With no one else to help him meet the physical demands of the trip, Worthy grudgingly includes his grandchildren, David and Shannon, who are each battling their own insecurities. His controlling son, Ted, and his manipulative daughter-in-law, Angela, follow Worthy and his grandkids to France, and they have one goal: to drag the aging war vet back to Michigan where they hope to take command of his finances and place him in a nursing home. As Worthy searches for a family from his past, only time will tell if he can patch the crumbling relationships with his family before it is too late.
In this historical tale, a World War II veteran takes a journey of honor and courage as he sets off to complete the most important mission of his long life.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.72(d)|
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Read an Excerpt
By Tim McGee
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Tim McGee
All rights reserved.
A spring day in Michigan can be an iffy thing. You are just as likely to wake up to birds singing as they go about building nests and finding food, as you are to bear witness to a raging snowstorm. In both instances, residents of the Great Lakes State would awaken, look out their windows, and accept the circumstances with a sigh, going about their business with determination.
For octogenarian Worthy McGuire, waking up was an iffy thing. Each morning he slowly opened his eyes and took stock. First, was there feeling in all the extremities? Yes. Did they all move as they were supposed to? Yes, but not without a lot of protesting and aches. Then there was the mental checklist. Where was he? In bed. What day was it? Monday, the fourth of April 2012. Where did he live? Franklin, Michigan. Where was Christine? He reached out a hand and felt the cool sheets. Still gone. Twenty-nine years and counting. After the mental inventory, Worthy reached to the bedside table, picked up the old Hamilton watch, wound it slowly, and strapped it to his wrist.
Another day, but not just any day. Today was an important one. Today, the trip would be put into motion. A journey postponed twice before. Worthy knew he couldn't put it off any longer. Time was against him. It would be a pilgrimage to the place that saw the best and the worst times in his long life. Worthy pulled the comforter back, rose slowly from the big king-size bed, put his feet on the cold planking of the floor, and reached for his glasses. He glanced at the old watch, following the small second hand as it swept around in a tiny circle. He cross-checked the time with his alarm clock and nodded. Synced up. He stood, put on his terrycloth bathrobe, and gazed out the window of his bedroom to the backyard. The trees were just beginning to blossom. Tiny green buds popped out of the branches and reached for the warmth of the sun. A satisfied smile crossed his lips as he noted the apple tree was also budding. Its twisting and gnarled branches made it look ancient yet venerable, a kindred spirit defying the odds to be fruitful for one more season. The grass was a rich green, still dewy and sparkling as the sun's rays poured over the tops of the trees. He slipped his feet into a pair of furry lined slippers and cinched the robe.
He padded to the bathroom and sighed contentedly as he praised God for keeping his plumbing in good working order. Small miracles sometimes were the most cherished. He decided a shave was needed, along with a shower, as he was going to see his doctor today. Worthy ran the hot water in the sink and checked to see that things were in order. All his toiletries were lined up like tiny soldiers on review along the back edge of the counter that held a double sink setup. The second sink, the one to his right, was Christine's and never got used. He ran the water about once a month just to keep the pipes clear.
Worthy lathered up his face and quickly shaved. He ran a comb through the sparse white hair that fringed his head and tried to remember when he actually had hair on the crown of his head. Decades ago ...
He stepped into the large walk-in closet, pulled out a pair of worn khaki pants, and shook them out. A red cotton shirt over a white crew neck T-shirt and sturdy walking shoes completed the morning uniform. He tucked the shirt in and studied his profile in a full-length mirror.
Worthy was of medium height and sported a paunch around his midsection that he no longer worried about. It had become a comfort to him over the years. His ancient face was long and dominated by a hawk nose. Worthy's eyes were light blue and still clear, even after having seen just about everything a man could see.
Worthy walked down the stairs, feeling the ache in his knees, and kept a steady hand on the railing as he descended. The downstairs to the house was quiet; only the sound of the coffeepot percolating in the kitchen disturbed the silence. The kitchen boasted large and well-cared-for old appliances that had gone in and out of fashion over years of use. Worthy poured a mug of coffee. He turned on the ancient portable radio pushed up against the white backsplash and drank his coffee, the taste bitter on his tongue. The voices of WJR morning talk radio filled the silence in the large room. The world was in dire straits, with war and pestilence at every turn, but the Tigers were just hours away from a promising baseball season, and the Red Wings were making one more run at Lord Stanley's coveted cup.
Worthy rinsed his coffee mug and placed it in the wire basket in the sink. He prepared to go out but left the radio on. The noise that filled the void was what he would listen to rather than actual news. He had stopped listening to that years ago.
He started out on his usual morning constitutional, across Franklin Road and past the bucolic, tree-covered village green, where all the local social events happened. The green was home to a large, red-brick church with a soaring white steeple, surrounded by playgrounds, a gazebo, baseball fields, and tennis courts. He walked up Wellington Drive, passing large houses tucked in behind towering conifer and deciduous trees that stood guard over them, presenting a natural barrier to prying eyes.
Worthy breathed in the crisp air, smelling the sweet scent of fresh cut grass, as he slowly made his way up the long hill to where Wellington and Scenic Lane intersected. He had been a resident for nearly sixty years and was pleased at how little the village changed. Granted, some monstrous houses had been built, but luckily, most were hidden by trees or not on his main route.
Franklin Village, known as the Town That Time Forgot, was a tiny enclave located about thirty miles northwest of the city of Detroit. The terrain within the affluent village was made up of rolling hills covered by a wide variety of leafy trees crisscrossed by streets boasting names like Willowgreen Drive and Oak Leaf Lane. The village had a working cider mill that was nestled in the side of a slope overlooking the Franklin River and was a must-see attraction for the entire metropolitan area in the autumn.
On his return, Worthy stopped in his front yard and noticed the old oak tree that sheltered the front of his white clapboard house was beginning to impinge just a bit. He would need to call someone in to trim the branches back before he left. He picked up his copy of the Detroit News and went back into the empty house. He prepared a small breakfast of wheat toast topped with butter and honey and a bowl of bran cereal, which he ate at the kitchen counter while reading the paper. The radio was turned down, and he read the stories more out of habit rather than a need to know exactly what was happening. He knew what was going on. The world was going to hell in a handbasket. The paper simply confirmed his long-held suspicions.
The phone rang. The burring sound it made always startled Worthy, and he wished he had not agreed to upgrade from his old rotary phone just so he could have an answering machine. It was a nuisance, and he rarely checked his messages anyway.
"Hello," Worthy said, his voice always sounding irritated due to the annoying ringer.
"Dad," his son said, "how are you feeling this morning?"
Worthy poured a mug of coffee, noting silently that the only advantage to this phone was the lack of a cord to trip him as he moved about.
"Fine." He took a loud slurp of his coffee and put his cereal bowl in the sink. Worthy waited his son out, knowing that he was eagerly anticipating the day when Worthy would report his health as being other than fine.
Worthy sensed the usual hint of disappointment in his son's tone.
"Are we still on for dinner tomorrow night?"
"Yes, you want me there at six?"
"Six is fine, Dad. We thought dinner at the club would be nice. You need me to get you?"
"No need, Ted, I can still function and drive a car," Worthy replied testily.
"Come on, Dad, I was just offering a ride."
There was a pause. The air had definitely gone out of this conversation, and Worthy waited for it to end.
"You coming by the lot today?" Ted asked.
"You need me to?"
"No, we're fine," he replied hastily. "Just thought, you know, you haven't been by in a while. Have you seen the new models yet? We've got some beauties that will fly off the lot." It was clear Ted was wondering what his father did all day long on his own.
Worthy sat down in his old leather recliner that faced an empty fireplace. "Maybe next week, Ted." It was the same answer he always provided—not acting like a complete ass, and leaving the door open just a crack. Worthy knew "maybe next week" served its purpose for Ted. His son could justifiably report to anyone interested that he was reaching out, while at the same time praying his father stayed home and didn't interfere.
"Okay, well, we'll see you tomorrow night, Dad." Ted hung up.
Worthy put the phone down on the small side table. Ted was his only child, the one thing that he should be proudest of, something he and Christine created together out of love. Why was it then that he could barely force himself to like his son, let alone love him? The dinner was going to be torturous, and he was already starting to dread the inevitable train wreck that would happen. I should call back and cancel. I'm too old to waste time doing things I don't enjoy. Worthy glanced across the room at the framed picture of Christine, her lovely green eyes sparkling beneath the border of her gray hair. Her smile was still able to make his heart skip a beat.
"It's your fault," he mumbled with a pang of self-pity.
Worthy sat back in the comfortable leather chair, picked up the paper and a number two pencil, and started on the crossword puzzle. The radio droned on in the background as his pencil scratched on the newsprint.
* * *
Tom Fisher was tall and bent, with stooped shoulders and gangly legs that he never seemed to have grown into. When he walked, he moved jerkily, like a heron picking its way carefully across a marsh. He sprouted a thick thatch of white hair that never obeyed a comb, and his long face was deeply tanned from daily exposure to the elements. Tom was dressed in a dark-gray suit, the white of his starched shirt shining in the afternoon light. He walked around the back of Worthy's house and found his patient sitting in the shade on his flagstone patio.
"Thought you'd be out here," Tom said, folding himself gratefully into a wicker chair that was still sitting in the sun.
Worthy placed the book he was reading on a wrought iron table, next to a tumbler of whiskey. "Fine day, Tom, where else would I be?"
Tom's eyes roamed around the neat yard, with its apple tree guarding the back fence and the maple trees providing dappled shade to the patio. "Going to be a fine summer, Worthy."
Worthy stood and held up his glass. "Get you a drink?"
"Just one finger," Tom said, his face cracking into a smile. "I still have other patients to see. Showing up drunk may not do my reputation any good."
"On the other hand, it may improve your diagnostic abilities," Worthy said, walking to an outdoor bar set up on an antique dry sink. He picked up a decanter and poured the requested one finger into a crystal tumbler. He refilled his own glass, handed Tom his drink, and went back to his seat.
"Here's to fine spring days," Tom said, saluting Worthy.
Worthy took a sip and put his glass on the table, glancing quickly at the old watch on his wrist. "What brings you around, Tom? I thought my appointment was at four."
Tom had a battered old black leather briefcase, and he opened the flap and pulled out a folder. "I have your results here. It's such a fine day, thought I'd get some air." Tom would use any excuse to get out of his office, and making house calls was a good way to escape. Tom waved the thick file and opened it on his knees. Bending awkwardly forward, he fished a pair of reading glasses from his jacket pocket.
Worthy took another larger sip of his whiskey. "Am I going to live?"
"You will. How does it feel to be ninety?"
"I'm not ninety, Tom, just going to be eighty-eight. You're my doctor. Shouldn't you know these vital statistics?"
Tom grinned. "I was rounding up. Besides, I flunked math."
"Good to know. Anything I should be worried about?"
Tom closed the folder and sat back in the chair, squinting into the sun. It was very quiet, the muffled sound of a distant lawn mower being the only intrusion. A robin perched on the branch of an old maple appeared to be waiting for Tom to reply.
"You've never asked that before," Tom said.
"I've been your doctor going on fifty years, and never once have you asked if you should be worried about something. Is there something troubling you, Worthy?"
"I'm nearly ninety. I think the list of what I shouldn't worry about is a more efficient way to look at it."
"Your labs are fine. Blood sugar's a bit high, and I could be a damn fool and tell you to modify your diet, but you wouldn't listen. You still walking?"
"Good, keep it up."
They went through a checklist of his medications, and Tom repeated the yearly warnings about the evils of alcohol, smoking, sun exposure, too much fat/sugar/anything that tastes remotely good, and unprotected sex. Worthy told Tom he was his most compliant patient and he would take heed of the warnings, especially the one regarding unprotected sex, because at his age that was a real worry. They sat quietly for a few moments, reveling in the beauty of the afternoon.
Worthy took another sip of his drink, and Tom could see there was clearly something on his friend's mind.
"I'm thinking of taking a little trip ..." Worthy began tentatively.
They had known each other ever since Tom graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School and set up practice in Franklin Village, back in the early sixties. Worthy was one of his first patients and now his longest-living patient. Over the years, they had become good friends and seen their fair share of the good and the bad. A revelation from Worthy like "I'm thinking of taking a little trip" piqued his interest, as it could mean anything from a trip to the Upper Peninsula to a full-blown world cruise.
Worthy smiled slyly. "Just across the pond."
Tom nodded thoughtfully. Worthy was a WWII vet. He knew because the age was right and also because Worthy had referred to the war maybe a half-dozen times in the fifty years they had been friends. Tom also knew Worthy was involved in the Normandy Invasion.
"Nice time of year for a trip," Tom replied noncommittally.
"Something I need to do, and as you pointed out earlier, I'm getting old."
"You are old, Worthy," Tom retorted. "You passed getting old about twenty years ago."
"Funny, when did you take up comedy?" Worthy sat forward in his chair. "Think I can make the trip?"
"Alone?" Tom asked, his bushy eyebrows arched in surprise, sensing the anxiousness in his friend's posture.
"My options are limited here, Tom, and I need to do this."
Tom crossed one leg over the other and pulled at his lower lip, thinking. "I wouldn't recommend going it alone. Traveling at our age can be a major stress. What about Ted?"
Worthy shook his head. "We can barely stand each other for an hour. I'm thinking a trip of a few weeks would significantly alter my life expectancy."
Tom was well acquainted with the stormy history between Worthy and his only child, having heard an earful from both men over the years as he treated their physical ailments. What had started out with such promise had become a toxic situation for so long that Tom doubted either man could pinpoint exactly what their differences were or when they began.
"It's a long way to go on your own, Worthy," Tom warned.
"I know," Worthy replied with resignation.
"What about your grandkids?"
"I haven't exactly endeared myself to them over the years. Besides, I would need someone to help with the heavy lifting, and I'm not sure either would be up to it."
"Your grandson David is more than capable of doing the heavy lifting," Tom pointed out.
"David is so tied up in the business that I doubt Ted would let him go. Anyway, I doubt he would want to go—Normandy isn't exactly bursting with the lifestyle David seeks out."
"It wouldn't hurt to ask."
Worthy stood, poured another tumbler, and held up the decanter to Tom, who shook his head. He slowly sat in the chair, and Tom watched him gaze pensively at the shadows creeping across the backyard.
"David doesn't like me."
Tom shook his head. "He barely knows you, old friend. You have to give him time to get to know you—then he'll dislike you."
"He's like his dad—angry at everyone and everything," Worthy shot back.
Excerpted from Worthy McGuire by Tim McGee. Copyright © 2013 Tim McGee. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I felt like Worthy was my own grandfather fighting in WWII!! I could taste the baguettes and calvados. I felt like I was on the battlefield with him. I enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend it!
Loved the book. Characters were real; you'll laugh out loud, gasp at horrors of war and cry with joy. Look forward to more novels by this newly emerging author.
What a delightful and heartwarming story! Well told, great characters and truly believable. Many returning vets harbor stories of their survival that often go unheard. Despite the trials of enlisting his family's help, Worthy fulfills a long desired wish. To find and thank the one person who unknowingly saved his life.