Just Hit 'Send' - The Happy Years

by Grasshopper

Ch. 14

Danny sat in the big comfy chair, his legs sprawled over one arm, his head resting tiredly against the back, watching JD play with Bug. JD was holding his finger on the tip of Bug's nose and then moving it to his own ear, then to his other ear and back on to his nose.

"You're gonna make that little guy cross-eyed in you don't stop," Danny laughed.

"I am watching him follow my finger," JD frowned. "He does it good."

"Then why the frown?" Dan asked.

"Cause, watch Papa D." JD poked his face near Bug's and said, "Hey, little Buggie," and Bug reached up his hands to grab JD's face.

"So? He wants to pull off your nose."

"No, No, Papa D. Watch," JD said in frustration. He stood up and walked behind Bug and clapped his hands. Bug just stared at Dan, a sweet smile on his face.

"He thinks you're gone," Danny said.

"Papa D!!!!" JD groaned. He moved right next to Bug's ear and said, "Buggie, look at Brother." Bug kept smiling at Dan.

Now, it was Dan's turn to frown. He climbed out of the chair and down onto the floor with the kids. "Hey there, little Bug," he said, and watched Bug grab for his finger. "JD, go get the big red dictionary from Daddy's desk." He sat there watching the baby, praying that what he was thinking was wrong; wishing that Jordan was home.

JD came staggering over to the blanket clutching the huge book, his eyes wide. "You want to read this?"

"No," Dan said calmly, "I want you to go to the couch, put the dictionary on it and then climb up."

Hearing the grownup sound in Papa D's voice, JD did just that and then looked at Dan.

"Now, hold the dictionary out and drop it."

JD frowned some more. "Drop Daddy's big book?" he asked hesitantly. "He will be mad."

"No, he won't. I'll tell him why."


"JD, drop the book."

JD gulped at the serious sound in his Papa D's voice. He dropped the book. It made a loud whacking sound as it hit the wood floor. He watched Papa D jump at the sound; he knew it was coming, but he jumped too. Only Bug did not jump. Bug just kept smiling that sweet smile and holding out his little hands. JD watched Papa D lift Bug up and hold him tightly against his chest, a funny look on his face. He wasn't sure why, but he just sat down on the couch and didn't ask.

"He's only six weeks old."
"I thought it was just that there's always so much going on."
"Maybe he just doesn't know to turn his head and look."
"I know he can see us."
"I'm calling Dr. Gregory right now."

JD could hear the grownups in the living room. He sat on the floor just behind the hallway door listening. Mommy had told him to go to his room and play, but this was about Bug and the big book. JD was scared cause they all sounded scared. What was wrong with his brother?

The next morning, Dr. Gregory had done a preliminary hearing screening on Bug and then set up an appointment with an otolaryngologist, a specialist in ear, nose and throat, for a complete hearing evaluation.

"Dr. Davis will be able to answer all your questions," Dr. Gregory said gently. He was sitting across his desk from the largest nuclear family he had ever dealt with and wasn't sure which way to look, so he just kept his eyes trained on Markie.

"Is this something we can fix?" Griff asked expectantly.

"It depends on the type of hearing loss. There is conductive loss which is the outer or middle ear. This is caused by a middle ear infection, trapped fluid or impacted wax. This can usually be corrected by surgery."

"What's the other?" Easy asked, standing behind Markie, his hand gripping her shoulder.

"The other type is called sensorineural and is in the inner ear or somewhere along the nerve to the ear."

"And that means what?" Jordan asked, the pain evident in his voice. Dan squeezed his hand.

"That would indicate a more serious problem," the doctor said carefully.

"Oh, God," Markie moaned. "My sweet little baby."

Griffin looked devastated and pulled her into his arms. "Shhh, we don't know anything yet, Honey."

"No, please wait until Dr. Davis does a complete work-up on Samuel. He's one of the best in his field and he'll have the answers to all your questions."

They all trailed out of the doctor's office and met Val, sitting in the waiting room, holding Bug. The looks on their faces told her that this precious child had a rough road ahead. Markie took Bug from her, a strickened look in her eyes. Easy shook his head, telling her to wait til they were alone to ask.

Jordan knew he had the hard task of collecting JD and Nikki from Grandma Mary's and trying to keep a smile on his face.

The next four weeks were excruciating for everyone, trying to go to work, trying to make sense of this happening, trying to keep their fears from JD and Nikki.


Jordan looked up from the papers he was grading into JD's worried face.

"What, Punkin?"

"What is wrong with Bug?"

Jordan knew better than to say 'Nothing'. He knew JD better than that.

"He doesn't seem to hear things like we do."

JD frowned, "Can we fix him?"

"He's going to a doctor who fixes ears day after tomorrow," Jordan said. "Then we'll know how to fix him."

"And then he will be fine?"

Jordan hesitated. How easy to say 'Yes, then he'll be fine', but what if he has that inner ear or nerve kind of damage? He will never be totally 'fine'. He smiled and pulled JD into his lap, "Let's wait and see what the doctor tells us, okay?"

JD knew what that meant.....'wait and see'......that meant Daddy didn't know and it might be bad. He felt afraid, afraid for what he didn't understand, afraid because the grownups were scared and afraid for his little brother. He rested his cheek against his Daddy's chest and felt very small and very scared.

The Wellington Clinic sat majestically on five acres of downtown Wilmington surrounded by high black wrought iron fence. They had argued about who should go and ended up all going to this appointment too, leaving JD standing sadly staring after them from Mary Kessler's front window.

"I want to hear what the doctor says for myself," Jordan argued.

"Bug belongs to all of us," Dan said quietly.

And so it was.......six frightened people waited, alone in their own thoughts, while a stranger put their baby through a series of tests. It had been difficult to get Markie to let go. Griff said softly, "He'll be right back, Honey. Let the doctor do what he needs to."

Dr. Davis was an imposing man, but extremely friendly and approachable. He had assured them that nothing done would in any way hurt or scare Samuel. He had gently explained to Markie that it was easier to do the evaluation without her there because babies sensed fear in their mothers. He wanted Samuel calm and happy.

The door opened and Dr. Davis walked through, Samuel held in an easy grip at his shoulder. "He's a brave little soldier. Smiled the whole time and had the nurses in the palm of his hand." He handed the baby to Markie and sat, not at his desk, but in another chair with the family.

"What did you find, doctor?" Danny asked.

Dr. Davis reached out and took Markie's hand and held it gently. "Samuel has sensorineural damage to the auditory nerve." He looked into each of their faces, "This type of loss is typically permanent."

"Dear God," Jordan sighed, his voice a whisper in the silent room.

"Is there surgery that can help?" Griff managed to ask.

"Surgery is not an option with the damage he has."

"But..................," Markie choked out, her fingers gently stroking little Bug's cheek. For a few minutes, everyone just sat, their thoughts careening from one dark place to another.

Easy held back the tears that wouldn't help, then he cleared his throat, "Okay, Doc, where do we go from here? This little boy has got a huge support group, as you can see. What do we do first?"

The doctor spent the next half hour explaining all that could be done to help Samuel. He would need hearing aids at six months so that his developmental skills wouldn't be as limited; he would need monitoring from adults to encourage and check the hearing aids; and, at two years, they would evaluate him for Cochlear implants.

"What will those do?" Danny asked.

"Unlike hearing aids that make sounds louder and clearer, Cochlear implants, surgically placed in the inner ear will bypass the damaged parts of the auditory system and directly stimulate the nerve of hearing, allowing Samuel to receive sound."

"So, there are things we can do?" Jordan said, his voice stronger. "There are steps we can take?"

"Of course," the doctor said gently, "Samuel will get everything he needs to live a full productive life. It's plain to see that he will have all the help he needs."

When they got home, Jordan walked across the street, watched Mary's door fly open and JD race out without his jacket or his shoes. "Whoa, little guy, get back inside." Jordan caught him up and carried him across the rain slicked street.

"How is Bug, Daddy? How is Bug? Is he home? Did he cry? Did they hurt him? Is he okay? Where is Bug?"

"He's fine. He's home waiting to see you." Jordan flickered his eyes over to Mary and she saw the pain. Biting her lip, she held back the questions. "I'll bring Nikki over when she wakes up from her nap. JD wouldn't leave the window."

Jordan felt little arms hold on tight. He could feel JD breathing hard. "It's okay, Punkin. Your brother is okay. I'll tell you what the doctor said when we get home, okay?"

"Okay," came the muffled response.

Later that night, Markie tiptoed to Jordan and Dan's door and crooked her finger for them to come. JD was sitting by Bug's crib, holding his Winnie the Pooh book and 'reading' loudly. He would stop and pat Bug on the cheek and then start up again.

"He can't read that well yet, can he?" Danny questioned softly.

"He knows it by heart. He said that if he 'reads' long enough and loud enough, Bug will hear him. I haven't got the heart to stop him."

Jordan walked over and tapped JD on the shoulder. "Let Bug sleep now. You can read again tomorrow."

"But, Daddy, he might be able to hear me in his sleep, like dreams."

"Let him dream about angels singing and puppies rolling in the high green grass for tonight, okay?"

"Okay, I guess, but tomorrow I will read more. I will help Bug hear better."

"You will; if anyone can, you will."

It was decided that Markie would take a leave of absence from her school, partly for Bug and partly from exhaustion and Jordan and Dan would up their share of the finances to make up the difference.

"I can't let you do that."
"How can you stop us?"
"What else do we need the money for?"
"He's not your................."
"Don't even go there. Yes, he is."

Griffin and Markie lay awake long into the nights, talking about all they would do. Jordan and Danny spent hours upon hours on the internet learning about sensorineural hearing loss and cochlear implants. Easy and Val felt the tension, the stress building and didn't know how to help. The once happy house was clouded in a gray mist...the laughter absent, everyone watching Bug for any sign of improvement.

Nic shook his head. "What can we do? I feel absolutely useless watching them struggle with something beyond their control."

"I think they've forgotten that God has a reason for everything he does; the ripples in the stream. I can't get any of the archangels to tell me, but I know there are things brewing," Sam answered. "Time will tell."

Markie and Griff took Bug in for two week checkups. The audiologist put a microphone in Bug's ear and tested for loudness discomfort and watched the frequency monitors shoot up and down drawing wave lines to find the right levels for his little ears. He would get his hearing aids at his six month checkup.

"Papa D, how will Bug learn to talk if he can't hear me?"

"He will go to a special school where very wonderful teachers will teach him to talk."

"Will he be able to hear himself talk?"

"No, but he will be able to 'feel' himself talk. Remember that rhyme Daddy taught you when you were little?"

JD thought, "Which one, Papa D?"

Dan reached out and touched JD's eyelashes and said, "Eye peepers."

"Oh, hahahahaha, yes, my eye peepers," he giggled. Touching each part of his face, he chanted, "Eye peepers, nose dropper, mouth eater, chin chopper, gooley, gooley, gooley."

Dan laughed, "That's the one. Put your fingers right here under your chin and on your throat," he watched JD press gently on his throat, "Now, talk to me."

JD thought and then said, "Hellllllo, Papa D. I'm talking to see how it will feel for Bug to talk. Hahaha...I can feel my gooley go bump bump."

"Okay, now talk to me without making any noise."

JD mouthed some more words and his face lit up. "I can 'feel' myself talk. Bug will be able to do that?"

"Yep, and we are all going to learn to talk with our hands too."

JD looked down at his hands, listened intently, then said sadly, "Hands do not talk."

"Oh yes they do." Danny smiled and signed,

I l o v e you

"What did that say?"

Danny pointed at himself, then pressed both hands over his heart and then pointed at JD. "What did I just say?"

JD grinned, "You loooove me."

"Yep, and that's what it means when I talk with my fingers too. I learned to sign when I was in college learning how to take care of hurt people."

"Can I learn?"

"Sure, I figured you'd be asking, so I got you a chart." He pulled the paper from the desk and handed to JD. "You learn how to talk to your brother. By the time you know and can do it fast, he'll be ready."

That night Griff found JD asleep, chart under his pillow. The next morning, JD could sign B-U-G and J-D and by the end of the week, he had D-A-D-D-Y and P-A-P-A-D and P-O-P down. He turned proudly to Markie and signed M-O-M-M-Y. He only had to peek at the chart once...the 'D' messed him up cause of his left hand.

Somehow, with the beginning of knowledge, with the feeling that they could all help Bug; that Bug could be strong and they weren't powerless......came the beginning of peace. Their lives would ever be changed by this little boy who would need them in a special way, but it wasn't impossible. They had faced so much and there was much to come, but nothing was impossible when there was love.

Things began to change in the house by the ocean. Markie was vetoed when she insisted that Bug's crib stay right beside her bed. JD wanted his brother with him, so they moved the crib to JD's room and, more nights than not, JD could be found sleeping on the floor by the crib. Griff or Jordan would lift him and tuck him into his own bed, but come morning, like as not, he'd be right back,' guarding' he said...being a big brother.

Gabriel began to take care of Bug after school. Markie had a hard time letting the baby out of her sight, but everyone agreed she needed some down time of her own and Gabriel wanted to help.

One afternoon, Easy noticed that the tension had lessened and there was laughter again. Life was going to go on.

"Remember that kid and his dad that came over at Christmas?" Easy asked one evening as they sat by the fire.

"Yeah, Jonathan, wasn't it? It seems a million years ago," Jordan smiled ruefully.

"A lot has happened since then, Jordy," Dan sighed, "But we've got a handle on it now, right?"

Jordan kissed him gently, "Dang right, Darlin."

"Well, I was hoping Jonathan could spend some after school time here around Gabriel and the kids. The school psychologist insists that Selective Mutism is his choice to hide from things that were too overwhelming, in this case, his mother's suicide. His father says he's sliding further and further away, never leaving his room except for school and not speaking there at all."

Jordan looked over at Markie. "Your call. This has been a rough time. You want a strange kid with problems in the house right now?"

Markie rocked Bug, Nikki's head resting on her thigh. She had been knocked for a loop with Bug's problem, but she could never say 'No' to a child in need.

"Sure, if he won't talk to these little Jabberwocky's, he just plain won't talk.

You remember Jonathan, JD?"

JD nodded his head, "Yes, the quiet boy. He was nice. I will help him talk like I help Bug."

So, as the cold winter stillness, that had brought fear and hopeless feelings into their house, eased into the green of spring, Jonathan began to visit. At first, he was so shy that he just sat in the chair near the door glancing at his watch. But, time and Gabriel and Nikki and JD had a way about them. It became impossible to remain blank when all anyone wanted was for him to smile.

"Look at Jonathan," Dan nudged Jordan from behind his newspaper. The boy was sitting on the floor pushing a little blue Nerf ball back to Bug each time the baby happened to bat it in his direction. He had allowed a sweet smile to form on his face and his eyes were dancing.

"Want to hold Bug?" Jordan asked.

Jonathan didn't have time to hide that smile. He nodded his head and awkwardly took Bug in his lap when Jordan held him out. The baby kicked his feet and drooled a toothless grin, smacking Jonathan in the nose. The first noise anyone heard from Jonathan Miller was a soft chuckle.

The days grew warmer and the beach began to call out to the kids. At first, Markie was overprotective of Bug, but Griff convinced her not to think of him as made out of crystal just cause he had one little problem. He was a boy and the warm sun called. Jordan was already talking about getting him on a surfboard. Markie sighed.....no matter their age, boys will always be boys. As for Bug, he was quite possibly the happiest baby God had ever sent down; nothing phased him and in his eyes, it was as if you could see the heavens glowing and the angels fluttering their wings. It was as if God gave him peace within the storm.

JD was loving first grade. He could read the easy textbooks and began to beg everyone to take him to the library for books he could read to Bug. The teacher, Miss Harrelson, said her only complaint was that he wanted to help everyone too much.....he gave kids answers and gave away his pencils and crayons. He also gave away hugs.

"JD, we need to talk."

"What, Daddy?"

"Miss Harrelson called. You're hugging again."

JD wrinkled his nose. "But...."

"We've had this talk before, Kiddo. Everyone has their own....."

"I know, Daddy, everyone has their own space." He emphasized this by spinning in a circle and then drawing a line around himself with his finger. "I am not supposed to go in it unless I am invited."

"That's right." Jordan tried to think of how to explain 'political correctness' to a six year old who loved to hug. "Okay....not all kids are from homes like yours..."

"That's the truth," Danny chuckled. Jordan shushed him with a look.

"A lot of people don't hug their kids or spend a lot of time with them."

"But, Daddy, that is sad. Wouldn't that mean they need hugs?"

Jordan knew JD was right, but in this stupid world we live in right now, hugs were not allowed. "What I mean is, these kids don't understand when you hug them because they aren't used to it."

Frowning now, JD said, "They do not like hugs?"

"One day, maybe, but not now. You have to save your hugs for us. We love them."

"I will be better. I promise, Daddy. But, I think it is very sad." Jordan gathered him up in a huge bear hug and then watched him walk slowly out of the room.

"That is such shit," Dan griped. "Poor little guy."

"Yeah, but did you read in the paper just the other day about that sexual harassment suit against that five year old boy who touched that little girl's waist?"

"You are so kidding?"

"No, and, as much as we know that JD is just the world's most innocent loving kid, we have to make him understand that he has to keep his hands to himself."

JD stuck his head back in the doorway, "Daddy?"


"What if someone likes hugs?"

"Like who?"

"Like my friend Tony. He hugs back. Is it as bad to hug boys as girls?"

Dan watched the corners of Jordan's mouth twitch with laughter. "I think, for now, we just cut out the hugs. K?"

"Yes, Daddy, but Tony will be sad."

Dan choked on a giggle. "Jordy, I gotta say this........"

"No, I don't wanna hear it, not yet. He's only six."

"When did you know for sure?"

Jordan thought for a minute, "I guess when I wanted to hug someone really bad but knew he'd break my head."

"You can come hug me. I won't break anything."

One late afternoon, JD was sitting by Bug's crib at naptime. He was reading softly from Horton Hears a Who and showing Bug the pictures:

"Should I put this speck down?" Horton thought with alarm.
"If I do, these small persons may come to great harm."
"I can't put it down and I won't...."
"After all, a person's a person, no matter how small."

"See, Bug, there is big ole Horton and he is not gonna hurt the little Whos." He held up the book and pointed to the big elephant holding the tiny speck of dust that contained an entire universe.

Jonathan walked quietly into JD's room and sat on the edge of the bed.

"Hey, Jonathan, wanna read to Bug?" Jonathan shook his head. JD looked at Jonathan, his brows furrowed. Finally, he said, "Jonathan, my daddy says I cannot hug kids at school. Is that why you don't talk? Do you not like hugs? Do you not want me to hug you either?"

A single tear ran down Jonathan's cheek. He thought of his mother; the way her perfume lingered in a room long after she was gone; her laughter when he drew pictures only for her; the way she wanted to take him to the park or the zoo or any fun place, but everyday, she grew more and more tired. Until, one day, she just wasn't there anymore.

He could still feel her arms around him in a hug. Did he like hugs? He felt the hot burn of tears in his eyes.....Oh Yes! He loved hugs, but the one person who gave them the best had left him.

His father had tried to explain about the depression and how it wasn't his fault, but no matter how hard he tried, Jonathan blamed himself. If he had made her laugh more, drawn her more pictures, hugged her more............ something.

He wanted to talk. He felt the words welling up inside him, but it was like they were rusty now. He was afraid if he spoke, his voice would make the sound of a fingernail across the chalk board.

JD kept reading to Bug. The sound of his voice was soft and sweet. Jonathan watched little Bug's hands reaching for JD. He did want to talk. He did want to read. Maybe, just for a minute.....

"JD, come here a second. I want to see if this headpiece for your costume fits," Markie called from the living room. JD jumped up. "Jonathan, will you read to Bug while I am gone? He loves to listen."

Jonathan sat very still, staring at the book in his hands. He could read to Bug. He stood up and walked over to the crib, kneeling down to link his finger through Bug's little hand. "Hey, Bug," he said softly.

When JD came to the door of his room, he heard Jonathan reading in a paper-thin voice:

"And you very small persons will not have to die,
If you make yourselves heard!
So come on now and TRY!!"

JD, forgetting his promise, and being JD, ran into the room and threw himself onto Jonathan in a huge hug. "You are talking!!" Jonathan blushed and handed the book back to JD. "You finish," he said softly.

"See, Nic, my love, the ripples are starting. One thing affects another. One person touches another. No one is truly alone."

Nic hugged Sam close, "I think they'll be all right now."

"I never doubted it for a minute," Sam smiled. "Now, I want more hugs."

It was the last play of the school year and JD had a starring role. Markie had been working hard on the costume and was feeling very proud of herself.

"Come on, we'll be late if we don't get a move on," Griff called from the driveway. "Nikki, let Fiddle alone and get in the car."

Jordan, Dan, Gabriel and Jonathan in the van, Griff, Markie, JD, Nikki and Bug in the car, to meet Easy and Val at the school cafetorium. JD couldn't put his costume on until they got to the stage, so he was bouncing madly in his seat belt on the back seat between Nikki, in her bumper chair and Bug, strapped into his huge car seat.

Markie and Val disappeared behind the stage curtains with JD and the costume. Griff held Nikki's hand and Jordan carried Bug in his little carrier. Settling on the hard backless fold table seats, Jordan moaned, "My butt will be asleep five minutes into this, you know." He eased Bug onto the table behind him and helped Dan release the straps on his braces. "You be okay sitting here?"

"Yeah, but I'm gonna need serious therapy when we get home."

"Ummm, count on it!"

The lights dimmed and Miss Harrelson came out from behind the curtains. "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to welcome you to the First Grade's last play of the year entitled The Monkeys and the Crocodile."

The curtains opened and the stage was a jungle full of palm tree kids and a great river (made of blue paper being waved up and down by very tired teachers). Monkeys and bright colored birds, a snake and several other unidentifiable animals (some costumes were better than others) were leaping and rolling around the stage.

Griff got his video camera ready and Jordan held his finger on the go button of his digital camera.

From stage right, a very cute bouncy monkey came tripping out, looking over the river toward the island beyond where some kind of fruit tree stood.

"I with I could go eat mangoeths, but I can't thwim," he said sadly.

Suddenly, out of the rattling blue water, a fierce crocodile rose up, his huge jaws opening and snapping shut. "I can give you ride on my back if you like," he said in a loud growly voice. Out in the audience, Jordan, Dan, Griff and Easy were all mouthing the words silently, having heard them a gazillion times in the last three weeks.

The monkey tricked the croc; the croc was a good sport; the play ended with the crocodile stepping to the edge of the stage to say:

"The moral of this story is to be smart and tricky and stay away from crocodiles!..............Hey Daddy, Hey Papa D, Where's Bug?" As everyone in the audience turned, laughing, Miss Harrelson scooted all the jungle creatures off the stage.

Full of ice cream, all tucked in and alone with his brother, his croc head hooked on the corner of his bed, JD looked over at Bug. "Did you see me, Bug? I was not scared. I am brave. I will always be brave for you." He drifted off to sleep, dreaming of mango trees and happy dancing monkeys.

Summer came roaring in on waves of hot air. Jackets long tucked away, it was bare feet and surfboard weather. JD turned seven and would start second grade in the fall and Bug was going to get his hearing aids in two weeks.

"We'll take JD to the lake early this summer and be out of here when you get Bug adjusted to the aids," Jordan said at the dinner table a week before the doctor's appointment. Part of him wanted to help, but most of him knew that Markie and Griff needed some time alone with Bug. Val and Easy were taking Nikki to stay with them and the house would be quiet. Mary was right across the street if they needed another pair of arms. It was best.

So it was that Dan, Jordan and JD hit the road for two weeks at the lake, Val collected Nikki, and Markie and Griff sat alone with little Bug on the thinking log in the warm summer breeze.

"Would you change any of this?" Griff asked, his voice low in the jasmine- filled night air.

Markie knew what he was asking, "None of it. I wish our little Bug didn't have this problem, but no, our lives have been so full of excitement and love. We have a life people would love to have, our best friends with us, our children all happy and wonderful...this house," she waved her arm toward the house that already held so many memories. "I feel blessed to live with you, Griffin, and to have so much happiness."

"But," he said, a twinkle in his voice, "It sure is nice to hear nothing but the waves for a change and it's excellent to have you to myself just for a little while." He stood up and held out his hand.

Same old dirt road, same old country store, same Old Mr. Freedlich saying "What kin I do ya for?" Jordan and Dan had kept their word to JD about coming to this lake every summer for two weeks. The quiet and the clean air always put roses in Danny's cheeks and they found that they had time to just 'be'. They always seemed to find the two fifteen year old boys they had been and relax for a few days before being grownup grabbed hold again.

"I wish there was a boy for me to play with," JD said as he lay rocking on his stomach in the tire swing in the front yard. "I saw a boy at the store, but he was bigger than me."

Danny smiled, "Let's go fishing, k? We need a fish for supper."

The two weeks flew by, and as they drove the packed van along the dirt road past the old grocery, JD saw the boy one more time. He stood on the front porch of the old store, his brown hair tousled by the breeze, his hands crammed in the back pockets of his cutoff jeans and his bare feet kicking up the dust. JD raised his hand in a shy wave and the boy waved back, touching his forehead with his fingers in a kind of salute. 'Maybe next summer', JD thought as he watched the boy grow smaller and smaller until they turned a curve in the road, "Maybe next summer he will be my friend."

The hearing aids were adjusted and fine tuned to Bug's little ears. Surprisingly, he didn't try to pull them off after a few attempts at the very beginning. It was as if he realized he could almost hear his family. He seemed to cock his head and watch so intently every move they made. JD sat with him watching so that he didn't pull on the hearing aids. Bug was a very good baby; he didn't fuss. They all grew to accept that silence surrounded little Bug, but JD kept reading and practicing his signing. He was getting so good that he shamed the grownups into learning.

Markie took Bug to special classes at the Clinic where Bug learned about vibrations and colors and every stimuli a baby could have. The aids helped him 'feel' the music and the poems. His eyes were always moving, tracking and laughing. Bug was a very happy baby. He had no idea he was different.

The school year kicked back in and it was decided that Markie was now a stay at home mom. She loved it and realized that, as much as she loved teaching, her life belonged to her family right now. JD was growing so fast, his little boy days coming to a close, Nikki was three and into everything. And Bug.....he didn't ask for anything, he was just Bug. He didn't know any strangers....he held his arms up to be loved by anyone who smiled. He made no sounds other than a soft cooing when he was rocked.

Christmas came and went that year of Bug's first birthday. It was quieter than the year before, everyone placing their ornament on the tree, something twinkling and bright to catch Bug's eye. The tree was filled now with ornaments from past Christmases, their lives had tradition, their lives were full of love and commitment.

In the spring, Claire and David drove up from Florida. Jordan wanted to act like it was no big deal, but it was. His father had never been to the house on the ocean; had never seen the lives he and Dan had built for themselves.

"It'll be fine," Danny kept repeating. "You'll see, despite everything, he loves you, Jordy."

"Yeah, but he has to hold out his hand. I have, over and over. I can't do it again. It hurts too much."

The doorbell rang and JD opened it with a happy smile. "Grandma," he yelped as he grabbed her in a big hug. "I'm so glad you're here. You haven't met Bug and there's so much to show you." Then, he stepped back and looked up.

"Hello," the tall man said.

JD stared for a second, then asked in a shy voice, "Are you my grandpa?"

Jordan stood in the kitchen doorway, thinking the same thing, 'Are you?'

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[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead