This is the moment
It’s on the line
Which way you gonna fall?
In the middle between
Wrong and right
But you know after all
It’s your life–what you gonna do?
The world is watching you
Every day the choices you make
Say what you are and who your heart beats for
It’s an open door
It’s your life – Francesca Battistelli
“Dylan, get your butt down here. You’re going to miss your ride to school,” Mom yelled up the stairs.
It wasn’t too much of a threat. I didn’t mind biking to school, especially if it got me extra sleep or time in the shower.
“If you are not down here in two minutes, I am sending up your sister,” Dad yelled, likely after he didn’t hear my footsteps on the stairs. Now, that was a real threat. It really didn’t matter which sister he sent. They weren’t bad all the time, but I had no intention of listening to which boys my twelve-year-old sister thought were cute or listening to my seven-year-old sister to sing the latest song from the latest boy band she “Loooooved.”
Her word. Not mine.
I sped up my movements when I heard the telltale sound of feet in the hallway, worried Dad actually made good on his threat to send one or worse, both, of them up. Fortunately, it was the voice of my youngest sibling, my brother Ryder, who entered the room.
“Dinosaur said, ‘Delly’s next,’” he proclaimed. That sure got me moving. There was no way my head could handle her singing this early in the morning. She had inherited mom’s singing ability, or as my father liked to tease, inability.
Yes, my father was still called ‘Dinosaur,’ by his children. I guess each of us did it just long enough for the next to catch on. Of course, Dad, Daddy, Daddio, or any other variant of the term was used as well. When I heard my siblings call him that though, it brought a smile to my face. It was a part of my family history I was glad didn’t die as I aged out. I learned I nearly melted both of my parents’ hearts when I called my father, ‘Dad,’ for the first time, but in my head when I came up with the term ‘Dinosaur,’ it was the first time I acknowledged him as my father.
And he has been a great one ever since.
“We can’t have that, can we?” I asked as I finished getting dressed.
“Please, no!” He agreed dramatically. No idea where he got that from. It wasn’t as if there were no dramatic people in our family from whom he could have either inherited or learned the behavior.
It was that there were too many possibilities.
I scooped him up, prepared to carry him down the stairs for faster transport. My four-year-old brother was having none of that, though, as he wiggled until I put him down. He was someone who loved to express his independence. As the baby and, likely the last baby at that, he was far more independent than my parents and sisters, and for me, too, would have liked. That was our Ryder though.
“Okay, man,” I told him, setting him down.
“Race you!” He shouted before he started to run down the stairs. There was really no point in even trying to stop him. Of course, he won, which I may or may not have let happen. I followed just close enough behind that I would have been able to catch him if he fell, but far back enough so he was able to yell, “I won! I won!” once we got to the bottom.
“Were you racing down the stairs?” Mom asked as she came into view eating a piece of toast.
“No, Mommy,” Ryder said with the most innocent face he could muster.
Of course, he got a smile. I got a glare after I also claimed, “No, Mommy.” It could have been the fact that I hadn’t managed to catch Ryder before he went running down the stairs. It also could have been that I pulled the toast out of her hand and started to much on it myself.
I was halfway out the door when she yelled, “Hey!”
“Sorry, Mom,” I said as I turned to her with a smile. “I gotta go. I’m going to be late for my ride.” Upon seeing the look on her face, I turned and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. “I’ll see you tonight,” I told her.
She nodded and said, “Merlotte’s at six.”
“Hunter still coming?”
“As far as I know.”
I was happy to hear my cousin was coming. I hadn’t seen him in a few months. Hunter was a little over a year older than me. I think I was like seven or eight when we met him. Mom had known of his existence for a few years and had hemmed and hawed, reaching out to his father, especially because she had no idea what was going on with his mother, Hadley. She eventually decided to reach out and finding him hadn’t taken too much time. We saw him often enough for him to be my favorite person for a bit. He had even lived with us for a while.
Remy, his father, had been addicted to drugs like my parents had been and like Hadley still was for all we knew. Like my parents, Remy had decided to sober up after Hunter had been born. Unlike my parents, he had relapsed a few years ago. Hunter had come to stay with us, being the closest family he had. It wasn’t easy the first few weeks. He was angry his father had relapsed, and my parents had managed stay sober. He was angry my parents decided to become sober when they learned about me and his mother did not. He held a great deal of anger and as hard as it was to deal with, I couldn’t say I blamed him. Me and my siblings were in a very fortunate situation. Hunter hadn’t been so lucky.
As soon as my mother learned Hunter had never been in therapy she signed him up. It didn’t go over well and ended with me and my two sisters (Ryder hadn’t been born yet), spending the night at my uncles’. In the end, Hunter went to therapy and slowly began to learn how handle his anger in more positive ways. By the time a year had passed, and he was working back to living with his father full time, the two of them had been to therapy both separately and together.
“It’ll be good to see him.”
“It will,” my mom said as she took the last bite of toast from me. “Love you,” she said as she closed the door in my face.
Me, her first-born son.
I made my way to the car where Dad waited with my sisters. It appeared even though I made it down the stairs in decent time, I was still doomed to hear Delly’s rendition of every song that came on the radio as we drove to school. Fortunately, my other sister, Annie, didn’t join in. She actually could carry a tune well, but when combined with Delly’s inability…it was not pleasant.
“Dad, can’t you make it stop?” I asked, not that I really meant it. It was just a running joke in our family.
“I would not even if I wanted,” he replied. “Sing louder, Adele Northman,” Dad yelled.
By the looks on the faces of the people at school once we arrived, they all heard the four of us singing at the top of our lungs as we pulled up. There are some who might be embarrassed about something like that. On some level, a tiny bit of me was, but I also knew my life could never be complete without it. One or both of my parents could have not been in my life, which meant my siblings would never have been born. Hell, if things had gone differently, I wouldn’t be here. So, as embarrassing as it sometimes was, I knew the other possibilities and they weren’t anything I wanted.
“Merlotte’s at six,” Dad said as we left the car.
“I know. Mom reminded me. I’ll be there,” I said as Delly took my hand. I walked my sisters in to their building before I crossed the sports field and entered mine. Bon Temps was a small enough town that the school buildings were all on the same property. Elementary, middle, and high schools were all separate buildings, but all on the same property.
Tonight was my eighteenth birthday. Coincidentally, today was also the day I would get my latest blood test back. I don’t remember too much about having cancer, just really remembered not feeling well, fortunately. Like my parents had managed to stay sober, my cancer had stayed in remission. Once again, we were some of the fortunate ones. Some doctors considered you ‘cured’ after five years remission. We knew, though, the possibility was always there, so I still got tested at least annually to ensure if it did come back, we caught it early.
I was a bit nervous about having a party planned the day I got my results back was a bit of a jinx, but what did I know? My parents told me this was going to be a small family dinner to celebrate my birthday…and another clean bill of health. First, with my aunts and their two children, Uncle Jason with his wife and son, and then Hunter, it might have been a family dinner, but it wouldn’t be small. Second, I knew my family. We celebrated everything, and we celebrated it well. I doubted it would just be family or, at least, not just family we were related to by blood. The family we chose would likely be there, too.
School was school. I was looking forward to next year where I could focus more on what I wanted to do in my future. I wanted to go into the electricity and plumbing trades. Like my father and uncle, I liked working with my hands. I hoped my skills would add to the construction business they started. Dad hadn’t steered me in that direction, it was something I decided myself. Aunt Pam, on the other hand, tried to steer her daughter and my sisters into her interior design company. Who knew if any of them would bite? My dad and aunt made quite the team. He restored or built houses and she decorated them. It was our little family business…that really wasn’t so little.
I braced myself after I was dropped off in Merlotte’s parking lot. I knew what was coming. As soon as Mom asked me if I could get a ride, I knew it was going to be bigger than I asked for. It was funny because my mom hated the anticipation of the celebrations where we honored her, yet she had no problem subjecting anyone else to them.
“Surprise!” Came the shouts when I entered. As big as I knew it would be, it was even bigger. Mom and Dad must have rented the place. Family was there. The doctors who had become our friends and then our extended family were there. A few of my friends who knew my crazy family were there, too. It was so much more than I had even imagined.
Ryder and Delly ran at me, wrapping their arms around me wherever they could reach. Annie, Mom, and Dad came toward me at a slower pace, albeit not much. They wrapped their arms around me and Mom whispered, “Happy Birthday, my healthy baby boy!”
I pulled back and looked at her, “Really?”
“It’s in a card, so I am ruining a present, but your numbers are great. No sign of cancer.”
I let out a huge sigh of relief, releasing more stress than I knew I had been holding. I had been in remission for much more than a decade, but for whatever reason, my eighteenth birthday somehow marked an important milestone in my head. I knew there was no logic for it. I knew it could always come back or I could get a different illness, but for whatever reason, it was the milestone in my mind.
I made it!
“Let’s celebrate!” I yelled. So, we did.
I had to admit, it was a great party and I was sorry when it ended. That’s always how it was, despite the annoying anticipation.
As we walked out, I moved to get into the car. “No, sorry,” Mom said, and I looked at her, confused. “You are not riding in this vehicle tonight.”
“You want me to walk home?” I asked.
“That is not quite what she said,” Dad said. I turned around, suddenly noticing he held out a key while he leaned against a truck.
My mouth dropped, but I managed to ask, “Is that mine?” It wasn’t brand new, but that was better anyway. I could learn how to work on it and they didn’t build trucks now like they used to.
“Happy Birthday,” my parents said as my mother skipped over to stand next to my father. I couldn’t say which of us was more excited, but that would have been a lie. It was her and it was something I would never take away.
“We’ll meet you back home,” my mom said with a wink, taking my father’s hand, and walking to their car.
I was still in disbelief, having my own car. It was something I had really wanted, yet never really asked for. I got in the car and followed my parents home. She drove like a dream and I swore to keep her that way.
“Okay, if you are under ten it’s time for bed,” Mom commanded when I entered the house, just in time to hear Ryder and Delly moan.
“Do we have to?” Delly whined.
“Unfortunately, you do,” my father said. “But if you can get dressed in your pajamas and brush your teeth in under five minutes, I will read you two stories tonight,” he added, which caused the stampede, off and running up the stairs.
“We aren’t supposed to encourage them running on the stairs,” mom said.
“I did not. I encouraged them to go to bed…so we could go to bed,” he explained as he wiggled his eyebrows at her. She made a sound no son should ever hear his mother make before my father swept her up in his arms and started kissing her.
“Ewwww!” Annie whined.
“You still have two children in the room,” I pointed out.
“And just how do you think you got here?” Dad asked as he pulled back from Mom.
“But we don’t have to see it,” I explained.
“Dylan, will you read tonight?” Ryder’s voice called down the stairs.
Saved again by my younger brother!
“Sure,” I said, running up the stairs, eager to leave my parents downstairs…and not think about whatever they might be doing. I heard Annie running up behind me. She still liked being read to but was at the age where she didn’t want people knowing she did. Of course, she could have simply been trying to escape our parents like me.
It was Delly’s bed where we found the two, little rugrats after we went upstairs. They each chose a book and played ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ to see whose choice was read first. As I sat down and prepared to read, Annie sat down beside me and rested her head on my shoulder. Ryder and Delly both changed their positions, so they could rest on my chest and still see the pictures.
After I finished the first book, I noticed my parents where they stood quietly in the doorway just watching us. Mom’s eyes were clearly holding back tears and I was almost positive my father was, too.
“We thought you would want to be out with your friends tonight,” Dad said.
“Especially after your last present,” Mom said.
I shook my head, “I’ll see them tomorrow night. There isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be tonight.” They smiled and looked at each other before sharing a kiss, a small one for them, and came to sit on the floor next to the bed. We took turns being different characters for the book Ryder chose. It was his favorite, so we all knew it by heart.
Some other eighteen-year-olds, especially ones who were just given cars, wouldn’t be spending the night of their eighteenth birthdays with their families. Of course, most eighteen-year-olds are not at a point in their lives where they could understand how fragile families are. It could be an addiction, an illness, or a car accident, and your life will change forever.
That was the reason I chose the third book from Delly’s bookshelf and continued reading to my family. We continued reading to each other.
My family had had some dark times, but we were always there to show each other the path back to the light. The road of life may be winding, but we knew we never had to travel down the road alone.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I certainly hope you like where we leave them! Thanks so much for reading and I very much appreciate all the feedback you lovely readers have left. Thanks so much!
This story wouldn’t be the same without the help and support from MsBuffy. I very much appreciate all her work, all her help, and her friendship.
I wish I could say that I had another story on the way but I don’t…not yet anyway. Up until last week I didn’t have any ideas. I am kicking one around now but can’t promise anything. But I still hope you’ll watch for updates in case that pans out…or some other tale does…or I just feel like saying hello.
Take care 💕