A Mother's Love
by Noel Goddard
Original Pub. Date: May 1997
Summary: Al receives a letter from his long lost mother.
"There's a letter for you." I tossed the small white envelope over the stack of files that separated his desk from mine.
"Hmm?" He was still intent on his monitor screen.
"A letter. For you." I picked it up and waved it in the air.
"It came in the mail today."
Okay, I was curious. Most of our stuff came via e-mail, or the fax machine. Snail mail was almost nonexistent.
"Maybe it's from an old girlfriend," I ventured. "Someone you never told me about?"
He kept on working.
"Well, aren't you going to open it?" I finally insisted.
"Okay, okay." He grinned at me as he turned away from the computer and picked up the envelope. His eyes widened as he read the return address.
I must admit I'm still amazed at how little regular mail is used now. That's one of the many changes that I've had to adapt to since I came home from leaping. It never ceases to amaze me how much the world can change in just seven years.
Al was still frowning at the letter he held in his hands. Noticing that he wasn't making any moves to open it, I edged closer and leaned over his shoulder to glance at the envelope. "Who's it from?" I asked curiously.
Al fingered the letter carefully and held it higher so I could read the return address. He sighed as he answered. "It's from a law firm. That's never a good sign. I wonder which one of my exes is after me now."
I reached up and began to massage his shoulders in an effort to ease some of his tension. He leaned back into my hands for a few minutes before he pulled away, standing up from his chair, and tossing the letter on his desk as he headed for the door.
"Al, where are you going? Aren't you going to open it?"
Al paused. "I thought I might just leave it on my desk for awhile and see if it goes away," he replied wryly. He turned back towards me and realized that I was dying from curiosity. "Oh, fine. You're not going to let me go anywhere 'til I deal with this, are you?"
I grinned as I replied. "Nope."
Al sat back down at his desk and opened the envelope. The law firm listed on the letterhead, Stanwick and Sons, was located in Aspen, Colorado.
Confused, I asked which of his exes was in Colorado.
Al stopped as he removed two pieces of paper from the envelope and looked a bit confused himself. "I don't know, kid. Maybe one of them moved." He looked down at the two pieces of paper in his hand. One was heavy, fine letterhead, obviously from the law firm. The other was a simple, fragile piece of flowered stationary. It looked somewhat faded, and you could see the flowing handwritten text through the paper. Al unfolded the letter from the law firm first and read out loud for my benefit.
September 6, 2002
Dear Admiral Calavicci,
It is with great regret that I inform you of the passing of Katarina Grinkov Calavicci Sorrenson on September 1, 2002. Ms. Sorrenson passed away from pneumonia at the age of 90.
You are listed as one of her heirs. As executors of her estate, we request your attendance at the public reading of her will, at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, September 13, 2002. The reading will take place in our office. Please notify my secretary, Monica, at (970) 742-2400 if you will be attending the reading.
Enclosed you will find a letter from the deceased; she requested that it be forwarded to you with the notification of her death.
Again, please accept my condolences.
Evan Stanwick, Esq.
Partner, Stanwick and Sons
When Al finished reading the letter, he dropped both pieces of paper onto the desk in front of him. He didn't say a word, leaning forward and placing his head in his hands. Al seemed to be very still, but I could see Al's shoulders shaking ever so slightly. Not sure what to do, I stood behind him doing a few mental gymnastics. Based on the name and age, it had to be Al's mother, but he hadn't heard from her at all since he was 8 years old. Not knowing what else to do, I slowly came forward and placed my hands on Al's shoulders. We stayed like that until he stood up from the desk and began to pace around the room, still silent.
It was some time before Al finally spoke, a decided tremor in his voice. "Sam, I think I need to go for a drive to clear my head. Do you want to come along?" He sounded like he wanted my company. I smiled, thinking that he might want to talk, if I gave him some time. As usual, Al read my mind and raised a hand to stop my response, "I don't want to talk, kid. I would like some company though."
Still unsure about the best course of action, I asked hesitantly, "Aren't you going to read her letter first?"
Al shook his head slowly. "No. I can't."
I went out on a dangerous limb with my response. "Al, you have to read it sometime. Why not read it now, and then we'll get out of here and take that drive."
It was then that I noticed a tear beginning to form in the corner of Al's eye. "I can't Sammy. I can't pick it up and read it. I just can't."
"Al, do you want me to read it to you?" I asked tenderly. He thought about it for a few moments and then nodded slowly.
As I bent to retrieve the flowered stationary, Al turned his back to me and began to focus on the photographs hanging on the wall. Meanwhile, I carefully unfolded the letter; it was short and to the point, written in a precise, careful hand. I read out loud:
I know that you are shocked to hear from me after all these years. I expect that you don't have much fondness for me in your heart. I hope that you will honor my last request to attend the reading of my will. If not for me, then please do it for yourself. I hope that what I have left behind will give you some understanding of why I vanished so completely all those years ago. Please come.
I laid the letter carefully on Al's desk, where he could read it later. I crossed the room and gathered the shaking man into my arms. I hugged him tightly as he shed bitter tears of rejection buried for almost sixty years. Steering him slowly towards door, I spoke softly. "Let's go take that ride into the desert. I'll drive."
We drove around for hours in silence. Al just stared out the window as if looking for something he didn't really expect to find. When we returned home that night, he headed straight to our bedroom, pausing only long enough to kiss me briefly and say, "I'm gonna hit the hay. Thanks for everything kid."
As the lights went off in the bedroom, I headed into the kitchen and grabbed a beer from the fridge. Wandering into the living room, I began to wonder how this was going to effect us, our relationship. This was the by far the biggest crisis we faced since things changed. After all, Al and I may have been friends for nearly twenty years, but we'd only be lovers for six months.
After seven long years of leaping, I had returned home on New Year's Day. Things began to change rapidly as soon as I got home. For example, it only took a month for Donna and I to realize that it was over between us. We had both changed too much over the last seven years to make it work between us. We parted as friends, and she moved on to be the director of her own government project - something she deserved. Interestingly, Tina accepted a transfer to Donna's new project. Al never commented to me on the change, and life went on as usual. As spring passed, Al and I were learning that the neural link we had shared over the last seven years was having some interesting side effects. We would finish each other's sentences during meetings. We always knew where the other was without having to ask. Eventually, our new closeness led us in a new direction with our relationship; we became lovers.
That was just about six months ago. We had been blissfully happy since then with no major complications. Until now. I had absolutely no idea what this development would do to Al and to us. Suddenly, he had almost sixty years of uncertainty and resentment to deal with in just a week. That's if he decided to go to the reading of the will at all. Something inside me told me that Al should go. He needed to go. If he was ever going to have any peace about his mother, then he had to go and find out what happened to her after she left with that encyclopedia salesman all those years ago.
Well, I managed to convince Al that he had to go for the reading of the will. He yelled, screamed, and cursed, saying it would be a cold day in hell before he went. In the end, I had convinced Al that the only way to really make the whole situation "go away" was to go to the will reading and get it over with.
So we took a late flight to Denver on Thursday night and stayed in a downtown hotel overnight. Al spent the whole flight working on budget figures on his laptop, and when we got to the hotel, he went straight to the bathroom for a shower. When he finally curled up in bed with me, he had little to say.
I tried to get him to talk to me, but I barely got started when he laid a hand over my lips. "Sam, before you say any more, I don't want to talk about anything. " I gave him a hurt glance, and he relented a little, giving me a small smile. "Of course, kid, I wouldn't mind if you held me 'til I fell asleep."
With that Al snuggled into my chest and was snoring from exhaustion in just minutes.
The next morning, Al and I got up and had the requisite cups of coffee before we hit the road. Without discussion, I took the wheel of the car for the drive to Aspen. Almost as soon as we got on the highway, Al pulled out the laptop and began working again. He was silent while I tried to keep up a mindless conversation about the scenery and history of the area. Al just nodded at the appropriate points and kept working. We stopped for a quick bite in Vail and then continued on our way. A comment from me about possibly spending our next vacation here was met with only a grunt and a gruff, "We'll see."
It was almost exactly three o'clock when we arrived at the lawyer's office. Both Al and I got out of the car feeling a little stiff after the four hour drive. Al fiddled with putting the laptop away in the trunk while I put on the suit coat that I had hanging in the back seat. After closing the trunk, Al slipped on his uniform topcoat and began to fight with buttons. His hands were shaking too much to slide the buttons into their stiff holes, and I went over and carefully fastened his coat for him. I held his shoulders gently and tipped his chin up so that he could look at me. I looked into his eyes, filled with uncertainty and fear, and I spoke the four words which I hoped meant as much to him as the did to me. "I love you, Al.". With a grateful glance at me, Al took a big breath and turned to enter the building.
Once inside, we settled into a plush leather couch in the lawyer's office. As we looked around, we noticed another gentleman and one very nervous looking woman, both in suits.
Apparently everyone who was invited was there, because Stanwick cleared his throat and spoke. "Mrs. Sorrenson left a video as her last will and testament. She requested that I introduce each of you and then play the first part of the tape. Let me just go around the room. On the left," gesturing towards me and Al," we have Admiral Albert Calavicci, Mrs. Sorrenson's only living relative, and his friend Dr. Samuel Beckett. Then we have Mr. Johnson, a representative of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, and finally, Ms. Jenkins, Mrs. Sorrenson's personal assistant for the last ten years." Stanwick stood up and walked away from his desk, opening the doors of a cabinet in the wall to reveal a television and VCR. He dimmed the lights and started the video.
As the tape began to play, the image of a distinguished older woman appeared on the screen. She spoke in a gentle voice that was tinged with just a slight Russian accent. The first part of the video, the actual will, was simple and to the point. She left the bulk of her estate to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, saying simply, "No child should go hungry, no person with a mental illness should go without care. Please use what I have to see that no child ever dies alone again." She then went on to leave her apartment in Aspen to her assistant, along with a sizable trust fund to insure her continued support. The nervous woman sobbed quietly into her handkerchief. Finally his mother got to Al. "To my son I leave my mountain home, on the condition that he stay and watch the remainder of this tape after the others have left." We sat through another few minutes of legal-ese, and then Stanwick paused the tape and raised the lights.
"That concludes the reading of Mrs. Sorrenson's will." Stanwick sounded very official. "Now, if everyone except the Admiral will step into the outer office, we will deal with the necessary paperwork." When I didn't move from my spot on the couch, he addressed me condescendingly. "Dr. Beckett, if you'll come with me."
Al interrupted evenly, leaving no room for discussion. "No. He stays here."
Stanwick looked annoyed but left the office. We sat in silence for a few minutes, while Al seemed to mull over whether or not to watch the remainder of the tape. Finally, he spoke quietly. "Sam, would you turn the tape back on?"
I stood up from the couch and dimmed the lights before reaching to start the video. There were a few seconds of blank tape, during which I settled back onto the couch and reached out to clasp Al's hand in my own. Then Al's mother reappeared on the tape, speaking directly to her long lost son.
"Dearest Albert, I am so glad that you came and that you stayed to listen to what I had to say. I won't take long, and I won't make excuses. I left your father for many reasons, most of which don't matter now. When I left I couldn't take you and Trudy with me, but I had every intention of coming back for you. Anyway, I didn't stay with Bob, that's the salesman, very long, and I found myself waiting tables and barely making ends meet. After several years of nearly starving myself, I found myself a job as a secretary in a large electronics firm, Sorrenson Inc. I worked my way up from the secretarial pool to being the executive assistant to Mr. Sorrenson, himself. After I had worked for him for two years, in 1964, his wife of thirty years died. Somehow, we grew closer and closer as I helped him through his wife's death. In 1965, we married. It was a good marriage Albert. He was very good to me, and I wanted for nothing. Shortly after we were married, I told him about the two children I had left behind. He helped me to find you and find out what happened to Trudy. Albert, I am so very, very sorry that you had to deal with that by yourself. Anyway, Jack wanted me to contact you, try to reestablish our relationship. You see, Jack had no children of his own, and I think he would have liked to try to be a father to mine. However, I knew that it was too late. Trudy was gone, and you probably wouldn't even speak to me if I approached you. I don't blame you for being angry, Albert. You have every right to be angry. I couldn't abandon you again entirely though, not after having lost you so many years ago. So, instead, I followed your illustrious career over the years. You have made me very, very proud. No mother could be prouder. As I said, I know that it is too late for you to ever forgive me what I did. I don't expect that. I know that this tape and the cabin won't make up for abandoning you all those years ago. However, I am a tired, old woman with no one else left in the world except my son. I hope that you can accept these things from me now that I am gone. Please share the cabin with someone that you love. I shared it with the man that I loved for over thirty years, and now I give it with the man that I have loved ever since I held him in my arms as a baby. Be happy Albert."
The tape stopped and began to rewind automatically. I looked over at Al, and his eyes were moist. He sighed and leaned over onto my shoulder, and I stoked his hair slowly. We stayed there quietly until Al stood up, signaling that he was ready to face the world again.
We went out into the outer office and found the others had gone. Stanwick pushed the necessary legal documents towards Al and showed him where to sign. Finally, he handed Al a key and a map and shook his hand firmly. "I knew your mother for many years. She was a fine woman. From the looks of things, she has a fine son as well." Al nodded politely, and we left the office.
We decided to go out and see the cabin before nightfall. We stopped at a quaint restaurant before leaving town, and picked up some sandwiches and a nice bottle of wine. The cabin was about thirty minutes outside of town in a remote area of the Rockies. It was a good thing that we had rented a car with four-wheel drive, otherwise, we might not have made it up the driveway to the cabin.
The "cabin" was huge and set back into the side of the mountain, with a large wooden deck that ran the length of the house. As we climbed the stairs to the deck, Al turned and caught his breath at the view. The cabin looked out over a lush river valley that wound its way through the mountains. A light layer of snow dusted the tops of each of the mountains, and the leaves of the aspen trees surrounding the house were a gorgeous golden hue. Far below, a thin river cut through the valley, bubbling over the rocks in the valley floor.
I pulled the key from my pocket and was about to open the door when Al's hand stopped mine, "No, Sam."
I looked at him quizzically.
"Sam, I can't go in there. It's hers, not mine."
"Al, she wanted you to have it," I argued. "We should at least look around before we head back into town."
Al stiffened, and he spoke with determination. "No, Sam." Al's voice was quiet but forceful. "I won't go through that door." Al looked away from me, trying to hide the emotions threatening to break free. "Until I can deal with everything that's happened, I'm not going in there. Maybe not until I forgive her. That could be a long time, Sam."
I nodded slowly as I understood what Al meant. I knew all too well about having to bury one's demons before moving on in life. "Well, Al, what now?"
He looked at me, the earlier determination giving way to gratitude that for once I hadn't pushed the issue. He shrugged and looked to me for suggestions.
I hated to waste the drive up here and the gorgeous scenery. "Let's eat out here on the deck before we leave. We can watch the sunset while we eat."
Al mulled it over and eventually nodded.
I went back down to the car to get the sandwiches and wine. We sat on the deck and ate in silence, waiting for the sunset. When it began, I realized that it was well worth the wait. As the sun dipped below the mountains, the sky began to blaze, casting an orange-red glow over the whole valley. It was beautiful.
I spoke carefully, not wanting to upset Al. "Al, I think she probably wanted to give you the most beautiful and precious thing she had when she left you this cabin."
Al nodded slowly. "Maybe, but it doesn't mean a damn compared to what she took away from Dad, Trudy, and me."
I knew he was right. Not knowing what else to do, I reached for his hand and held it tight.
Al looked off into the distance, surveying the beauty around us. Squeezing my hand tightly, he continued, "She was right about one thing. I am glad that I got to share this place with you, the man I love." He pulled me in close to kiss him, as the last bit of the sun disappeared behind the mountains.