It’s been another long night in this hospital. I was able to catch a slight uncomfortable nap in this hospital chair. I am really trying to figure out why they are still monitoring the children in the hospital. Momma had come back to the hospital and when she got there, I guess I felt it was safe to fall asleep. I went to confront the nurse about releasing the kids and Momma stopped me. “Joe, you don’t know what they plan on doing with these kids if they release them from the hospital. These folks could move them into foster care and we wouldn’t have access to them.” I didn’t even think of it like that. I keep forgetting that legally, the kids are ward of the state. This only pisses me off, but at least we were being strategic about things. If keeping the kids in the hospital was the only way we could be around them, then sleeping in this chair is nothing. I just hope that they are too young to even remember this shit.
I wake up because I feel someone nudging my shoulder. It is Momma and she is telling me that I should go home, get something to eat, and shower. Jacinta is snoring softly and Jordan is being fed by my mother. I am no spiritual person by far, but right now I am thanking God that I have my Momma here. I don’t think I could have handled this on my on if she wasn’t here. I owe her my life. I decide to follow Momma’s suggestion and head over to my house to get myself together. I kiss the kids and Momma on their foreheads and I head to the parking lot to get my van and drive home.
“Bill! You see all this liquor Joe had up in here?! It must’ve been some kind of party! Hate I missed it.” I snicker, but the fact of the matter is that this wasn’t a party that Joe had thrown. Everyone knows that Joe has been out of the country for work. The fact that Julianna, the kids, and Joe ain’t been here since we been here lets me know that there is a lot to this story that we know nothing about it. When we got in yesterday evening, this house was in a wreck. Momma had been busy cleaning and packing up the girl’s room into boxes. She looked so relieved when she opened the door and saw us standing there. She quickly hurried us in and gave us a small run down of what all had been happening. I felt horrible. We all did. None of us stopped to relax, we started helping Momma by getting this house cleaned up and back in order. It didn’t make sense for Joe to have to come home and see his house so messed up.
There was nothing that us boys couldn’t do. Momma had instilled in all of her children to be independent. This meant that all of us knew how to cook, to clean, to fix things throughout the house, and drive. All of us had jobs when we were old enough to understand what to do. We all had to work with Momma at a restaurant called Pyron’s. Joe started working there when he was seven. His job was to clean tables and dishes. We all had a job there and we never saw a pay check. Momma took our pay and provided our family with all the things that we needed. Back then, Daddy was still heavy in the streets and the arguing shorted our money from time to time. Those days were long gone, but the work ethic to live clean and work hard was still there.
We were still working on the house when we heard the front door open. Given the situation that Momma had explained to us, Alton had grabbed a knife out of the kitchen ready for whatever. His days in Vietnam still had him guarded and because he was the quietest in the room, you never guessed that he was the one that was ready to kill your ass. Don being the fool he is, gets loud. “Who the fuck is that?!” Through the foyer walks in Joe who looks like he has been through hell and back. I am relieved to see him and sad for him at the same time. Momma told us to just let him talk to us and not bring up Julianna and the fact that she had walked out of here for what seemed to be for good. He was going through enough with the kids already. We would cross that bridge once we got to it.
Joe was shocked to see us there. “Hey! What yall doing here?!” Joe looked like he was just as relieved to see us as Momma was. We went around giving him brotherly hugs and letting him know that we were here for him and the kids. There is nothing stronger than our bond as brothers. This is for damn sure. We were going to be there for each other no matter what. As Joe looked around, it hit him that the house was being cleaned up and that there was no trace of Julianna being back there. He sighed heavily. “Look Joe, Momma told us what happened. We came here to help you guys. Is there anything that you need from us? Is there anything that you need us to do?” Before Joe could answer, the phone starts to ring. Joe rushes to it as if there was another emergency he was expecting to hear.
“Hello! Yes….” Joe goes back and forth on the line with someone and towards the end of the conversation, he closes his eyes with a sigh of relief. Silent tears roll down his face and once again, the three of us are on high alert. It would take a hell of a lot for any of us to cry. So to see my little brother crying has me on edge. Al and Don are clearly in the same frame of mind as I am. We wait for Joe to get off the phone to tell us what was going on. “Joe, you straight?” He takes a minute to wipe his face. “Yeah, that was my attorney, Amy Goldberg. She filed a motion with family court for me to get temporary custody of the kids until all of this shit has been sorted out. The judge granted it. So now the kids can come home with me. They can leave the hospital!” This was good news. Joe had a new burst of energy and was on his way back out of the door. He told us he was going back to the hospital to get Momma and the kids. He was bringing them home. Just like that he was out of the door again.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that we were given strict instructions as to what to do once we were finished cleaning up. I could tell that Don was about to let that bird out of the cage and before he could, I suggested he open one of Joe’s bottles from behind his bar and let’s catch a drink before Momma got back to house. With that, Don was on his way to the kitchen to find us cups. Joe was in for a rude awakening. He just needed to understand that this decision was for the best right now.
Al and I went back to cleaning. I knew that Momma would have wanted us to have made some major progress by the time she got back to the house. In fact, we should have been gotten the rental truck by now. With that in mind, I decided to look in the phone book to see where the nearest U-Haul facility was located. I found one and called in for a reservation. “Yes, I am in need of a rental truck… Oh no sir, this is not going to be an in-town move, we will be driving to Atlanta and returning the truck on that end…. Uh, huh… Ok, we will be by later today for pickup. Thanks!” I hung up the phone and just like that Don was right on time with my shot cup. I took a swig of the Bourbon and all I could do was appreciate the burn in the back of my throat that the drink gave me. I could tell that Don was on shot number two. “You think Joe is going to go for this plan?” Al was worried about our brother, we all were. “I don’t think he has a choice….”