Legacy

November 1, 2009

Rudy says it won't be much longer. I know he blames himself, but he really shouldn't. Life is like a dice game – unpredictable and full of risks – and Rudy made it possible for me to have an extra turn, an extra shot at the game. I can never thank him enough for that. It was the rarest of opportunities, glittering in my hands like a butterfly – so beautiful and fleeting that you simply know from the outset that one day it must be released. Obviously, I am not a writer but I'm hoping that one day Steve's and my children will seek answers that maybe (if I can pull enough from the old memory banks and from my diaries) these pages can provide for them.

I'm 'only' 59, which some would state firmly is just too young to die nowadays – and certainly too young to think of leaving a legacy – but I died when I was 26 years old, so the thought isn't as terrifying to me as it is to most people. The genius that brought me back and kept me here for another solid 33 years deserves to be noted and lauded for his accomplishments. Perhaps once Steve and I are both gone, Rudy's work will be able to be recognized and appreciated. My goal is to see that this happens, as well as to let Jenna, Adam and Hannah know how very, very much they were loved and hopefully give them a clearer grasp of exactly who their parents were.

I don't want bionics to be seen as the cause of our deaths, but rather as the catalyst that enabled us to go on living, long after our final dice had been tossed.

* * * * *

Steve always used to tell me that the very first time we met, I had already acquired my 'Jaime-tude'. I remember a chubby little boy who seemed far too cute to be sitting all by himself in the lunchroom. He was older than me and maybe I should've been intimidated, but I was an only child whose parents had revolved their world around their little girl. In other words, I didn't know any better.

He was sitting there with two cheeseburgers on his tray, some potato chips, a banana and a great big cookie. Not to mention two cartons of milk! Naturally, I had to ask him if he was really going to eat all that! (Steve said that my pigtails were swinging and I stuck my tongue out at him, but I'm not so sure he wasn't exaggerating...just a little.) He had no interest in talking to a lowly kindergartener or even acknowledging my existence, so he just kept on eating. And eating. And...eating. He polished off every bit of it and grinned at me like only a naughty eight-year-old can then got up to put away his tray.

I had to do it! I dared him to eat one of everything in the hot lunch line. Hot dogs, french fries, tuna-noodle-slop, corn, peas, peanut butter and jelly, an apple...and chocolate cake. I don't think I really believed he'd try, but I didn't want him to just walk away. Maybe I knew even then that we were supposed to be friends. Or maybe I was just an annoying little brat...?

Anyhow, Steve would not allow himself to be bested by a five-year-old, and back he went, through the lunch line, insisting to the ladies in hairnets that he was really, really hungry. An hour later (no thanks to me), he was also really really sick. Gotta give him credit, though – he did it. He won the dare...and it was twenty years before he told his mother what really happened that day.

Ever since that day, even when we spent long periods of times apart, my life was always intertwined with Steve's. And he covered for me more times than I can count or than I'd like to admit. He taught me how to hit a baseball – and took the blame when it went sailing right through Mrs. McCloskey's big picture window. When he taught me how to climb trees and I promptly fell out of the tree house and broke my arm, he claimed to have dared me to do it. He didn't...but was grounded for weeks afterward. When the bullies on the playground were not so enchanted with my 'Jaime-tude', Steve was there, too – bailing me out before anything too terrible happened.

When the very worst occurred – when I had the accident that should've killed me – Steve was there, as well. When he could do nothing more himself, he persuaded Oscar to step in with all of his power and clout to snatch me away from what the doctors had already proclaimed to be certain death. My trio of heroes (Steve, Rudy and Oscar) were all right there on the day I really did die, once again denying the Reaper his victim and launching me into a brand-new life. I guess the old adage three strikes and you're out is ironically true, at least in my case.

But...these are stories for another day. Rudy tells me I must rest before I feel tired now, so for once in my life I will try to be a good, cooperative patient and do as he asks. Hey, there's a first time for everything!

* * * * *

October 5, 1961

Dear Diary,
Who does Mr. Steve Austin think he is, anyway? Just because he goes to high school now, he's suddenly too good to talk to me? I just wanted to tell him I got an A on my essay (the one HE helped me write) and he told me to go back to the playground! Then he and his friends all laughed at me as they walked away. I miss him...

October 6, 1961

Dear Diary,
I think that boys are the strangest things God ever put on this Earth! And Steve Austin can go right to the top of that list! He called me last night to say he was sorry. He said he was happy about my A. But today when I saw him downtown, he waved his hand to brush me away like I was just a fly buzzing around his head to annoy him. I hate him, Diary. I really do.

October 11, 1961

Dear Diary,
My tennis lessons are going pretty well. The teacher my Mom hired says I have a real knack for it. This weekend, when I was hitting balls against the wall by the old firehouse, Steve walked by. He stopped and watched me for awhile – and I pretended not to notice him. A taste of his own medicine. It serves him right!

* * * * *

November 1, 2009

Steve and I hit a pretty rocky patch when he first entered high school. I understand completely now, but back then I thought my entire world was ending. He was my best friend – how could he treat me that way? He tried his best to make it up to me on weekends and holidays (when his friends weren't around) but I was having none of it! Still pretty big with the 'Jaime-tude', I guess, but he hurt my feelings, dammit!

Thanksgiving of that year was the first time we actually sat down and talked since the big rift. Our families spent four days together at my parents' cabin, so we really had no choice but to call a truce. (Temporarily, anyhow.) I called him a big fat mean old bully, he called me a pony-tailed, snot-nosed brat, then we slugged each other and just got on with the business of being friendly enemies. That is, until something happened that neither one of us saw coming....

* * * * *

November 25, 1961

Dear Diary,
STEVE KISSED ME!!! I talked him into climbing up to our old tree house because I wanted privacy while I kicked the crap out of him. He's been so mean to me, pretending not to know me unless we're all alone. We called each other a whole bunch of nasty names and then I hit him. He hit me back and we started wrestling around like we used to when we were little, only this time it felt sort of different. Weird. I got kind of out of breath even though we weren't fighting all that hard and then IT happened. He kissed me, right on the lips! I still hate him as much as ever but I have to admit something. It wasn't terrible.

January 8, 1962

Dear Diary,
There a new boy in my class. He sits right next to me because Mrs. Ames wants me to help him get caught up with the classwork. Me! He's smart, he's funny, he loves dogs and hiking and tennis – and I get butterflies in my stomach every time he talks to me. His family just moved here from Sacramento over Christmas vacation and he doesn't know anybody yet, so I get to be his very first friend here. We went to the library after school and then he bought me a soda for helping him. (Isn't that sweet?) Oh yeah. His name is Roger. Roger Grette.

Steve Austin, you can ignore me all you want to, and I don't care any more. So there!

* * * * *

November 1, 2009

I met Roger right around the start of the second semester in sixth grade. Boy, did I crush on him – fast and hard! At first it didn't seem like Steve even noticed, much less cared. He was too busy with his new buddies from the football and baseball teams and to him I was still the little tomboy with her pigtails swinging, her fists flying and her mouth going sixty miles an hour.

Meanwhile, Roger and I became almost an 'item' – and the tongues of the entire sixth grade began to wag. Even after he'd long since caught up on his schoolwork and the teacher moved him to a regular assigned seat (which broke my pre-teen heart to pieces), we spent every moment we could together. Roger didn't have a gang of snooty new friends to try and impress – he had me, and I was plenty impressed with him. (Even if I could beat him at tennis nearly every single time!)

So I went ahead and forgot all about Steve and figured my existence never even popped up on his radar any longer. I didn't find out just how wrong I was until the night of the sixth grade Graduation Dance...

* * * * *

May 11, 1962

Dear Diary,
Tonight was my first real school dance and I don't care if I never go to another one. Ever! For one thing, I hate wearing dresses because my legs look like broomsticks but at least Roger looked nice. He really did. The music was okay and even though the decorations made the gym look like a gym with too much crepe paper, we had fun dancing. Toward the end of the night, there were some slower songs but the teachers and parents made sure we all danced far enough apart to stay 'virtuous'. Their word, not mine. Anyhow, Roger and I decided to leave a little early and get a banana split to share. We would've been back in plenty of time to meet his Mom who was picking us up! But we never got to go for ice cream and it was all Steve's fault.

We stopped just down the block from school and Roger told me how pretty I looked. (He was only being nice, but it still felt good to hear it.) He was holding my hand and then he put his arm around me and HE KISSED ME! Wow! A real kiss, too, not rolling around in a tree house and slugging each other. I always thought that would mean fireworks and symphonies and all that kind of good stuff but instead...there was Steve.

I don't even know where he came from! He doesn't go to our school anymore! (Was he spying on me? What a creep!) Diary, you won't believe it because I don't even believe it, but he pulled Roger away from me and then he HIT him! Someone must have seen Steve following us and told on him because the principal and a couple of teachers came running down the block before anything else could happen. They grabbed Steve by his arm and poor Roger too and told me I had to come with them. What was I supposed to do? I was so mad! On the way into the school, I picked up a big stick in the parking lot and whacked Steve across the knees. I had to! He deserved it!

Anyway, Roger is suspended from school for all of next week. Steve probably is, too. He has to see his own principal first thing Monday morning. Me? I'm suspended for three days and grounded for two weeks! I can't see Roger or even Jules and Susan. My best friends! It isn't fair! No phone calls, either. No TV and I can only leave my room for meals and for school. I'm surprised they didn't take you away from me, too!

Thank God for Puzzles! Poor Puzzles – I don't think his fur has ever been this wet. I've heard the expression 'angry tears' before, but this is the first time I've ever cried because I was mad. No, I'm not mad. I am furious. Sort of hurt, too, because Mom and Dad wouldn't even listen to my side of the story before they sent me up here. Now I'm kind of glad I still haven't packed the rest of my dolls away in the big box in the closet. At least I'll have something to do.

* * * * *

November 1, 2009

I just didn't get it back then! Now that I've raised three children of my own, I realize that Mom and Dad reacted the way they did because they loved me. At the time, it seemed like the ultimate betrayal. How could they take my friends away, when Susan and Jules had nothing to do with any of it? Fortunately, this allowed me a great deal of time for introspection. Much as I've been doing lately, I read my old diaries (of course, there weren't nearly as many then) and thought about life.

* * * * *

June 11, 1957
My First Diary, by Jaime
I am seven years old today. I feel the same as when I was six. It was a good party. We had cake and ice cream and I got three new dolls, a tea set, a teddy bear, a real big box of crayons and a paint by numbers kit. Susie and Jules were here and some girls from my class too. I almost forgot. I got a real diary, with a key to lock it.

December 25, 1957
Mom and Daddy gave me a new bed with a roof with lace on top. It is so pretty. Daddy calls me his little princess and now I feel like a princess. I do! Mom said I can pick what I want on the walls of my room and I told her lots and lots of flowers. We are going shopping soon. Santa was very nice too. He gave me a house for my dolls and a whole lot of candy.

I wanted to go and see what Santa gave Jules, but Mom said he might not have been to her house. She said they have a different holiday there, but I think Santa loves all of us the same. I don't think he would skip her house just because they light a lot of candles. Jules is a very good friend.

December 27, 1957
Jules got lots of presents but not from Santa. She got some new dresses, pajamas, a big warm coat and fuzzy slippers. All from her family, she said. No Santa. That makes me sad. Next year, I will write to Santa so he stops at her house too.

January 17, 1958
My room is all done and I love it. My bed is just like sleeping on a cloud and when I wake up there are flowers all over. Mom even put flowers on my floor with paint. She let me help with the big ones. Daddy said she is 'an artist before her time' but I am not sure what that means. Steve was here when his Mom came to have tea with my Mom and he laughed at my new room! He made these yucky sounds like he was sick and ran away screaming. Boys are just stupid.

* * * * *

November 1, 2009

Rudy tells me that I must rest soon. And I will – really – but since I'm not sure how much time I might have left and there is so much more I need to say, it's hard to tear myself away from the keyboard. Jenna, Adam and Hannah, please don't worry. I'm not in pain most of the time and when I am, Rudy is quick to take care of it. He really is an amazing man, you know. As old as he is and still going strong. Of course, I am his only patient and I suspect he takes more rest periods than he lets me know about (hell, he deserves them!) but I am just so happy and thankful that he has lived long enough that he may actually see his genius recognized in his own lifetime. That is, if I have anything to say about it. And kids, if you know your mother at all, you know that when I put my mind to something, I will always have my say!

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