That September morning started off as an ordinary day. Regina cooked breakfast for Robert, kissed him goodbye, and then got her children ready for the day: breakfast, school for Jax, and errands and chores for her and Millie.
She and Robert had a “slight difference of opinion” (as her mom liked to refer to marital discord) that morning as they ate breakfast. She gave in and then wondered why she ever argued with Robert. Marriage was a definite process of compromise—mostly filled with her compromises, too.
“Regina, when Jax gets home this afternoon, you’re gonna have to help him with his homework. I’m not gonna get off ‘til at least 7, and he needs to be finished with it and ready for bed by 8.”
“Robert, he’s not gonna want me to help him, you know that....”
“I know, but I won’t have time to do it tonight. Just tell him he has no choice. I know what’s really wrong; it’s because you don’t wanna look at those school books. But, Regina, I won’t be home in time. You gotta help him.”
“I can’t just drop everything at that time of day and sit down to do homework. I’ve got supper to get ready, laundry to finish, and Millie won’t be still long enough for me to help Jax.”
“Yes she will, just give her something to play with. Give her that book I brought home from work the other day. It won’t matter if she writes on it, or colors it, that’ll keep her busy while you help Jax. We don’t have a choice today, Regina.”
The resolute tone in his voice told her there wasn’t anything to discuss further. She sighed.
Yes, marriage required constant compromise.
She decided as soon as she finished her morning’s errands that she would give her mom a call as she made lunch for Robert. Because they lived in town, the mill was only a 6-minute drive from their house. It was convenient for Robert to go to work and come home for lunch. But that also meant fixing lunch and supper for a man with a big appetite.
Maybe after talking to her mom, she could find a way to bridge their morning’s differences. Millie would be ready to take a nap soon, and she would have a few quiet minutes to herself.
This is really something I’ve got to deal with; I have children, and I’m gonna have to help them with their schoolwork. I just wish it didn’t bring back feelings of frustration and anger. And I get upset with them…it’s not fair. Maybe talking it over with mom will help.
With her day carefully planned, Regina ran errands and made time for a quick stop by the Krusty Kup. She enjoyed going by the diner for coffee and an opportunity to catch the latest gossip.
The Krusty Kup was on the corner of the courthouse square. It was the social gathering place for Polk Ridge and was often filled to capacity when court was in session. Most of the buildings that surrounded the courthouse were as old as the courthouse itself, and the Krusty Kup was no different. The renovated windows of the Krusty Kup were enlarged and were now solid sheets of glass, allowing patrons to view the square’s activity as they munched on food or simply gathered for a morning cup of coffee.
The inside of the restaurant was filled with the sounds and smells of conversation, cooks and waitresses completing orders, and the smell of coffee and delicious food. Breakfast was served all day, but from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., there was fried chicken, steak with gravy and a smorgasbord of garden vegetables.
Regina never missed an opportunity to gather with other townspeople. She loved the food and the conversation there. It was always a welcome change from the solitary existence of a housewife and mother.
After her morning stop by the Krusty Kup, she pulled into the driveway just a few minutes before 10 a.m., with a sleepy Millie and lunch on her mind. She carried the sleepy little girl in the house and laid her on the couch. Just as she headed out the front door to retrieve the bags from the morning’s shopping, Robert pulled in.
Why’s he home so early? Wonder if something happened at work? Surely he didn’t get laid off, or worse—fired.
The early ‘80s were not a prosperous time for many sawmills, especially one in Polk Ridge.
He never left early or missed work. He was as steady as the morning sunrise, and Regina always gave thanks to her Maker for the blessing that Robert was to her life, even when they disagreed.
He never got out of the truck but called out to her.
“Regina, you need to come quick, there’s something wrong with your momma.”
“What’s wrong with her? I’ve got Millie asleep on the couch. What do I need to do?”
“Just get your purse. I’ll get Millie. We need to get over there.”
He didn’t tell her the whole truth. There was no need to say anything until he knew exactly what happened. Floyd had been nearly incoherent when he called. Robert told him to just hang up and go see about Louise. Before he left though, he asked the lady in the guard shack to call the ambulance and gave her the address to their home.
Once again, Regina faced a blurred recollection of events. She scarcely remembered getting into the truck with Robert or arriving at her parent’s home.
She would, however, forever recall the sight of her mother lying on the living room couch, resting peacefully in death and the sobs of her father for the loss of his wife. Her mother had suffered a massive stroke, a cerebral aneurysm, sometime during mid-morning. When Floyd returned from his trip to town, he found her lying just as she was now, already gone. Regina remembered the look of desolation and grief that consumed her dad. He seemed to grow much older at that moment. His shoulders were hunched in defeat, his eyes hollow and face drawn.
The arrangements and events of the following days left Regina once again feeling bereft, in a sea of confusion. She had now lost two of the most important people in her life, women that had shaped and formed her early years, her mom to death and Jorja to the military.
Jorja wasn’t able to come home for the funeral, but thanks to Maureen, Regina managed to cope. It took weeks, though, before her grief finally subsided and she could sleep at night without waking up to tears and remorse for not calling her mother before she ran errands that day.
I should’ve taken five minutes to call her before I went to town. I didn’t know it was gonna be my last chance to say “I love you”.
She learned another valuable lesson that colored her actions for years: Seize the moment. Never let the opportunity to tell someone how you feel pass by. It may never come again.
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