I watched him drive away. My memory flooded with images of a small towheaded boy who was so meticulous about how he put his toys away; until he became a teen, that is. Then it became a fight to get him to clean anything. I was lucky though. That was the most trouble he had ever caused me.
I was so proud of him as he grew. He was my reason for living. Especially after his father had died. That was a tough time for both of us. My husband had been my true love and Tommy’s hero. They had been inseparable on days Jack was home. But a fireman spends more time than most on the job.
Tommy had taken longer than most to realize that his father was gone for good. He was used to his daddy spending time away from home. A fireman did that.
I remembered clearly the night reality had settled over my young four-year-old. Hot tears filled my eyes as I remembered his wet cheeks and trembling lip.
“Why did he have to leave us, Mommy?”
He had been dressed in the fireman jammies. It was the last time he wore them. The next morning I found them in the trash along with his toy fireman helmet.
The next night, after our goodnight prayers, he had looked up at me with so much sincerity in his eyes and promised me he would never leave.
“But you have to someday.” I had replied.
“No Mommy, I not gonna.”
“Someday, when you’re really big and as brave as your Daddy, you’ll want to have a family of your own.” I had ruffled his hair and looked into his deep green eyes. Eyes just like his Dad’s.
“No Mommy. I not gonna grow up and I not gonna ever leaves. I promise, Mommy. I never ever never gonna leaves you.”
I had laughed. I laughed at the steel sincerity as much as bad grammar.
He was my life.
Now that life was leaving. I felt it seeping out even as I stood waving with a plastered smile on my face. I watched his black truck until there was nothing left to see.
Walking back into the house, I knelt down by the hope chest at the foot of my bed. Opening it, I pulled out the firman jammies I had hid there so many years before. I knew it was silly, but all I could do was bury my face in those old red pajamas and think of those wide eyes and that heartfelt promise. “I never ever never gonna leaves you.”
But he had… they both had.