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Mortality, Chapter 2

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There is no cure for birth or death, save to enjoy the interval.

-- George Santanyana

Jonah gave Sarah a sly look. He was about to give her a surprise and I hoped he was not going to let the cat all the way out of the bag.

"He is not really my little brother. He is my father."

I am sure I gave Jonah the "now look at what you have started" look. Sarah had this somewhat puzzled expression on her face.

"You're joking aren't you?" she asked, or maybe it was a statement. "You would have to be about..."

I could see her mind doing some quick math.

"You would have to be way past eighty, closer to ... wow!" She paused.

Jonah quickly nodded his head. "Yep, it's been a long, long, time since Dad saw eighty in his rear view mirror. He is literally my old man," he said with an even bigger grin.

Sarah was looking at me the same way she would a waffle that suddenly sprouted legs and starting dancing in the middle of the table.

"Mr. Christopher, you sure don't look anywhere near that old," she said.

She must have been struggling with believing this concept and needed an explanation, because she then asked:

"Come on, how old are you really?"

I stood up and grabbed my trouble making son by the arm.

"We take a lot of vitamins, by the handfuls," I said. "We need to go. Thanks for the waffles."

I hastily pushed Jonah from the kitchen, past the wooden grandmas and out the office door, the bell loudly proclaiming our exit, before she could ask me anything more.

Jonah laughed all the way to the motor coach. For just a minute I wished he were 6 instead of 10 times that. That way I would have a better way to express the displeasure I was feeling at that moment.

But all I said to him was, "Let's get packed up."

By the time most of the morning had passed, Jonah and I were finishing up all the inside and outside things that we needed to do to break down camp and take off.

Inside, we secured all loose items in their overhead compartments, fastened all cabinet doors, turned all seats around and returned them to their full upright positions. Outside, it was close to noon but still freezing. I dumped the tanks and packed up the sewer hose and the water hose. Both hoses fought being curled up and stuffed away like a couple of coldblooded creatures with minds of their own. Some fellow camper always walks over to watch you do this, but because the campground was practically frozen and deserted it was left up to Jonah to be my only observer.

I was still perturbed at him. I thought he had made light of "my secret." Jonah constantly tells me that I guard my age like an old woman. As I was fighting with the gray tank flush hose, I reminded him that on the rare occasion that my age or any number close to it is revealed to someone, either by accident or on purpose, it makes them and me uncomfortable. And people don't like being uncomfortable.

"That's kind of redundant isn't it?" he responded. "Not being comfortable being uncomfortable. Can you like being uncomfortable? Is it possible to be comfortable being uncomfortable? I need to ponder this," he said while holding his chin.

"Oh, shut up."

"Oh, lighten up little brother."

"That's not funny."

"I think it is. Come on, Dad, it was a logical mistake that allowed me to have a bit of fun. Why let it bother you? I am the one who should be upset. She thinks I am a 66-year-old man who looks 10 years older than his father who she thinks is about 90 years old. It's a funny situation."

"Not to me. What what do you think she would have done if you had told her just how old I really am?" I paused and answered my own question.

"She would have done what a person does when they think someone is crazy."

"We take vitamins. That was a good one, Dad," Jonah said. "I think she would want to know what kind. Let's go tell her!"

He laughed at me, again, obviously enjoying my displeasure with that idea.

"Just kidding. Come on, it's time to go. If we're heading back to Florida we need to get moving." He pasued. "We are heading back to Florida?"

"Eventually, but we are going to Cozy Acres first."

"Oh, so the next stop on this trip down memory lane has to be someplace cold?"

Our next stop was very cold indeed, and not just because of the weather.

We had stayed five days in Smithfield waiting for the weather to improve and for some mail, composed of a few bills, a couple of checks, and a package, ironically containing vitamins, to catch up with us.

We had stayed longer than I wanted to, so I was glad to be back on the road.

It was about a three-hour drive by car from Smithfield to Powhatan. It would take us a bit longer in a 39-foot-long motor coach, of course. We did not need to stop for fuel, neither for the coach nor for ourselves. We had plenty of gas and energy bars. Jonah was behind the wheel, I was in the copilot's seat, with Alex on my lap. He would sit there for awhile staring out the windshield and after a few minutes the passing trees would bore him, so he would usually end up on the floor, on his dog bed, happily chewing on a rawhide that he took from his stash that he keeps under the dining table.

Jonah said a quick prayer for a safe trip, and then loaded his King Crimson CD, into the player, fastened his seat belt, and pushed the yellow knob to release the parking brake. He slowly coached the coach out of its spot, glancing in the rear-view video monitor to make sure our towed car was following correctly, not wobbling back and forth.

"Okay, all looks good," he announced.

We drove past the office, Sarah unseen inside, and eased out of the campground. After a right turn onto the service road and after about a minute's drive we were zipping north on Interstate 95.

We were headed to a secluded and comfortable campground in Powhatan, Virginia. From there we would drive the car to a spot northeast of Richmond, named Cold Harbor. It had been a very long time since I was last there. Jonah had never been there and I wanted him to see the site of one of the bloodiest battles ever fought in any war. I also wanted him to travel with me to a country church cemetery not far from the battlefield.

There were many Civil War veterans of that terrible battle buried there, men from both sides of the conflict. Some men died on the battlefield. Some men died later, much later, but wished to be buried there. I planned to see the final resting place of one of those men.

I wanted to visit the grave of my father.

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