Summary: The kids gather together for Father's day with Lee. He is still trying to come to terms with Amanda's death. The old house holds many memories of Amanda and Lee's life together.
Timeline: Lee had just celebrated his 82nd birthday. Amanda had passed away two years earlier.
Notes: I wrote a story called 'Come with Me' where Amanda outlives Lee. I decided to do one about the reverse.
Feedback: Yes, thank you.
Scarecrow scratched at the screen door as Lee slowly made his way across the room.
"I'm coming, I'm coming." He said as he opened the door.
Scarecrow ran out in to the yard chasing a chipmunk up a tree. Proud of his accomplishment he ran back to the porch and jumped up on Amanda's rocking chair, his favorite place on the porch.
"What did I tell you about that chair?" Lee asked as he sat down in his own rocker. He tapped the dog lightly on the head with his newspaper trying to act stern but Scarecrow just laid his head on his paws and whimpered as he looked up at Lee. He knew Lee was a sucker for those eyes.
"Don't give me those eyes." Lee scolded his dog. He reached over and scratched his head. "I miss her as much as you do."
Lee settled back in his rocker and opened his newspaper but he couldn't concentrate. He remembered when Amanda brought Scarecrow home. She told him she found the puppy but Lee knew she bought him so he wouldn't be alone after she died.
"Amanda!" Lee said as he opened the car door for her.
"He was running around the parking lot at the mall. Someone might have run over him." Amanda said as she clutched the tiny puppy in her arms.
"I thought we agreed that we were getting to old to be tied down with pets."
"I couldn't just leave him there."
Lee shook his head he knew he lost. "Alright but we will try to find the owner first."
"Alright." Amanda agreed.
"And don't name him." Lee warned her. "We might find the owner."
A few weeks passed and Lee and Amanda were eating lunch when they heard a ruckus. They ran to the barn to find the puppy lying in the middle of a pile of straw and fabric.
"My scarecrow!" Amanda picked up what was left of the head. "I just made this to keep the birds out of the garden."
Scarecrow jumped up and barked. He had straw stuck all over his curly fur.
"Lee, do you know what he looks like?"
He nodded, "A scarecrow. Let's hang him in your garden."
Lee and Amanda laughed as the dog ran out of the barn barking. He ran through the garden chasing the birds and a rabbit.
"Well, at least now we know what to name him." Amanda smiled.
"What? Amanda, I thought we agreed?"
"Oh come on, Lee. It's been more that a month. No one is coming for him." She put her arms around her husband and kissed him. "If you really want me to give him away I will."
"You win. You always win. Scarecrow stays."
Lee smiled at the dog asleep in Amanda's chair. Scarecrow had showed them from the very beginning that he was there to take care of them. Amanda was right; the puppy had been good company but he would have rather had her there. Every time he looked at the dog he was reminded of Amanda's undying love. Even in her pain she worried and cared about him first.
Lee sat in the waiting room for what seemed to be an eternity before Amanda had come out. She had been crying but she tried to hide it from him. She took his hand and they walked out of the doctor's office together. Lee didn't need to ask what the doctor had said. It was clear from her silence that the cancer was back. He opened the car door for her as he had always done but before she could get in the car he took her arm and pulled her close. He kissed her and she fell into his arms crying.
"It's back, Lee." She said between sobs. He couldn't say anything. What could he say?
He wanted to take away her pain but all he could do is hold her close and allow her to lean on him.
"The doctor said I have about a year left." She told her husband. Lee closed his eyes. He couldn't imagine his life without her. Now it would be his turn to care for her.
When she brought the puppy home he was angry but then he realized that Scarecrow helped her overcome her pain. Mornings when she couldn't get out of bed he would lay beside her in case she called out for Lee and he didn't hear her. Some morning he would pull her covers back and encourage her to get out of bed. It was the same way he was with Lee. Lee knew that's why Amanda lived for more that three years after the doctor's prediction of just a year.
Lee's daydreaming was interrupted when Scarecrow started to growl. He raised his head and his ears went back. He jumped off the rocker and stood in front of Lee, ready to protect him. Then his tail started to wag as he ran from the porch and down the driveway barking all the way. Lee saw Jamie stop his car and Scarecrow hopped in. He rode the rest of the way up the driveway.
Lee stepped off the porch as Jamie stopped his car.
"Lee." He hugged his step dad. "Happy Father's Day."
"Jamie, Janet. I'm glad you could make it." Lee hugged his daughter in law.
"Grandpa, this is my girlfriend, Christine." Michael said.
"Mr. Stetson, it's very nice to meet you."
"Mr. Stetson? It's grandpa or Lee." He said as he hugged her. Then he hugged his grandson.
Scarecrow started to bark at Jamie's car. Michael opened the trunk and took out a bag.
"You know what I brought you, sport." He took out a bone and gave it to him. Scarecrow took the bone and ran to the garden and buried it. Then he turned and ran up the driveway looking for a ride in Jennifer's car. He repeated the scene with each car that turned down the driveway.
"Don't you ever take that dog for a ride?" Jennifer's husband, Gregg asked Lee.
"All I need to do is get my car keys and he's already in the car." Lee laughed.
"I'm hungry." Thomas told his mother, Dorothy, one of Jamie's daughters.
"You're always hungry." She answered him.
"Unpack the cars and come into the house. You know where your rooms are." Lee told them.
Janet took his right arm and Linda, Philip's wife, his left.
"Come on, dad. While we're here you're getting the royal treatment." They walked him into the house.
"Sit down." They waited for him to sit and everyone came into the living room. The whole family was there-all 23. There were the kids and their spouses, the grandkids and their spouses or girlfriend and the three great grandchildren. When everyone was quiet Janet spoke.
"Dad, we didn't know what to get you for Father's Day. I mean you don't really need anything so we all talked about it and decided to do an old fashion cleaning bee."
Matthew's wife, Michelle spoke, "Now we don't think your house is dirty. We just know how mom would clean from top to bottom, whether it needed it or not."
"Of course," Jennifer added, "That means that you will have to put up with this motley crew for a few days longer than just the weekend."
"Us, men will be doing the outside of the house." Patrick, Dorothy's other son, announced to Lee.
"Thank you." Lee smiled as he picked up Patrick and held him on his lap. "How old are you now, Patrick?"
"I'm four but I'm going to be a big brother soon. Then I can boss the baby around just like Thomas does to me."
Lee hugged Patrick. "I love you, Patrick."
"I love you, Grandpa."
"First, us women will start lunch." Janet announced mimicking her grandson.
They were just finishing lunch when the phone ran. Amanda, Philip's granddaughter answered it.
"Grandpa, it's for you." She told Lee, "It's the real estate man."
Lee looked around the room as he stood up to answer the phone. When he returned to the table it was clear that the mood had changed.
"Are you selling the house?" Matthew asked.
"I put it on the market. It's just too big for me now." Lee defended himself.
"Mom loved it here." Philip argued.
"How could you without talking to us first?" Jennifer asked.
"Anyone for dessert?" Linda asked as she came out of the kitchen with a cake.
"I'm going to check the horses." Jamie said as he left the table.
One by one each one of them left the table. Janet put the coffee tray on the table and sat down next to Lee. He found himself alone with just his daughter in laws.
"I guess I know how to ruin a party." Lee said.
"Want some cake, dad?" Michelle asked him.
"Maybe later." Lee pushed his chair back as Janet took his hand.
"Dad, give them time. I know they will understand. It's just that when they come here they remember mom. There is so much of her here."
"That's why I want to sell it. I can't live here without her. It's been two years but nothing has changed. She was my best friend and I miss her so much."
Scarecrow put his paw on Lee's leg and looked up at Lee. He smiled and put his hand on the dog's head. "I know I have you, boy."
He looked at the three women at the table each one of them so much like Amanda. "I need to take a walk." He said to them.
Lee stood and walked out of the room with his faithful companion at his heals.
The women started to clean the table when Janet slammed her tray down as Jennifer's husband had walked into the dinning room.
"Hope you're not mad at me." Greg said to her.
"No. Just those ungratefulÉ." She stopped. She was searching for the right word.
"How dare they treat him like that? I have a good mind to tell them all off."
"Go ahead, but first hear me out."
After Greg finished his talk he went into town and the girls went to check on the family.
They found Jamie, Philip, Matthew and Jennifer in the barn. Jamie was brushing Silver.
"He's selling mom's horse." Jamie said.
"No, it's his horse." Michelle said.
"Michelle, stay out of what doesn't concern you." Matt told his wife.
"Yeah, this is family." Jamie added.
"What? After almost thirty five years of marriage I'm not family!" Janet shouted.
"You know what I mean." Jamie tried to correct what he had just said.
"No, I'm afraid I don't."
"How could the four of you treat him like that?" Linda asked.
"Who?" Philip asked his wife.
"Mom loved this place." Jennifer said.
"And so does dad. It hurts him to sell it but has it occurred to any of you that he is lonely. He misses mom more than any of us could understand." Linda said.
"They were partners, lovers, sweethearts and best friends. When mom first died we were here for him but we are so wrapped up in our own lives that we're not here for him now and now is when he needs us." Janet stood with her hands on her hips. "Jamie, you told me how you and Philip depended on Lee when your own father wasn't there. Be the son you should be to him now. Help him though this time. He's still grieving."
Jamie looked at his wife and took her hand.
"Once again you put my feet back on the ground just like mom would do. Thank you." He kissed her. "What do you think if I asked dad to come and live with us?" He asked.
Janet smiled, "I would love it."
Lee touched the heart on the big oak tree on the hill that over looked the house. Amanda was so excited when they bought this place. They were able to leave the agency and their jobs behind and retreat to the beauty of the land. He rubbed his hands over the letters he had carved in the heart. LS + AS.
"Amanda, am I doing the right thing? What do I need with this big house?" He sat down under the tree and took her picture out of his pocket. He rubbed his finger down her cheek.
"You made a pretty good agent." He smiled remembering all the times they had together.
"I wish I could be with you now." He said.
Lee looked up to see Jennifer's boy, William, standing over him. He flopped to the ground next to his grandfather and took the picture from him.
"Why do you carry this picture with you? It's so old and you have so many others."
"It's always been my favorite." He put the picture back in his pocket.
"Grandpa, I was thinking. I graduate next June and I can't decide what college I want to go to. I could go to the local community college and live with you. I have no idea what I want to do with my life and I love working with horses."
Lee smiled at him. "Thanks but I think your mother has plans that you go to a college closer to home."
"Moms plans are not mine."
"We'll talk with your parents."
"Thanks." He kissed his grandfather and ran down the hill. He grabbed Patrick and yelled to Matt's boys, Robert and Lee.
"It's time for Patrickball." It was a game Philip and Jamie started with Matthew and it continued through the family. William tossed Patrick to Robert and then to Lee and back again. The whole time Patrick laughed.
Lee turned to see his children walking up the hill.
"Dad, we need to talk." Philip said. "We're sorry."
Lee stood up and Jennifer put her arms around her father. "We were acting like spoiled brats."
"Dad, Janet and I would like you to come and live with us." Jamie said. "I guess I forgot just how much you mean to us. I haven't called you dad in a long time but you are my dad."
"You have always been our dad." Philip said.
"Dad, we want to buy the house." Matthew said.
"We want to keep it in the family." Jennifer added. "We could share it."
Lee smiled. "Jamie, your daughter, Dorothy and her husband Harry want to buy the house and raise their family here. They even offered to take Scarecrow." Lee started to walk down the hill. "They asked me to live with them."
"Dad, what did you tell them?" Matt asked.
Lee stopped and turned to them, "I'm sorry but when Mr. Granbury called earlier. He said he had accepted a deposit for the sale of the house. It's already sold."
Lee reached the bottom of the hill.
"Dad." Jennifer called to him as she ran down the hill to catch up with Lee. The boys followed their sister.
"Dad, if you're happy about it then we are." She said.
"It's just that there is so much of mom here. I feel close to her when I'm here." Matt hugged his dad.
"That's because we're here together. The peace and love here is what your mother created. When we pulled into the driveway the world stayed there. Here was for family not work." Lee looked back up to the tree and then back at his kids. "Every time I look at you I see her. All her qualities that I fell in love with I see in each and everyone of you." Lee took a breath.
"What you don't understand is that I miss being close to her and the smell of her perfume. I miss holding hands and taking walks. I miss kissing her and holding her close and just being with her. She was my best friend, my world and now she's gone." Lee turned and walked back to the house leaving the kids standing there.
Dinnertime started out quietly mostly small talk when they heard a car in the driveway.
Joe, Philip's son, opened the door. It was Mr. Granbury.
"I'm sorry to disturb dinner but I just needed to drop these papers off." He handed them to Lee.
"Excuse me, Mr. Granbury." Jamie asked, "Is the sale final?"
"Oh yes." He answered.
"Do you think we could get the new owners to change their minds?" Jennifer asked.
"I don't know. You need to ask them." He turned and walked over to Greg.
"Just get everyone else to sign here and drop it off at my office." He turned and walked to the door. "Good night."
Everyone was quiet for a few minutes.
"Gregg, you bought the house?" Jennifer asked her husband breaking the silence.
"I had spoken with Dad before we came down here. He had asked for some legal advice on selling the house. I didn't want it out of the family so I put a deposit on it last week." Gregg answered. "When we got here the in-laws had a talk and we all decided to buy it together. Janet, Linda, Michelle and I own the house."
"Why didn't you tell me?" Jennifer asked her husband.
"I'm a lawyer. I can't tell you what a client and I talk about." He smiled at Lee.
"Why didn't you say something?" Jamie asked his wife.
Janet shook her head, "You weren't listening. The four of you were so wrapped up in your family that you forgot that we are part of that family, too. You parents never did." She walked over to Lee and stood behind him putting her hands on his shoulders. "I realized it when your mother introduced me to someone as her daughter; not daughter in law. When my parents died your dad dropped everything to be there for me. I love him as if he were my own father. This house has as much memories for us as it does for you and I don't want to loose them either." She kissed Lee on the cheek, "Thanks for being there for me, dad."
"I want my grandchildren to come here and know the beauty and love of this place." Linda added.
The room was quiet for a few minutes and then Gregg said, "We bought this place so we can all use it. Dorothy and Harry can raise their family here if they want to. William can help work the horses. I for one would love to retire here."
"It will always be the Stetson-King retreat." Michelle added.
The next day everyone was busy cleaning. Lee was sitting on the porch reading the paper. Scarecrow was following Thomas and Patrick around making sure that they didn't get into any trouble.
"Dad, how about a glass of ice tea." Janet put it on the table next to his rocker.
"Thank you. Janet, sit with me for a minute." She sat in Amanda's rocker. "You remind me so much of Amanda, you always have. Jamie said that's why he fell in love with you."
She smiled and tilted her head a little just like Amanda would do.
"I miss her, Janet. When I first met her I tried not to fall in love with her but I was already in love with her. She would ramble on so sometimes that I wouldn't hear what she had to say. The whole time all she was saying is how much she cared. No one ever care that much about me. Promise me something."
"Any thing, dad." Janet answered him.
Lee leaned over and took her hand in his. "Keep the family together. There is nothing more important than family."
She leaned over and kissed him. "I promise and I will make sure that the kids understand that too."
"Janet!" Linda called from the house, "The sauce is boiling over."
She squeezed Lee's hand, "I love you, dad."
"I love you, Janet." Lee released her hand and she disappeared into the house.
Lee closed his eyes and leaned back in the rocker.
"She's special; they're all really special." Amanda said to him. He opened his eyes and Amanda was sitting in her rocking chair.
He smiled, "I missed you."
"I missed you, too. Come let's take a walk." She put her hand out and Lee took it. He pulled her close and put his arm around her waist. He kissed her. They turned and started walking up to the old tree. Scarecrow barked and Lee turned to him. He bent down and pet his dog, his friend.
"Take care of them for me." The dog whimper and then he turned to the boys. Lee and Amanda stood at the tree and she touched the heart.
"Do you remember when you carved this for me?"
"Yes." He pulled her close and kissed her. How he missed loving her.
Scarecrow bark at Patrick and the young boy backed away from the mud puddle. Then the dog turned to the porch where Lee was sitting. He ran over to Lee and pushed his hand with his nose. Then he ran to the barn barking. When no one paid any attention to him he walked up to Jamie and pushed his arm knocking the wrench out of his hand.
"Cut it out, Scarecrow. I can't play now." Jamie said.
Then he went around to Matthew and did the same. Philip glanced up at the porch and smiled.
"We tired him out this morning." He said looking at Lee.
Jamie glanced up at Lee and dropped the wrench.
"Lee!" He shouted as he ran to the porch. Jamie reached Lee and felt for a pulse but Lee slumped forward in his arms.
"Help me. Someone call an ambulance."
The boys laid Lee down and put a pillow under his head. Jamie felt for a pulse again as Michael ran over with his doctor's bag. He listened for a heart beat but there was none.
"Jamie, do something!" Matt yelled as he started to try CPR.
"No, he's dead." Jamie was holding Lee hand.
Matt continued CPR. Jamie grabbed his arm to stop him. "Matt, he's gone." He sat back.
"Isn't there something we can do?" Jennifer asked. He husband was holding her.
"He wouldn't want it." Janet said. "He's where he wants to be now."
Scarecrow turned and went back to his job as protector of the family. He ran across the yard to the boys and stopped; he looked up at the tree.
Lee waved, "Take care of them."
Scarecrow barked and wagged his tail. Then he turned his attention back to the boys.
Amanda squeezed her husband's hand, "They'll be alright, Lee."
"I know. They have each other."