parents will have more impact on how she views life than a make-believe cartoon world.

More Haunting Danielle audiobooks!

It’s official! Tantor Media has purchased the rights to books 4, 5, and 6 in the Haunting Danielle series. For those following the story via audiobook format, you can expect the audiobooks to be released in upcoming months. As soon as I have specific release dates, I will let you know!

Can we talk about sex?

If you’ve read my Haunting Danielle series, you’ll know they’re G-rated. I like to say they’re books you can comfortably share with your teenage daughter or grandmother. Whatever Ian and Lily might be doing behind closed doors, I leave to the imagination of the readers.

But I also write books under the pen name Anna J. McIntyre, and they tend to be R-rated. Coulson’s Lessons is the first book I ever published under Anna J. McIntyre—yet it is actually the third book in the Coulson Family Saga (formally The Coulson Series.) How is that possible?

The Coulson Family Saga includes five books. I first wrote Lessons over twenty years ago. At the time, I never intended to write a saga, that came later, after my characters came to life for me, and I wanted to go back in time and explore their history.

My mother has always said Lessons (now Coulson’s Lessons) is her favorite book of mine. She has read it at least a half a dozen times. But she read it the other night—it had been a couple years since she last read it—and she told me she needed to stop telling people it’s her favorite.

After questioning her, I discovered it was still her favorite, but she had forgotten how much sex was in the book. Mom is 89 by the way. She claims it is still her favorite, but would prefer to keep it to herself. Umm…please don’t mention this blog post to her.

But she is correct, of all my books, Coulson’s Lessons is the heaviest on the sex. Recently I read a review from one of my Haunting Danielle readers who mentioned they enjoyed Coulson’s Lessons, but might have liked a little less sex.

It’s a valid point. If I were to write the same story now, it would probably be less explicit. However, I don’t believe any of the sex scenes were gratuitous. After all, the story is about a married woman who has an affair—and the lessons she learns and the choices she makes for her family. It is a story about a woman the world has on a pedestal as the perfect wife and mother, who has a secret she keeps for a decade—and it is only after the death of her husband does the world learn of her infidelity. So perhaps I wouldn’t tone it down, if I wrote it today.

The Coulson Family Saga touches on a myriad of topics—homosexuality, infidelity, loss, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, rape, family values, loyalty, marriage, forgiveness, and hope.

It wasn’t until I finished the last book in that series did I realize it was ultimately about the women—and how they persevered.

Many readers who read just Coulson’s Wife, the official first book of the series, find the bittersweet ending of Mary Ellen’s story unsatisfying. They want the happy ending.  I don’t think the ending is necessarily sad. Mary Ellen, in her own way—for her time—found contentment and fulfilment in her life.

But sometimes that true happy ending takes several generations. I believe it did for the people of Coulson.

(We have given Coulson Family Saga a facelift, with another round of editing, fresh covers, and it’s now available in a book bundle for one price. The books in this series are also in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, so if you are a member, you can read for free.)

 

A Writer’s Work Space

I wrote my first book sitting at the counter of the Havasu Palms store, in the summer of 1969. I was fourteen at the time. When not working on my book, I was waiting on customers.

To help you get an idea what that counter looked like, I’ve included several pictures of the store. To call it a primitive structure would be an understatement. (The attractive woman behind the counter, waiting on customers, is my mother.)

We didn’t have computers back then, and since I first learned to type during my freshman year of high school, I was never much for writing longhand. That first book was written on a manual Royal typewriter that had once belonged to my grandfather.

These days I require a bit more quiet when I write. After I left real estate and turned my attention back to my writing in 2008, I was very happy in our home office. Posted below are a couple photos of what that looks like. What was not to like, surrounded by books, with both my cat and dog constantly by my side.

But then my husband Don was laid up for several months after surgery and decided to start working from home (he’s an associate real estate broker). I had to start sharing my office. It’s not that Don and I hadn’t shared an office before. For a number of years, we were a real estate team and were constantly together. But, as it turned out, while I didn’t have a problem sharing my office with one of my four-legged family members,  I didn’t do so well with a two legged one. I needed quiet and solitude when creative writing. Reading passages aloud didn’t work out well when one’s office mate is on the phone talking to a client.

Don’s mother—my mother-in-law—passed away just a few months after Don moved his office home. She had been living in a guest house we had built for her, in the back area of our property. That’s where I work today (see photo below).

My mother-in-law Doris was a big believer in angels. In fact, she collected them, and after she passed away, we had each of her nieces and grandchildren each pick out an angel for themselves. There are still a few in the guest house, including one sitting on my desk, and next to it—which you’ll see in the pictures I included.

I often say my success of the Haunting Danielle series might partly be attributed to the intervention of another angel—my mother-in-law Doris—whose home I work in each day.

A Short True Story: Mother Cat

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Mother Cat

by Bobbi Holmes

This is a story I wrote a number of years ago.

My mother always claimed she wasn’t a cat person. Dogs were her preferred pet. It wasn’t that she disliked cats. In truth, Mother loved all animals. She adorned her home with paintings showcasing a variety of wild animals, from cougars to wolves. And while cats weren’t her chosen pet, she was often their choice.

The first cat to come into our household was a feline simply named Mother Cat. Mother Cat first strayed to my sister’s bedroom window, eagerly searching for a handout. This battered, worn, short-haired huntress awaited the baloney and milk my sister and I secretly offered from the open window.

These clandestine meals went on for several weeks until my mom realized why this stray was lingering by our home. Her first reaction was to discourage this animal, certain my father would be unhappy with a new pet.

Ceasing the handouts did not daunt Mother Cat. She persistently staked her claim to her new-found home. When an attempt to actively discourage the animal failed, Mom tried something drastic, especially for an animal lover. She filled a plastic bag with water and threw it on the stray. Mother Cat, drenched to the bone, shook off the water and stood her ground, looking pitifully into Mom’s eyes. My mother, overcome by the callousness of her own actions, sat down on our front steps and broke into tears. The cat was ours. Or should I say we were hers.

Mother Cat came and went at will. Several days after the drenching, she brought us a gift; a wild little ball of gray fur. The kitten we named Walter, in honor of my father, whose own head of hair was prematurely gray.

As the months passed, Walter Cat grew into a beautiful long-haired feline who often fooled people into believing his lineage was Persian Blue rather than alley cat. Walter, whose first weeks were spent living as a wild creature, was always elusive and timid.

About a year after Mother Cat came to us her origins were revealed to our family. A neighbor from down the street came to speak to my mom and spied Mother Cat.

“That’s our cat!” she exclaimed. “I wondered where she went.”

“Oh?” my mother quietly replied.

“She looks pretty good,” the woman mused. “She had kittens and our dog kept killing them,” the woman explained. Then she suddenly spied our beautiful, sweet natured Walter Cat, who was lazily sunning on the porch.

“And that’s one of our kittens!” the woman announced possessively.

“Oh no,” Mother interrupted quickly, fearing the woman was about to lay claim to our precious Walter, “We’ve had that cat for years.”

Several days later the neighbor’s teenage daughter appeared, laying claim to Mother Cat. The girl told us her cat’s true name. It was long and exotic, an Egyptian sounding name, difficult to recall. The girl snatched up Mother Cat and carried her home. Mother Cat returned that afternoon.

Mother Cat and Walter remained with us. Although they were never our cats, our home was theirs.

When Walter was a little over a year old, we noticed his mother was once again pregnant. This of course was in the days when controlling the pet population was not yet an issue. My sister and I were delighted.

Father, who was a contractor, had his office located in the garage. One day my mother decided to fix a comfy bed for the new family and placed it in Dad’s office. She busily filled a large clean box with soft rags, arranging the material carefully. My dad noticed her activity and inquired as to what she was doing. He laughed heartily after she told him.

Dad sweetly reminded Mom that cats have kittens wherever they choose and she was wasting her time deciding such a location for this very independent outdoor feline. Yet, Dad soon discovered he couldn’t have been more wrong. One day, while doing bookwork in his office, he heard noise coming from the box Mom had prepared. There he found Mother Cat giving birth to four mice-like creatures. One would eventually resemble Mother Cat, another favored Walter, the third looked like Sylvester the cartoon cat, and the fourth was a calico, whom I named Gypsy.

Our greatest concern for the kittens was the threat of Walter. We had always heard that male cats kill kittens. My mother went to great lengths to separate Walter from his siblings. But much to her chagrin she soon discovered he was not only visiting his new brother and sisters, but tending for them as would his mother. We were also surprised to find this large, overgrown, Persian Blue look-alike, nursing from his mother.

Later, Mother Cat moved the kittens from the box and began stashing them in assorted locations in the garage. She must not have felt the box offered adequate protection for her offspring.
Once again, my mother intervened and moved all the kittens into a ski boat stored in the garage. Mother Cat loved it there. She could come and go at will, while her kittens were well protected.
Although the kitten experience was exciting, my parents felt it would be prudent to spay Mother Cat before more kittens arrived. The vet informed us the cat’s milk needed to be dried up prior to the operation.

Dad’s solution was to place chicken wire over the boat, preventing Mother Cat from visiting the kittens. The clever cat out maneuvered Dad. We soon found her laying atop the barrier, her nipples dangling through the chicken wire and the kittens standing on their hind legs eagerly nursing.

When it was time for the kittens to leave the boat, we found homes for three and kept the calico. As the weeks progressed our family became cat observers. We marveled as Mother Cat carefully trained Gypsy. The kitten would find her way up our large oak tree. Should she get stuck, Mother Cat would patiently follow her into the tree and lead her down.

We eventually decided to spay Gypsy, as we had her mother. When Walter came home after his first big fight, my parents decided it was time for him to be neutered.

Our three cats never allowed us to take part in their lives, yet they enriched ours. Our home was located in the country, surrounded by oaks, adjacent to a running creek. The backside of our house was a wall of glass doors, looking out to a rustic decking and the outskirts of a wooded area. Through the glass, we spent countless hours observing the relationship between these three animals.

Mother Cat was undoubtedly the dominate, although Gypsy unsuccessfully challenged her dominance throughout their relationship. Walter was simply a mama’s boy, and I’m sure the idea of standing up to his mother never once entered his feline brain. Gypsy, the same fiercely independent animal who tried to match her mother, would turn to a lovesick kitten when near Walter. She adored him. While Walter could never stand up to his mother, he was Gypsy’s master; only because the calico allowed it.

Our back yard became a theater, and as each year passed we watched the unfolding lives of these three animals. They rarely allowed us close enough to pet them and had no tolerance for even a short session of human affection. Yet, they knew they could trust us.

Once my parents heard Walter crying pitifully on the back porch. A thorn had wound tightly around his fur causing the animal great pain. The only way to alleviate the problem was to carefully cut a long strip of fur from his back. Amazingly, Walter, the cat who rarely allowed you close enough to pet him, sat perfectly still for over thirty minutes as my father slowly cut the offending thorn from his fur.

The only significant problem the cats posed came from Mother Cat. Within our house lived a yellow canary named Dicky Bird. Dicky was Mother Cat’s obsession. On sunny days, my mother would place Dicky’s cage in front of a glass window. There Dicky would sing for hours. Outside, sitting up motionless, only her tail swishing from side to side, was Mother Cat. She would concentrate on the pet bird, calculating ways in which to enter our house.

She wanted that bird. She wanted him badly. Several times each year, usually when a large group of people were visiting, Mother Cat would manage to sneak inside. My mother normally kept a close eye on our eldest feline and should the cat sneak past the guard, Mom would yell, “the bird!” and we’d all race to the rescue.

Once, after many years of trying, Mother Cat managed to break poor Dicky’s wing. But, like the cartoon Tweedy Bird, Dicky survived. In fact, the vet told my father he’d never seen a canary that was so old, his feathers had turned gray.

The cats had been with our family for several years when we had to move. Our new home was located even more remotely, in the desert along a lake. There was never a question about if we would take the cats with us or leave them.

Sadly, all three animals contacted cat fever shortly after we relocated. We were able to promptly deliver Walter and Mother Cat to the vet for treatment. But our stubborn little Gypsy just wouldn’t be taken. Some say cats leave home when they are ill, finding a place to die alone. This is apparently what Gypsy wanted to do.

After numerous attempts to catch Gypsy, my father finally succeeded. Almost. He instructed me to fetch a pillow case, in which to drop our wild little calico, and then she could be taken in for treatment. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong pillowcase, for when we dropped her into it, she slipped through a tear in the bottom of the pillowcase.

By the time Gypsy made it to the vet it was too late. The feline who adored her brother and challenged her mother was gone.

Walter survived cat fever and adapted to his new home. Yet, several years later he contracted an inoperable disk problem. My father, the man who never wanted cats, was forced to put down his namesake. Dad was crushed. He vowed he’d never again personally put down an animal.

Mother Cat was once again alone. She mastered the desert wilderness, including warning us of rattlesnakes. Once my father pulled a nasty trick on the old girl. As she was approaching a hose, Dad quickly jerked it, making the poor animal believe it was a snake. She literally jumped several feet, straight up into the air.

She enjoyed visiting the nearby lake and was known to nap in the boats moored at the docks. Perhaps it brought back some wonderful memories of her time with the kittens in our ski boat.

One afternoon my mother, who frequently fed the wild animals, placed a cup of cottage cheese on a large flat rock by our front window. Much to Mother’s amazement, she witnessed Mother Cat eating from one side of the rock, and there, on the opposite side was a young coyote, eating his share of the cottage cheese. The two animals seemed to be oblivious to the other’s existence. Suddenly, Mother Cat looked up, and was more than startled to discover her lunch companion. Cautiously, Mother Cat, her fur standing on end, slowly backed away from the cottage cheese, wisely leaving it to the coyote, who never acknowledged the cat’s presence.

Mother Cat was with our family for about ten years. Then one day she simply disappeared. We don’t know what happened to her. She wasn’t sick, so we don’t think she went off, something Gypsy tried desperately to do. I hope she didn’t grow careless and fall prey to a coyote. Perhaps she fell asleep in someone’s boat and was taken away to discover a new home. She may have left, but the memories she brought us will always remain.

Bedsheet Ghosts VS Walt

When any of the ghost-seeing-characters of Haunting Danielle encounters a spirit, the spirit typically looks like it did when he or she was alive—maybe a younger or older version. For a spirit with dramatic flair, like Eva Thorndike, mist or other ghostly special effects might be involved.

But of course, there is another type of ghost—the bedsheet ghost–that classic Halloween costume made from a white bedsheet, with two eyes cut out. I suspect the bedsheet ghost may have inspired the cartoonists behind Casper the Ghost.

But who inspired the bedsheet ghost?

According to an article on The Ghost Story, the white bedsheet ghost evolved from the custom of corpses in early Britain being wrapped in white cloth for burial—typically without a coffin. Therefore, one way to scare people into believing you were the departed—dress up in a sheet-like cloth.

An article on TVTropes tells a similar story, but credits the bedsheet adaptation (inspired by burial shrouds) as a way for an actor in the 1800s to be more easily recognized as a ghost when portraying one on stage.

A Daily Beast article, Who Invented the ‘Bedsheet Ghost’ tells a similar story, crediting the theatre for bringing us the bedsheet ghost.

Since burial shrouds aren’t really a thing anymore—at least not in this country—I’d suspect today’s ghosts would look more like Walt and the other spirits of the Haunting Danielle series.

Short story: Our Road to Travel

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Our Road to Travel

A Short Story by Bobbi Holmes

“We won’t need to see you again for another six months, Mrs. Smith. How would November 8th work for you?” the woman behind the counter at the doctor’s office asked me.

November 8th, how in the hell would I know? They always ask me questions like that, as if I actually know what my plans will be six months down the road. Perhaps the better question, will I even be alive in six months to make any November appointment?

Instead I told her, “Yes, that will be fine.”

“Would you prefer morning or afternoon?”

Let me grab my appointment calendar and see what I’ve got booked for November 8th. Considering my recent social schedule, I might have something exciting planned, like a dentist appointment, meet up with the eye doctor, or a blood test.

“Mornings would be best,” I told her.

“Oh, looks like you have a birthday this week. Happy birthday!”

“Yes, Saturday, thank you.” I started feeling guilty for my silent annoyance. The girl was just doing her job, and she was trying to be friendly.

“Oh, Mrs. Smith, there must be a mistake in the records.” She frowned as she glanced from the file sitting next to her computer, up to my face.

“Mistake?”

“We must have noted your year of birth incorrectly.” She then read the birth year they had on file for me.

“No, that’s correct,” I told her.

By her puzzled expression, I knew what she was thinking. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard it. Compared to other women my age, I don’t look like someone nearing her 85th birthday. Good genes combined with the fact I never smoked blessed me with a youthful complexion.

Just because I don’t lead an active social life—there are no trips to the senior center, bingo party, or some woman’s church group—doesn’t give me reason to neglect my appearance. I’ve never considered going gray, and unlike my older sister who has been wearing the same hairstyle for the last forty years, my hairdresser keeps me discretely in style.

A decade or so ago I was my dentist’s first patient to have her teeth whitened. It’s true; a bright smile removes years from a person’s appearance. I’ve always taken good care of my teeth. Until a year ago, I could boast (to just myself, of course) that I still had them all. I suppose I technically still do, but six months ago the dentist capped my two front teeth, due to hairline fractures.

Weight also ages a woman. Too thin brings out the wrinkles and too heavy adds years. Unless illness befalls me, I will never be willow thin like some women my age. I’m probably ten pounds thinner than I was ten years ago. I try to eat a healthy, well balanced diet. I regularly read the food labels when grocery shopping, something that seems to annoy my daughter. I wish she would pay a bit more attention to what she is eating.

I make an assertive effort to consume my daily share of almonds, prunes, oatmeal, and fruit to minimize my need for pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, my doctor insists I need both blood pressure and cholesterol medications.

Glaucoma took my mother’s sight. Thus far I’ve kept my glaucoma under control, yet the glare is becoming more an issue of late, and I’ve asked my daughter if we can tint the window in my sitting room. Currently, I am forced to keep the curtains shut due to the blinding glare.

When I finally made it back to the waiting room I found my daughter there. I wondered how long she had been waiting. Normally she runs errands while I visit the doctor, and she waits for me to call her on my cellphone before coming for me.

I try to schedule my appointments so I’m not too much of an inconvenience for Kathy. She works from home, so her schedule is flexible. Yet, I know how she hates running errands and shopping. I gave up my driver’s license years ago. In truth, it was not a great sacrifice. I learned to drive in my thirties and never felt comfortable behind the wheel.

Going from the subdued office lighting to the bright sunlight makes it difficult for me to see. My daughter, Kathy, momentarily forgets that as she marches on ahead, leaving me stumbling nervously on the sidewalk; I’m afraid I might trip. She is forever telling me to stay off the step-ladder (which I need to reach the top shelf in my closet), treating me like some foolish child, reminding me I might break a hip. Ironically, if I break my hip it probably won’t be from a step-ladder fall, but a sidewalk I couldn’t maneuver.

Kathy looked back to see where I was and obviously remembered her oversight. Rushing to my side, she guided me by my elbow, apologized, and then helped me to the car.

During the day, Kathy spends hours in front of her computer. When my son-in-law gets home in the evening, I try to stay in my area of the house, so they can have some privacy. We may reside under the same roof, but I spend little time with my daughter. I wonder if she realizes how little time there really is in life.

When we got home, I was greeted by a phone call from my older daughter, Connie. My husband and I were blessed with two daughters, Connie and Kathy. I’m grateful they are close, like best friends. I love my only sister, but she and I have never been close.

I was much closer to my brothers. I had three of them. In some ways my parents had two families. First came the three boys, and then years later my sister arrived. Dad was thrilled to finally get a girl, yet she didn’t turn out to be the sweet little girl he imagined. Oh, he adored her, but she was always a tomboy with a volatile temper. I arrived two years later, a mistake. However, I never felt like a mistake. I was the surprise blessing, the little girl they had been waiting for.

All but my sister, Mildred, are now gone.  I was just a child when Daddy died. I think it was harder on Mildred than on me. I was always a mama’s girl. Mama has been gone for over thirty years now. No one has a clue how profoundly I still miss her. The youngest of the brothers died when we were all young adults. My eldest brother passed away not long after Mama. Days after my husband, Robert, died I lost my last brother.

Of course, they were much older than Robert. Robert was in his early sixties when he died, a lingering death that took two years to complete the unsavory task. Kathy was there, as was our son-in-law, helping us get Robert to the hospital twice a week for medical treatments and witnessing the drastic change in my husband’s personality.

Once, when Kathy expressed her frustration, I gently reminded her it would be over soon enough. I think she forgot her father wasn’t going to live forever, and he really was reaching the end of his road. She preferred to relish in her annoyance at the inconvenience as opposed to facing the harsh truth of death’s finality. Don’t misunderstand me—Kathy loved her daddy dearly. But I suppose we all cope with death in our own way.

“Mom, Uncle Ed called me about Aunt Mildred,” Connie told me. By then, I was sitting in my leather recliner in my small sitting room taking Connie’s call.

“What’s wrong?” I normally spoke to Mildred on a daily basis. She and Ed had moved into the Masonic home almost ten years earlier, a move Mildred resisted yet one Ed had been looking forward to since he was a young man. It was something I always found peculiar. With me living in Texas and Mildred and Ed living in California, we were lucky if we saw each other once a year.

“They’ve moved Mildred into her own room.” I knew immediately what that meant, and my heart fell to the floor. A separate room meant assisted living. They would eventually give Ed a smaller room, where he could go on living independently at the home—free from the burdens of an ailing wife. She would hate it there; I knew Mildred. I told myself I needed to call my nephew, their only child, and make sure he checked on his mother. I didn’t particularly trust Ed to act in the best interest of my sister.

When I finally got off the phone, I went into the living room to tell Kathy the news. I found her sitting on the couch, her laptop computer propped up on her knees.

“Poor Auntie Mildred,” Kathy said sympathetically, after I told her. Maybe Mildred and I were never close like Kathy and Connie, but she tried to be a good aunt to my daughters. I always knew Mildred was jealous, never having daughters of her own. During our regular phone conversations she would remind me of how lucky I was to have two such wonderful girls, commenting how they were always there for me.

Daughters, they are a blessing. I adore my three grandsons, but I wish Connie had also been blessed with a daughter, as was Kathy.

Kathy’s oldest is a boy—my first grandchild. Oh, how I adored that boy. I was never one who longed for grandchildren, and I was quite surprised how totally in love I was with that child—so was Robert. Robert swore he only wanted girls, but when his first grandson, Bobby, arrived, he was over the moon.

Bobby and I were close. He called me Ma, and I remember how he and his younger sister would race after our car when we had to go home, both crying for us to return. Today he is in his early thirties, and I am lucky if he calls me two or three times a year. I can’t really complain, he doesn’t call his mother much either, and when he was little, he was even closer to her.

Connie’s two sons are good boys. Well actually, all three of my grandsons are good boys. Although, they are now men. Her oldest is attending college in Colorado, and I see him as often as I do my eldest grandson. Of the three boys, Jeff, Connie’s youngest, makes more of an effort to reach out to me. Perhaps it is because he is the only one of the three with a child. Family is important to Jeff. I like to think Jeff and I have a special bond.

My only granddaughter, Charlotte, is a constant reminder of why I find daughters so special. Of the four, she lives the farthest away—in Hawaii. Her husband is in the military. In spite of that, she talks daily to her mother on the phone, and she calls me at least once a week.

She’s given me two beautiful great-grandchildren—a boy and a girl. I’ve yet to meet the grandson, but she is coming for a visit in four months. One of the sweetest things she ever shared with me came up when we were discussing guardianship of her children, if the unthinkable ever happened.

“If something had happened to my parents, I would have wanted to live with you, not Aunt Connie,” she told me. I was shocked. Connie adores Charlotte, and the feeling is mutual. Yet, Charlotte explained that for as much as she loved her aunt, I would be the one she felt more at home with if she had lost her parents.

“Mom, this has been a rough few months for you, I’m really sorry,” Kathy commented, as I sat down on the loveseat across from her. She was right, it had been. Last month I lost my last first-cousin, Virginia. Several weeks ago one of my dear friends, George, died from cancer. While I hadn’t seen either in years, I exchanged regular phone calls with both of them.

“I’m also worried about Rachel.” I reminded Kathy. Rachel is another friend of mine, who I keep in touch with by phone. The last time we spoke she was recuperating from a car accident, and she didn’t sound good. When I tried calling her yesterday her phone was disconnected.

“You don’t have her daughter’s phone number?” Kathy asked.

“No, she lives somewhere in Alaska. I don’t remember her last name.”

“Do you want me to check online?” I knew what Kathy meant: the online obituaries. I told her yes, and gave her Rachel’s full name and the town she lived in. I sat quietly as Kathy’s fingers flew over the keyboard, making the search.

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

Something twisted inside of me. Instinctively I knew she wasn’t sorry because she couldn’t find Kate, but because she had.

“When?” I asked.

“Last week. The funeral is tomorrow.”

There was no way I could get to the funeral. I didn’t know any of those people anyway. It seemed all my friends had died already.

“I might as well take my phone out,” I said ruefully. “I can save myself twenty bucks a month.”

Kathy looked at me sympathetically.

My husband had been gone for over twenty years. My best friend had left me a decade ago, yet was still alive. Alzheimer’s took her from me.

Over the last twenty years my good friends have been disappearing—one by one—a steady procession, leaving me behind with my youthful skin, straight white teeth, and stylish hairdo.

I tried to be funny, but this wasn’t funny. Soon, I would have no one left to talk to on the phone. I missed my husband, my parents, my siblings, and my friends. They all left without me.

Kathy set the computer on the coffee table, stood up and, gave me a hug. She told me she loved me and promised me a special day for my birthday. She promised she’d spend the entire day with me. I wondered if she meant it or was again treating me like the child I wasn’t.

I had lost my appetite by the time dinner hour rolled around. Forcing myself to eat, I nibbled on a small portion of chicken, a few carrot sticks, and drank a glass of milk. Emotionally drained, I took an early shower and went to bed.

I’d been asleep for several hours when I rolled over and bumped into Robert. Drowsily, I opened my eyes and saw him sitting up in bed next to me, leaning against a pile of pillows. I’d left the bathroom light on, which helped illuminate my bedroom.

“Are you watching me sleep?” I asked, noting his intent expression.

“You seemed a little depressed tonight.”

“Rachel died,” I told him.

“Yes, I know.”

“Mildred isn’t doing well.”

“No, she isn’t. She’ll be going soon. It’s her time.”

“Robert, I hate this. Everyone is leaving me. I don’t want to stay here anymore.”

“Sweetheart,” Robert said gently, reaching out to brush my forehead. “You have Kathy and Connie, the grandkids, not to mention those beautiful great-grandbabies. Plus, you have a world full of new-friends to meet.”

“I’m too tired and too old to meet new friends,” I said stubbornly. He only laughed.

“It was always difficult for you to meet new people. But your family still needs you here. The rest of us will be waiting when it’s your time. But, you’ve a bit more road left to travel.”

“Do they really need me? I think I’m just in Kathy’s way.”

“Trust me, she needs you. Remember how she was when it was my time? Angry at me for being sick. She wasn’t annoyed because I was a nuisance, she was angry because I was preparing to leave.”

“She doesn’t act like she needs me. And I try to be helpful around here. I help with the housework, do the laundry.”

“She doesn’t need you that way. She needs you like you needed your Mama. Don’t you remember?”

I thought of my Mama and tears filled my eyes. I wanted to go to her, but something held me back.

“Maybe Kathy doesn’t always act like it,” he went on, “but she loves you dearly. She considers you one of her best friends. I also know our other daughter and our grandchildren feel the same way. So remember, even if many of your older friends have moved on, you’ve some precious ones who continue to need you in their lives.”

I sleepily closed my eyes and rolled over. I had a longer road to travel, and I was grateful Robert reminded me I would have plenty of companionship along the way. I would eventually get to the end of the road—just not as soon as many of my old friends.

Originally published as Traveling Companion, under the pen name, Anna J. McIntyre.

 

Do you believe in ghosts?

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I’ve had readers tell me one reason they like the Haunting Danielle series is because they find it realistic. I always find that interesting considering one of the main characters is a ghost. It made me wonder, how many of my readers believe in ghosts?

You want to take the poll? It only takes a minute!

The day they locked me up.

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Going through the pictures stored on my computer I came across this photo taken about eleven years ago. It’s the one and only day I’ve ever been in jail. To be honest, it was for charity, a Jailathon fundraiser for our local museum.

The jail is the real deal, used in the early days of Lake Havasu City, a place where authorities would hold prisoners until they were either released or transferred to Kingman.  I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be locked up in that thing during the summer. It can get over 120° here!