“The secret of life is not in what happens to you.Norman Vincent Peale
It is in what you do with it that happens to you.”
Windenburg Cameron Lake House
Everett, Maeve and Blaine II were back at the Lake House visiting with us, naturally my Blaine and Everett were clustered together, the two adults going on and on about their favorite topic, music, while the little one was too busy strumming comically on his latest gift from great-grandpa, his own toddler-sized guitar. No worries, we showered all great-grandkids equally with gifts. Much to their parents’ dismay sometimes.
A good example would be about a week or so ago, when Natalie had a small melt-down. That had started innocently enough. We all knew Declan’s twin boys Jordan and Jamie loved water, so we had gotten them a kiddie pool for their parents’ backyard, it was summer, but alas the weather turned moody and it was just too chilly to have them out there. So one day Natty called me – in case this wasn’t clear to you yet, she was more like a daughter than a daughter-in-law to us – but on the call she initially was slightly upset. Turned out none of them had been able to take the twins’ whining anymore, broke down and put the kiddie pool – filled! – in the hallway by the backdoor “… on the freshly restained hardwood floors! Can you imagine the water stains that will leave?!” she ended her rant.
I couldn’t help but giggle, which she couldn’t help but join into. Her, Brendan’s, Declan’s and Rory’s failure to withstand two begging toddlers was now somehow Blaine and my fault because of the innocent gift. But I knew she wasn’t mad at us, just realized living with toddlers again in her late 50s wasn’t as easy as it used to be in her 20s.
“Sorry, just had to talk to someone who would get this. Brendan and Declan just keep telling me ‘if the floor gets damaged, it’s always fixable.’. That’s not even it. You know, Vik, all these years I was on my boys about wanting to be a grandma, now that I have three grandsons, I wish myself back to the quiet days before. Were toddlers always this exhausting? Were my boys like that?“
I had just laughed and she had chimed in. It had been a rhetorical question anyways. Our grandchildren and great-grandkids were amazing, precious and as aggravating, exhausting and trying as they could sometimes be, the good always outweighed the bad. Natty had just needed to vent, like she had done ever since she first became Brendan’s girlfriend all those decades ago. She and our son Brendan would move in with us just after Blaine’s 90th birthday in only a few weeks, leaving the house to their son Declan and his family, while they helped us around here. I was looking forward to it. Even if that meant Everett, Maeve and Blaine II would have to stay somewhere else, since we only had that one extra room now.
Right now though it was Maeve and I in our dining room talking about this and that over wine and coffee, her asking for advice, and me happy to share, while her son was fraying our nerves with the instrument and his attempts on singing. He may have the talent in his blood, but the squeaky toddler voice definitely needed to age a little more with lots of practice. I apologize in advance to his poor parents for the noisy gift.
Suddenly the older Blaine left the room, returning with his most prized possession in the world, the guitar my mom and I had given him for his 13th birthday. He had protected that thing like the apple of his eye for the past almost 77 years now, stoically refused to ever play on anything else and weathered his entire career with it.
And now he handed it to Everett, who stared at it equally in awe and surprised.
“What?” he smiled confused.
“She’s yours now, the old girl. You always wanted her, you more than earned her and you’ll always do right by her, that, I am sure of. And that son of yours will follow in our footsteps, so remember, when that day comes and your son stands before you telling you that he wants to be a musician, you will teach him everything I taught you, everything you learned and make sure that kid gets his chance, but knows how to make good choices.”
Everett took the guitar from Blaine like a dozen of raw eggs, carefully placing it down and hugged Blaine, long and tight.
“Wow, thank you grandpa. I will totally do that. I am writing a new song, almost done, just needs a little finetuning, something at the end doesn’t sound quite right, and it’s dedicated to you. Maybe you can help me work out the kinks.”
“Love to kid!”
“I help!” baby Blaine exclaimed, holding up his guitar.
Everett started playing, a very pleasant tune, and as he began to sing in his smooth as butter baritone, raspy in just the right spots, we all listened to the story of a young boy, born into a terrible life in a broken home with no hope, who met a little girl who was the ‘light in his darkest night’, which was also the title of the piece.
The song described pitfalls of the little boys life, who grew into a flawed human being, but the little girl, now a young woman, always believed in him, helped him, always by his side, as they grew up together.
Yes, you guessed it, the song was about Blaine and me. By the time the lyrics arrived at the winter of the song’s protagonists’ lives, we were all fighting tears, it was so beautifully written and performed.
Everett’s song was ending, a brief instrumental outro followed, cut short. Something really didn’t fit there, bringing a disappointed frown to all our faces.
Blaine stealthily wiped a tear, then demanded the guitar, and by memory started where Everett had ended, within a few attempts he found a perfect finish for the song.
As the last note faded out, Everett was in tears, when Blaine sat down the guitar, Everett hugged him so tight, I felt like I heard bones crack. Just was not sure who was hugging whom too tight. Might have been Rett’s bones screaming for help as Blaine was clinging on tight as well.
“I love you so much, grandpa! Thank you for everything!” Everett sobbed into Blaine’s shoulder and unlike himself, Blaine simply said with an occupied voice “I love you more, Everett. More than you will ever know. I love everyone here more than you will ever know, and all the rest of the amazing family I helped create, god only knows how I managed that with the shit genes of mine. Must have been all you, babygirl, but I still want some credit.”
Okay, you can imagine what followed, emotional group hugs and confessions of deep care and love. Yeah, that was us too.
I should mention that whenever they came for visits to Windenburg, Everett, Maeve and baby Blaine stayed with us, sometimes a week or longer and so often that the guest room was referred to Rett & Maeve’s room by all. Sure, they could afford the biggest and best hotels, but they preferred this and so did we.
Once we all turned in, Blaine looked at me with that type of look that reached deep, when he said with a soft voice
“We created a great family, babygirl. If you hadn’t taken pity on me when I was 7 years old, I would never have had a shred of any of this. You not only gave me my life back, you made it worth living. And I tried, babygirl, for you, really hard. Tried to be the best friend, husband, lover and father I knew how to be, while not fucking up again and again. I really tried hard. You showed me what love is and I never loved harder than I love you and our family.”
“I know that, honey, you tried and you excelled. There is no better husband, friend, father or lover, not then and still not now. And I love you more than there are words to describe it, you and the family we created, together. Besides, didn’t take pity, honey, I loved you right at first sight. Even then at only 6 years old. And just never stopped.”
“Boy-crazy hussy, you.” he teased and chuckled, giggling I swatted at him and he snuggled me into a tight embrace, which is how we fell asleep.
The next morning Everett and Maeve awoke at around the same time, both instantly looked over at the toddler bed, where Blaine II was still fast asleep, so Everett started nuzzling on Maeve’s neck and kissing her more and more demandingly, she replied in kind.
“Hmmmm … you know, if we are really careful and keep it down, we can probably get a quickie in before the beast awakens.” he whispered in between heated kisses.
Maeve now pushed him away from her, pulling away from him.
“Not on your life! Nookie in your grandparents’ guest room with our son sleeping just a few feet away in clear view of our shenanigans?! So not gonna happen! That is rude, crude and just … urgh. Besides, I need to pee so-so-so bad and am dying for a good cup of strong coffee and some eggs!”
Maeve slid off the bed, grabbed a pile of clothing she put out the night before and left the room, Everett deflated with a disappointed sigh.
“Women – can’t live with them, pass the beer nuts!” he groaned.
“Women – can’t live them – nuts!” came the echo from his left in a tiny voice. Evidently Blaine II had awoken and sat up in his bed, shrugging at his daddy.
“Well, good morning, son. And you need to quit that right now, little sponge-man. You are getting me in deep shi… uh … trouble with mommy! And grandma, and great-grandma and uncle Decs, … just forget that whole ‘women’ thing, okay?”
“Noooo, you look at mommy like sooooo and then mommy smiles. Gramma and Grey-grammie too!” Blaine told him with utmost sincerity and comical importance, then smiled demonstratively with a well trained puppy dog expression and Everett felt like he was about to burst apart with the laughter he was trying so hard to hold back. How in the world could this little boy …?
“Holy shnikes kid, you are exactly like your great-grandpa – and like I was – when we were about TEN YEARS older than you now! Oh man. How in the world did that happen?! How can a little guy like you already be such a playa? Holy cannoli, that’s not good. Funny, but scary. Your mom is going to kill me when she realizes this. Duuuuuude, your mother and I may be in great big doodoo with you, little man, if you really take so much after great-grandpa. And after me.” he told his son amused.
“Uh uh. Grey-grampa big. And you’re big. Soooooo big. I am not so big, but I try. One day I will be soooooo big!” Blaine II stretched his tiny arms as much as they would go to demonstrate how immensely tall he would one day be.
“You betcha. Now, to get soooooooo big you need breakie. You ready for breakie?”
Everett scooped the toddler up and went to the bathroom with him.
“First things first. We need to empty ourselves so we can fit breakie in. You pee, I pee. It’s what big men do.” Everett placed his son down on the potty chair, then went about his own business.
“I want potty like you, like big boy.” Blaine proclaimed, than instantly stood up while still peeing aimlessly.
“OH NO! Goddamn it, kid!” He grabbed the toddler, stuck him into the shower while quickly cleaning up the mess, cleaned Blaine II, then changed his son’s clothing and then scrubbed the shower.
When Everett entered the kitchen, it smelled delicious of breakfast and fresh coffee.
We were already assembled at the dining room table, Maeve had told us her men were awake and should be coming too.
Rett placed the freshly bathed Blaine II into his high chair “There you go little man.”
Blaine put a plate with food in front of the toddler who looked at the food, while Blaine asked Rett.
“Sure, thanks grampa.” Everett smiled at his grandfather.
“Meeeee … coffee! Grey-grampa … meeeee.” chimed Blaine II.
“Did you already shave off your beard today? Because I see no beard.” the adult Blaine asked the toddler in a very sincere voice.
Blaine II giggled, shaking his head.
“Then no coffee for you. You have to be REALLY tall or have a beard to have coffee. No beard, no coffee. But I’ll spring you a milk, apple juice or some refreshing water. Whatcha want, sport?”
Giving him a choice was a masterful distraction, the little one decided on milk, coffee was long forgotten.
In the middle of us adults eating breakfast and making conversation Blaine II’s little voice suddenly announced
“I went peepee in the shower! Daddy made me.”
All aimed at Rett now, whose chewing slowed down, as he shrugged.
“Don’t look at me like that! The kid surprised me with the sudden brilliant idea of wanting to pee standing up and went sprinkler on me, I fixed it as fast and best I could! We’re all lucky I was already mostly done peeing so I could put my business away and jump to grab that kid and stick him somewhere safe to pee in all directions – the shower! I cleaned it all up. With disinfectant. And sorry about that.”
Later that same day, Saturday evening now, Blaine, Blaine II and I were sitting on the couch watching some dubious cartoons that literally made no sense to me, Everett pacing in the kitchen, when he suddenly smiled and came into the room, where Maeve appeared in a fancy, shimmery green and very formfitting and lowcut dress.
Everett whistled, then told her grinning
“Dayum girl! If you come at me looking tasty like that, we may not get very far.”
“Nuh uh! None of that! You are taking me out to a club. We can …. uh … be tasty once we are back home in Del Sol Valley. Tonight, we dance! In a place where we do not have a constant tail of paparazzi and fans like back home. I want to let loose!”
“You guys sure you can handle our beast?” Everett wondered.
“Kid, we raised your aunt, your dad, helped with you and your brother, your 4 cousins and we have Declan’s twins over a lot. Yeah, we can handle your toddler.”
“Sorry, I meant because … you know …”
“Because what? I am almost 90?! Ha, ninety-shminety, I can still run circles around most 40 year olds! Get outta here now before I demonstrate with my boot up your hiney how fit I really still am!”
The next day, Sunday, Brendan, Natalie, Declan, Rory and the twins stopped by for our weekly family lunch. Sometimes the Brindleton Bay family made it, but Collin and Claire being doctors, they had high season now in Fall. It was full house already anyway with Everett, Maeve and Blaine II here.
Blaine and I loved those family lunches. Not like we didn’t see most of our family all the time anyway, even when Rett and Maeve were touring with a new album or something, we’d Skype, just like we did with Anastasia’s side of the family, but this, the coziness was priceless at our age.
Blaine and me eyes met several times, we’d smile at each other. He was always entertaining young and old and even on days when his age was catching up with him, this made him forget.
This was life, the stuff dreams were made of.
This was the greatest treasure to us.
The good stuff, and the only thing that mattered.
Blaine and I were able to look back at a lifetime of love, multiplied through the years by our lineage.
We were the lucky ones, we were complete.
We were family.
A big, crazy, weird family maybe, but so full of love for each other, no matter how different we all were. This, my dear readers, was the true secret of life, the only thing worth living for, worth seeking, worth fighting for.
The ONLY thing.
The deepest kind.