"I'm sorry, Jesse." He didn't know what else to say. Sorry. Sorry for your loss. Rosco recalled saying that about Otis Strate when he informed Lea and Joe Duke that he had died while on a Ridge run. He had been numb that day. He had just found out himself.
That was what you were supposed to say when someone lost a loved one. Someone who barely knew the deceased. He did know her. She had been his friend, Jesse's wife.
Lavinia "Martha" Lewis-Duke, had married Jesse Leonard Duke in 1962. They couldn't have any children of their own but surpassed the hardships that came with it. They became guardians of Bo and Luke Duke in 1965 after their parents died in a fire, and to Daisy after her parents had died in a car crash.
In 1974, six months after she'd been diagnosed with cancer, she died.
" I don't understand it, Jesse. I took her to the Doctor."
"Rosco, she'd been sick for awhile, putting the doctor off...if she'd gone earlier it wouldn't have made a difference. There's no cure for cancer." Jesse's own mother had died of it in 1953. Jesse's sister, who was also Lavinia but went by Ann, Jesse's wife's nickname had been Martha, to avoid the confusion between the two, had written to him while he was in Korea, that Ida had died at the hospital.
Martha had died at home. Before she had been Jesse's, Rosco and Martha had briefly dated in High School. It hadn't lasted long. They were more like friends, brother and sister, at times she had been some what of a mother, despite being two years older than Rosco. He'd take her anywhere. He'd even take her shopping and she'd sit around and wait for her. He had an affectionate nickname that only he called her, Vinnie.
Last time Vinnie had spoken to him she had sounded disappointed in him.
"I'm glad you came."
"I don't think she'd want me here. " He confessed to Jesse.
"Of course she would have."
"I don't know about being welcome by the rest of you family."
"Don't worry about them. As long as you watch from a distance."
"That's about the only thing I'm good at, ain't I?"
Everyone had started to disburse from the cemetery. Daisy was one of the last few to stay behind. Jesse stared at Daisy worriedly.
"I'll give her a ride home." Rosco said to Jesse.
As the three of the remaining Dukes left, Jesse, Luke and Bo, Rosco walked back over the hill, approaching the teenager slowly, not wanting to startle her.
"Your Uncle Jesse wanted me to give you a ride home." He lied. "You can stay as long as you like."
"Is it alright not to cry?" She asked him, not looking away from the freshly dug grave.
"Every one grieves in their own way. "
He watched her as she stared ahead, just staring, she wasn't really looking at anything. The wind shifted through her auburn hair. He wanted to reach out and touch it, to comfort her. He had to stop himself. It wouldn't be appropriate, especially now. She was thirteen. No longer a girl, not quite yet a woman. Forbidden curbs, and long legs. Still gangly. It was an awkward time. Affection from an adult would be unwelcome. He missed the days when she was little. The older she got it was difficult. It was like she was growing farther away from him. She never needed him anyway. Except for the one time she scraped her knee when she was 5, and he had been the only one around. Other times he let her come to him when she had needed his advice on something. She was getting older. He couldn't be her friend. He had needed to be more critical, put his foot down. He wouldn't tell her not to do something but tell her it wasn't right. That had seemed to push her away. A sign she didn't need him anymore. But she needed him right now. She should be worrying about teenage things, not death. He himself was no stranger to it.
"She was your friend." He had come to see her Aunt Martha a lot. She felt so bad she had accused him of visiting her Aunt just to gossip about her.
"Yes, she was. I lost a lot of friends."
"Did you cry when he died?"
"I did, but I did it real quiet like. In private." She just nodded like she understood. When she said nothing more, he added, "She was like a mother to you."
"She was good to me. But not my real mother. I don't remember her much but I remember her singing to me." She turned to him but he wasn't looking at her. "Did you know my mother?"
"Everyone knows everyone in Hazzard."
She nodded as if it was a good enough answer. "Why did it have to be her? Why did God have to do this to her? She was nice, and did nothing to nobody. "
"It's his way to test us. You remember the story about Job. He lost everything. We have to be thankful for the things and the people that we still have."
She put her arms around him. It was so sudden, it caught him off guard. He put her arms around her shoulders and let her cry. It's ok, darlin, let it out.
After a few minutes, she pulled away, "Don't tell Bo and Luke that I was crying."
He drove her home.
He came back the cemetery alone, to visit Joe and Lea Dukes graves. But he wasn't for long.
"I thought I'd find you here." Jesse said.
He hoped Jesse hadn't seen him put the yellow daisy's on Lea's side of the marker. But decided it didn't matter. Jesse knew he had loved his sister in law.
"I just wanted pay my respects to them. I best leave ye..."
"No. No. Stay. I could use the company." He was amazed that Jesse would want his company, with him being chumy with his old buddy J.D. Hogg recently. He supposed in the event such as death, any company was sought. "You know I've always figured it was you leaving them flowers there." They two men were quiet for awhile.
"Daisy looks just like Lea now."
"I know," Jesse said. "And she's got Joe's spirit."
Rosco nodded. He looked at his hat for a moment. That was an insult to him but he didn't let it show, even though he knew it was true. He wasn't going to get into a yelling match with Jesse. He would lose anyway. He wanted to keep things civil, but there was one thing he felt he deserved.
"I know you don't really want me here, that you're thinking that I have no right to be here. Well, I've got my own guilt and blame to haunt me for the rest of my life, Jesse. I don't need any more."
"Hind sight's twenty-twenty, Rosco. They were speeding and you were just doin your job. You couldn't have stopped it from happening."
"Yeah I could have," Rosco said, looking Jesse right in the eyes. "I could have pulled them over earlier that day when I was on duty. If I'd given them a ticket
"They still would've been out on that road..." Rosco had been chasing Joe and Lea, and somehow they had lost control and rolled into a ditch. He'd never forget Rosco's words over the CB to him that day, "Jesse, Lea and Joe, los….lost control...I think they're dead."
And he had been right. When Jesse had arrived, they were the only two at the scene, Rosco was holding his sister in-laws body in his arms. The look he had seen on the law man's face was of someone about to lose it. Jesse didn't know how he had done it but he had managed to snap him out of it. If Jesse hadn't been there who knows what would have happened.
"If I'd had arrested them, Joe and Lea would still be here!" Rosco turned away from Jesse suddenly, hiding his emotion. Rosco took his hat off again and closed his eyes, waiting for Jesse to lash out at him. He wouldn't blame him.
"You can't change the past."
"Don't you think I know that?" Rosco nearly spat. He was hoping it wouldn't come to this and yet hoping it would provoke a swing.
That had come out wrong and Rosco had taken it the wrong way. He thought Jesse was blaming him for everything. Rosco already blamed himself. He was sorry that the man felt that way. The Duke Patriarch looked at him sadly. "Rosco, it wasn't your fault."
"Yes, it was, Jesse. It was my fault. It'll always be my fault! If you wanna hit me go ahead, I don't blame ya!"
"Rosco, I'm not..."
"You wanted to hit me that one day in the courthouse, when me and Boss were fixing to take the farm from yea and I did nothing. I know why you really wanted to hit me. I was friends with your family for a long time and I turned my back on yeas. And after Joe and Lea... I know you blamed me but you kept that buried deep down. And you just had it with me when I wouldn't help you and you needed me most. I deserved it then. I deserve it now. I'm letting ye, so hit me."
"Rosco I'm not going to hit you. "
"I'd feel better." On the day of their funeral after Jesse's brother Jake had punched him in the nose, just for showing up, he had felt better. But it hadn't lasted. Because the Duke he betrayed the most, besides Joe, was standing right in front of him.
"It wouldn't solve anything. The good Lord decides when it's time for someone to leave this world, not us."
"Now, now just listen to me. Joe and Lea despite their flaws, they were good people and the Lord decided that they should be with Him instead of here with us. No one knows why, there are no answers to that. Rosco, if you had told me all those years ago what happened between Joe and you. And you and Lea," He was talking about their affair, and Daisy possibly being Rosco's. They both knew it. "after everything, I still wouldn't have blamed you for their death and I don't blame you for their death now. I'm just sorry you've been blaming yourself for all these years. Believe me Rosco, it wasn't your fault."
Rosco closed his eyes and sighed. "Jesse, I don't know if I can forgive myself that easily." He opened his eyes. "I almost think I'd feel better if you'd be upset at me."
Jesse chuckled softly. "Rosco, I'm upset at you all the time for other things. But I have no reason to be upset with you over what happened to Joe and Lea. And you shouldn't either." Jesse gave Rosco a friendly pat on his right shoulder and dropped his hands back to his sides. He glanced at his brother and sister-in-law's headstone. "Joe wouldn't blame you either, you know."
Rosco paused, looking at the ground. "Maybe." Rosco then looked at Jesse but couldn't think of anything more to say. He'd take his guilt with him to the grave. He turned back for a moment. "They're not for her, Jesse. They're for Daisy." So she'd know her mother was never forgotten.