Westcott Family Farm

by Nicholas Hall

Chapter 16

"The codfish lays ten thousand eggs
The homily hen lays one
The codfish never cackles
To tell you when she's done.
And so we scorn the codfish
While the humble hen we prize
Which only goes to show you
That it pays to advertise."

Andy, bless his heart, before he left for work, put a ham in the oven on slow cook and with the help of Jamie and Eddie, peeled potatoes making them ready for boiling, and left instructions to microwave two packages of mixed carrots and peas. Desert was to be strawberries and ice cream. I wondered if the boys were getting tired of strawberries, but so far, they made no objections. Andy and I'd be more than happy when Mrs. Boyer started employment on Monday, although I was uncertain if she'd work out, about her driving to work and every day , and cooking for so many over the long-haul. Andy and I'd certainly have to have a plan ready for that eventuality.

Watching the boys hustle around setting the table, helping their mother to the table, with Scott the lead "nurse," and serving the meal, I realized it didn't take long for my nephews to adapt to their new home. Of course, they'd moved a great deal in their short lives so I'd suppose they were used to it. Instead of causing stress between them, their vagabond life seemed to draw them even closer together. Then, again, it made sense; they had no other family, until they came here and met us, other than their mother and each other.

Robbie was plumb tuckered out from work, but not dissatisfied or complaining. He'd worked hard and wasn't only tired, but proud as well. He still helped his brothers in the evening with their showers, brushing their hair, chatting with each one, listening to their day, and making certain they were ready for bed. Showering after work in the locker room in the office complex made sense since he was clean when he walked home, and I think, provided the added benefit of ogling young Paul Boyer at the same time. I was wondering how long it'd be before Robbie decided to take a ride in the split saddle and "whoopie-ki-yi" his joy deep and sweet!

Heading up the stairs to their rooms to give the boys a hug and tuck them in bed, I'd come to realize in such a short time, they looked forward to it. They made their "goodnights" to their mother before they went upstairs to shower and prepare for bed while I made certain Janet was tucked in for the night as well. She looked better, well calmer at least and more relaxed, if someone on death's door can look better. I knew each day was more of a count-down to the day when we'd count no more, but tried not to think of that.

Heading to bed from their showers also saved them from putting on clothes to come downstairs. They slept naked, much as Andy and I did. Come late Fall, I'd have to purchase robes for them to don in order to come down stairs after showering, for a cup of hot chocolate and maybe a piece of buttered toast before going to bed? Nothing like it to help a young boy sleep on a cool night. I'd also have to discuss, as winter set in, purchasing pajamas for them to wear. I don't think they understood just how cold it could get up here in the winter.

The little boys, Eddie and Jamie, each received a hug and kiss, with an "I love you" from me and I received the same from them. Robbie gave me a hug, a kiss on the cheek, and "thank you, Uncle Jake, for giving me a job. I promise I'll work really hard."

"You already have, Robbie," I answered. "We're really proud of you!"

David's response was similar but his response, with a wide grin, was, "Thank you for taking me along on the trip. I really learned a lot and I hope to get a chance to learn more. It's fun!"

I'd make certain he would, not only go along, but learn more. Perhaps this would be the nephew who'd take a genuine interest in the farm. Only time would tell, but he was quick with the numbers and had, it would appear, a business sense about him.

Scott seemed to be dedicated to caring for his mother, not that his brothers didn't, but he seemed to take it as his special duty. I noticed as well, he'd become attached to Andy. Perhaps that might explain his dedication and interest. He responded to my hug and kiss, saying, "Thanks for taking care of Mom. She really needs us and you, Uncle Jake."

Man, talk about tearing up! All I could do was hug him tighter, thinking "and you need us too, Scott."

Mattie now, he liked to be cuddled, liked to be held close, rocked back and forth a little, kissed gently, and told how much I loved him and how special he was. Mattie was a tender soul whose heart was open to everyone, until they hurt him.

"I think you know how much I love you, Mattie," I murmured. "I think today you made a new friend, didn't you?"

He nodded and I could feel his face open to a smile.

"I think Luis really needs a friend now too, don't you?"

Again, the head nodded.

I just held him for another minute until he raised his head, put his arms around my neck, looked so, so, lovingly and trusting into my eyes, kissed my cheek, and settled back into bed while I covered him.

I had a text from Andy he'd be late coming home. Evidently there was an auto accident and the ER was busy. It was well after midnight, closer to two in the morning, when he came home and joined me in bed. I was tempted to make love, but when he snuggled up close, my arms around him, he fell asleep in the midst of telling me how tired he was. It was fine with me since just holding him, feeling his body up against mine, nakedness against nakedness, sensing his heart beat, absorbing his heat, and relishing his personal scent, was so personal and an expression of our love. Mattie wasn't the only one who loved to cuddle; I did too and really loved to cuddle with Andy.

Andy was still sound asleep when I woke, went down to the kitchen, and fixed my coffee. I could take a couple of minutes before I needed to make a lunch for Robbie and start breakfast for the others. Robbie had to be to work by seven and, although it wasn't far to walk, I knew he liked to be a little early. Ham sandwiches, container of fruit cocktail, cold soda and a couple of bottles of water, and two candy bars would be his lunch. Breakfast would be pancakes, slices of ham, fruit cocktail, and milk. He'd eat breakfast with the rest of the boys since they were early risers as well.

The berry patch and stand would open at seven, the farm market in town at the same time, and my three farmer's market trucks would've been loaded and workers on the road by five-thirty, so the day was well underway. Mrs. Jenkins sent a couple of radio ads in the day before announcing the availability of tomatoes and blueberries, so, hopefully, there'd be a good response. The field crews, of which Robbie was a part, would be ready at seven to do what Lee and Ted had lined up. I've been fortunate in having damn good crew chiefs over the years.

I'd just filled my coffee cup again and started on Robbie's lunch when a shadow, not Andy, but Mattie appeared, dressed in shorts and a company tee-shirt and a big grin greeted me.

"Ready for the day?" I asked, noting Robbie was right behind him. I got a nod from Mattie while Robbie headed for the pantry to get his lunch cooler and put a small bag of ice in it along with soda and water.

"Why don't we get Robbie's lunch ready for him before we fix breakfast, Mattie? I'll make the sandwiches while you find a couple of candy bars and put some fruit in a container."

Eddie and Jamie bounded into the kitchen as Scott went to fetch his mother. A quick word from Robbie and they were setting the dining room table for breakfast. I knew Janet liked a cup of coffee first thing in the morning so I poured it, and set it at the kitchen table. Scottie got her settled and pitched in helping set the table. I mixed up the pancake batter and flipped on the small television in the kitchen so I could catch the weather and early news. After the weather, which looked great for us the next several days, the station ran it's usually local human-interest story.

I was half listening as I mixed the batter and cautioned David, now in our company, to be careful slicing the ham, when I head the television announcer, the morning anchor, say, "Folks you really have to watch this next story It's a little long, but priceless! It was taken by a lady who just couldn't resist recording the exchange on her cell phone. She posted it and it went viral. She and some of her friends were at Westcott Family Farms, east of Bemidji when this exchange took place."

My attention was suddenly on the television when I heard "Westcott." Secondarily, my attention was temporarily diverted when I heard a soft "uh oh" come from the two little boys.

A young, familiar voice, using an exaggerated southern accent, although it should be noted all of the boys had a southern accent, with an extremely familiar face, asked,

"Mam; I say there, Mam, would you be contemplating the purchase of some of these red, ripe, juicy, purely heavenly, luscious strawberries, begging for a wedding with cold, thick cream or an encounter with a large dish of vanilla ice cream?"

"Why, yes, I am young man," the lady responded.

"Well, Mam, I certainly want to give caution to you should you purchase such a delightful addition to your meals. Just a taken' them berries home, putting them in the ice box, in anticipation of a dessert of berries as sweet as a momma's love, ripe as a young lad ready for lovin', and as delicious as manna from heaven or ambrosia from the gods, will put roses in your cheeks, add to your already stunning beauty, and well, I must remind you, put a quickness to your step should you overindulge."

I heard Janet moan, "Oh, my god!"

Mattie just stood open-mouthed, absolutely shocked at seeing his younger brother on the television.

Robbie groaned, "Oh, shit!"

While David just sighed, "What a line of bullshit."

Scott just laughed out loud while Eddie and Jamie said nothing and all three sort of headed toward the door.

"No, you don't!" their mother ordered, stopping them in their tracks.

"Why, for ever more would it put a quickness in my step as you say it? At my age, my young friend, it might not be so easy to do?"

"Well, Momma says if I eat too many of these ripe, red berries, I'll poop my pants and I wouldn't want that to happen to such a nice lady like you."

"Oh, dear, neither would I," she giggled.

"You could surely save me from embarrassment if you and your lady friends would buy some of these berries and remove them from my temptation."

"My word, you are quite the little con, aren't you?"

"No, Mam, I'm a Westcott, not a Con; James Westcott. In fact, I'm the youngest of the six fabulously handsome and extremely bright and talented Westcott boys now living here at Westcott Farms and at your service. I'm also last at the berry bowl and first in the necessary; I do love strawberries. The fastest runner of the bunch."

"I suppose you'd like me to buy a box of these berries and remove them from your sight, wouldn't you?"

"Actually, Mam, I was hoping you'd buy at least two or three. Just pay the folks at the cash register. My brothers are holding up boxes of berries; all shouting, not my brothers, but the berries, 'take me home, take me home."

The camera panned and zeroed in on Eddie, standing with a box of berries in each hand, a grin on his face, Wescott Family Farms tee-shirt on full display, and he winked at the ladies.

The video clip came to an end, the anchor and the weather person both laughed at Jamie's antics, and I turned the television off.

The kitchen was dead quiet, as quiet as a mausoleum at midnight or like Clement Clark Moore's "Twas the Night Before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse," or in our case, Scott, Eddie, and Jamie.

Janet was about to comment, probably scold the boys I thought, but I quickly interjected myself into the conversation before she could, thwarting her.

"Boys," I began slowly. I could almost hear the snap as six pairs of eyes, three in particular, swiveled, widened, and focused on me. "My question to you, Jamie" pointing my finger at him, "and you, Scottie and Eddie; as a result of your visit with the lady, how many quarts of berries did you sell?"

Collectively, they breathed a sigh of relief, air escaping from their lungs, with just enough volume and strength for me to hear it. The look on their faces was similar to someone farting in the front row of a band concert when a drum roll happened and no one seemed to hear the fart! Smelled it, yes; heard it no, so it could've been anyone, right? So who's to point the finger? As sometimes said, a dog smells its own hole first!

Scottie coughed nervously before saying proudly, "They sold out, Uncle Jacob and had to announce there were no more available until the next morning."

I nodded my approval and said, "Robbie, you better eat your breakfast and get out of here. You have to go to work."

My nephews did, what I thought, at the time, was the strangest thing. They all hugged and thanked me. The boys were the Six Musketeers, not the Three; all for one and one for all.

Andy wandered into the kitchen about that time, looked around wondering what was going on, looked at me, and I responded, "later."

I poured him a cup of coffee and started flipping pancakes. The boys lined up, plates in hand, well Scott had two plates, one for his mother and one for him. A double batch of pancake mix, a quart of juice, and several slices of ham were polished off. After breakfast, David volunteered Scott to help him with the outside chores (pigs) which left Mattie, Eddie, and Jamie to do breakfast cleanup. There was no complaint from any of them.

I joined Janet and Andy at the table. She'd eaten half a pancake, a small slice of ham, and a small glass of juice. She was sipping the protein drink Andy insisted she have. He also put a bottle of mega-vitamins on the table and indicated she was to take one each day.

"Won't cure my cancer, will they?" Janet asked sardonically.

"Nope, but will help you through each day."

Janet swallowed the vitamin and changed the subject. Looking at her three youngest sons, she commented, "Good workers, aren't they? Full of the dickens, but so damned lovable."

I couldn't disagree with her. For that matter, her boys were all damned lovable and typical Westcott boys. Of course, I only had one Westcott boy to compare with and that was me.

"I noticed," she continued, "you didn't scold the boys for their antics."

"No, they did nothing really wrong, more being boys than anything. Perhaps, to some people they may have acted questionably, but not wrong as far as I'm concerned. They did nothing, Janet, you or I may have done when that age, only Jamie is far more eloquent than I was at that age. Their interaction with our customers certainly provided us with some free advertising."

"What are you guys talking about," Andy asked curiously, as he wandered into the kitchen.

Janet and I explained it as best we could but added the caveat, he really needed to view the video clip to get the full impact. Andy commented little, only acknowledging our suggestion to watch the video.

"Maybe it'll be on during the noon report today," he said hopefully, "or perhaps I can catch it online if we're not too busy in the ER tonight."

He had to work again tonight and Saturday night, then he'd be off three days and switch to a day shift. I was so happy Mrs. Boyer would be starting Monday morning and give Andy and me some relief. I was beginning to understand the plight of working moms and dads and the toll an illness in the family took on caregivers, especially those with young children, which Andy and I now had.

"Janet," Andy suggested, "let's get you cleaned up and ready for the day. Do you want a bath or just washed up?"

"Just washed up a bit and my hair brushed."

"Well, let's get you to your room and take care of all of this, okay?"

Andy wasn't only a damned good PA but a great nurse besides! Caring for his sister-in-law was an added burden, but he made no complaint. With all that was going on, it certainly was more difficult for us to find time for intimacy with six additional very active and sometimes sexually charged boys around, all seeming to enjoy the pleasure of nakedness. There seemed to be very few inhibitions concerning sex around us on the part of my nephews. For my part, it seemed every time Andy walked by me, I was hard as a rock, my jeans strained, and my desires almost uncontrollable, not quite, but close. All it would've taken is for him to simply brush my arm, my leg, whisper in my ear, or any other seemly innocent gesture and I would've spewed a sticky, thick load of man-juice in my shorts.

"Uncle Jake," shouted David in an excited, warning voice as Scottie and he bounded in the door after finishing chores, "we happened to look down the lane to the parking area for the berry patch and it's full!"

About the same time my cell phone rang! I answered the call and Mrs. Jensen, evidently somewhat exasperated, said, "Jake, could you please send your two youngest nephews to the berry patch? Apparently, there's a demand, as one lady put it, 'to see that adorable young man with the sexy Southern accent.' God help us all Jacob, but business is more than brisk and we didn't have to pay a dime for advertising."

She paused; "Before you comment, yes, I did see the morning news. Almost choked on my coffee when Jamie cautioned the lady not to eat too many berries. The picture painted in my mind at that instant, was not a pleasant one. Thinking of that poor lady drizzling in her britches was almost too much to take. However, the rest of the news is, I think you should come down here. A Duluth television crew is supposed to show up this morning. The way the lady talked it'd be pretty soon."

"I'll be right down to the office as soon as I can get things and people organized here. In the meantime, I'll send Eddie and Jamie to the berry patch, along with Scott as soon as he showers, to keep an eye on them."

I wasn't certain how much help Scott would be since he was in on the original pitch team, but what the hell, any port in a storm!

I quickly instructed Eddie and Jamie to change into clean tee-shirts (with our logo and name on them), clean shorts (matching if possible), Farm baseball caps, and tennis shoes and be prepared to head to the berry patch.

"Seems as though your conversation with the lady the other day stirred up some business."

"Honestly, Uncle Jake," Scott pleaded, "they didn't mean to cause any trouble!"

"They didn't, but we need to make hay while the sun shines, so to speak, and sell some berries this weekend, so you hustle upstairs, shower, and dress up in Walcott Family Farm clothing like your younger brothers and trot your sweet buns down the lane with them."

Scott ran up the stairs, shedding clothing on the way to the shower.

"Make sure all of the pig smell is washed off," I shouted after him, "and use some of my cologne for good measure."

"Eddie and Jamie, you wait here for Scott. David, as soon as Scott is done, you do the same, and head for the berry patch to watch over the other three and let me know when a television crew truck arrives. The guys at the berry patch stand can give me a call to come down. In the meantime, smile nice, and be your usual diplomatic and sexy self."

"Mattie, could you please help Uncle Jake with your Momma? I know she likes to have her hair brushed so you could help me by doing it. I'll quick tell Uncle Andy what's going on."

Everybody began to move, and move fast. I'd hardly had the words from my mouth and Mattie was on the way to his mother's bedroom. I gave a shout from outside the bedroom door and told Andy some business came up and I was needed at the office right away. I headed out the door.

Mrs. Jensen was quite busy, on the telephone, when I arrived at the farm office. She looked up a moment; "Taking orders and answering questions," she responded to my look of inquiry." My cell rang moments later and one of the cashiers in the checkout booth said, "Jake, company just arrived in a television truck."

"Later," I said to Mrs. Jensen, climbed on an ATV to head to the berry patch. I spotted David scooting down the steps at the house, swung by there, loaded him on behind me, and roared down the lane to the berry patch. The parking lot was full when I arrived. I parked behind the checkout booth, a two-wheel trailer enclosed with large windows to access customers, with a couple of electronic scales for weighing produced, and a couple of cash registers inside so employees could weigh and cash out customers. It was mobile so we could tow the trailer to any of our berry patches harvested any particular day.

The television people, camera man, sound man, and a woman announcer or reporter, were waiting for me to arrive since they'd been told to wait by one of my employees. Smart thinking! The reporter was young and probably new, I thought, since the new ones always seem to get the remote jobs. You know, they're the ones standing outside in the middle of a blizzard or blinding rain storm with water to their ass and lapping higher! A quick look around located Scott, Jamie, and Eddie at the end of one row of berries, smiling and talking to customers. I sent David to bring them to the cashier's wagon.

Scott remained at the end of the row with the customers, while David escorted his two younger brothers back.

"I'd suppose," I asked the television crew, "you'd like to interview my nephews?"

"Oh, yes, if we may?" the young lady asked. "But I'd like to ask you a few questions first, you know, just for background on your business."

The usual questions were asked; the name of the farm, how long it's been here and selling as a farm-to-market operation, what produce do we offer, number of employees, and so on. Finished, the young lady was about to say something to the camera person, when Jamie arrived and asked, smiling and tipping his head toward the young lady, "You send for us, Uncle Jake?"

"Yep! She'd," indicating the reporter, "like to ask you a few questions."

I leaned over and whispered, "Be careful what you say. If I put my hand on your shoulder it means to be silent and let me answer, okay?"

Jamie and Eddie both smiled, Jamie a bit more mischievous than Eddie. The smile should have forewarned me, but I failed to take heed!

"Well, young man," she began, not really understanding what might befall her in a contact with one or both or all, for that matter, of my nephews, thrusting the microphone toward Jamie, "you seem happy this morning." The answer she received probably wasn't the one she really sought, but it was the one she got.

"Yes, mam," Jamie drawled in his best Mr. Sickles manner. "Jest as happy as a hungry tick settled on a fat dog's back, but," with rather suggestive smile and waggling a finger at the young lady, "I don't bite purty young things sech as yerself."

Oh, my god! Before I could clamp a hand on his shoulder, she commented, with a giggle, "I'm happy about that. I certainly wouldn't want to be bitten." Jamie with a cautionary wink, sort of tipped his head wisely, and flipped a thumb toward Eddie announcing, "But he do!"

"Oh, dear," she laughed. Trying to change the subject prevent further personal embarrassment, she asked, "Just what do you do here at Westcott Farm?"

Jamie thought just a short moment before replying, "Actually, vera little, 'cept point out to those lovely ladies, sech as yourself and charming gentlemen's sech as me, the exceptional quality of our berries and sech. And, if they need some assistance, I make certain Brother Eddie takes care of it. He's the bestest berry picker this side of the Bayou."

In that instant, at that juncture of the interview, an epiphany, a light brilliant with understanding and warning, struck me. I just knew what the hell he was going to say next! Jamie was starting to say, "Would you like him to pluck your berries?" but I spoke over him, drowning out his voice and clasping him on the shoulder, "We have both pick-your-own and custom picked berries to ensure a quality product." The last thing I needed was the youngest Westcott jokingly pimp out his older brother to "pluck her berry" or cherry or whatever the current situation concerning her virginity might be!

I was further saved when Scott gave a high, shrill whistle and waved his brothers to him.

"Pardon us, Ma'am" Eddie said apologetically and bowing slightly, "but our brother needs our assistance."

With a quick flick of her head, the young lady indicated to the other two members of her crew they were going to follow the two boys. Naturally, not wanting to risk what Jamie or Eddie might say, especially Jamie, I quickly joined them on their journey to where Scott stood talking to an older couple; an older couple I recognized immediately!

"Why, Jacob," the lady said as I approached, "how nice to see you. It's been quite a while, hasn't it?"

"Yes, it has been, Mrs. Anderson and Mr. Anderson." I quickly explained, in response to the perplexed looks on my nephews faces, Mrs. Anderson was my third-grade teacher and she was now retired.

"You look well, Jacob," she responded before asking, "Let's see, you married that handsome young PA, didn't you? Please forgive me, but for the life of me I can't remember his name!"

"Andrew Jamison-Wescott, Mrs. Anderson."

"Such a nice, intelligent young man. You're so very fortunate, Jacob."

"Yes Ma'am, I truly think I am."

"Pardon me, Mrs. Anderson," Jamie asked apologizing for interrupting, "but how many pounds or quarts of berries did you want?"

"Oh," she said, "I don't know; I'd like to pick enough for Henry and me to have fresh and perhaps freeze some for this winter."

"You don't have to," Eddie offered, "my brothers and I were planning on picking them for you."

Cardboard picking flat in his hand, he motioned Scott and Jamie to follow him down the row of strawberries. David, joining our entourage about the time the interview when Scott whistled for his brothers to join him, decided to stay by my side.

"Henry," Mrs. Anderson said, "stay here and visit with Jacob while I join the boys in picking. I can't let them do all of the work!"

Television crew behind her, recording the whole time, Mrs. Anderson joined the boys in sorting through the berries in order to pick "just the right ones" I heard Jamie instruct, as if he'd been picking berries forever, since he hadn't. This was one of the first times he'd been in the picking patch. What a line of bullshit Jamie could deliver!

I smiled as Henry mused, "She never could pass up the opportunity to teach young people. She does it in such a way they won't know she's doing it."

Henry was so right! She could make learning easy!

"I never asked, Mr. Anderson, what did you do before you retired?"

"I was a Speech Pathologist, holding a PhD and teaching at the University."

My immediate thoughts were of Mattie and his situation, but they were diverted by the chatter of boys and Mrs. Anderson's calm but encouraging voice as they returned from their berry picking. The television crew bird-dogged their steps toward Dr. Anderson and me.

"Guess what?" an excited Jamie blurted out, anxious for my attention.


"Did you know a pound of feathers and a pound of berries weigh the same? That's what Mrs. Anderson says."

"Yeah," added Eddie proudly, "only the volume is different. Volume is the amount of space each one takes that's why you would think the feathers would weigh more since they would take up more space."

"Well, that's certainly something worth knowing," I acknowledged.

"Shore is!" Jamie responded in his now signature imitation of Mr. Sickles. "Jest be careful buy'n live chickens. All those feathers might mean a skinny hen."

"Henry, you must see the lovely berries the boys picked for us. They're just as lovely as Jacob's young nephews."

Henry made admiring and appreciative remarks as Mrs. Anderson turned her attention back to Eddie, Jamie, and Scott, specifically Jamie since he was the closest to her.

"Now," she said with a smile, "are you boys visiting your Uncle Jacob for the summer?"

Suddenly, the vivacious, lauraceous, vibrant, extroverted bravado, gregarious nature of the small boy so delightfully portraying Mr. Sickles became the vulnerable, sensitive, loving child he was! Jamie's lower lip began to quiver, the happiness left his face, and his soft, wavering voice revealed his hurt and his emotions.

"Momma brought us her to live with Uncle Jake 'cause she's dying of cancer and wanted us to have a safe place to live."

With a sob, he stepped into her open arms and was quickly joined by Eddie, who added, "But he's ever so good to us."

Other than the muffled sobs of my nephews, two held close by Mrs. Anderson speaking softly, soothingly to ease their pain and offer comfort, and Scott who'd navigated to my side to join David, both held close to me as their small, young bodies shuddered with sadness, not another sound, save the sounds of nature's birds and the vocalization of distant livestock on the farm, was heard. Those people working in the cashier's wagon and customers waiting to pay, those still picking in the rows of berries, and the television crew, stood silently, watching the sad drama unfolding before them.

Jamie finally tilted his head from Mrs. Anderson's warm embrace, addressed the television crew, blinked back tears, and asked, apologetically, "Can we end this, please? We're all feeling kind of sad right now!"

My throat tightened, my chest gave a slight heave, and I felt David's arms around my waist pull him even closer, upon hearing the pleas of my youngest nephew and their brother, making the plea on their behalf. How I regretted the moment and circumstances which brought the plea forward.

The television crew silently packed up their gear and prepared to leave. Before leaving, the reporter said to me, "We'll not use this part of the interview. It's way too personal and private. The last thing we want to do is intrude on the coming grief of the boys losing their mother."

It was a statement of fact; not a question, not a request, just a determined, sincere announcement! I nodded my acknowledgement, adding, "You're most welcome to come back any time."

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