The Significant Other
When everyone seemed to be delighting in the game of life, Frank Hempstead carried a feeling inside of him as if he were benched on the sideline, a mere spectator. He had a habit of thinking about how he barely graduated from high school and how the people in his life got married, had children, landed good jobs, and moved into nice homes. Some of his friends later divorced and remarried and unlike Frank, they appeared to be maintaining a decent living. He dwelled on the fact that he was unmarried because he felt there was a significant other in his life that was just beyond his grasp. He would have liked to have settled down and had a family of his own but he resented the fact that he was a mere cab driver struggling through life.
He was unable or unwilling to remove that feeling that life was passing him by and that he was a failure. He was blind to what matters most in life--a person's self-worth--because through his self-pity he failed to recognize that he was a kind person with a deep compassion for the needs of others. He failed to see his own goodness as he struggled through life trying to get by from day today.
He was also unable to remember the small acts of kindness that he bestowed on others like the time he bought a homeless man a cup of coffee and allowed the man to warm himself in his cab on a bitterly cold February day. He rarely thinks about the selfless act of picking up groceries for his elderly neighbor and listening to her same stories each day.
"She has no one that will take the time out of their day to check on her and listen to what she has to say," Frank thought to himself as he was driving through the main intersection. With the exception of Frank people have overlooked his elderly neighbor's existence, and in turn, Frank was oblivious to the importance of his kindness and selfless acts.
On a cold November evening after Frank paid for his gas and as he was returning to his cab, he noticed a little old lady sitting in the front seat."Hey, lady, you need to get in the back," he said to her, "how did you get in the front seat? I keep that front door locked for protection."
“I promise I won't hurt you," she said to him, "I don't hear too good that is why I got in the front."
“Where to?" Frank asked her.
"I'm not sure? I don't get out much." She said.
"Hey, lady, you're on the meter," he told her.
"That's fine, why don't we just drive around," she said.
"Well it's your money who am I to argue with a paying customer," He said, "Is there anything, in particular, you would care to see in our great city? Like maybe a club? Dance joint?" he asked with a little sarcasm in his voice.
"You dance, Frank?" she asked.
"How do you know my name?" he asked her.
"It is on your license on the dashboard," she said.
"Well there is nothing wrong with your eyesight, lady," Frank said.
As he was driving down a busy street and as he was heading towards a major intersection, she said to him, "Hey, Frank, don't go straight turn down the next street before the traffic light."
."Hey lady, it is nothing but a little alley, there is nothing to see there but a few junkies," he said with a sarcastic voice.
"Just turn there," she said pointing to the little ally on their left.
"Ok, lady, it's your money but there is no way in hell I am stopping on that street," he said. As he stopped to turn down the alley, the traffic light at the next street's intersection turned green. A cement truck ran the light with two police cars chasing from behind.
"Did you see that, lady? If we went through that green light that truck would have broadsided us," said Frank.
"You have to have eyes in the back of your head, Frank. Hey, you know what, I changed my mind, you can go straight ahead," she said.
"Whatever you say, lady," he said, "What is your name? and what do you do?"
"My name is Julia and I have lived in this city for many, many years," she told him.
"Do you have family here?" Frank asked. "Because you said you don't get out much."
“I don't need to get out much because there is a nice family living where I live. I lived there since the late '20s." she said.
"You mean you moved here in your late 20's?" Frank asked.
"I was 19 when I got married in 1927 and my husband was a carrier army man but we kept the house and I stayed there to look after things," she said.
"Is your husband still around?" he asked her.
"Oh no, he moved on in 1944 during the war," she said.
"I am sorry to hear that, Julia, it is Julia right?" he asked.
"Yes it is Julia," she said.
"So who are you living with?" Frank asked.
"The people who bought my house," she said.
"Family?" Frank asked.
"No I never saw them before in my life not until they moved in. They can be awfully noisy at times. They have a young daughter that plays this god-awful music but little Anthony is 4 years old and cute as a button and little Jessica is 6 years old and so sweet and cute. This is their mother's second marriage and she has a teenage daughter Brigit from her first marriage. She is the one that plays that noise and that is why I needed to get out for a while. They are good people and on the most part they don't even know I'm there most of the time," she explained to Frank.
"So let me get this straight, you sold your house to a family that you don't know and they are allowing you to live there in their new house?" Frank said in a bewildered voice. "Where is your family can't you stay with them?"
“My granddaughter lives in the city but I can't leave my house. I love that place and I enjoy the company of little Anthony and Jessica. I visit my Granddaughter now and then she is such a great girl so bright and beautiful. The only problem is that she gets so bogged down with her Job that she overlooks the important things in life," she said to Frank.
"She sounds like a very independent girl Julia," said Frank.
"She needs another person in her life Frank, not just all work," she said.
"Well I get up at 3 am and drive this cab into the late evening so that I can pay my rent and eat," he said to her."I am sure your Granddaughter is working to pay her bills and get by."
“Frank she needs to live life and see the beauty in people and learn life's lessons by giving to others what she knows best," she said to Frank with a soft and sincere tone of voice. "She needs someone like you, Frank."
"I am a cab driver she would have no interest in me, especially an ambitious girl like your Granddaughter," he said to her.
"I know you Frank you are a good person and she needs to learn from what you have to offer," she said.
"From what I have to offer(?) what would that be?" Frank asked.
"What is in your heart Frank," she said to him. "You can take me to 498 East Primrose Avenue."
“What is at that Address?" Frank asked her.
"That is where my Granddaughter lives," she said.
When they arrived at the address Julia asked Frank to check and see if anyone was home as she waited in the Cab. He went up and rang the doorbell and no one answered. When he went back to the cab Julia was gone.
"I can't believe that she stiffed me," he said to himself. As he was heading to return his cab to Monroe's Taxi service he thought to himself, "she doesn't seem like the type to cheat a Cabbie out of the cab fare."
He also wondered if she was putting him on because he realized that if she was 19 in 1927 that would make her 96 years old and she didn't look anywhere near that age. When he arrived at Monroe's Taxi service he noticed a stack of letters on the passenger seat where Julia was setting and he took them with him.
"How was your evening?" asked one of the owners.
"Ok until this little old lady stiffed me out of the fair," said Frank.
"So Granny stiffed you?" said one of the owners while laughing.
"She left these letters in the cab," said Frank.
"She's probably a senile old bat," said one of the owners.
"No she is far from being senile," Frank said.
Frank took the letters to the White Horse Tavern, a bar that he hadn't been to in a long time. He was curious about Julia and he wanted to read the letters to learn more about her. While at the Bar he opened one of the letters to read it and the female bartender asked him what he would like to drink.
"What do you got there?" the bartender asked him.
He explained to her about his experience with Julia and how she left the letters in his cab.
"Read one of them to me," the bartender said in a curious manner.
Frank noted that the letter he began to read was dated June 5, 1944.
"1944," said the bartender in a surprised voice.
Frank began to read the letter.......
"My dearest Julia I am about to be deployed on an important mission. They tell us that it is a turning point in the war with Germany. Hopefully, the war in Europe will soon end and I will be sent back home to you."
“World War II he is writing about," said Frank.
"At this moment you and I are angels each missing a wing yearning to embrace one another in order to fly and soar to the heights of each other's love.
"God why can't I meet a man like that?" said the Bartender. "That is so beautiful."
“My gifts to you are not of gems and flowers but loving thoughts. I truly understand that just as diamonds are made under pressure so to have the pressures of this bloody war strengthened my love for you. I yearn to hold you in my arms and feel your gentle touch in my heart."The Bartender was glued to Frank and awe-struck by what Frank was reading to her.
"Hey can I get a beer down here," said a man sitting at the end of the bar.
"Hold on, OK," said the Bartender.
"Do not worry for this war will not make me an expert on death but rather an apprentice in life. With each second, minute, and day passing I am learning how to live and soon I shall return to you so that our two souls can once again become whole."
“God that is so damn beautiful," said the bartender.
"The love in our hearts is like angels wings we fly for each other but not for things. For our love, Julia is the enlightening words of the soul more precious than the diamonds and gold of the world."
"Man I wish I could write like that," said Frank.
"Hey Bartender, can I get a drink!!" said a man at the end of the bar.
Frank and the Bartender read through the rest of the letters, a total of thirteen.
"These are the most beautiful things I have ever read you have to return them to Julia," said the Bartender. "God, why can't I meet someone like that in my life?"
The next day Frank went to the address that was on the letter's envelope and knocked on the door.
"Can I help you," asked a woman.
"Yea, last night Julia was in my cab and she left these letters on my front seat," he said to her.
"So," she said as she was distracted by her 4-year-old son.
"You must be Anthony," Frank said to the little boy.
"How do you know his name?" asked the woman.
"Julia told me," said Frank.
"Who the hell is Julia?" asked the women.
"You know Julia?" the little boy asked Frank.
"Yea, she told me about you and your Sister Jessica," Frank said, “She sure loves you guys very much."
“Ok, who put you up to this? was it Hank? where is he? this is some kind of joke isn't it?" asked the woman referring to her husband Hank.
"What do you mean? I'm just trying to return Julia's letters," said Frank.
"Julia, is my kids' imaginary playmate, or some sort of ghost, because ever since we moved into this place weird stuff has been happening," said the woman.
"Like what?" Frank asked.
"The TV will switch channels to Sesame Street without anyone touching the remote control. CD players will turn off without anyone touching them. My two youngest kids have full conversations with an imaginary playmate they call Julia. They say she is an elderly woman as if she is some sort of invisible nanny and I'm beginning to think she is a ghost," said the woman.
"Hey, Anthony, tell your friend Julia I will give the letters to her Granddaughter," Frank said to the little boy.
"You are for real?" asked Anthony’s Mother.
"I wouldn't worry about Julia she cares for your Family very much," Frank said to her.
"Come on, are you for real? this is not a joke," she said, "my house is haunted by a little old lady named Julia?"
Anthony began tugging on his mother's shirt to get her attention.
"What is it sweetie?" she asked her son.
"Julia said she's not a little old lady," Anthony paused as if he was listening to someone telling him what to say, "She said she doesn't feel a day over 40."
“You see what I mean this goes on all day between him and Jessica," she said to Frank.
Jessica, the women's 6-year-old Daughter walked into the living room.
”Come on into the living room," the woman said to Frank.
Frank sat down on the couch next to Jessica. "So you must be Jessica," Frank said.
"Yep, and you're Frank, Julia's friend. She said you can give the letters to Kimberly, her Granddaughter," Jessica said to Frank.
"Mommy, Julia wants to watch Days of our lives on TV now," Anthony yelled to his Mother.
"That is fine sweetie, don't put it on too loud," the woman yelled back to her son.
The woman whispered to Frank, "I have a ghost in my house."
"I wouldn't be all that concerned about it she is a sweet woman and she is watching over your kids," he said to her.
"Would you like a cup of coffee or something? I have cake if you would like that as well" she said to Frank.
"I really would like to return these letters, thank you for your hospitality," he said.
Frank told Anthony, "Tell Julia that the letters are the most beautiful things I have ever read and you take care, Anthony."
Frank went to Julia's Granddaughter's home and he wasn't sure how to give the letters to her. "I will just hand the letters to her and leave, maybe she won't be home," he thought to himself. Frank nervously rang the doorbell, and a woman in her mid to late twenties came to the door just as Julia described her the night before--young and beautiful. She appeared sure of herself.
"Can I help you," she asked.
"I have something that belongs to your Grandmother," he said to her.
"Both of my Grandmothers died," she said.
"These are your Grandmother Julia's letters that your Grandfather wrote her," as he handed her the letters he turned to walk away.
"Well you're just going to hand me letters that my Grandfather wrote and leave," she said to him. "Why the big mystery?"
“They were left in my Cab and I had to return them," he said to her.
She began to read the letters and at the same time, she asked Frank to come into her home. He sat down at her Kitchen table and she continued to read the letters.
"They are the most beautiful letters I have ever read," he said to her. "My name is Frank."
“My name is Kimberly and I never knew these letters existed," she said. "Someone left them in your cab?"
“Yeah," said Frank.
"Who?" she asked, "You can tell me."
“Julia," he said.
"Julia who?" Kimberly asked.
"Your Grandmother," said Frank.
"Yeah, OK, what did she look like?" she asked him skeptically.
Frank said, "Well, for one thing, she is a big fan of Days of our Lives."
“That is true she watched it every day and on the days she couldn't watch it when she started getting sick she asked me to tape the episodes," She said.
Frank explained to Kimberly the whole story of her Grandmother being in his cab and taking him to Kimberly's home the night before.
"I was working late last night that is why I wasn't here. I am really skeptical about all of this and I don’t believe a word of it," she said to him.
"The people who are living in her home have two young children; they can see her and talk to her; perhaps the children's Mother will allow us to come over," he said.
"I have their number I will call them," she said to him.
Kimberly went into another room and came back into the kitchen a short time later."Meet me at my Grandmother's home," she said with a stunned look on her face. "I spoke to Lucy Stetlock the woman who bought the house. She said it is ok for us to go there now."
When Frank arrived at the house Kimberly was already there talking to Jessica and Anthony.
"She is glad you got the letters," Anthony told Kimberly.
Tears began to swell up in Kimberly's eyes "I didn't know about the letters they are very beautiful letters," she said.
Jessica told Kimberly, "Julia wants you to know that Frank is a good person." She then paused as if listening to Julia and said, "you can save anything in life but life itself."
Anthony then said, "How you spend your life is determined by your life's worth. Julia says you can measure a person's worth by what they give to others."
"Frank needs someone to help him realize his true worth. She told me to tell you that," Jessica told Kimberly.
"Julia wants me to tell Frank that the greatest achievements in a person's life are all the unremembered acts of kindness and love that were bestowed on others," Jessica told Frank.
Anthony began to tug on his mother's shirt.
"What, sweetie," Lucy asked her son.
Anthony said, "Julia said that Frank and Kimberly are each other's better half."
Anthony then turned to Frank and Kimberly, "Julia wants me to tell you that nothing goes unnoticed in life."
Jessica said to Frank and Kimberly, "Julia says, you are now learning how to live and you need each other to grow."
Anthony told his mother that Julia wants to watch Sesame Street.
"Thank you," Kimberly said to Lucy unable to hold back her tears.
"Your Grandmother is a remarkable woman," Lucy said to Kimberly.
"So was my Grandfather," said Kimberly.
Frank and Kimberly believed in Julia's message and they dated for a short time. Frank went back to school and with Kimberly's help graduated from College and is now a renowned Parapsychologist. Kimberly also went back to school and achieved a law degree.
Frank understands more about himself and the countless possibilities that lie ahead because he has Kimberly in his life. They are continuing each day to learn and recognize that it is the small subtle acts of loving-kindness that determine the true worth of a person's character. They understand also that they are truly each other's better half.
Frank and Kimberly are now married and have two children, one is named Julia after Kimberly's Grandmother and the other is named Charles after her Grandfather who was killed at Normandy on June 6, 1944.
- Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O’Neill
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