I was pleasantly surprised to see that the boys were up early waiting for Hildy to finish breakfast. They seemed to be in good spirits despite what they had in store later. After breakfast the boys rushed into their bedrooms to brush their teeth, clean up and dress. Hildy had taken the opportunity while the boys were eating to lay out what they were to wear to the service.
They presented a stunning sight as they entered the family room dressed in dark blue slacks and white short sleeve shirts. I was so impressed by their appearance that I insisted on taking several photographs of them including one Polaroid which I intended to place in the casket with their mother.
Near silence was the order of the day as we drove to the funeral home. The boys rode with me while Hildy took her own car since she was going to pick up her pastor.
I noticed in the rear view mirror that TJ was holding a hand of each of the twins while looking first at one twin then the other. The twins just looked at each other and sort of hummed a barely audible tune. Joel sat in the front passenger seat looking straight ahead.
We finally reached Broadmohr. I am sure that I was much more nervous than the boys were. When we stepped inside we were greeted by a handsomely dressed distinguished older gentleman who ushered us into a side room.
Motioning me to one side he said "The reconstruction came out very well. We have not permitted anyone to enter the viewing area until you and her sons have a chance to pay your respects. How would you like to proceed? Do you all want to view the loved one at once or individually?"
"I think it would be best if they all went together to give each other strength," I replied.
With that he led us through a door into the main viewing room. The casket which they had picked out was elegant without being flashy. There were three flower arrangements, one at each end of the casket and one draped across the lower portion. Everything was done in a simple but very tasteful manner.
"Take hold of each other's hands," I told the boys. We walked slowly toward the casket almost as if none of us wanted to get there too fast.
Broadmohr had the foresight to place steps near the casket so that it would be possible for the boys to see into it without jumping up and down or pulling up on the side. As we reached the steps I leaned down and picked up TJ. The twins and Joel climbed the two steps to look at their mother.
TJ looked at his mother lying there before saying "She... She's beautiful," Then he broke down and began sobbing uncontrollably. The tears streamed down his cheeks but he did not take his eyes off his mother. "Mommy... Mommy..."
Larry and Lenny reacted much the same as TJ. They stared at their mother as the tears and their sobs joined TJ's.
Joel just looked at his mother and shook his head.
I heard something that was almost like the moan of an animal in pain. At first I didn't know where it was coming from. Then I realized it was Joel. It kept getting louder until it was almost a howl. The twins and TJ stopped sobbing and looked at Joel through teary eyes.
"Why? Why did you try and stop him? You knew he'd hurt you. I would've let him do it. He always did it to me when he got drunk. You didn't have to do it. I could've took it again. Why'd you do it?" Joel sobbed out the first conscious words he had spoken since that awful day a little over a week ago.
With TJ on one hip I reached out and wrapped my other arm around Joel. The twins were somehow entwined in the group hug. No words came to me. I was so taken aback by Joel's sudden speech and by the gravity of the moment that I was suddenly speechless. I don't think it mattered. The non-verbal communication that was going on among the five of us was enough for the moment.
Several minutes later the elderly gentleman tapped me on the shoulder to inform me that the other mourners were waiting outside. I reached into my jacket pocket and removed the Polaroid picture of the boys and placed it in the casket on her hands. Her boys would be with her forever.
I led the boys back to the front row of chairs and sat them down. I dried their eyes and had them blow their noses before the others were admitted.
Jack and his wife Carolyn along with their two sons and daughter were the first to enter. Jack Jr. at 15 was almost as tall as his father. Timmy at 13 was more the height of his mother. Sara their daughter was only 5 and was as beautiful as her mother.
Theresa and Joyce were next in line followed closely by Hildy and her pastor. Pastor Rollins was a young man about my age with an engaging smile.
Two couples that I did not know followed. I learned later that they were the Andersen's next door neighbors.
That was it. A total of 18 people were present to mourn the death of Dorothy Marie Andersen.
Pastor Rollins was an excellent speaker. Even though he did not know her, his eulogy was both eloquent and simple. He spoke directly to the boys and told them that she was at peace now and was going to a happier place. The boys smiled at him as he praised them for their courage and the love they had for their mother.
Although the service was short, everyone seemed to be uplifted by it. The procession to the cemetery took less than twenty minutes. Again the burial was simple and short. Pastor Rollins delivered the prayer and benediction before I encouraged each of the boys to approach the casket separately to say goodbye to their mother in their own way.
Joel was the first. He knelt down beside the casket and placed his forehead against it. I couldn't make out much of what he said. I was so elated that he was able to speak again that it really didn't matter. I did make out him say "I love you" and "Goodbye." He turned to me with tears streaming down his cheeks. I reached out and pulled him to me. At that moment he just needed physical contact. Nothing but time could take away his grief.
The twins were next. Following Joel's example they knelt beside their mother's casket. I could not detect any speech from either of them. I did hear that strange humming first from one and then the other. As if on cue they both reached out and embraced the casket before standing and returning to their seats. Their eyes were also filled with tears.
I held TJ's hand as he approached the casket. "Goodbye mommy. I love you and I miss you," he sobbed.
I placed my hand on the casket and said "Thank you Mrs. Andersen for the most wonderful boys I have ever met. I wish I had known you in life. You had to be a wonderful person to have raised such exceptional sons. Thank you! I will try to raise them as you would have if I am allowed the honor. You have my word. Goodbye."
I met the next door neighbors and invited then to come to the house for lunch which Hildy was going to prepare for us. They declined saying that they had plans with their own children this afternoon. They expressed sympathy to the boys for their mother's death and then left to go home.
Jack and his family accepted the invitation to come to the house. Theresa and Joyce said that they would stop by later. It wasn't until then that I realized that Dr. Sam was not there. He had indicated earlier in the week that he intended to come. Knowing Sam to be a man of his word, I knew that some medical emergency must have kept him away.
The boys were very quiet all the way back home. Joel only used his newly recovered voice to say "Yes" when I asked him if he was all right.
Hildy had begun fixing lunch by the time the boys and I returned home. I led the boys into my study and closed the door behind us. Indicating to them to sit down on the couch I pulled up my desk chair and sat down facing them.
"I'm very proud of all of you for the way that you conducted yourselves today. I know it was not easy for you. I did not know your mother, but I feel very close to her because I share with her the love she had for you. I know that you feel sad deep down inside. That is natural. With time that hurt will fade. You will always have some of it with you but it won't always be as overpowering as it is today. Do you have any questions about anything today?" I asked.
"Can we go see momma's place again?" TJ asked.
"Of course we can. In fact we will go again Wednesday evening after school. The headstone is supposed to be in place then and I want you to see it. I hope that you like what I have picked out," going to my desk I retrieved a brochure I got from the monument place and showed them the stone that I had picked out. "Besides your mother's name and the dates, I had them carve 'Beloved Mother of Four' into it."
Getting no more questions I said "Let's go get changed out of these clothes. Our guests will be arriving soon. I'll bet that Timmy and Jack Jr. will want to go swimming. How about you?" They brightened at the suggestion of swimming.
TJ and the twins started out the door to get changed. Joel came over to me, leaned over and kissed me on the cheek and said "Thank you, Uncle Crane."
I nearly lost it right there but was able to maintain some semblance of composure. Just enough to choke out "You are welcome, son."
My eyes were still wet with tears when I entered the kitchen to talk to Hildy. "Did you notice that Joel can now speak?"
"No! Oh my god, how wonderful! Our prayers have been answered," she said looking to the heavens.
"I don't think we should make too much of a fuss over it, however. I don't want him to feel uncomfortable or too much pressure. He still is not talking a lot. I think that it would be best to let him go at his own pace toward full recovery," I commented.
"Yes, yes. I agree. We don't want him to relapse," she said with tears forming in her eyes. "By the way Crane, I think the arrangements that you made for their mother's funeral were just great. They were perfect. I'm sure the boys will appreciate it later if they don't right now."
"That reminds me, I don't know what the fee is for Reverend Rollins is but I hope this will cover his services," I said handing her a check.
She looked at it and shook her head "This is more than generous. Thank you. I'll give it to him tomorrow after church."
Jack and his family arrived shortly after the boys appeared wearing their swim suits. Jack Jr. and Timmy quickly changed into theirs and were soon splashing around in the pool.
Sara took a shine to TJ and followed him around like a puppy. He didn't quite know how to take her. He didn't mind playing with her but was not inclined to spend all of his time with her. Since she didn't like swimming, TJ found his best chance of escaping her attentions was to stay in the pool as much as possible.
Theresa and Joyce drove up together followed closely behind by Dr. Sam and his wife. He apologized for not being able to attend the funeral, but one of his patients had an attack of appendicitis and had to be operated on immediately.
I introduced Carol Greene to Theresa and Joyce before heading to the house. As we were approaching the house I turned to my guests and informed them of Joel's recovery and how I thought it best not to make too much of it. Dr. Sam was the first to agree.
"I think that is the most prudent course. He has enough pressure on him without anyone applying more," he said. "What triggered his recovery?"
I told him about the incident at the casket.
"Yes, sometimes one traumatic incident will counteract another one. With all that the boy has been through, you should try to find a good psychiatrist. I'm sure that he will need professional help. I know of a couple in the area that I would trust. I'll write down their names as soon as we get inside."
Hildy as usual had prepared a tremendous amount of food. But with six hungry boys along with the rest of us we put a huge dent in it. Dessert was the lightest angel food cake you could imagine. It literally melted in your mouth. It is a good thing she had made two of them because I think that the boys ate a whole one by themselves.
The afternoon went by quickly. The boys played in the pool. Sara took a nap and the adults sat on the patio watching the kids play. I broke out a couple of bottles of Sam's favorite Merlot which made him very happy. I don't think Carol lets him have it at home. She didn't turn down a glass when I offered it to her though.
Theresa and Joyce were the first to leave after taking the boys aside and expressing their condolences to them. I think they also asked the boys how they liked living here. I didn't hear their answers but I think they were positive. I know that several times during the afternoon they had heard the boys call me "Uncle Crane." That brought smiles of approval to the CPS employees.
Sam and Carol were the next to go, but only after the wine was gone.
"Jack, the boys and I are going fishing on my boat tomorrow afternoon if the weather holds out. Would you and your family like to go along? We could stop for supper at the restaurant at Turkey Cove before we come home," I said.
"Let me check with Carolyn. I know the boys would enjoy it. They love to fish but don't get to very often," he replied.
Carolyn agreed that it would be nice to go out on the lake. We decided that we should meet at the marina at around 1:30 and then fish until around 5. I told them I would see if Darrell was available to go out with us again to give the boys another fishing lesson.
Soon everyone had gone, even Hildy. She had left us to fend for ourselves for supper. Not that it was such a burden since the pantry and refrigerator were well stocked.
"Okay guys, what do you want to eat tonight?" I asked.
"Can we have waffles like the first day I was here?" Joel asked in the voice that brought joy to my heart.
"Of course we can. How about the rest of you? Would you like waffles too? How about some sausages to go along with them?" I thought I knew what the answer would be and was not disappointed. "You go get cleaned up and I'll have everything ready in about a half an hour."
I got out the big iron skillet and began to brown two pounds of link sausages while I mixed up the waffles. Hildy had bought some blueberry syrup as well as the regular maple syrup which would give the boys a choice. I filled the waffle iron five times and hoped that would be enough to feed them. I place each new batch of waffles into the warming oven, separating each layer with a paper towel. Before everything was finished I had four hungry faces staring at me wanting food.
"I need you to help me set the table," I said. "TJ, you get the napkins. Larry, you get the silverware. Lenny, you get the glasses. And Joel, you get the plates. I'll get the milk and butter."
I couldn't help but laugh as they scurried around doing their assigned task. But, in no time the table was as perfectly set as when Hildy did it. The boys all laughed and talked when their mouths were not full which was not often. They seemed to stop and listen every time Joel said anything regardless of its importance. We all just enjoyed the sound of his voice.
After we cleaned up the supper table, the boys seemed to need physical contact. I had seated myself on the couch in the family room searching the TV for something to watch when TJ sidled up to me and said "Can I sit on your lap, Uncle Crane?"
"Of course you may," I replied lifting him up onto my lap. "Do you want to talk or do you just want to sit here?"
His only answer was a mumble I couldn't understand as he snuggled into my chest. The other three joined us on the couch. Nobody said anything. We just sat there with our arms around each other.
Maybe twenty minutes later, Joel looked up at me and said "Are we gonna have to live with our dad now? I don't want to."
"No Joel, I promise you. You will never live with your dad again. The only time that you will have to even see him is in court. I don't know when, but some day you will probably have to go to court and tell your story. I hope that you won't but more than likely you will have to," I said trying to keep as much bitterness out of my voice as possible. "As I told you guys, I am trying to get CPS and the courts to allow you to live here with me. That is, if you want to. I guess I have never asked you directly but do you want to stay here with me?"
"Yes! Please!" Joel almost yelled.
"Yeah!" the twins chimed in.
"Yes, Uncle Crane," TJ said as he lifted his head and kissed me on the chin.
"I sure want you to stay. You have only been here about a week and now I cannot imagine my life without you in it. Now why don't you go get your showers taken and get into your pajamas. I want to talk to Joel for a few minutes. When you finish I'll see if I can't find us a snack. How does that sound to you? TJ if you need help you can take your shower with Larry and Lenny. You can use the big shower in my bedroom. Okay? Now, off you go."
"Oh boy!" and "Yeah!" rang out as they raced to the shower.
I reached over and gave Joel a tight hug before I said "Joel, I am so very happy that you can talk again. I know it has been a very difficult time for you. You have been remarkably brave through all of this and I am so proud of you. Although you have regained your voice, I would still like to have Paul Coulter come here to home school you at least for a while. I don't want you to be put in a bad situation if someone knew what had been done to you. I also want you to talk to a doctor, an adolescent psychiatrist, to see if you need any help."
"I like Mr. Coulter. I think it'll be fun to have him teach me stuff. Can I go get in the shower now?" he asked.
"Run along, I think Hildy left things to make hot fudge sundaes. What do you think of that?"
"Oh, yeah!" he shouted as he ran for my bedroom to shower with the other boys.
As the hot fudge sauce heated up I set out the finely chopped toasted pecans and the can of Reddi-Wip. I also filled five dishes with vanilla ice cream and put them back in the freezer so they wouldn't melt. I didn't want to risk life or limb dipping up ice cream while four hungry boys looked on.
Everything was ready when four freshly scrubbed pajama clad boys scrambled into the kitchen.
"Joel, I need your help for a minute. The rest of you sit down at the table," I said leading Joel to the freezer. "You take two bowls and put them on the table. I'll bring the others."
I didn't think they were going to wait until I had a chance to pour the hot sauce over their ice cream. The nuts were quickly passed around. I had to laugh at the mounds of nuts they heaped on their bowls. I topped their sundaes with the whipped cream not wanting them to wield the pressurized can. There was too much inherent mischief there that I didn't want to encourage.
I barely got started on my bowl when I heard the spoons scraping the bottom of their bowls.
"Okay guys, put your dishes in the dishwasher and then go check out the TV to see if there is a good movie on tonight. I think I saw there was going to be a Disney film on channel 12," I told them as I tried to finish my sundae before it melted entirely.
The movie helped to keep the boys' minds off the events of the day. I don't even remember what the name of it was but it kept them entertained. They were getting very sleepy by the time the movie was over at 10 o'clock.
"Time to hit the sack. Go brush your teeth and I'll tuck you in shortly," I told them.
I gave them a few minutes before going into the twins' bedroom. The bed was empty when I entered. So was their bathroom. I was a little concerned as I headed to TJ and Joel's bedroom. There were all four of them in the one bed.
I guess I must have frowned a little because the twins in a weak and frightened voice said "Can we sleep in here tonight Uncle Crane? Please!"
"Well, I suppose so as long as you go right to sleep. No talking or giggling, just sleep," I told them smiling. Stretching across the bed I gave each one of them in turn a kiss on the forehead before saying "Goodnight, angels."
We all slept late on Sunday morning. When I looked in on the boys they were a tangle of arms and legs all in a pile. I don't know how they slept like that.
I was on my second cup of coffee and third section of the Sunday paper when they came straggling into the kitchen.
"Good morning sleepy heads," I said smiling at them as they rubbed the sleep out of their eyes. "Are you ready for breakfast?" Now that was a stupid question. "Hildy has gone to church so we have to fend for ourselves this morning. It looks like cold cereal, fruit and juice."
I don't think it mattered what they had to eat. It had been at least ten or twelve hours since they had last eaten.
The rest of the day went by more quickly than anyone wanted. The kids had a wonderful time fishing and the adults thoroughly enjoyed watching them have so much fun. Jack Jr. turned out to be a good fisherman. He caught the most fish but I think the others had the most fun. Timmy and Joel seemed to be developing a strong friendship. It was an odd pairing. Timmy was a bit of a scatter-brain while Joel was more serious and reliable. Sara didn't fish. She did constantly watch TJ fish though. She was constantly by his side much to his chagrin. The twins were so full of energy that they rarely left their lines in the water long enough to catch any fish.
After a marvelous dinner of fried fish, hushpuppies and cole slaw at Turkey Cove we took the boat back to the marina just as the sun was setting. We said our goodbyes to Jack and his family and headed home.
"Everybody, get your shower taken and then into bed, you have school tomorrow," I told them.
It was going to be a busy week and I was not looking forward to all of it.