By rocks my socks
There had been a time when Tom Oakley had hoped he wasn't going to live to see the other side of ninety. But that had been when he had been by himself. When he had been alone. He hadn't had a lot to live on for. However as he sat down in his arm chair he was glad now he had lived to such a fine old age.
The first and last twenty had been the best. The fifty in between had been not so brilliant. He had been heart broken; alone. He had isolated himself. But when he had got his second chancre at life, all that had changed.
The past twenty years had been full of joy for him. He had become a father for the second time and he had watched with more pride than he had known a person could feel as he watched William grow into a man, pass his examinations, marry and start a family.
William had married Carrie and the two remained as in love as they had ever been, ever since they had spent that day at the river together.
She had once dreamed of London but as she had grown up what she wanted changed. She realized what she had already had was what she truly desired. And so when William proposed to her on her eighteenth birthday she had been powerless to resist what she and him and what both knew to be his very clumsy charm. They were so like Rachel and Tom had been at their age, not that they knew it.
Will he was a good man. Carrie would have been a fool to turn him down, though Penny Hertridge who had developed a crush on the lad who had been like a caring older brother to her, wished she had.
But ten years on and three children with one on the way later, William had officially settled down. Just as he had with his father, William had been sure to form a special bond with his son.
His first born Zach was now a strapping lad of eight. He his mothers ginger hair, his fathers build and both their intelligence. He was less sensitive than William had been at his age, but as his moral character developed his grandfather was sure that was going to come along just fine. Any son of Will's was going to be a good boy. He also had a quick wit and a sharp tongue that was going to help him on in life. There was no doubt in Tom's mind the lad would be a fine heir to the Oakley name.
Touchingly, they had called there second son Thomas after him. Though he wasn't as bright as his brother yet (he was only 5) he his grandfathers spirit and was just like him name sake. He was honest and hard working already. And he loved the garden. It was his area where he went to think. What a deep thinker that lad was, mused his grandfather. And when he wasn't thinking thought he was always running about keeping his mother on her toes.
Carrie got no rest what so ever.
The last (so far) in William and her brood was a daughter.
Trudy was eighteen months and the prettiest baby Tom was sure he had ever seen. Her light blonde curls and baby blue eyes made her irresistible to her grandfather when she looked up at him with her arms stretched out. Carrie was sure he was going to spoil her. And so was he.
Carrie was four months pregnant again now. If it was a daughter she was going to be Ginny or Rachel (that was what Tom was hoping for). For a boy perhaps George.
Either way Tom was looking forward with great anticipation to the arrival of his latest grandchild. He loved meeting them.
He got to see them grow day by day. He had last year moved in with his son and daughter in law. To begin with the two of them had wanted their own home but the older he got the more they worried about him. He shouldn't be alone at his time of life, they said. And besides when he had lived alone. His son had visited every day as it was. It made sense for him to just go and live with them. Especially after he had lost poor old Sammy. The dog had passed on of old age leaving her last batch of pups behind her. The Oakley's had kept two. Skip belonged go Tom, while the rest of the family shared Patch (named by Zach when he was five).
The house they lived it was cramped, crowded and noisy. That was just the way the old man liked it now. It was a real family home and only Carrie had ever really had that before.
William still considered his father to be his best friend. Nothing changed between the two of them. Nor would it.
"Happy birthday grandpa!" said Tommy as he came in to the room. It was eight o'clock in the morning. It was among the busiest time of the day in the Oakley household, as Carrie got the kids ready for school and his son got ready for work. But work was off the agenda for the day as he was going fishing with his dad for his birthday while the kids were at school.
"Thank you son." he said as he lifted his grandson on to his knee who smiled up at him.
"Are you very old now grandpapa?" he asked innocently looking up at him with his curious eyes.
"Grandpa is a bit older than his teeth but not as old as his tongue." said his mother as she came in to the room. "Go and have your breakfast and don't be so cheeky Thomas." she said to him in a kind but firm tone. "Happy birthday Pa." she said to him.
"Thank you sweetheart." he said as she kissed his cheek.
"Do you want a cup of tea?"
"That'd be grand." he nodded.
She walked in to the kitchen, yawning, getting together the children's breakfast and packed lunches.
It was at that moment his son walked in with Trudy in his arms.
"Happy birthday dad!" William said as he came in.
Over the years he had grown in to a muscular man, with blonde hair. He was quite handsome in a rugged way in the eyes of his wife. Yet his father saw in his eyes the same boy who had been landed on him when he had been nine. Not that will showed it any more. But Tom knew him too well not to see it at times.
"Thank you son!"
"Pop pop!" cried Trudy on seeing her beloved grandfather. Of all the three of the children (perhaps due to the fact she was the only girl) she was the cuddliest and adored him.
"Come here you." he said as he reached out for her.
Will smiled at the sight of the two of them together. His hero and his princess.
"Morning darling." said will as he walked into the kitchen and kissed his wife, momentarily resting his hand on her growing stomach.
"Hello love." she said to him.
He sat down with his son at the breakfast table, picking up the brew his wife had made him.
"Still in bed I think. He is hitting the teenage years early."
"I had better get him up if he is going to be up for school in time. Penny is going to pick them up and walked them in isn't she?" he checked.
"Yup then me and Trudy are going to go and get something special for your dads birthday meal and you lads are going off fishing aint ye?"
"Is Trudy's bottle ready?"
"Yup. It's in the pan." she said picking it out the water before it got to hot.
"Dad can give it to her. I'll get that lazy lump we call a son up. Zachariah!" he called up the stairs. "Come wish your grandpa a happy birthday!"
Within half an hour, with sleep still in his eyes Zach had done as he had been told, had had his breakfast and was walking out the cottage with his brother ready for school.
As he left, his father ruffled his bed head and kissed his forehead wishing his two sons a good day and telling them not to be late back.
"You ready to be off dad?" he asked as he walked in to the living room.
Trudy was waddling about the room contented after her breakfast, entertaining her grandfather immensely as her father walked in.
"Papa!" she said wondering over to him.
"Whenever you are son." said Tom as he watched William pick her up.
His happiness had been a long time coming. And he didn't know a person in the world who deserved it more than his son.
"Right then. I'll give this one to her mother and then we'll be off."
By ten the two of them were standing by the river just as they had so many times before. Tom couldn't stop thinking about them image of his son with his kids. It was one he loved, but one that caused him regrets.
He wished he more than anything he had William since he had been as young as Trudy was now. He wished he had found him sooner than he had. He wished he could have stopped the pain sooner. Tom knew it was selfish, so many had died. But he thank god every day for the war that had brought his son home at last.
"Are yer happy William?"
"Why wouldn't I be?"
William thought on the question. Was he happy? Yes without a doubt he was. He had a wife, two sons and a daughter he treasured. As well as a dad he idolized. If he was even half the man his dad was then that would always be fine with him. He had to admit to himself though he didn't remember a lot about when he had lived in London now. He had blocked it out. He didn't wan t to remember being that unhappy little boy.
He was a man who belonged to a happy family now.
Willie no lingered interested him.
His mother did though. He wanted to ask her one thing. What had he done? Why had she done it all?
He shook his head. It was over and it had been for a long time. But he was a parent himself now. He would lie down his life before he let harm come to them. And perhaps due to his own up bringing he had never so much as raised his hand to any of them.
He had forgiven her though. For what she had done to him at least. He had moved on. But for what she had done to baby Trudy: his sister, that was unforgivable. He couldn't forgive that.
He didn't think when he got to heaven he would see his mother. But then, god welcomed sinners. Maybe they would patch it all up.
"Are you dad? Are you happy?"
"I have been on this earth ninety years. I've learnt a lot. Enough to know I am happy son. This morning, the kids and you and Carrie getting ready for the day. That's my happiness."
To any one else that would have sounded mad. But he knew his son understood.
"And mine dad."
The sun rose high in the sky though thankfully it didn't get too hot for the old man.
The simplicity of it all made Tom grin. He could fish on any day. But more than any other time in his life he knew at that moment it was no bad thing to celebrate a simple, peaceful life. And his day didn't have to be special to be happy.
He looked at William. His pride and joy.
"Thank you son." he said.
The two looked at one another. How much had they been through together now? Plenty. Enough to know one another inside out.
"Don't be soft dad." said William but didn't take his eyes off his father.
He was ninety. How much longer did he have? Life without his father scared him. How would he cope? Carrie would be there.
But his father had been there against the odds.
"You'se gonna be fine. And I aint goin' nowhere yet," said tom reading his mind.
"I know I will. You're always gonna be here."
"Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear grandpa!
Happy birthday to you!"
The family sat round the table.
It was five on the dot and Carrie had dinner on the table . Once they had said grace the six of them sat down together and toasted Tom.
"And then we had art in the afternoon," said Thomas as he finished telling his elders and siblings what he had done at school that day.
Already he was a promising drawer as was Zach. They delighted their father with there drawing. It made William feel he had given his sons a good talent. And no one could say his boys weren't talented.
Tom smiled, listened and nodded. If only Rachel was there with their boy things would be perfect.
But then what he had wasn't all that shabby.
"Well then. We can put new pictures up." said Carrie beaming.
There house was already a sea of child drawings, and a few of her husbands best works. She felt quite left out she couldn't draw as well as they could. But neither could Tom.
"I am sure there brilliant." nodded William as Tommy yawned. "Pajamas for you I think young man." he said now that they had all finished eating.
"But dad its a Friday night and its grandpas birthday."
"I didn't say you couldn't come back down once you had them on now did I?" he laughed.
Tommy went to change as quickly as he could. Zach followed suit.
Trudy who had been nodding off over the meal slept in her mothers arms. "I think I might take her up for the night." said Carrie getting up.
"Ok." said will as he got up to kiss her fore head and then carried brought her over to Tom so he could do the same.
Tom and William were left alone again. There was silence for the moment. The sun was going down. The end of the day was nearing. And it had been a good day indeed. A very good day.
"I love you lad." Tom said to him. Tom didn't know why it came out but it did, it felt the right thing to say. And it was easy to say these days.
He rarely told the lad what he really meant to him.
And that was the world.
It had been the perfect day thanks to him. And although Rachel, William and Sammy were missing he had still enjoyed himself. He had fished and he had spent time with his family.
That was enough for him. That was what he wanted.
William walked over and wrapped his father in his embrace.
Come what may. The Oakley's had been to hell and now they were back.
Roll on the next ninety years thought Tom as he kissed William's head.
His son…his best friend.