Journey To Comfort

Journey To Comfort

by Graham Wolfe

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781458200389
Publisher: Abbott Press
Publication date: 08/26/2011
Pages: 244
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.55(d)

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Journey to Comfort


By Graham Wolfe

Abbott Press

Copyright © 2011 Graham Wolfe
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4582-0038-9


Chapter One

How It Started

Overcast, rainy days in Cap Ferrat can be the same as in Chicago, New York, or Boston. The difference is that there are a lot fewer of them in Cap Ferrat, and even on rainy days, the people are much friendlier. This was one of the reasons we chose this area to finally become settled—that and the relative obscurity in which one can live one's life here. This area of France is relatively free of the Parisian attitude that seems to bother most Americans. In my mind, Parisians are to France what New Yorkers are to America—tough, fast moving, and yes, somewhat arrogant, at times bordering on obnoxious. However, we believe this oft-demonstrated attitude on both sides of the Atlantic is more related to coping with life in any large cultural center than an inbred character flaw. Regardless of its origin, that attitude is difficult to find in Cap Ferrat.

Today, though, it is raining, and that is something I have always enjoyed. The rain seems to clean not only the air, but also my mind. On days like this, when even reading a good book becomes boring, I can look out the window and clearly see decades past. Memory is one of God's greatest gifts to mankind, and I have been blessed even further to have quite a good one. As I sit undisturbed and watch the rain, it can carry me back to my junior high school years, when it all started.

As with many youngsters, junior high was a tumultuous time for me. Growing up in the late '50s and '60s was exciting on the one hand and anxiety filled on the other. Starting out, we lived in the North Shore Chicago area, where residents in the town of Nearlake were affluent and did not mind showing it off. Everything on the North Shore of Chicago was larger than most other communities surrounding the city. The lots were larger, the houses were larger, the cars were larger, and the number of service people was larger, all clearly due to the fact that the wallets were larger. Nearlake was no exception. In terms of raw purchasing power, it ranked right up there with Lake Forest, Willmette, and Winettka.

Our parents were also somewhat typical of the area. We had a father with a much better than average income and a mother determined to have the cleanest, smartest, most well-rounded, and most popular kids. My parents, along with my sister Jasmine and me, made up our family. We were the ones who were supposed to have all those attributes my mother spent most of her time attempting to instill in us. The concept of genetics or even IQ did not faze my mother. She believed that if she told us to study often enough, gave enough instructions on grooming—especially to Jaz—and prodded us to bring home friends, we would turn out to be those perfect kids she so desperately needed to deliver to the outside world. If there had been a way to procure "Stepford Kids," that would have been us.

This super-kid requirement naturally produced some backwash. Neither Jaz nor I wanted to be perfect students or win any prize for cleanliness. This is not to be confused with any desire to be stupid or dirty; we simply wanted to be regular kids. We certainly did want to be popular but were equally certain that parental intrusion into our lives would not produce that effect. As a result, we regularly tuned our mother out when she proffered her ideas of how we needed to live our lives. Despite this, Jaz was practically a straight-A student, was popular, and loved life. My grades were good but not as good, and I too was fairly popular and also loved life.

In thinking about it later on in life, the relationship that developed between Jaz and me probably started when we were quite young. At the very earliest of ages, six and five I think, our mother still bathed us together in order to save time. Mother was always there, so no touching was allowed. Natural curiosity, though, did produce a number of questions, mostly from Jaz. "What is that? Why don't I have one? Will mine grow when I am six?" In spite of her superkid mindset, it apparently never occurred to my mother that the time when we should have started bathing separately had long since passed.

One of the things that mother drummed into me was that girls were different. They were feminine and not to be treated like boys, but protected, especially by an older brother. During one of our rare mother/son talks, I said, "Mom, Jaz needs protection about as much as a scorpion."

On the other hand, there were also those times, even as a very young girl, when Jaz definitely was the ultimate in femininity. It was at those times when she actually did seem to need someone backing her up—and that was me.

At fourteen years old, I was already five foot eleven and had taken to lifting weights to put some muscle around an otherwise thin frame. In the fall of that year, Jaz got into an argument with another girl after school. During the argument, a bit of pushing ensued, and the other girl fell backward. At that point, the girl's brother stepped in and pushed Jaz down—which, unfortunately for him, was when I arrived on the scene.

In an overly polite way, I asked, "Is that how your mother taught you to treat girls?"

His answer, "get lost," did nothing to assuage my anger, so, having tried the polite approach to no avail, I hit him squarely in the mouth with all the force I could summon. He went down like the last bowling pin to fall when converting a spare. He was missing two teeth in front, one of which was lodged in my finger, and he was bleeding profusely. Ignoring him, other than taking the tooth out of my finger and throwing it at him, I walked over to Jaz and helped her up.

"How're you doing, kiddo?"

"Fine, but I didn't want you to butt into this. It was between Rachel and me."

I was dumbstruck.

"Jaz, when I got here, you were on your butt. What do you think Mom would say if she knew that I saw a boy push you down and did nothing about it?"

She turned and walked away without offering the "thank you, big brother Jack" that was certainly deserved. It was at this point in my life that I began to realize that I would never truly understand what girls, and later women, are all about.

Later that evening, I was in bed reading before going to sleep, a ritual I started young, and one that I practice even today. Jaz came into the room, as usual without knocking. After closing the door, she sat on the edge of the bed next to my leg.

"I'm sorry I didn't thank you for sticking up for me today," she said. "I was mad at Rachel because she got a better grade on a math test than I did. So, even though we were pushing each other, I knew that I shouldn't be mad at her for that and that the whole fight was my fault."

At that point I broke in. "That's cool but no reason for the guy to push you."

Absentmindedly, I thought, she started to rub my leg as she went on talking. "The guy is her brother, and I just believe that he didn't want to see his sister get hurt. I don't think he would have done anything more than push me down. Before today, Rachel and I have been pretty good friends, and I don't want this to get in the way of that."

Once again, I was dumbstruck, this time for two reasons. First, I had taken two of the guy's teeth out, apparently for no reason. Second, with Jaz rubbing my leg, I was moving into the fully erect position, and it was noticeable under the covers. At this point, she jumped up and said a little too loud, "Jack, you're getting a boner."

She ran out of my room, totally absorbed in a screaming sort of laughter, leaving me there wondering what to do now and pretty certain that either my mother or father would be coming in soon to see what all the commotion was about.

Having just pulled my feet back so that my knees were the only things protruding up through the covers, right on cue my father came to the door and uttered his usual question, "What's up?"

He had not been home yet when I related the story about the fight to Mother, so I started to explain what happened. He said, "Yeah, I heard. Well done." I was shocked to hear him say it. Then he said, "But what's with Jaz?"

"Well, Dad, I guess she still wants to be friends with the girl, and since I beat up her brother, that may not work. Maybe one day we can have a talk and you can help me understand girls."

He exploded with laughter until tears were streaming down his face. After sitting in the one chair in my room and composing himself, he said, "Jack, if I tell you all I know about what makes women tick, it will be the shortest conversation we will ever have."

As he left the room, he started laughing again. It seemed like everyone but me was laughing. And Dad would certainly not have been laughing if he had known what went on just before he came into my room. I let my legs go flat against the mattress and for the first time in my life was glad to see that the covers were flat as well.

The next day, I was summoned to the office of the school principal, Mr. Barclay's. Unafraid, knowing I was in the right, I was surprised to see my parents there, along with Rachel's parents, the Donovans. All of a sudden, it did not seem enough to have right on my side. As I went through the half-glass door, it seemed that the entire school might be able to see this gathering.

"Sit down, Jack," the principal ordered in a tone I could tell did not please my father. Barely had I found a place to sit in the crowded office when Mr. Barclay started.

"I wanted to meet with all of you to discuss what happened yesterday between Jack and Tross. There are no circumstances under which fighting can be condoned. We need to make sure that this never happens again."

My father broke in, "Right, and I'm certain that you will make sure that there are no instances of boys picking on girls again. Where I come from, that is just not done. So I believe that before anything further happens, Tross should apologize to my daughter. Then we can talk about the boys fighting."

It was apparent that I was not the only one appalled by my dad going on the offensive so quickly. Tross's father said incredulously, "My son lost two teeth."

My father repeated, "Let's hear the apology, and then we'll talk about the boys' fight."

Mr. Barclay, clearly having lost his agenda, had to agree that boys pushing girls was not proper conduct. As we would say now, my father was on a roll and said, "Where is Tross, anyway?"

Mr. Barclay shot a sideways glance at Tross's father and said, "We thought it best for the boys not to see each other so soon."

As my father's ire began to become even more evident, he opined, "You mean so that we could simply chastise Jack and be done with it—right? Well, that's only going to happen after Tross appears here, with my daughter, and apologizes for pushing a girl to the ground."

Backed into a corner, Mr. Barclay reluctantly sent for Jaz and Tross. When Jaz and Tross arrived, Rachel, although she was not invited, had come with them. The room was overcrowded, so we moved to a conference room. As the consummate businessman, this was my father's domain—the boardroom. He immediately strode to the head of the table, taking the seat that was normally reserved for Mr. Barclay. He knew what he had done but asked anyway, "Am I taking anyone's seat?"

"No, that's all right." Mr. Barclay muttered, barely audible.

With one swift move, my father was now in charge. Tross and Rachel's parents were seemingly overwhelmed by the turn of events and were pretty much speechless.

Dad looked at Tross, whose face was badly swollen, and said, "I'm sorry about the fight between you and Jack, but before we talk about that, we all believe you owe Jasmine an apology. It is totally inappropriate for boys to fight with girls. The physical difference between boys and girls makes the fight too one-sided. So, what do you say, Tross?"

To everyone's surprise, Tross said, "I agree with you. I never should have pushed Jaz." He turned and said, "Jaz, I am very sorry for pushing you, and it will never happen again. Also, I don't blame Jack for sticking up for his sister. I would have done the same thing. This whole mess is my fault."

The room was silent for a moment, when Jaz said, "No, Tross, it is really my fault. I got into a fight with Rachel, who I really like, over something stupid. I knew it was dumb, but I couldn't help myself. So, this whole thing between you and Jack never would have happened, if I had not—" She broke off crying. Except for her sobs, the room was quiet again.

My father said to my mother, "Ellen, why don't you take Jaz to the ladies' room, and perhaps the boys and Rachel should go back to their schoolwork?"

Rachel spoke up and said, "I'll take Jaz to the ladies room."

Mr. Barclay simply nodded, and all but the grown-ups left. About all I said during the whole discussion was "hello" when I entered the room. Despite the lack of articulation, I had gone from almost certain suspension to no punishment at all. Winning the Olympic decathlon could not have felt a great deal better. What happened after we left was not discussed, but I am pretty sure that our family ended up buying some new front teeth for Tross.

That evening my father came into my room, which was becoming a bit like Grand Central Station: No one ever knocked; they just walked in and started talking like they were in the family room. He sat in the chair, silent for a moment, and then asked, "What did you think of the discussion at school today?"

Curious as to what he was getting at, I asked, "Why?" Turns out, that was the wrong thing to say.

"Jack, I asked you a direct question. I do not expect the answer to be another question."

"Okay, okay," I said. "There were a couple of things that surprised me."

His curt reply—"Like?"—let me know that something fairly definitive had better be coming out of my mouth soon.

"Like the fact that you went on the offensive so quickly. Like the fact that Tross was such a stand-up guy about admitting he was wrong. Like the fact that Jaz admitted she had started the whole thing and admitted that was wrong too. Like the fact that she cried." Believing I had been thorough in my reply, his next question caught me somewhat off guard.

"Anything else?"

"Ah, no, not that I can think of," was all that I could come up with.

"Well," he said, "there was something left out of the discussion, and frankly it surprised me."

Now I thought I knew what he was getting at. "Do you mean that I should have apologized to Tross?" Having said that, I knew that the ensuing discussion would be a fairly lengthy lecture on why I should have apologized to Tross. It never came.

Dad just stood up, looked at me, and said, "That would certainly be a manly thing to do." He left the room without further comment.

In the aftermath of that discussion, I sat there for quite a while, trying to figure out if Dad was trying to tell me I was not manly or simply that men can be big enough to offer an apology, even if something was not their fault. It was true that Tross pushed Jaz, but perhaps what Dad was saying related more to punishment fitting the crime. Maybe I could have just pushed him down too and let it go at that. As I contemplated, Jaz walked in, as usual with no knock, and closed the door.

"What was Dad talking to you about?"

"He thinks I should apologize to Tross."

"Why? He was wrong to push me down."

"Maybe so, but look at him. He lost two teeth. They will have to be replaced. Even if they do a good job of replacing the teeth, his face will be changed forever. You and Rachel only got bruised butts, which you probably both deserved anyway."

She pinched my arm, one of those girl pinches that really hurt. "Ow!" I yelled. She was already headed for the door when I tripped her and jumped on her, pinning her to the floor.

"Get off, you creep, or I'll tell Dad you had a boner last night."

I fell off her, laughing.

"Jaz, do you think Dad has never had one? How do you think we got here?"

Now she was laughing too. Through her laughter, she said, "Can you think of those two having sex?"

After a minute or two as the laughter was just dying down, my father poked his head around the corner of my door and asked, "What's up?"

We both started to howl with laughter again. He just shook his head and walked away.

The next day at school, I pulled Tross aside and said, "Hey, man, I'm really sorry for what I did."

"Why? You heard what I said at out big meeting yesterday, and I meant it."

Somehow I hadn't thought apologizing would be so difficult.

"I know, but that's not the whole story. You lost teeth; our sisters just got bruised asses. I did not mean for you to lose those teeth, and I'm sorry about it."

"Yeah, well I'm going to get some stainless jobs, until they can make the real fake teeth. Guess I'll look like I'm wired for sound for a couple of weeks."

"At least you'll be able to chew food."

"Have you tasted my mother's cooking? I might be better off with them missing."

We both began to laugh, although I could tell it hurt him to laugh.

"As far as those asses," he said, "they could use a little bruising."

We both laughed.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Journey to Comfort by Graham Wolfe Copyright © 2011 by Graham Wolfe. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Chapter One How It Started....................1
Chapter Two The Announcement....................17
Chapter Three What Is a Teenager?....................38
Chapter Four Learning Experiences....................60
Chapter Five A Family Matures....................81
Chapter Six Life Outside the Nest....................92
Chapter Seven The Future Beckons....................111
Chapter Eight Dreams and Reality....................125
Chapter Nine Unheralded Warrior....................141
Chapter Ten A Decade Lost....................154
Chapter Eleven Elusive Paradise....................175
Chapter Twelve Nineteen Ninety-Seven....................192
Chapter Thirteen Disengagement and Disintegration....................206
Chapter Fourteen Comfort....................222

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