A man greets a new neighbor and is taken aback when he discovers a portrait of his long-lost mother as a young woman in his home. He realizes they share an unexpected bond. Sam Darson grew up as a single child, reared by a single mother, and he’d always wished for a large family. He and Frannie had agreed to have a large family when they married!
Sam and Frannie had three wonderful children, a nice house, and a very comfortable existence ten years later. Sam should have been content, but something was always lacking until Alex Winstobb moved in next door. On Saturday morning, Sam watched the moving van arrive and stated to his wife, “It appears that the old Garrow house has finally been sold! I’m hoping they’re lovely people!”
“I hope they have children!” Fran responded. “It would be good for our kids to have new playmates.” Alex, it turned out, did not have any children. He was a bachelor approximately five years Sam’s senior, but he was a very pleasant man. And, as it turned out, he and Sam shared a lot of interests. Frannie began inviting Alex around for supper at least once a week, and Alex soon became a member of the family.
The youngsters even started referring to him as Uncle Alex. Sam, on the other hand, had finally found someone with whom he could share male pursuits. The two men went bowling, fishing, and tinkered with Alex’s antique Harley Davidson for hours. Sam wished he had that bike. He’d always wanted one, but Frannie had said no. She couldn’t, however, object to Sam riding out with Alex once in a while! Sam, who had grown up without a father or a brother, had long yearned for the kind of male bonding he was now experiencing with Alex.
Alex looked equally devoted in their connection, yet he’d turned distant at times, especially when Sam mentioned his mother, who had died only two years previously. When Sam’s mother was discussing, Alex would withdraw, but Frannie observed that he was paying great attention to every word. Frannie swears she saw tears in Alex’s eyes when the children showed him images of ‘Granny Leah.’ “There’s something strange about Alex,” Frannie said one night to Sam.
“I thought you liked him!” said Sam, astonished.” I do,” she said. “But there is something he’s hiding. A heartbreak maybe, but he’s hiding something…” Sam grumbled and thought that it was just like a woman to find something to pick on about a guy’s best mate. Sam picked up a couple of beers, walked next door, and knocked on Alex’s door. He heard the sounds of a piano playing a familiar tune, then the music ended and he heard Alex’s footsteps.
“Hey!” Sam said holding out the beers. “I thought you might enjoy a nice cold one on such a hot day!” Alex grinned and welcomed Sam. “Was that you playing the piano?” Sam asked. “You’re pretty good! My mom used to sing me that song.”Alex looked very sad. “Mine too…””You’ve never spoken about your mother, Alex,” Sam said gently.
Alex shrugged. “I lost her when I was five. My father raised me but he wasn’t a very patient man…” he explained. “But never mind that. Tell me, what are you doing tomorrow? If you don’t have plans…” Sam squirmed, embarrassed. “Tomorrow is my mom’s birthday. Fran and the kids and I are going to visit her grave,” he said. “It’s something we do every year — but maybe I could pop in after?”
When Sam got home, he said to Frannie, “You’re right, there is something odd about Alex, but it’s not a bad thing or anything like that. I think he’s just very alone in the world. I think he’s adopted us as his family.” The next day, Sam, Frannie, and the three children went to his mother’s grave. They brought with them a lovely arrangement of wildflowers and a dozen helium-filled balloons in bright colors.
Afterward, the five had lunch at a nearby restaurant that had been his mother’s favorite and then they headed for home. Sam said to Frannie, “I’m worried about Alex. Something’s not right. I’m going to pop over and see him.”When Sam arrived next door, he heard the sound of the piano again. The patio doors were open so he walked in. Alex was seated at the piano playing and singing, tears running down his cheeks.
There was a photo Sam had never seen on the piano on a silver frame and the face of the woman in it was hauntingly familiar. She looked so much like his mother when she was young, but there was a sparkle of happiness in her eyes Sam had never seen. Why did Alex have a photo of his mother? Sam wondered. Then Alex started singing along to the familiar tune, but the lyrics were unusual:
“If I’m ever lost in the woods, I won’t cry, I’ll be good, ‘Cause I know my mommy will watch over me…”Sam took a step into the room and gasped. “My mother sang that to me, exactly like that…her own lyrics.” Alex stopped playing abruptly and he turned around. “So did mine,” he said.”That’s my mother!” Sam said pointing to the portrait in the silver frame.
“Yes,” Alex said. “And mine too, brother.” “But how…who…what’s going on?” asked Sam. “When I was five, my father divorced my mother and got full custody of me,” Alex smiled bitterly. “He was a very rich and very bitter man. He ALWAYS got what he wanted.”He wouldn’t let my mother see me. For years after I turned 18, I looked for her but I couldn’t find her. I discovered where she was because a search engine found her obituary online. I was too late.
“I learned about you, then. I found out your birthdate and did the math. She must have been pregnant when she left but didn’t tell my father so she wouldn’t lose you too.” “She never told me about my father…or a brother!” said Sam. “But sometimes she’d look so sad…I think she was thinking of you, missing you.”
“I moved here hoping I’d get to know you, learn a little bit more about mom,” Alex explained. “But I never expected to find the best friend I’ve ever had.””Isn’t that what brothers are?” asked Sam with tears in his eyes. “I’ve always wanted a brother… Now I can say I really do have everything!”