This is kind of a 2nd part to this in a strange way.
Daddy used to always tell us three girls to “cut your losses and worry about the casualties later.” I never understood that. To me, it always seemed so military-like and not at all relevant to us kids. Especially when he was telling high school aged girls this. We would humor him with a hug and a smile then go into the room the three of us shared and giggle about some boy one of us was crushin’ on.
The meaning struck me the day I buried my husband. All these years later, I finally knew what it meant to cut losses. So, after the funeral, I strapped my babies into their car seats of the dilapidated Ford Taurus and drove off without saying a word to anyone.
I didn’t know where I was headed, alls I knew was I needed to get out of here, to breathe again. Too many open wounds with too many people pouring lemon juice on them. A fresh start was what we needed.
I stopped by the house and loaded up some stuff to cram into the back of the car while the kids napped in their seats. Clothes, toys, some food. I grabbed the old shoe box of pictures, I would have hated to leave them behind. I carry my memories with me but I’d like to always be able to remember exactly what he looked like before the cancer ate him.
I loved my husband. He was a good, decent man. He always made just enough to keep food on the table and clothes on our backs, even if they were from the Salvation Army. We had what we needed and sometimes we were even able to get what we wanted.
I grabbed the map that my husband kept in the kitchen junk drawer, the one he put big black dots next to cities he dreamed about taking us to visit. We’d sit and fantasize together about the elaborate vacations we’d take, knowing that all they would ever be was fantasies. I’d take me and the kids to one of those places by the ocean. It would be what he wanted.
The family would be gathering at his folks house soon to mourn. The thought of being there, the grieving widow, amongst those who turned their backs on us in life, sickened me. So did the thought of staying here, in his parents town, without him and I didn’t have a home anymore myself since my family died in that house fire.
After stopping by the bank, checking the balance and withdrawing some cash, I got on the road and headed west. The kids would be up soon and I needed to put enough distance between us and home before that.
Poor Eliza and Jimmy. They loved their daddy. At 3 and 5, they were barely old enough to understand that they wouldn’t see him again until they were in heaven. If that stuff was even true.
Jimmy Sr. and me, we worked so hard on having babies for the first few years we were married. The doctors told us to give up, so we did. Jimmy was our adopted one, we got him shortly after we finished the paper work. His momma wanted him but the daddy wouldn’t let her keep him, was the gossip we heard. He was from a couple of towns over. We were worried that one of his biological parents would contest the adoption eventually, but that never happened and Jimmy became ours 100%, heart and soul.
Somehow, a couple years later, our miracle was born. I got pregnant when the doctors had told us to give up hope. Seemed someone was looking down on us and our little family was complete with Eliza.
Some call it a millionaires family, when the boy is first. We weren’t no millionaires, if you consider dollars to be what make you rich. We were a happy, loving family though, amongst the dirt and poverty of our town, we were rare. No abuse, drugs or criminal records. We were a normal, functional family who just couldn’t catch a break financially and luck always seemed to pass us over.
And then the cancer came. Lung. Jimmy tried to quit smoking for year. I figured I wouldn’t push him, he’d do it when he got around to it. I just felt lucky that he wasn’t a big drinker or gambler. And he never smoked in the house, didn’t want the kids and me getting black lungs. He was a wonderful man.
It killed him. Quickly. First came the cough with blood. The x-rays showing spots all over his lungs and spilling out into the rest of his body. The chemo didn’t work, it just made him worse. The doctors told us that the cancer was too aggressive and all they could do was make him comfortable. 6 months later, I lost my husband and my kids lost their daddy.
I had to remain strong for my babies though. It was just us now. We were all we had.
Thankfully, Jimmy was a saver. There was enough money to see us through for the better part of a year. After that, well, I’d worry about it when I got to wherever I was going.
I had to pull the car over, stored emotions washed over me. Sobbing uncontrollably, I hunched over my steering wheel. I tried to keep it down so as to not wake the babies. I couldn’t let them see their Momma cry like this, it would scare them.
I got out of the car and noticed, through my tears, we were in the town that Jimmy was born in. What a mess the side of the road was, litter strewn everywhere. A garbage truck must have thrown up. Papers, maxi pads, bags of dog crap on the side of the road for hundred of yards.
Looking down, I noticed a small piece of crumbled paper next to my foot. I don’t know what possessed me but I bent down and picked it up. Smoothing it out, I recognized it to be the states lottery ticket that had already been drawn, according to the bottom date, a few days ago.
I was shocked to read three of the numbers were my son’s birthday month, day and year. Coincidence? Mindlessly, I stuck it into my pocket. I’d have to check the website and see if these numbers ever came in.
Emotions under control after being preoccupied, I got back into the car. The kids were both awake and hungry so we drove through one of the fast food joints.
While they ate, I explained to them that we were going on a journey to the ocean. They wanted to know if we were going to be meeting Daddy and I had to explain in the best way I knew how that Daddy was gone forever.
With the kids eating, Wiggles playing, heart heavy and crumpled lottery ticket in pocket, I headed toward one of the black dots in California, a few thousand miles from where we were now.
Just like that, my Daddy’s words made complete sense to me. I had cut my losses and the casualties would be fine because they had me to make sure of it.
Feeling like Jimmy had his hand reassuringly resting on my shoulder, I breathed in deeply and knew that my Daddy and my Jimmy would be proud. And for the first time in 6 months I felt optimistic. I felt lucky.
I took a long drink of my diet coke and began singing along with the Wiggles while my children giggled.