Nathan’s Private E-Journal, April 12th, 2014 : “Fathers and Sons” Part – II

The words “You don’t look like your sick or like or in any pain…” echo inside my head as I draw nearer to Ted’s father.

How many times had I heard those words?  And how many times did I want to lash out at the person who spoke them to me?  Of course back then I hadn’t changed and didn’t have the strength to strike back.  But these days I’m a different man.  The pain and limitations Fibromyalgia caused me are but distant memories, but I never forget anything these days.

Oh it might take me a moment or two to sort through a century and a half of accumulated memories, but it’s all there.  There’s not a name, a face, or an event I’ve been part of or witness to that I cannot recall in vivid detail.  I can even recall things from before I was changed that were locked away in the deepest recesses of my brain, including the looks or hints of disappointment from my father for my apparent weaknesses.  They still sting as much now as they did back then, but I loved him nonetheless.  And now I remind myself that Ted loves his father, so I restrain my impulse to grab the man by one hand and shake some sense into him.

Instead I stop just before the man and say politely, “Please, come inside with me.  Both of you.  There’s some things I’d like to show you.”

Without waiting for a response I walk towards the end of the building we’re in front of that happens to house my private club “The Crypt”.  Behind me I hear Ted’s tired footsteps follow.  A second later, his father joins us.

In a few minutes the three of us are safely ensconced around one of the table inside the empty club.  It’s a weekday which means the place is not open to the public.  Which makes it the perfect setting for a difficult but heartfelt talk.  Or at least, that’s what I hope to keep things.  A part of me is still sorely tempted to unleash a portion of my mist form so I can enter Ted’s father and let him experience my memories of what Fibromyalgia feels like.  The old saying about walking in another’s shoes may be just what the fellow needs.  Yet, I restrain my impulse.  Ted is not aware of what I am and it wouldn’t be right to risk revealing my ‘unusual’ nature to him by doing something to his father.  Still, if things don’t go the way I think they should…

“So what do you want to show me?” Ted’s father asks gruffly.

Staring at the man I quietly take his measure.  Like my own father, he’s tall and well-built.  His solid figure tells me he’s a man who’s enjoyed many sports and strives to keep in shape.  But now I’m sensing something else, deep below the surface… physical discomfort.

Suddenly, everything becomes much clearer to me.  I begin by saying, “As I said earlier, Fibromyalgia is quite real.  And is it not just a condition suffered by women.  Men have it as well.”

“Yeah, you mentioned you have it,” the man snaps, but there’s a trace of unease in his voice.  “Besides yourself, name one other man who has it.”

“Morgan Freeman, the golden actor himself,” I reply and wait.  The effect of my words has on him is clearly visible.  Before he can respond I continue by adding, “Michael James Hastings, another actor  who retired because of his struggle with the condition.”

Ted’s father looks stunned, “He played Captain Mike on ‘The West Wing’.  I loved that show.”

“Many people have it,” I continue, “To differing degrees.  Some can be crippled by the pain, others find different ways of coping through exercise, nutrition, medicines to help them sleep better.  But the bottom line is that its a musculo-skeletal condition with no ‘magic bullet’ cure.  It’s a condition where pain is your constant companion.  Many days you can get through the day, but others are harder.  And some are just so bad you can barely get out of bed.”

The man looks at his son for a moment and then asks, “Is that true?  Those days you complain about getting up aren’t just because you don’t feel like going to school?”

Ted has the good sense to not be sarcastic and simply nods.

His father turns back to look at me.  “How do I know you’re telling the truth?”

“You can look it up online,” I tell him.  “It’s all there.  There’s even sites by these men and others who can attest to how difficult it is to live with the condition.”  With that I get up and retrieve my laptop and set it up for him.  As I do so, I give Ted an encouraging nod towards the piano.  Obediently, he gets up and takes the guitar case with him.

Meanwhile I sit back down and watch as his father starts Googling the men I mentioned along with others.  For twenty minutes he says nothing, and I do not break the silence.  I merely wish that I’d had such resources to show my own father, back in the day.   Would it have made things better?  I don’t know.  Maybe, maybe not.  As I said before, he did love me.  He just couldn’t always understand why I was the way I was sometimes.

Finally, Ted’s father looks up at me with a pained expression.  “Okay, you convinced me.  It’s real and men can get it.  But why do you believe my boy has it?”

I answer quietly, “Why can’t you believe it?  You mentioned football earlier.  Was that your sport?  Were you simply hoping he’d follow in your footsteps?”

“NO!” the man thunders as his face turns crimson.  Then his expression softens as he explains, “I just want my son to have a chance at a good school.”

Now things suddenly become clear to me. “Things are tight, I take it?” I say in a voice so low only he can hear me.

The man nods.  “Like my son mentioned earlier, his mother has Fibromyalgia and can’t work.  So it’s mainly down to me to bring in money, but she does try.  She does art and sells stuff on the internet.  And she’s brings in some good money and we’re doing all right…”

“But, the prospects for sending Ted to college aren’t so bright,” I supply quietly.

“Exactly.  We make too much to get him a Board of Governor’s waiver, but not enough to really be able to pay for the classes over at the community college, much less a university.”

Just then the strands of a guitar playing fills the air.  It’s a sweet gentle melody, played with great tenderness and skill.

The tune has an effect on my companion who closes his eyes and becomes lost in the tune until the song ends.

“He’s very good,” I remark as the final strums fade away.

“I don’t question that,” my companion replies.  “But, is that going to be enough to get him anywhere?”

Smiling I turn to Ted, who is tuning the guitar ever so slightly.  “Are you up to a little ‘Classical Gas’?”

The boy’s face lights up as he adjusts the strap on his shoulder.  Meanwhile, his father is staring in shock.  “I love that song!  Can he really play it?”

Before I can answer, the familiar tune starts up with all the speed and skill it is known for.  Ted’s father’s eyes widen as his son’s fingers fly over the strings with precision and dexterity that makes the instrument sing.

Neither of us says a word until the song is finished, at which point Ted stretches his fingers and massages them slightly.  It obviously took some out of him, but he’s grinning from ear to ear.

His father begins to applaud and goes over to his son.  The two begin having a talk.  A real talk.  And although I try not to listen, I of course hear everything.  It lasts for several hours.  The results I’m pleased to say are better than I’d hoped. Ted doesn’t have to give up the guitar.  However, his father does confess his concerns to help pay for his son’s future education.

At this point, I see the first rays of sunlight seeping through the window that peers out into the alley.  Although I’m quite safe here in the club, I’m certain Ted’s mother is quite worried about what has become of her husband and son.

Standing up, I wander over to the pair and casually mention some connections I have over in San Francisco with a certain music conservatory which has a wonderful guitar ensemble.  “I’m certain that if Ted keeps this up, he’d qualify for ‘assistance’.  Plus, there’s the money he can earn here at the club helping out at the turntables.”

Father and son look at me questioningly.

Smiling I explain, “Your son has helped out as a stand in DJ here at the club on a number of occasions.  I’ve been thinking about asking him to come on board regularly, provided it doesn’t interfere with his schoolwork.  And before you ask, YES, he’s as good at that as he is on the guitar.”

Ted looks at his father questioningly, while the older man replies, “Let me think on it.  I appreciate what you’re offering him, but I’ve had a lot to take in already tonight.  I’d like a little time to talk things over with my son and my wife.”

I nod.  “That’s fine.  It’s a standing offer.  Take however long you all need.”

“Thank you,” the big man says and holds out a hand which I accept with feeling.  “By the way, I’m George.”

“Nathan,” I tell him, “And I’m very glad we got to a chance to talk.”

“Me too,” he smiles and then says, “I think we’ve taken up enough of your time and we need to get home.  Ted, let’s go grab your guitar.  I’m sure your mother will be worried sick about us.”

Ted smiles and the two of them head over to the piano where the guitar and its case await.

As I watch them, a part of me wonders what it would’ve been like to have such a moment of acceptance from my own father.  Then as if in answer I feel a hand on my shoulder.  Turning I see no one’s there.  But that’s all right.  I know it was real, and who’s hand it was.  Some things you never forget, and as I said before I never forget anything.  Especially not my father’s way of letting me know when he was proud of me…

Nathan’s Private E-Journal, April 12th, 2014 – “Fathers and Sons”

I was making my way back to “The Crypt”, after having visited my family’s plot tonight.  Everything was just as I’d left it a few months ago.  Except for the weeds which I made short work of.  And of course the flowers needed a little freshening up, so I circled the graves and released some of my green mist, which brought them back into a healthy bloom.  

Went inside the mansion briefly because I thought I saw a figure at one of the windows.  A small figure… holding a… never mind.  I didn’t find anyone inside, so I headed back towards town.

Naturally, my thoughts drifted to the days of my youth, before I left for the war.  Unfortunately, not all my memories were happy ones.  Mind you I have a lot of good memories, but there are a few involving my father that still sting from time to time.  He loved me, of that I have no doubts.  Heaven knows he told me and showed me enough times, but there were some days when I could see and sense his disappointment in me.  I wasn’t always the son he really wanted me to be, but I had limitations that he couldn’t understand at the time.  Of course, I no longer suffer those problems these days, but it would’ve been nice to let him see how far I’d come.

I had just reached the downtown area of Pointer, when I spotted a figure carrying a guitar case I knew only too well.  It was young Teddy and he was looking pretty down as he walked.  Concerned I started to quicken my pace, only to be passed by a car which pulled up next to my young friend.  Immediately, a man got out of the car and started scolding my young friend rather vociferously. 

Even though they’re a fair distance from where I’m standing, my hearing is exceptionally keen and I hear everything as if I was standing right there with them.

“I told you it could wait until tomorrow,” the older man says in a very annoyed voice.  “But, no, you have to make a scene.”

“You were already making a scene by yelling at me in front of everyone, Dad!” Ted shot back.

I wince at that.  Family arguments have never been my favorite thing to walk in on, much less be a part of.  I consider taking a different route home at that point but then Ted’s father says, “I told you not bother with getting a guitar months ago.  It’s not going to win you any scholarships for college.  Now if you’d get into football like I keep telling you…””Dad I’ve got Fibromyalgia, I don’t have the…”

“That’s a made up thing, and even if it was real, only girls and women get it,” his father yells, cutting him off.

That tore it for me.  Suddenly, the scenery on either side of me blurs and in the blink of an eye I find myself standing next Ted and his father.  

Luckily the two are so focused on each other neither even notice that I’ve suddenly appeared on the scene.  “Good evening, gentlemen,” I say clearing my throat meaningfully to get their attention.

Ted reacts first.  “Oh, hello, Mr. Backman.  I was just coming to return the guitar you loaned me,” he says in a quiet voice.

“Whatever for?  Don’t tell me you’ve given up playing?  You’re really good,” I tell him, mainly because it’s true.  But I also know what playing music does for him.  It gives him a way of forgetting about his Fibromyalgia for a while.  Everyone who fights a daily battle like his needs a coping mechanism and I don’t want to see him lose this particular one.

“He’s not going to have time to be playing music,” his father replies, before Ted can speak.  “I appreciate the fact that you let him practice with that thing, but it’s not helping.”

“Not helping?” I repeat curiously.  “From what Ted has told me in the past, it helps him deal with his condition…”

“He doesn’t have a condition, he’s just too lazy and delicate,” his father cuts in again.

I nod and reply, “It’s my understanding he has Fibromyalgia.  Is that not the case?”

“Fibromyalgia, if it exists at all…”

“For crying out loud, Dad.  Mom has it, you said so yourself,” Ted exclaims.  

“Of course she has, but it’s a condition women get, not men!” his father explodes. 

“I have it,” I say quietly. “In fact I’ve had it all my life, even when I was little.  Growing pains they called it.  Told me I’d grow out of it, but I never did.  It’s been my constant companion every day of my life.”

Ted’s father studies me for a moment and then says, “You don’t look like your sick or in any pain.”

“Looks can be deceiving,” I reply cryptically and take a step towards him.

****TO BE CONTINUED****

Nathaniel’s Blog January 7th, 2014 “A Night At The Crypt”

First off, a note from the author. Due to health issues (back problems with a pinched nerve) and being very busy with recording and editing audios (which will soon include short stories involving Nathan and company), I haven’t been as productive on the story front. Aside from trying to focus on the next book in this series “The Vampyre Blogs – Family Ties”, and “The Door”, I’m limited in what I can do at this time. So for the next few months there will be re-posts of some of the earliest stories about Nathan and friends. However, I will also be posting to sneak peeks into TVB – Family Ties as well. So please enjoy this tale from seven years ago (wow, it’s really been that long since I started some of these – I’m amazed).  Any happy reading and stay safe everyone…

At The Crypt…

Brian talked me into taking the night off from transcribing more letters, and going to my dance club.  It’s an older building.  One of many I purchased during the Depression.  Like many I felt the pinch of the stock market collapse, but I wasn’t destroyed by it.  I lost a fair amount mind you, but I never kept all my eggs in one basket.  For one thing gold never goes out of style, no matter how bad things get.  Nor do diamonds and other fine jewels.  Plus I had investments that did not suffer, especially those overseas.

Not that I’ve had to worry about money for some time.  I don’t have as many needs to spend money on, and I’ve had many jobs over the years which paid nicely.  What can I say, I like to keep busy doing things and learning new trades and skills.  It also helped that my first wife also left me quite well off.  Ah Madeline, even after 110 years I still miss her.  She was a wonderful woman and we enjoyed our time together.  Benjamin Franklin was quite right in his advice to a young man about being with an older woman, I learned so much from her.  Unfortunately, it also meant our time together was not nearly as long as I would’ve liked. 

These days however, I’m surrounded by younger women all the time.  Which is only natural.  It’s hard to find someone your own age when you’re a 167.  Many are in their teens, some in their twenties, with the occasional 30 or 40 year old as well.  I admire them all, but keep myself somewhat distant.  Sex is still quite enjoyable, even being what I am.  But I’ve learned to be careful about who I partner up with for the pleasure. 

But tonight, I’m just enjoying the company of the crowd itself.  Love watching excitement and pleasure they get from being in a place where everyone knows they’re safe and can and enjoy themselves.

I’ve just finished running the turntables and turning them over to my main DJ “The Scar Man”.  Former gang -banger I met a few years back.  He’s a great guy and helps keep an eye out on  the younger crowd for me.  I prefer things being friendly around my place, not that there aren’t the occasional upsets and punches thrown.  After all, a lot of my clientele are in their teens.  Hormones are running rampant, and status is oh so important.  

They mostly patrol themselves, because they know better than to have me intercede. If a weapon comes out, then I’m all over them before they know it.  God knows I’ve been stabbed by or even shot by accident more than once.  Most of the culprits freak out because they can’t believe what they’d just done.  A rare few, don’t care and even make another attempt to get past me.  They learn the hard way.  I make sure they never pull a weapon on anyone ever again, unless their own life or someone else’s is at stake.  I try not to be stupid with my powers.   Not everyone is as long-lived or hard to kill as I am.

Tonight, I see trouble brewing but of the lesser kind.  

Over in one corner a boy named Teddy is asking the head cheerleader for a dance.  I’ve watched Teddy for a while.  He’s not one of my nephews, but he’s friends with a few.  He’s a good kid, on the quiet side, not good at sports and certainly not a stoner.  So in short, a prime ‘bully’ target.  When he was younger, I heard he cried a lot when he got picked on which led to getting beat up.  Although others intervened on those occasions, he seemed to suffer more than one would expect from a few simple punches.  These days I think I know why.  And now I see the football’s quarterback Cory coming over with a few of his buddies.

He grabs Teddy and gives him a body check that sends him into a couple of chairs.  Teddy hits the ground hard.  I pass through the crowd without their even realizing it.  Not one gyration or step is missed as I pass between the smallest of openings.

I’m standing before Cory and his friends before they can let out their first guffaw.  Their mouths clamp shut instantly.  I glance down at Teddy who is clenching his teeth in pain.  I can tell from here there’s only going to be a bruise or two, but I know what’s really going on.  I had it when I was a kid, only we didn’t have a name for it back then.

Cory starts telling me that he’d warned Teddy about bothering Sherry, the cheerleader.  They’re not actually dating, but he’s one of those alpha males who thinks they are destined to be a couple.  Someone’s been watching too many movies.

I nod and tell him he’s not in trouble with me.  But I also point out that I know for a fact that he’s been riding Ted since elementary school.  That’s another benefit of being around for so long, you hear a lot of things. “While I’m glad you’ve channeled your more aggressive nature into sports, it doesn’t give you free pass for tormenting those who are ill,” I tell him.

He gives me an incredulous look.  “What are you talking about?  He’s just a drama-queen who likes to have people feeling sorry for him,” he shoots back.

Turning to Ted I ask, “How bad is your Fibromyalgia acting up today?  What are the pain levels like?”

The young man stares at me in shock.  “You know?”

I nod and say, “Of course I do.  Takes one to know one.  I had it back when I was a kid.  I suspect you have too.”

“Yeah,” he tells me and looks away.  “It’s been this way my whole life.  They only diagnosed me with it two years ago.  Everyone kept telling me I was a crybaby, or a wimp who needed to toughen up.  My dad kept telling me I needed to be a man.  He never believed me until the doctor’s told him what was wrong.  He still doesn’t, but Mom does.  So do my sisters.”

Behind me I hear one of Cory’s crew muttering, “Shit!  My mom’s got that.”

I reach down and help Ted up onto a chair.  He hurts more than he’s letting on, but I can sense it.  One of the other cheerleaders, comes over and sits down with us.  I remember her name is Tina.  She’s one of the back-up cheerleaders.  She starts telling Ted that she knows where he’s coming from and that she has it too.  Which is why she’s a second-stringer.  Her ability to perform is erratic some days.

I leave them all to sort things out amongst themselves.  A few friendships may arise from this, even possibly a romantic relationship.  Mostly I’m hoping to see tolerance come from this encounter.  Invisible illnesses can be quite a difficult thing to contend with.  Both for the person suffering it, as well as for others to recognize.

My own father never fully recognized it in me, but I learned to hide it with time.  He wanted a son who was strong and able.  I did my best for years to live up to that expectation.  It was also one of the prime reasons I went to war, besides wanting to protect my friends.  I no longer feel those old pains at least not physically.  But I remember them as well as if they were still plaguing me.  I can’t do anything for the physical pain, Ted is feeling, but at least I may have lessened some of the others he’s known for so long.

I glance back once more.  Cory and most of his crew have moved on, but Tina is still with Ted.  They seem to be getting on pretty well.

Katy Perry’s “Roar” is winding down, so I head over to the keyboard.  A little slow dance music seems to be in order.