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Christmas in July
I sat at the cozy cafe, running my finger around the rim of my coffee cup. I looked up at the clock on the wall opposite of me. Late. He was late again. I pulled out my phone and was ready to dial. Before I got the chance, a pair of large hands covered my eyes.
"Guess who..." a voice said.
"Jarred. " I guessed.
"Jarred? Who the heck is Jarred!?" the two hands moved from my eyes and two husky arms wrapped around my neck.
"Hi Gavin..." I said tilting my head back into the crook of his neck. He kissed my cheek and sat across from me. He seemed... Different. He had an odd look in his eyes I had never seen before. The waitress brought him his usual and he just sat there and stared down into it.
"Gavin...?" I asked placing a hand on his. He looked up at me with a solemn expression.
"You okay?" I asked as he pushed the glass away and took my hand in both of his, I then placed my other hand on top.
"Nadia..." he began, "my sweet, sweet Nadia..."
"Yeah...?" I asked in all seriousness.
"I have lost count as to how many different ways I have tried to word this..." I saw a tear come into his eye.
"Gavin... What's wrong?" the tear rolled down his cheek.
"Nadia... I have cancer." I sat in shock
"Can... Can... Cancer?" I stuttered.
"Yes Nadia... Cancer..." he kissed my hand, "I couldn't believe it myself at first." I started to cry too.
"Can't they... Can't they cure it?" I asked biting my lip.
"No... There's nothing they can do..." he paused, "if I had the chemo it would only buy me a small bit of time. It's not worth being sick for."
"How long do we have...?"
"Six to eight months..."
"Then I guess we'll have to make the most of what we have..."
Gavin had been doing fine both physically and mentally... Up until the other day when we were watching a movie. He sat there with his arm around me on his couch. I heard him sniffling.
"Gavin?" I asked sitting up. A few tears were rolling down his cheeks. "What's wrong...?" I asked wiping one away.
"Its just that... I always wanted to have a family like that... And it's never going to happen."
He wiped a tear away as I paused the movie, "You know? A wife and a couple of kids... Maybe a dog or cat..." I kissed his tear-stained cheek tenderly.
"Don't say that..." I said as I placed my forehead against his cheek.
"Nadia..." he turned towards me and took both my hands, "I want you to marry me."
I had always dreamed he would ask me someday. We had dated since our junior year in high school, all through college for a total of seven years.
"Of course I'll marry you..." he grinned at my reply.
"When?" he asked.
"The sooner the better..."
Gavin and I were married only about three weeks before we decided to foster a child. We called the agency and met them to meet our foster children: a set of twins, Sue Lee and Benji.
"I never thought I'd be this excited." Gavin said as we exited the highway. He reached over and grabbed my hand.
"Neither did I. " I said squeezing his. We rode for the rest of the distance talking about our foster children. Time passed like the winds of a storm blowing at a hundred miles an hour. Before I knew it, I was holding my foster son in my arms.
"Well hi there." I heard over my shoulder. I turned my head to see Gavin holding Sue Lee. The tiny Asian girl girl giggled and said hi.
"So this is what it's feels like." Gavin said as he pulled the covers up to Benji's chin that night.
"What?" I asked watching Sue Lee breathe slowly.
"Being a father... Having someone look up to you like you're their hero." I walked over and wrapped my arms around his neck from behind. I kissed his cheek before speaking.
"You'll be a great dad." I whispered into his ear. He looked down at the sleeping toddler and whispered,
"I'll be the greatest dad ever..."
Gavin kept to his promise. He became "World's Greatest Dad". He would take Benji and Sue Lee to the bowling alley, roller skating, basically any fun place that he could with snow still on the ground. He built snowmen with them, made snow angels, and cookies. Unfortunately this didn't last for more than a few weeks. The cancer started to take its toll as he started to feel sick, tired and sore at sometimes. But that wouldn't stop him from watching TV with them, he'd sit on the floor and play cars with Benji and have tea parties with Sue Lee. He'd cut and glue projects with them, read them bedtime stories, and make shadow puppets. He'd change his voice for each character, causing them to laugh at almost everything he said. I was getting Sue Lee ready for her doctor's appointment one morning, she had poked herself with a rusty nail a the day before. We were getting in the car when she ran back to Gavin who was holding Benji in one arm. He scooted down to her level and she wrapped her arms around his neck placing a kiss on his cheek saying "I love you, Daddy." Gavin had a tear in his eye as she walked away.
"Daddy loves you too sweetheart." he said quietly. The tear made its way down his cheek as I drove away with Sue Lee.
"Don't cry Daddy," Benji said as he wiped the tear away, "mommy will bring sissy back."
"I know buddy," Gavin said kissing his forehead, "I know."
On May seventeenth, we celebrated the twins' fifth birthday. Gavin was so bad off now, it was all he could do to sit at the dinning room table for the party that consisted of us, my parents and Gavin's as well. We sang "Happy Birthday", cut the cake and gave gifts. Soon the two five-year-olds were sitting peacefully on the living room carpet playing with their new toys.
"What are you going to do?" my mother asked me.
"About what?" I asked not even making eye contact, I kept my gaze on the two toddlers who had taken over mine and Gavin's life.
"What are you going to do when... You know... There's only one of you to take care of them assuming they don't get adopted in that time...?" I thought... I thought of the horrifying thought that had been plaguing my mind for sometime now.
"Karen has a point. " Gavin's father started, "Legally, they aren't your children really. You're just taking care of them for the state." my mother-in-law started to add her two cents before Gavin, sick and frail, spoke up.
"No. They ARE our children." his sudden words shocked us all. He took my hands from across the table. "Nadia, listen to me. I want to adopt them. We are their parents. Nobody will ever love them the way we have."
"You're right..." I said in agreement. It was settled... Nothing was going to change our minds...
The next day, we called the agency and the paperwork was in process. We were adopting these two darling children. Everything seemed perfect for once... Until one day. I had left Gavin with the kids while I went to the grocery store. My phone started ringing and vibrating in the middle of the produce isle. I saw Gavin's name pop up on the screen and answered with a smile.
"Hello?" I asked cheerfully.
"Mommy!?" I heard Benji's voice, filled with worry on the other end.
"Benji? Benji sweetheart what's wrong!?"
"Its daddy! He told me to call you, he said he needs to go see the doctor at the big building!"
"You mean the hospital!?"
"Yeah!" worry sprung up in my chest, I was in panic mode. I had been expecting this day... But not today.
"Benji honey, stay right with Daddy and don't move."
"Okay mommy, I love you..."
"I love you too." I was about to hang up when I heard Sue Lee call my name this time.
"What is it sweetheart?" I asked.
"... Is daddy going to die...?" I couldn't think of how to answer the question I had been wondering myself.
"Not today sweetie..." I hung up, left the cart there and drove home as fast as I could.
July (present day)
It's been two weeks since I got that call. Gavin's been living in the hospital since then. We come to visit him everyday. The doctors say he hasn't got long. A couple weeks at the most. The other morning I went to see him, he had one child asleep on either side of him... What I didn't have the heart to tell him was that Sue Lee and Benji were going to become a big brother and sister. A tear formed in my eyes at the thought of him not ever being able to see his own biological child be born, take their first steps, or utter their first words. These thoughts kept running through my head, racing at a hundred miles an hour.
"Nadia..." I looked up to see Gavin smiling at me.
"We did it... We became parents..." I broke down in tears.
"I don't want to lose you!" I whispered loudly as I tried not to wake the children.
"You'll never lose me... I'll be in your heart..."
"I'll always have a piece of you..."
"What do you mean...?"
"I'm pregnant Gavin..." he looked at me with disbelief, "I'm going to have our baby." I thought he would be crushed, but he smiled and said how happy he was... He said his only regret in life was not marrying me sooner and having us spend Christmas, his favorite holiday, together. That night I took the kids home and conjured up a plan. I left the kids with my mom the next day and went to Walmart. I marched right up to that clerk.
"Point me to the Christmas stuff." I demanded.
"Christmas?" he asked.
"You heard me... Christmas." he looked at me like I was crazy. But he led me to the out of season section. I told him the story of my plan for my dying husband. He gladly checked me out and wished me luck. Later that day, we went to visit Gavin. Once he was asleep, I decorated his hospital room like Santa's workshop. Red and green where ever the eye could behold. Early the next morning I woke him up,
"Merry Christmas Gavin..." he slowly sat up and looked around his room.
"Merry Christmas daddy!" Sue Lee shouted as she hopped up on his bed. Benji mumbled something that sounded like "Merry Christmas" but his mouth was full of Christmas cookies. Gavin was overjoyed. The entire day, we sat there exchanging gifts and conversation. Two days later here I sit. On his bedside crying. I go to reach for his hand... But it's not there... His hand... His face... Everything... Are all in heaven now. My beloved Gavin passed at seven fifty-four AM yesterday. His last words to me were,
"I love you Nadia... I want you to go raise our children. Make sure you always celebrate Christmas... It's a time for... Joy..." and with that, he peacefully slipped away.
"NO! DADDY DON'T LEAVE US!" Sue Lee cried.
"DADDY! DADDY PLEASE COME BACK!" Benji hollered. I restrained them. I held them close as they cried watching the doctors take their father away from them... No matter where I go in life... I will always remember his words... And the smile that was on his face knowing he had raised a wonderful family...
Palm Desert, California
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