• The Death of Cliff Huxtable / Chapter 7: Olivia

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    (press play for Olivia)

    She hates September.

    Sitting alone in the back yard, Olivia is waiting for someone to come explain death to her...again. The sweet, cool night is awfully deceptive. Every time...a beautiful September night holds her tears. Tonight will be no different. Maybe if no one comes, no one dies. Perhaps sitting on the front porch will make a difference.

    Random thoughts continue to flow through Olivia's mind, along with prayers and wishes for the three loves who have departed from her life: her mother, Paula; her father, Martin; and now her guardian and best friend, Dr. Huxtable.
         "I...ummm...this is silly...this is so silly because there's always been SOMEONE...to see me through these things. What might I say and to whom this time? Go away? Don't speak to me about death? I'm cursed? Yes...this...is so...silly." 
    Olivia chuckles and brushes off the picnic table bench with a newly fallen autumn leaf and takes a seat. She holds the leaf up to discover an ant, marching solo in circles, likely looking for its trail of tribe.
         "You too, huh? Lost after losing your people? Yeah... me too."
    Olivia gently sets the leaf down on the table. She watches as the ant skitters off, zig-zagging its way around the table, attempting to make his way home.
         "I see you're lost. Running circles in a familiar, strange place...you want someone to come rescue you. Ever stop to think, if they come join you, they too, will be lost? You'll have company...but lost. I'm lost. I keep losing the people who define family...for me. I am...lost."

    Olivia is amazed to see the ant return to the leaf. He creeps and crawls all around the foliage, surveying the edges and veins. Olivia is mesmerized by the ant.
         "It seems you have adapted, wonderfully quick, to your surroundings. You have made a playground of a foreign space. You and I have that in common, Sir Ant. You and I are kindred."

    Olivia watches the ant trail away from the leaf and over the horizon of the picnic table. He is brave to journey on, wonders Olivia. Sir Ant, a minuscule creature who does not know his insignificance in this world...and in that, he is free. Insignificant is how Olivia feels right now. She is alone.


         "Olivia, would you like some company?"
         "I don't know, Dr. Huxtable. I can't watch it anymore. They keep replaying it but I can't..."
         "I know. "

    Olivia is sitting on the picnic table, facing the western sky, which is hazy from the setting sun and the debris of heartbreak. Dr. Huxtable sits on the bench next to Olivia's feet, facing the same direction. They both sit quietly and watch as the smoke and ash continue to billow up over Manhattan and blow high overhead. Olivia looks up at the cloudy mixture.
         "Do you think my dad is in there?"
         "In?"
         "In that. In the clouds. In that endless trail of...cloud. Do you think he's in there?"
         "What would you like to believe?"

    Olivia sits quietly, sighing deeply to allow her father to pass in the wind. Beneath the smokes fly a large flock of swallows, winding their way towards the south.
         "Yes. I would like to believe he is floating across the sky...with the birds...and the others. There must be so many...others. They are floating among those birds."
         "Is that what you would like to believe?"
    Olivia does not want to answer. If she answers yes, she must begin to accept her father's death. If she answers no, she knows she will be devastated when she finally accepts his death. She had experienced waiting before. The waiting hurt more than the loss.
         "Yes. Yes, that is what I believe."
         "Then there. There he flies among the birds, in a sweet September sky."

    The two sit silently again. Olivia has so many questions, just as everyone does. Who would do such a thing? Why today? Why us?
         "Dr. Huxtable?"
         "Yes, Olivia?"
         "I hate. I feel hate. I feel it in my heart."
         "Well...I can certainly understand that feeling, but...you see Olivia, that is...by definition, impossible." 
         "Impossible."
         "Im...possible. You can not have a heart and hate. That organ can not create that emotion nor can you have a heart and possess that emotion. It can not be done. I am a doctor. I know how these things work. Now...what you are speaking of...is hurt. Hurt is real. Hurt is heavy and it is...ahh...shrouded...in the draping...of anger...and desire to avenge, you see...but your heart can not hate."
         "Are you gonna tell me to love my enemy?"
         "Well, my dear, who is your enemy? Is he here?"
         "I don't know."
         "Is he over there in Manhattan?"
         " I DON'T KNOW, Dr. Huxtable!!" Olivia heart explodes into a million tears. She repeats, "I don't know...I don't know...I don't know..."
    Dr. Huxtable takes Olivia into his arms,
         "Yes...yes, my dear and that is the only thing of which we can be certain. We do not know. We do not know why this has happened. We do not know why planes filled with people became weapons today. We do not know why two mighty buildings came down. We must brace ourselves...and conserve our heart...and our energy for what we DO know. We know your father loves you very much. You can not replace that with hate. We know you have are safe and have a family around you who loves you. You can not replace that with hate. We know you have a life you have to live and savor...we know that. And you can not replace the life you must fill with love, with a life of hate. The two can not co-exist. Do you understand?"
    Olivia continues to sob but manages to answer the one person who would advise her to love in a space hate could easily fill,
         "Yes...I understand. "
         "You don't have to know what happens in death. Know life...and live. Know love...and love. You'll never do it alone."
    Olivia weeps deeply in Dr. Huxtable's arms, laying all of her weight on his shoulders.


         "It's ok, baby."
         "But Daddy, I want Mommy to come back..."
         "I know, Olivia," consoles Martin. "I know."
         "I wish she wouldn't have gotten sick."
         "I know. I know Olivia. Me too...I wish she was still here..."

    Olivia sits back abruptly,
         "No you don't! You chose Denise! You didn't stay with Mommy!"
         "Olivia! Baby...this isn't anyone's fault. Me staying with your mother or marrying Denise wouldn't have changed your mother's illness. Cancer doesn't work that way."
         "But she was alone."


    Olivia cries a louder, harder cry as she envisions her mother battling for her life, losing to a monster in her solitude. Her tears are endless. Her eleven year old body shakes and heaves in her father's strong arms. Hearing her daughter cry, Denise joins the Kendalls at the picnic table. Denise reaches for Olivia. Olivia scoots away from Denise and moves closer to her father. This hurts Denise's feelings but Denise understands what Olivia needs right now. She is a child who just lost her mother. Olivia is the only one who matters right now. Martin mouthes, "I'm sorry," to Denise. With full understanding, Denise mouthes back, "It's ok."

    Denise quietly gets up and walks back into the house. Olivia, slowing her tears and her breath, calms herself and sits up to look at her Dad,
         "You're not going to leave me, are you?"
    Martin, holds his daughter closer, bringing her into his chest as close as he can. Olivia's tears, staining her father's gray Naval Academy tee shirt, halts with her father's news,
         "No. No, I am not going to leave you. As a matter of fact, I'm coming home."
    Olivia's exuberance overtakes her and she leaps up out of her father's arms and up on the picnic bench with one jump,
         "You're coming home?! When?!"
         "Now. I'm home baby. I'm home."
         "No more Navy?"
         "No more Navy. I will be working here in New York. I'm home Bug-a-Boo."


    Olivia dives into her father's chest. Martin catches his daughter, in flight. She's growing big, that was a tough catch, thinks Martin. He holds his daughter unbreakably close. In the purple, September sky, Martin watches as a flock of swallows fly towards the south. He whispers to Olivia,
         "Do you see them?" referring to the birds.
         "Yes, Daddy. I see them. Is one of them Mommy?"
         "No. No baby. Your mother's isn't a bird. She's the wind that carries them. She is the song they sing. When you see them fly and hear them sing, she is here with you. Always here with you."
         "And you, Daddy?"
         "And me."

    Olivia taking a moment to remember how cold she was to Denise,
         "And Denise, Daddy?"
    Martin looks at his daughter. He knows she loves Denise...and Denise loves Olivia. With sigh under his breath,
         "Yes...and Denise."
    Olivia hugs her father again. Martin look towards the birds and whispers, "Thank you" to Paula Kendall.


    Olivia collects herself and withdraws from Dr. Huxtable's arms. She looks up at the purple, September sky, at the trail of smoke, dust, and ash, and says to Dr. Huxtable,
         "I know where my father is."
         "You do?"
         "Yes..."
    she said biting back tears, "He's with my mother. Together... in the wind."
         "Is that what you believe?"

    Olivia watch the birds and clouds float by,
         "Yes...yes, it is."
         "Then it is so."


    The two share a final embrace. Dr. Huxtable let's go first,
         "Ok...when you are ready...not a moment before...when you are ready, come on inside. Denise will need all of us. She will need you most."
    Olivia gives a nod yes,
         "Thank you Dr. Huxtable."
         "Olivia...no need for thanks. You are my family. You are my grand daughter and this is what grand fathers do. That and...this..."

    Cliff wiggles his hand and magically pulls a quarter of out Olivia's ear.
         "Ummm...Dr. Huxtable, I'm 14. I know that didn't come out of my ear."
         "Well...good...you know where it came from and when you're done with it, you can put it back."


    He flashes Olivia a broad smile, which in turn, makes Olivia smile. He disappears into the kitchen through the back door.


    Sitting alone in the cool September night, Olivia reflects on the love she has been blessed to have in her life. She gets up off her seat on the bench and climbs up on the top of the picnic table and sits, facing the dark blue, western sky.

    The back door quietly opens. Olivia does not hear Denise walk up behind and then around the picnic table. Without sharing a word, Denise climbs up on the bench and sits next to her daughter on the table top. Olivia scoots closer to Denise. Denise wraps her arm around Olivia's waist. Olivia rest her head on Denise's shoulder. The sit quietly and listen as the winds whistles through nearby chimes and the swallows sing all the way home.


    NEXT:  Chapter 8:  Russell
  • 4 comments:

    1. You're breaking my heart chapter by chapter, my brilliant friend...and inspiring me with your talent.

      ReplyDelete
    2. I am so enthralled by thesecwritings! Your abilitu to describe the characters ad adults and to articulate their thoughts and experiences is phenomenal! Brava, Teresa.......BRAVA!!!!!!

      ReplyDelete
    3. waiting patiently for part 8. You are doing an awesome job letting us say goodbye to a beloved character and mourn that man we all thought he was.

      ReplyDelete

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