A blurb that takes place later in the "Glimmer of Twilight" storyline on Veteran's Day
The candles burned softly at the gravesite, illuminating it with a warm glow that remained surrounded by the darkness of the overcast sky. Similar flickers of light accentuated many of the gravesites in the cemetery along with the miniature flags which had been placed near them.
Matt had knelt behind his father's graveside where he had been buried after the heart attack that had killed him. He had swept the loose dirt from the stone marker with his hands, pulling loose some dying weeds that bordered the edges. Although Matt had known his father as the head of a major oil company, he had collected the photos taken of Bill when he had served in the army. Photos of him in his dress uniform at the end of his officer training, of when he had been serving at posts all around the world including in Southeast Asia. Photos of him in fatigues with his arms around his buddies including the foxhole mate, who had been Matt's biological father. And the hardest ones to look at which had been the ones that had caught the final smiles of some of the members of his squad that had been taken at an impromptu birthday party before the firefight that killed them.
His father had carried the same memories of time spent fighting wars just as Matt had for years after he had left military intelligence. They kept them along with the good times spent with comrades who became as tightly woven to them as their own families, close to their chests. Matt often thought that his father had been emotionally distant to him at times while he had been growing up because he hadn't really come to terms with leaving all the vestiges of that lifetime behind. It hadn't been until Matt had his own military experience that he understood the reasons behind those periods of silence and the two men had started a tradition of spending Veteran's Day together, drinking a glass or two of Scotch at the National Cemetery near where Matt had grown up.
Today, he came without his father who had departed from this world several years ago but he didn't come alone. Beside him had been his wife of nearly a year C.J. and their young daughter, Gracie who once she had started crawling had been nearly impossible to keep up with. Matt knew it would be only a matter of time until she decided she had enough of that and took her first step. He hoped that the momentous occasion would happen when both Gracie's parents were there.
Sure enough when he had placed his daughter on the grass near the gravesite, she had looked at him with her eyes just like his and then started moving towards the grave marker which she touched with her pudgy little fingers.
"That's your granddaddy," Matt told her softly, "He wanted so much to see you born."
The single most regret of his life had been that Bill had died before ever knowing that his only son had gone off and gotten married to the love of his life and had started adding to the family dynasty. Bill would have loved his daughter so much, he would have picked her up and placed her on his lap and never would have let go of her. He would have taught her how to ride her first pony, taken her to picnics and rodeos and out for ice cream sundaes, after walks around his ranch. Matt hadn't seen as much of his father as he would have liked growing up, because Bill had after all, been sitting at the helm of one of the top oil cartel boards in the country, not to mention running his own corporation. All the traveling he did to inspect oil wells and address problems with oil rigs not to mention the endless business meetings…it didn't leave Bill with much time to spend with his only son.
The rifts that this fragmented lifestyle had damaged their relationship almost to the point where it had been too late to repair it. But a crisis with the discovery of his biological father had reinforced the realization within Matt that he truly loved his father. They had made their peace long before his father had been taken from him.
And the driving force in that reunion, the glue that had helped repair those family ties had been the woman beside him. She had been relentless in her determination that Matt see the light in his own role in nearly destroying the relationship, and when Matt had grown tired of pushing her away, he had realized why it mattered so much to her.
Because the woman that he would create his own family with, who would birth the children that he would father had grown up without her own. A tragedy had snatched him away from her when she had been just a little girl, before she had even met Matt, and she had never recovered from that loss in her own life.
He wrapped his arm around her waist as they watched Gracie trace Bill's tombstone with her hands, her round face etched in serious concentration. Matt knew that their daughter had inherited her mother's intensity and ability to focus on a task. She leaned her head against his shoulder as they had watched the sun set, illuminating the sky with a plethora of colors, different shades of reds, oranges and finally purples and navy blues. Houston's city lights kept the sky from being as jam packed with stars as their ranch back home but a pale sliver of a moon glowed a faint orange.
"She has his hands you know…"
C.J. had said those words so simply and when he had looked at his daughter, he knew that she was right. His father had loved to paint during his spare time, moments snatched from a busy schedule with oils, acrylics or even watercolors and just the right canvas. The living room of their house included some of his landscapes hanging on its walls.
"She has his talent too…I can tell by her finger painting."
C.J. smiled at his own observation because she loved to watch Matt and Gracie sprawled on the back porch on the ground with large pieces of blank paper, some water and paints of all different colors. He had demonstrated some different techniques with her watching intently before she set her own creativity loose. At times like that, Matt had told her of the few remnants of his own childhood where his father had performed the same ritual with him and she knew that when he and Gracie painted together, he had been transformed back to those earlier times.
Later, they had left the graveyard and had left Houston, driving back on the familiar highway back to their ranch, stopping first to attend the housewarming party of their closest friends Chris and Dan who had a young son named Daniel. They had lived in Houston until just recently when they had decided to leave city life behind and buy a spread about a mile away from theirs and had a house built there. After moving in, Chris had spent most of her free time resurrecting the skills she had learned growing up in a farm in the Midwest and had created an impressive mosaic of vegetables, herbs and spices in her garden. C.J. often joined her as Chris patiently instructed her on how to plant the different species of plants and even how to tell them apart. In several weeks, they would harvest their fall crop to use to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner that would be shared by them as well as Carlos and Fran and their children.
Now Chris and she sat in the living room while the men had taken the kids in the den with them to catch a football game. Gracie and Daniel had grown up together, and C.J. marveled at how their friendship grew over time even though both of them were still quite young.
Chris had poured them some wine after the rest of the guests had left and C.J. had sipped it thoughtfully, thinking how nice it was to have some time to unwind after several weeks of her busy schedule. She had only been back to work a little more than two months since her maternity leave with Gracie and it had felt like she had never left. She thoroughly enjoyed the challenges of her job but taking a time to breathe and most importantly enjoy the moments with her family remained a high priority. After all, she had learned how easily all of it could be taken away. How quickly life could turn on a dime and shape the rest of it.
"Gracie's growing so quickly," Chris said, "It seems like yesterday, we were just meeting her in the hospital after that awful storm."
C.J. remembered that storm very well and the arrival of her daughter at a neighboring ranch house, one that fortunately had been owned by a woman who had been the same doctor to deliver Matt years before and Matt had arrived just in time…
"She seems to be growing up so faster since I returned to work."
"I felt the same way with Danny but you get used to it," she said, "Not that you don't still mess them when they're not with you but it makes that time you spend together as a family much more precious."
C.J. smiled in full agreement.
"We're thinking of trying for another baby soon," she said, "We want our children to be close together in age.
"Sounds like a plan," Chris said, "I consulted with my doctor about having another child and she said that since the surgery was a success, I should have no problems conceiving."
C.J. rubbed her friend's shoulder knowing that Chris and Dan had traveled an arduous journey to have Daniel not to mention having to face the fact that he had been born with a congenital heart defect that had only been successfully repaired just before Gracie's birth. He had thrived since the life-saving operation done by a poker playing buddy of Bill's who had flown in for the surgery and since then, Daniel had experienced a growth spurt and his appetite had kept up accordingly.
Gracie's own life so far had been much smoother than her birth and her energy level had been difficult for both of her parents to match. They both kept a close eye on her and had hired security around the ranch because both worked in professions where they had made enemies. She herself had weathered threats against her life and sweeps of her office in search of explosive devices after phoned threats.
"Well Houston's really intent on practicing…as if he needs it."
"Well you know what they say about cowboys…"
"It's all true…he's really enjoyed living on a ranch again…I think it reminds him of his childhood."
The years when his father had taken his smaller hand in his larger one and had shown Matt his secret fishing spot on the stream which ran through the ranch, the same spot that C.J. had shown up after being suspended from school for fighting on her first day. The shady knoll beneath two trees where they had began their lifelong friendship. The time spent riding horses while herding cattle underneath the hot Texan sun, his father telling him stories about their neck of the country that had been passed down from father to son since way back when.
The stories that Matt had already started telling Gracie as he would all their children, after tucking them into bed at night. Before wishing for them sweet dreams.
They drove home with Gracie sleeping in her car seat back to their ranch house and Matt tenderly removed his daughter from the car and carried her into the house, her curly mopped head resting against his shoulder. They couldn't exactly figure out what side of her family her hair had come from but it had grown in during the past several months. Matt had remembered photos of his mother when she had been a baby that age that looked a lot like Gracie but although she had just started blessing them with smiles that were just like her own mother.
She would smile up at Matt from her crib, or from where she sat on the floor or from the baby swing and Matt could deny her nothing. Just like he had never been unable to deny C.J. anything when she graced him with one of her beautiful smiles. She had shot him an especially irresistible one after they had tucked a still slumbering Gracie into her crib for the night.
As he wrapped his hand in hers, he thought of his own father who had lived on past death through the blood that flowed through his own daughter. Watching his daughter grow up each day while discovering the perimeters of her world, reminded him that death never truly separated people from the ones they loved.
He had been close to death so many times, had felt it grab hold of him, its iciness permeate through his body and he knew that C.J. shared those memories through her own close calls. But what had overwhelmed its pull had been the future that lay before them, the one that could be clearly seen through the eyes of their daughter.
Outside their window, down the drive to their front gate sat a dark colored sedan and inside sat a man talking on a cell phone while watching the lights of the house until it became dark until morning.