World War II took from Anne Bennett a husband and brother. She is left with three children to raise alone. She finds herself struggling with the depression and emptiness of living in the past without the ability to find her future. A decision is made. She will with her children return to her childhood home.
'Clover View' is a small farm outside Albion, Michigan owned by her parents. They too have struggled, with the loss of their only son, Bud. Maybe their return to her roots can help her children, her parents and herself put their loss behind them and fine hope for their future. There are problems with this plan as three generations collide while living under one roof. The story deals with understanding ourselves and respecting the needs of others. Regardless if the reader is a teen or a grandparent, this story has a message for everyone.
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Maybe, Just Maybe
By Donald Vaughn Renner
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Donald Vaughn Renner
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePutting Memories in a Trunk
In the early morning hours, on May 17, 1947, Anne Bennetts lumbered restlessly. She had taken a sleeping pill before retiring, hoping for a sound night's sleep. That did not happen. She couldn't get old memories out of her head. Tonight the memories came back to her entwined in dreams. In the morning this will all be over Anne thought. This was the last night she will sleep alone in the bed she had shared with her husband, the late Captain Jon Bennett. More than two years had passed since Jon was killed in a bombing mission, over the English Channel. Two years of trying to be brave in front of the children, while crying herself to sleep most nights. Two years of empty loneliness, sleeping on one side of a bed meant to be shared by two people. As Anne drifted in and out of sleep she thought these are the last hours of the last night in our little home. The home was so perfect. There was a white picket fence and little front porch where untold hours were spent. Anne, Jon and the children sat on the porch almost every evening when the weather permitted. They listened to radio programs coming through the open window. Jane, Jon Jr. and Shelly played checkers or Parcheesi or hide and seek with other children in the neighborhood. This little bungalow that she and Jon made into a home would become the property of Carl and Freda Simmons at 12 noon. Anne had sold the house and she and the children were returning to her childhood home in Albion, Michigan.
Anne rolled over on to her left side. For years it was her favorite position for watching Jon sleep. Then as now, Anne would keep a 15 watt bulb lit in the closet every night. The lighted closet first began when Jane was an infant, and 3 o'clock feedings were a nightly ritual. With the closet door slightly ajar, just enough light fell across the room by which to see. Many nights after Jane was fed, Anne would return to bed to watch Jon sleep. The sound of his heavy breathing would have a soothing effect on her. Within minutes she would drift off back to her own dreams. Those nights are gone forever. It has been over two years since she felt Jon's body next to hers. Almost three since she looked into his face. God, he had such beautiful brown eyes. Anne pulled up the sheet and with a corner of it, wiped tears from her eyes.
From the living room the dull sound of a single chime from the Seth Thomas mantle clock announced to her another half hour had passed. Anne heard the chime and, as always, thought of the little wind up monkey that delighted Jon Jr. as a toddler. The monkey was a gift to him from a neighbor. It had a funny expression on his face and had a little red hat on his head. Cymbals were attached to both hands. When wound up, the monkey would clash the cymbals until it ran down or was turned off. The cymbals made the same sound as the Seth Thomas, only faster. Anne remembered when Jon Jr. was little they would sit him on the floor to play with his toys including the monkey. If the Seth Thomas chimed, Jon would look at the monkey, expecting the cymbals to clang. Anne wondered what time it was. She could easily roll over and check the time on the clock. She had set the alarm for 6:00 am. She would not look at the clock. If she did she would turn off the alarm and get up and start her day. For the time being, Anne was content to just lay there and think and dream of happier days.
Her mind drifted back to the day she and Jon met. It was Saturday, February 16, 1927. The Ladies Rosary Society of Saint John's Church sponsored an ice cream social every Saturday near Valentine's Day. Her mother, Katharine or Katie as she preferred to be called, was that year's president of the Rosary Society. Anne told her mother she was not going to attend the social.
"Not go to the social? Why in the world would you not go to the social?" Katie asked.
Anne could tell she was in danger of getting her mother's Irish blood riled up. Katie for the most part was a sweet gentle lady with a soft voice. However when someone crossed Katie's path, by not seeing eye to eye with her, she could and generally would get the upper hand.
"My own daughter not going to this social, what will the other members think?"
Anne tried to explain, "Mom, I'm almost 20 years old. I have attended every community and church social my entire life. I think I can miss just one without people talking."
"You may meet some nice young men at the social," Katie replied.
Anne knew it was useless to argue the matter with her mother and she did have a point. Anne had not given up on romance; it's just that she had not been to any function with a guy since the Grange social in her junior year of high school. The needle point tapestry she hoped to have ready to show at the county fair would just have to wait; she was going to the social.
She knew her track record with men was not good. It's not that she didn't like men. She really wanted romance in her life. It was just that she did not know any exciting men. The three men with whom she had been out with since the age of eighteen, were all told in no uncertain terms, "don't bother calling me again." Anne wasn't sure she would ever find a man for herself. She told herself that was ok, because between work, church and farm work there was little time for men.
The Saturday of the social came. Anne rode to the social with Tillie and Richard Fletcher. Matilda Kennedy was Anne's best friend. They knew each other as long as either could remember. Both were the same age and lived on the same road less than a half mile apart. They walked to school together every day and shared each other's secrets. They were closer than most sisters. When Tillie and Richard married, Anne was her Maid of Honor. When Tillie knew she was pregnant, she told Anne even before she told Richard. They sat at a little ice cream parlor table at the social. The tables and chairs were on loan from Casporini's ice cream parlor. Casporini's made their own ice cream and fudge, and they were a favorite with most of the townspeople.
Anne remembered what happened next as if it occurred yesterday. They had finished their ice cream but remained at the table talking about names Tillie and Richard liked for the baby. As the girls talked, Richard excused himself from the table. He mentioned his cousin Toby just walked in. Anne glanced in the direction toward where Richard pointed. Toby was Tobias Walker, and Anne knew him well. Not only is Toby, Richard's cousin, he was also Richard's best man for their wedding. He was short, about 5'5", and very thick through the body. He wasn't fat just thick. Toby ran the family's hardware business in nearby Homer. Anne and Tillie stopped talking and watched as Richard and Toby greeted each other with slaps on the back and a big hug. They chatted for a minute before Toby turned toward a man on his left. The man stepped forward as Toby introduced him to Richard. Richard, Toby and the man chatted for a minute or two. Finally Richard pointed toward the girls seated at the table. As the men strolled over to the table, Anne could not take her eyes off the stranger. She could tell he was at least six feet tall. His hair was dark brown, straight and as thick as a privet hedge. His eyes were also dark brown, the color of dark chocolates in a box of Whitman's Sampler. His deep tanned face suggested he spent more time out of doors than in. In summary, this man was about the most handsome man Anne ever laid her eyes on.
"Jon Bennett, this is my wife Tillie and this is Anne O'Grady." Jon extended his hand toward each as they were introduced to him.
Richard explained, "Jon and Toby were roommates their first year of college and have remained friends over the years." The men drew up extra chairs and seated themselves.
Anne remembered how she and Jon Bennett locked eyes on one another in a gaze that lasted for several minutes. She heard conversation going on around her by the others, but there was nothing said by either Jon or her.
The trance-like gaze was broken when for the third time Tillie said loudly, "Anne is that ok with you?" Anne shook her head slightly and blinked "Richard and Toby are talking about going to the movies, is that ok with you Anne?"
Anne looked at Tillie and then back to Jon, "I have nothing planned."
"What's playing?" Richard asked.
Toby replied, "The Black Pirate, with Douglas Fairbanks. This is the biggest movie of the year and playing right here in Albion."
Still Jon's gaze was locked on to her. "I'm sorry, what did Richard say was your name?"
At that point all conversation at the table stopped and all eyes focused on Jon who was still staring toward Anne.
A roar of laughter broke out from Tillie, Richard and Toby while Anne just smiled and then said in an almost inaudible voice, "My name is Anne O'Grady."
"My name is Jon Bennett." Jon stood and extended his hand toward Anne for the second time.
"Yes I know. Richard did the introductions." Again there was laughter by all.
Yes, Anne remembered their meeting as though it happened yesterday. She wiped her eyes again with a corner of the sheet. "I have to stop this nonsense." She said this in a tone that only she could hear.
She rolled on her back and shook her head. Again she spoke in the same voice as before. "I've packed you away. Your clothing, uniforms, letters to me and the children, even your journal are all packed in that trunk."
That was not quite true. She kept out Jon's pajamas and his house coat. She found them more to her liking than her own. Anne turned her head a looked toward the old humpback trunk setting on the floor next to the now empty dresser. Her plan was to put the trunk along with all the other boxes of unneeded items in the far corner of the big barn. The barn was the eye catching center piece of Clover View. This was the name Anne's paternal grandmother gave to the farm. Anne's parents still owned Clover View. It is where she and her brother 'Bud' were born and raised.
The only physical connection she now had with Jon was his official Army photograph setting behind the clock on the side table. Anne had not yet packed away his picture with his other things. She would do that in the morning. She propped herself up on her right forearm and reached for his picture. She laid back and placed his picture on her breast, crossed her arms over it and closed her eyes. She would indulge herself in still one more memory of their life together.
Anne thought of their wedding. It was October 26, 1929. Somehow she sensed the first time she saw him at the ice cream social, they would marry. Their wedding was something of a blur to Anne, but she had vivid memories of their reception held at the township grange.
She and Jon danced to several numbers played by Eddie Kelso and the 'Blue Notes', a popular Calhoun County band. Anne also danced with Toby, looking over his head as they moved about the floor. A special memory was the dance with her father. He bought a new suit for her wedding at the insistence of her mother. Smiling, she remembered the conversation with her mother regarding his new suit.
Katie told the story this way. I asked your dad, "Have you looked for a new suit?" Your father glared at me. By his expression I already knew the answer. "I think your next trip to town should include a stop to Lincolns' Men's Store." Your dad said, "I was just planning on having my old suit let out a little and getting it dry clean."
I told him. "Your old suit was purchased for your mother's funeral 16 years ago and there is nothing left to let out. Stop by Lincoln's this coming week."
So it was that she danced with her father, and he was wearing his new suit.
Anne's mind then drifted on to Bud, her brother. Bud was actually Oliver O'Grady Jr. Except for legal documents and to strangers, he was Bud. Almost 9 years separated Bud from Anne.
Two weeks before Christmas in 1944, a green car pulled into the drive at Clover View. The car carried a government seal on the driver's door. Two officers stepped out of the car and notified Oliver and Katherine O'Grady of the death of their only son, Oliver O'Grady Junior. Bud was an enlisted soldier in the 101st Airborne. He was not a fighting soldier, but rather a medic. While rescuing wounded downed by German fire, he himself was also killed in action. The news devastated the O'Grady's, Anne and her children. For the second time in less than 7 months the family was subjected to the ultimate grief of the loss of a loved one.
She was seated at the dining room table writing a letter to Bud when she received the news of his death. She wanted to be sure Bud knew he was always in her thoughts. She told him of her struggle to function daily in light of Jon's death. How the children were the only thing to keep her sanity about her. "Bud, I'm so thankful I still have you." Along about then the phone rang and her mother's voice intermixed with broken sobs gave Anne the news regarding Bud. Anne remembered she did not shed a tear when told of Bud's death. There just weren't any more tears to shed at that time. After she hung up the phone and stared at the partially finished letter for some time. Then she tore the letter in little pieces and placed the bits in her apron pocket. She then called Jane, Jon and Shelly over to the table. She sat them down and told them Uncle Bud was not coming home.
Chapter TwoA Decision to Go Home
Anne reached over and placed Jon's picture face down on the night stand. She then picked up 'Big Ben' and held it at the right angle so the little light escaping from the closet could illuminate the face. It was 4:43 a.m. and she still had almost one and a half hours until the alarm would sound. She set the clock back in place and rolled on to her stomach.
Now her thoughts were of Jane. Why? She didn't know. Her thoughts went back to three days before Jane was born. It was July 4, 1930. Anne was staying with her mom and dad until the baby was born. Jon worked for the Lansing Electric Lighting Company as an engineer. The company was in the middle of enlarging the facility to accommodate another generator. Jon was working 12 to 14 hours a day and was promised the schedule would remain the same for the next 90 days.
A celebration of the nation's independence was to include a parade through town, ending with the laying of a wreath at 'Soldiers Monument' at Riverside Cemetery. In those days the trip to town was in an open double buggy. Not the easiest or most comfortable way to travel. The 4 mile ride from their home to the center of town took almost an hour. Anne was due any day, but insisted on attending the parade. They watched the parade for about 10 minutes when Anne started having what Katie thought was light labor pains. Fortunately they were standing on the corner in front of the Rexall drug store. The store was the only establishment in town open except for Jenkins gas station and the Commercial Hotel, four blocks away. Oliver and Katie helped Anne into the store. Cathy Mitchell was on duty and showed Anne to a small bed in the back room. It was common in those days for pharmacies to have such a bed for customers who became ill.
Katie stayed with Anne, while Oliver returned to watch Bud march in his first parade as a member of the township grange. When the parade was over, and the crowd had drifted away, Oliver and Bud returned with the buggy to fetch Anne and Katie. There were no further problems, and 3 days later Anne gave birth to a beautiful strawberry blonde daughter. She and Jon agreed the baby would be named Jane for Jon's older sister, Jane Lewis (Bennett).
While less than 4years older than Jon, Jane was instrumental in Jon's development after their mother, Cloris died in childbirth when John was only 5 years old. Jon's father Charles never fully recovered from the loss, and never remarried. Charles's widowed Aunt Bertha moved into the Bennett house and cared for the family as though they were her own. Aunt Bertha was given the love and respect reserved for a mother. She remained in the family home until her death shortly after Anne met Jon.
The wonderful thing about the relationship between Jon and his sister was her desire to nurture Jon. Jane taught Jon to dress himself and tie his own shoes. She helped him learn to read and even shared her homework with him. The truth was; his development throughout his early years was due primarily to Jane's teaching. Jane was not Anne's first choice for a girl's name; however, Jane was a marvelous sister and a great influence in Jon's life.
Excerpted from Maybe, Just Maybe by Donald Vaughn Renner Copyright © 2010 by Donald Vaughn Renner. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
ContentsPutting Memories in a Trunk....................1
A Decision to Go Home....................7
A Green Car on Mason Street....................13
Just Boards and Plaster....................19
An Unmentionable Gift....................28
Pop, Popcorn and Pancakes....................37
Clover View a Story of Love....................45
Yaa-Hoo, I'm Jon Bennett....................53
Cracker Jacks and Buster Brown....................66
A New Day of Independence....................79
The Road Back....................88
The Traveling Suitcase....................101
The Season for Change....................114
The Difference between Courage and Bravery....................127
On The Wings of Angles....................138
In Need of a Miracle....................146
Goodbye Dear Friend....................156
Mending a Fence....................163
Heathen at the Door....................172
The Winter Party....................178
A Simple Glass of Wine....................189
A Beautiful Lily....................198
A Home Style Celebration....................206
Any Place but Here....................226
A Jar of Kosher Dills....................237
Faking the Left....................246
In God We Trust....................276
A Loss for the Family....................285
A Song Bird Sings....................302
Not In a Million Years....................315
What is it About Tassy....................323
Showing the Pearly Whites....................336
Frankly My Dear....................346
The Story Behind the Story....................351
Some Things You Don't Talk About....................359
Teacher Let the Fools Out....................367
Knowing Your Friends....................375
Nothing Smells Like a New Truck....................382
Somewhere Over the Rainbow....................390
One Life Goes, One Life Stays....................405
The Sweet Smell of Honeysuckle....................410
Do You Take This Man....................427