Author Note: Big shout out to Nannygilrl for the wonderful image art - she also gave me great feedback regarding posting this story. Adore you Prissy - thanks for making me look good!
Be warned: I do not have a Beta and all the grammar mistakes are mine own – read at your own peril all you English Majors out there .
Prologue – Winter 1987
It was just a dried up piece of mistletoe surrounded by faded red plastic holly berries. It must have been...what...20? 30 years old? Yet it sat in this old shoe box wrapped in pale yellow tissue paper with such care that it must have meant something. More curious was the question of who put it there?
Looking around the attic, Eric Forman sighed quietly. The old family home was empty now. The rafters were full of dusty cobwebs and musty odors. There were no anticipated grandchildren running amok and Laurie was drifted to other places. After Kitty's accident, Red spent every day at the nursing home. He had an apartment adjacent to Serenity Palms because it was close.
No one lived at 416 Marie Drive, Point Place, Wisconsin anymore.
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It was a fluke that Eric had planned on dropping by the house because he needed some extra dishes for the little Christmas party he was hosting at his Kenosha apartment. Knowing his mom, there was a good set of Grandma Sigurdsson's china somewhere in storage. He had swung by the nursing home to say "hello" and got roped into searching for a specific Christmas ornament for Kitty's little bedside tree.
"It will only take a minute of your life son; don't be a dumbass on something as simple as this."
Well, when Red put it that way….who was he to refuse?
Wasn't it strange how small the old homestead seemed when you didn't live there anymore? It was like going back to the old merry-go-round that had seemed huge as a kid, but was now merely a metal disc that spun around aimlessly.
Nothing stayed the same.
He let himself in through the backdoor with a key hidden under a rock. The house smelled closed up with just a hint of Lysol. No warm cookies waiting for company. No television cranked full blast…just a pine scent and the click of the thermostat turning the heater on.
The attic was where Kitty Forman kept everything. Eric hadn't been up here in years and was nearly bowled over when he saw all the boxes and trunks that lined the sloped walls. Then when he almost felt like giving up, he found it - the old milk crate that protected his best comic books. The same crate he kept in hidden in the back corner of his bedroom closet so many years ago. That was definitely going in the back of his Mazda RX-7.
Picking up his mother's duct taped box, he walked over to a dusty pine rocking chair and sat down. It was with much trepidation that he decided to open it. His fingers got as far as lifting the top right edge and he stopped. Did he really want to open his mother's faded memories here?
In the Forman attic?
It was just a dried up piece of mistletoe surrounded by faded red plastic holly berries. It must have been...what...20? 30 years old? Yet it sat in this old shoebox wrapped in pale yellow tissue paper with such care that it must have meant something.
Some surprise that turned out to be!
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Chapter 01 - Nothing stayed the same
1986 was polarizing. Life had been so different in the last seven years that Africa seemed like a dream and high school was just a blip on his radar. It happened to turn out that teaching wasn't something Eric Forman was good at either. Even with a degree, it was determined that he was a terrible educator!
Just when it seemed there was no hope, he found his true calling as a high school guidance counselor. This job was nothing like old Mr. Bray, the pervy Point Place counselor that had a crush on Donna.
Nope, Kenosha High students thought Eric Forman was pretty cool. The hours were great, the rewards of the job were nice and there was always the pretty French teacher, Daphne Dubois, and the perks in the break room. A nice car, a nice apartment and coffee with the most popular teacher….did life get any better for Eric Forman?
Actually it wasn't always this good. After college, Eric and his high school girlfriend tried living together since marriage proved to be an unsuccessful venture. Donna was a wonderful roommate, but while the excitement of dating was great for a bedroom romp every blue moon, it seemed that after living with the same person for five years…passion turned to just being really great companions.
It wasn't that he loved Donna Pinciotti less; it was just that he wasn't in love with her anymore. She was still on his radar as a great friend, but the romance was burned out like a sad campfire ember after the last marshmallow had been roasted.
His smore was no more.
Eric's life had turned around with a new job. He got his first new car that was nothing like the Vista Cruiser. It was fast and the interior felt like the cockpit of an airplane. Women noticed him (or was it the car?) His dad was finally proud of Eric's accomplishments and his mom was tickled when Eric took her for a drive.
"Ahahaha…honey….don't drive so fast!" his mom loved to shout above the radio. This was a time when Kitty Forman really let down her hair and she seemed so much happier now that all the kids were out of the house. (Contrary to her complaints that all her little birds had flown the coop, she was spending bonus time with her husband.)
Red Forman was enjoying retirement. He entered fishing tournaments and actually won money instead of ribbons. "Can't buy a beer with a ribbon son." He liked to say. This new happy Red even helped his son move from Donna's apartment to the new Kenosha rental that sported the Forman name on the brass mail slot downstairs.
All was right with the world.
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Jackie looked around the nearly bare apartment she had shared with Steven. He was covering a box with duct tape to keep it shut. Jackie thought he was just avoiding her again. Sitting on the edge of the old scarred wood of the coffee table she sighed, "Steven….you said it yourself. It's for the best."
He looked up with a raised brown. "I didn't say it was for the best. I said it was the best way for us to not kill each other and run screaming into the night."
Jackie shrugged, "Tomato – tomatoe…it's still the same right? I don't want us to hate each other."
Hyde pushed his glasses up his nose and collapsed into the faded blue chair. "I don't hate you and I don't want to fight either."
She smiled that little smile that always warmed his heart. "This time it's not Michael."
He gave into a grin, "This time it's not Sam."
With a small chuckle, Jackie nodded her head. "It's really my career this time. I'm not trying to choose between you and a profession. I have a great job and you'll do fine in Milwaukee."
Steven removed his glasses and cleaned the lens with the hem of his faded gray Pink Floyd tee-shirt. "Yeah…who'd ever thought that W.B. would want me to head up a department in his company. I mean picking the rock and roll that people really want to hear. Not some shit that hits the top 40 once in a while."
"And you'll be great! I know you don't want to move, but Steven, this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we tried the living together thing, but you know what I really want and right now….we are two different paths."
He shook his head sadly, "When did you grow up? 1986 has been your lucky year." He marveled that his girlfriend was more mature than the fresh out of high school Jackie he moved in with. The growing pains had been enormous, but he learned a lot about himself and Jackie over the years. She was right. His brass ring was within reach and if he wanted to change the music scene from this shitty punk rock hip hop fuck…then the music industry ship needed Steven Hyde at the helm.
Jackie looked over at his solemn face and knew he was thinking about his future. Once he had learned of Edna's passing and Bud's life sentence in prison, Steven took a more hands-on approach of his own life. He was deliberate and methodical and even had a savings account built up for emergencies. Jackie couldn't have been prouder.
And Steve was just as proud of his girlfriend who became the manager of a chain of stationary stores that had locations all throughout the greater lower Wisconsin territory. The nice paycheck Jackie earned made any inconvenience not so horrible and she liked what she did and she was good at it!
But now was the time for them to part. It wasn't that she loved Steven less; it was just that she wasn't in love with him anymore. He would always be on her radar as a great friend, but the romance was burned out like a sad limp scented candle.
Now Steve was just a pool of colored memories where she could wax melodramatically with a nice bottle of wine.
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Jackie's apartment was tiny but it was hers. She decorated with all her favorite hues and soft fabrics and plenty of pillows. Donna said it had looked like a rainbow threw up in the living room. The two old friends would get together every few months to chat about their jobs and talk about what they wanted from the future.
"Plenty of freedom to do what I want and write what I want and…and just wear plaid if it suits me." Donna exclaimed.
Jackie laughed, "You can wear a kilt and it's still plaid…I'm just saying that sometimes a power suit with those big padded shoulders will really work for you."
The wardrobe argument was just an easy way to say, "I missed you." With Donna working in the newsroom of a cable television station, she didn't have much time for catching up with old friends. Eric had his new life and Kelso and Fez moved on as well.
Jackie was still Jackie and Donna was thankful that some things never changed.
Jackie still kept tabs with Fez who was now a fabulous famous male model / dancer and would often been seen on a late night Spanish variety show. He was be paid well to dance and not speak. The minute he opened his mouth…the Fez spilled out and spoiled the suave debonair persona he had fought to create. The latest garbage magazine had tied him to an affair with both the husband and wife of a famous singing duet.
Jackie smiled sadly and put the tabloid magazine back on her coffee table. Fez could take care of himself. It was Michael Kelso she was most worried about.
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It was an ordinary day. Kitty was getting ready for her part-time stint at the hospital and Red was going to play cards at the VFW hall. She was dressed in her pink nurse's uniform and white cap and those thick rubber soled shoes. Red kissed her cheek goodbye as she wiggled her fingers and he promised to take them both out to dinner when her shift was through. "I'll hold you to that Red Forman." She smiled.
That was the last time Red could recall his wife really smiling. It would be his last favorite memory of her. He looked at the old woman now sitting in the wheelchair wrapped in a robe while bathing her face in the sunlight. This was not the same woman he married. His wife had vitality and sweetness and a big heart. This woman was crippled and a mere shadow of the Kitty Forman he used to know.
"Mr. Forman?" A chipper voice broke him from his reverie. "Mr. Forman? We have to take your wife to therapy now. You can come back at four and join her for dinner."
Red blinked and turned his head to look at the nurse. "I'm sorry…you were saying?"
Nurse Adeline pointed at her watch. "4:00 o'clock. You can come back at four."
Red nodded and leaned down to kiss the withered cheek. He gently turned Kitty's head until he could see that she was looking at his eyes. "Honey, I'll be back soon okay? I have…I need to run to the shop and make sure those dumb asses are doing their jobs."
This was a lie, since Forman & Son had been sold years ago. The terrible thing was that Kitty couldn't remember. The automobile accident robbed her of some of her memories and brutally injured her body and aged her soul.
"Mr. Forman, I'm sorry. The other driver had been drinking and was ejected through the windshield – we couldn't save him…but your wife…. she's in the emergency room and we have the best doctors doing everything they can."
Red would forever remember how it felt like his world came to a screeching halt and tipped on its axis. The love of his life was relying on the hands of skilled surgeons to save her and the drunken dumbass that nearly took her life could never explain why he ran the stop sign.
Never explain why Kitty's left turn became her last.
Nothing could ever be explained again.
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Eric was dropping by for his weekly visit to Serenity Palms to see his mother. Since the terrible accident, he could always find a reason NOT to stop by but this was his mom and Laurie was out grifting somewhere…he needed to be here. Mostly to give his dad some time to get away from the nursing home.
The place smelled like Pine-Sol slightly reeking with old urine. Eric hated that as he walked through the carpeted hallways, old people would scurry after him reaching out with those flesh covered fingers while calling him some other person's name. He hated the rows of wheelchairs that were foot pedaled like some Flintstone car as the dinner hour bell dinged.
He hated that his mother was helplessly seat belted into a chair so she couldn't tumble forward. He hated that of all the people in the world to get injured it was his mom. Kitty Forman had done nothing, but wait in a left turn lane for the light to turn green.
"Son, all I can tell you is that she's not dead. They don't know the extent of the brain damage or whether she'll ever fully recover. When you see her…please try not to look shocked. Don't cry – just be….just act like the loveable dumbass you are."
Eric remembered his father's advice just before each visit. He didn't want his facial expression to upset her, especially if she was having a lucid moment. Those were the best visits – the ones where she remembered him.
"Hey mom!" he feigned excitement at seeing the back of the wheelchair sitting in front of the window. The head slightly turned at the salutation and he stepped into the room with his little bouquet. Sitting in the chair next to his mom, he smiled. "I brought you some flowers."
Kitty smiled tiredly. Her eyes were shining today but she looked exhausted. Her hand reached out to touch him. "Eric."
Eric's heart sighed happily – his mom remembered him today. This was unexpected and exciting at the same time – he wished his dad were here. He carefully picked up her hand, "How do you feel today?"
Kitty smiled sadly, "Bones are aching but good. Your father was here a little while ago but Bob took him to the cafeteria."
Eric hadn't known about that. "Mom, would you like to go sit in the sunshine for a while?"
A brighter smile lit up her face. "I'd like that dear."
Eric took the brakes off the wheelchair and rolled his mother around and slid open the sliding glass door that led to the tree-lined courtyard. "It's a little warm but the fresh air will feel good."
Kitty wrapped her shawl tighter around her shoulders and waited for Eric to stop rolling the chair and take a seat across from her. She looked at him tenderly, "So honey….how are you doing in school?"
Eric shot her a puzzled look and replied, "I'm getting ready for Career Day so it's pretty exciting."
"Is Donna still having trouble with her Biology homework?"
Eric frowned, "What? Mom, Donna's not in school. She's working on that cable television…oh." He fell back against the bench. His mother has forgotten the present again. She must be thinking he was still going to Point Place high. How frightening it must be for her to learn something new!
Patiently and carefully he began again. "Mom, do you know what day it is?"
Kitty's brow furrowed. "Thursday?"
Eric shook his head, 'No mom. It's Saturday. I always come to visit you on Saturday remember?"
Kitty feigned a soft laugh, "Oh…that's right…I was thinking of something else. Tell me about your day sweetheart."
That was how Red found his family. Eric was talking about the pretty French teacher and making his mother laugh. The sun was making Kitty's pale cheeks tinge pink and for a brief second, he could almost forget there was ever an accident.
He stepped forward and the world started to get a little gray and dizzy. Red grabbed the door frame for support. "Eric?" He managed to get out. The next thing Red Forman remembered he was lying on a stretcher with an IV in his arm.
"Dad!" Eric said in his high alarmed squeaky voice. "What happened?"
Red tried to sit up but still felt dizzy. "I'm okay son. Get this damn needle out of my arm."
Kitty's private physician, Dr. Gilmore, turned around with a clipboard in his hand. "Mr. Forman…how long has it been since you visited your cardiologist?"
Red shrugged his shoulders, "I don't know – Kitty kept track of…." He hung his head, "I can't remember."
Dr. Gilmore frowned, "Well, I'm going to recommend you make an appointment and don't worry too much. It could be the heat, stress or maybe you need your heart looked at. Just get it checked out."
Resigned, Red scratched his balding head and agreed, "I'll call on Monday doc."
Eric was freaking out. His mom couldn't remember his name and now dad was having heart problems? Red looked at his son, "Eric, don't get all twitchy on me. I'm fine now. Kiss your mom good bye and we'll see you next week."
Eric turned to look at his mother who was smiling at the birds, "I'll call you dad. Make that appointment okay?" This wasn't some random request Eric was making – he was sincerely worried about his dad.
Red felt like a yoke was slung over his shoulders. He couldn't be having health problems now – not when Kitty needed him most! This was so unfair. He had fought wars! Raised teenagers! Now he was losing his health?
Eric patted his dad on the shoulder, "Mom needs ya dad…see the doctor okay?"
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A/N: Note...I'm making a concerted effort to make the chapters longer so there won't be so many as I usually do - stay tuned!