“I’m sure she has,” I said, hoping to sound reassuring to the child. She was small and didn’t look to be more than six or seven, although I knew she was nine from the times she’d been at the center.
Drew returned and walked with us outside. Just as she’d said, the parsonage was next to the church, tucked in the back of the property. I’d noticed it before but didn’t realize it was a residence. It was built of brick, the same as the church, which must have been constructed before earthquake building codes were passed. We were at the front door when someone back at the church called for Drew.
He turned and answered. “Go on in. This will only take a moment.”
Sarah opened the front door and ushered me into the house, which was surprisingly neat.
As soon as we crossed the threshold, she called out to her brother, “Mark, we have company.”
A boy appeared who didn’t look to be anywhere close to thirteen. He looked too small for thirteen, and had a smattering of freckles across his nose. He looked at me and blinked.
“That’s Mark,” Sarah said. “He’s a brat.”
“Am not,” Mark growled.
“I’m Shay,” I said and held out my hand. Mark took it and gave me one hard shake before releasing me.
“Did you set the table?” Sarah demanded with hands braced against her hips.
It didn’t take me long to figure out who the dominant sibling was. Sarah ruled this roost.
“We have our big meal Sunday after church,” Sarah explained, leading the way into the kitchen. “Today it’s pot roast. Dad wakes up early on Sundays and gets everything cooking before he leaves for the church, otherwise it would be hours and hours before we could eat.”
“Good idea.” Looking around the kitchen, I could see that Drew had taken care of almost everything well in advance. Serving dishes lined the countertop along with the necessary serving spoons.
Mark got another place setting out of the silverware drawer and added it to the table while Sarah opened a second drawer and removed a pen and pad.
“What’s that for?” he asked his sister.
Sarah looked over at me and offered me a toothless smile. “We’re choosing a new name for Shay because…” She hesitated and looked to me. “Did you tell me why you wanted a new name?”
“Because I’m graduating and starting a new life.”
“What do you want your name to be?” she asked, scooting out the chair and setting the pen and tablet on the table.
“I’m not quite sure yet,” I admitted.
“Do you like the name Dory?” she asked. “She’s one of my favorite characters.”
“She doesn’t want to be named after an animated fish,” Mark tossed out, sounding disgusted with his sister.
“It would be hard to change my name completely,” I explained, “because it’s my legal name and everything is listed under Shay Benson. I was thinking.” I paused and pressed one finger against my bottom lip. “Maybe we could add something to the name I already have.”
“Good idea,” Sarah said approvingly.
“Give me an example,” Mark said as he set an extra plate on the table.
This wasn’t as easy as it sounded. “Well…because I’m starting over I’m looking to make wise decisions. I want to be confident, too.” Both children studied me as I mulled over other names. “Your father’s sermon this morning had to do with trust and I want to include that.”
“I have an idea,” Sarah said, tapping the end of the pencil against the pad as if to keep up with her thoughts. “You could add those words to the end of your name.”
I didn’t get it. “How do you mean?”
“Keep your real name, like you said, but add to it. Shay the graduate.”
“That’s stupid,” Mark grumbled.
“No, it isn’t,” his sister insisted.
“You might be onto something, Sarah. How about Shay, a wise, trusting, and confident woman?” I asked. That wasn’t me, but it was the woman I hoped to be one day.
“Yes,” Sarah said excitedly. “That sounds perfect.”
I heard the front door open and I looked up as Drew entered the house.
“Daddy, Daddy, we have a new name for Shay only it’s still Shay because she said she had to keep that for some reason. We decided to add the new names to her already name.” When she finished speaking she was breathless.
Drew placed his arm around his daughter’s shoulders. He looked to me. “So what’s your extended name?”
I hesitated and so Sarah filled in for me. “Shay, a wise, confident, trusting woman. Isn’t that good!” the youngster said, looking well pleased with herself.
“It’s very good,” Drew said, holding my gaze. “I couldn’t have chosen better myself.”
“When are we going to eat?” Mark asked, sounding bored. “I’m hungry.”
“I am, too,” Drew said and headed for the Crock-Pot. He glanced over his shoulder. “It’s nothing special, so don’t get your hopes up,” he warned me.
The truth was, just spending time with Drew and his children was special enough. He could have been serving sawdust for all I cared.
Mondays were technically my day off. Off being figurative. While I wasn’t involved in church business, unless there was an emergency, I often used my free day to catch up with housework as much as possible.
This Monday, like most Mondays, I was knee-deep in laundry. I had three separate loads piled on the floor in front of the washer and dryer. As soon as I finished those I would need to run two extra loads for the bed sheets. I couldn’t put off getting groceries another day, either. The cupboards were shockingly bare. I’d need to find time to squeeze that in between a dentist appointment for Mark at eleven-thirty and when I needed to be at the elementary school. I’d volunteered with Sarah’s class to help with an art project.
I’d volunteered. What was I thinking?
Being forced into the roles of both mother and father physically and emotionally drained me. Some days, when the frustration felt overwhelming, I had to remind myself Katie hadn’t opted to die. She didn’t want to leave our children. Or me. Doing so broke her heart.
It had nearly broken me, too. It’d taken all this time to come out of the blue funk I’d sunk into. These days, I was able to deal with the needs of the children that would normally fall into Katie’s hands without the anger. It was the unreasonable irritation with Katie that had once clung to me like an insidious spiderweb I couldn’t seem to free myself from. It was much better now. I’d learned to adjust, hold on to the good times, and remember how deeply she’d loved me and the children.
She was gone and I was left to face life without her, taking on all the responsibilities she’d carried in our family, and feeling grossly inadequate to do them half as well as she had.
It’d been four years now and I would never stop missing Katie. She’d been the perfect pastor’s wife: devoted, loving, kind, godly. I felt like a part of me was missing every single day. The grief wasn’t suffocating the way it had been that first year. I still missed her terribly, but I’d forged a path through that overwhelming loss, and as with most pain, I’d found rewards as well. A deeper understanding of myself, of all that I had for which to be grateful, the good years Katie and I had shared, the love we’d found, our children. These were small jewels I’d picked up along the way toward healing. I could remember her now and not feel the anchors weighing me down. I could even laugh and joke again.
And one day, God willing, I would even love again.
By the time I’d finished folding and putting away the laundry, buying groceries, and taking Mark to the dentist—he was going to need braces—it seemed I was rushing from one point to another. Before I headed to Sarah’s school, I popped dinner in the Crock-Pot and made a mental list of everything else I needed to accomplish that day. My head was spinning out of control. Back at the house, I stripped the beds, and put the sheets into the washing machine. I’d need to make the beds later. Mark promised to get the sheets into the dryer while I dropped Sarah off for her violin lesson.