The Lost Son (Part 4)

Here is Part 4 of this year’s story! December is just flying by, isn’t it?

       John and Abby pulled up next to an old home. One half was painted blue. The other half was a dingy white. Abby looked at the numbers. She was going to the blue half.
       “Ok, I’ll be right back.”
       “You are sure you don’t want me to come with you?”
       “I just think it would be better to not overwhelm him. Going alone seems the wisest.”
       John nodded and then gave a small wave, pulling his phone out of his pocket to check on what was happening in the sports world.
       Abby noticed the well-maintained little yard and the happy little snowman on the painted porch. Soon she was at the door.
       She took a deep breath and knocked.
       As she waited, she thought about how she ended up here in front of this sweet little home. She had never dreamed how hard it would be to find her uncle. Charlie Clark was apparently a very common name. The fact that Ned and Harriet Clark had moved overseas at some point really complicated things. The fact that none of the family were anywhere to be found on social media complicated things even further.
       Finally, after weeks of searching and talking to what felt like dozens of “Charlie Clarks”, she had found a Charlie Clark that lived in this little half house in a suburb of Kansas City. His kind voice had responded to her questions. Yes, his parents were Ned and Harriet. Yes, he has two younger sisters named Pam and Beth. As the conversation marched on it became very evident that this was finally Uncle Charlie.
       Abby had broached the subject very carefully but she had had nothing to fear. He was aware of his adoption and had been planning to search out his biological mother after the holidays. It had taken him long enough to find her already but “life had always gotten in the way” as he had put it. He went on to talk about his busy life as a plumber and the four kids he and his late wife, Nancy, had had. Uncle Charlie was a delight to talk to, inserting humor into the conversation but also talking seriously when the occasion arose. He was actively involved in his local Baptist church and oversaw the widow/widower ministry there.
       Providentially, John already had a business trip planned to Kansas City the following weekend. Abby couldn’t help but believe this was a God-given opportunity and so she asked if she could stop by for a visit, which he had warmly welcomed.
       That had been two weeks ago. And this is what brought her to this door today. She was hoping to convince him to meet Grandma for Christmas.
       Wouldn’t that be the most awesome Christmas present ever? She thought excitedly as she waited.
       After a few very long minutes, her knock was answered. There stood a woman about her age with short blond hair. She had dark circles under her eyes and looked exhausted.
       Abby cleared her throat in her surprise, looking down at her phone to confirm the house number, and then nervously started to speak, “I…um…I’m sorry. I must have the wrong house. I was looking for Charlie Clark.”
       The woman sighed, “You have the right house. You must be Abby. Dad told me you were coming, although he never did tell me when. Come on in.”
       Abby looked out at the car where John was watching. She subtly shrugged her shoulders at him and then followed the woman inside.
       As she walked into the front room, it was full of boxes and containers. Photos and artwork had been removed from the walls and had been carefully placed on the coffee table. Knick-knacks were piled high on the table that Abby could see in the next room. The tired woman offered her a seat on a comfortable sofa covered with muted blue flowers.
       “Oh, Abby,” she gave a tired smile, “I feel like I know you already. Dad was so thrilled to talk to you. You just have no idea.”
       Abby’s hopes started to fade. Something was very wrong. She was soon to find out what.
       “A few days after he talked to you, Dad had a massive heart attack. It must have happened during the night. My sister found him the next morning. She had stopped by when he hadn’t answered her phone call,” The words were said robotically, as if she had repeated them many times.
       She continued, “I am so sorry, Abby. He was so very excited to meet you and, particularly, to meet his biological mother. It had taken him so many years to finally start the search. Both Grandpa and Grandma had blessed his search and had given him what they knew about your Grandma. I am not sure what was going on inside him, as he tended to not speak too often of his feelings, but there was something in the past year that was driving him on his search. He was planning to reach out after Christmas,” she said the words sadly.
       Abby sat there, stunned and deeply disappointed. She mourned the uncle she would never really know. It was almost made worse by the fact that she had talked to him and they had hit it off so well.
       “I guess I should introduce myself. I am Shelly, Charlie’s youngest daughter. I am working on cleaning out the house and getting it ready to sell. It all feels… surreal,” her eyes looked around at all of the mess.
       “I am so sorry you have lost your father. How awful! I can’t even imagine,” Suddenly, Abby realized that Shelly’s loss was far greater than hers.
       Shelly sighed deeply, “it is. And it was so unexpected. Dad was in such good health.”
       They sat there awkwardly for a minute or two. There seemed to be little else to say, under the circumstances.
       Finally Shelly broke the silence, “I guess, officially, we are cousins…”
       Abby smiled brightly at that, “Yes, I guess that’s true. Very nice to meet you, cousin.”
       Shelly continued, “I know my sisters and brother would love to meet you but this may not be the best time. My sister, Lori—the one who found him—isn’t handling this well at all. She’s been really struggling.”
       Abby’s brow grew concerned as she said “Oh, I totally understand.”
       The two women made arrangements to stay in touch and to perhaps meet at a later time and then stood up. As Abby made her way to the front door she heard Shelly say, “Wait!”
       She turned around and she could see Shelly digging around in one of the boxes. From it she pulled a family photo in a wooden frame. She then went to another box and pulled out a tiny, porcelain angel.
       “Can you give these to your Grandma? This will show her dad’s family,” she held up the frame and then gave a brief description of everyone in the photo. Abby hoped she would remember.
       “And this,” she said, holding up the tiny angel, “meant a lot to dad and I want your grandma to have it.” She went on to explain that most of the abundant knick-knacks they were busily packing away were her mother’s but that this tiny angel had been a gift to dad during a very difficult time and he had treasured it.
       “I was planning to keep it but it just seems right that your grandma should have it.”
       “Thank you so much. I know this will mean the world to her.”
       Abby reached her arms out to Shelly and gave her a warm hug. They had met as strangers but were parting as family.
       John was waiting anxiously and was relieved when Abby opened the car door.
       Sorrow filled Abby’s eyes, “Oh, John. It won’t be the Christmas I had hoped for, after all.”
Find the rest of this story (as well as all of the other Christmas stories) here.

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