These three chapters are a bit allegorical. At least I thought they were. Jo’s life is proceeding as everyone would have hoped. One thing she has never understood is what a remarkable person she is. Understandably, her self confidence had been shaken by events and the only thing she really needs now is confirmation. She is taking a big trip and finds out there is a wonderful world out there, much better than she had ever imagined. Her friends and family are taking this trip with her in both a figurative and literal sense. There is one thing lurking out there and that is Richard O’Donnell. What is she going to do about him? That remains to be seen. Jo’s journey doesn’t end with this tale. It continues for more than 60 more years. It has its ups and downs, mostly ups, and a few very pleasant surprises. Please enjoy.
Chapter 40: Unconscious Decisions
It was March before all the various legal entities made a final decision as to where the trials would be held. After Earl Scroggins and Al Conklin went states evidence by admitting their guilt in the murder of Isaac Pfeifer and their complicity in the other events, the defense lawyers questioned the advisability of Richard O’Donnell, Dennis Alexander and Gary Anderson even going to trial.
It would be several more months before Dennis and Gary saw the light and would also plead guilty. Richard maintained that it was his God given right to eradicate the godless homosexuals from society and that God would stand beside him and prove his innocence.
His first team of lawyers threw up their hands and walked out. Richard’s money was quickly dissipating and even the lawyers who wanted to make names for themselves wouldn’t touch him with a ten-foot pole. The courts finally had to appoint a public defender. All in all, the many delays meant that the trial wouldn’t be until early October.
It became more and more apparent to Jo and the rest that Richard would never see the light of day. That, the success of the concert and the fact everyone was finally getting into a routine allowed Jo and Mike to settle into happily married bliss.
Things were also going well with MK and Pat. They had found a small California bungalow in the Altadena-Pasadena area in a good neighborhood. The house was a “fixer upper” and would require several years of work. But it was well built and would eventually be a showplace.
Andy and Linda were doing well and found they liked to play bridge. They played a lot of Rubber Bridge with Matt and Roger and starting playing some Duplicate Bridge as well. They didn’t do very well at first, but at least they never threw the cards at each other.
The printing business was booming for Arnie and Marcia. They had shifted almost entirely to printing newspaper inserts, and were looking at leasing or buying another warehouse to convert into a printing plant.
Marcia, MK and Mike had a very pleasant surprise when the investigators found several accounts Richard had hidden under various names. They were able to determine that these were the retirement and college accounts that he’d hidden from Marcia more than 10 years earlier, prior to the divorce. The authorities determined that Richard had fraudulently tried to hide the money from her and was no longer entitled to any of the monies. Some had been in some good indexed funds while others were in some metals futures. All had done remarkably well. Marcia was able take over the accounts without any penalties. She withdrew a portion of the account, (money was no longer a problem), gladly paid the tax penalties, and gave some to Pat and MK as money for their house. The eventual improvements would cost nearly as much as the house. The rest would eventually help put her grandchildren through college and help them get a start in the world as well. For once, something Richard had done had actually had good results.
The Internet was proving to be a valuable tool and all of the family members would use it almost daily to communicate with each other. The men were not the best communicators; however, the wives, sisters and mothers kept them informed. MJ and Franz were making plans fast and furious for a wedding in early summer. MJ was messaging plans and changes in plans as fast as the Internet would allow. Some of the Schmidt’s relatives had moved back to the area and MJ and Franz thought it would be nice to have the ceremony in Vienna, as the Schmidts lived there and that was where MJ had her apartment. It didn’t matter where her boat trips started from, she could fly Ryan Air, one of the other cut rate airlines or even take the train and get to the starting point in short order.
The boats would be starting to run full time towards the end of April and they wanted to have all their plans in place by then. They had pretty much set the date for late June so that school would be out. After much discussion, they picked Sunday, June 25th.
Vienna has a number of wonderful sites for a wedding and they decided on the Schönbrunn Palace. The rental for the facility was remarkably inexpensive, all things considered. The palace and its gardens are a spectacular showplace and everyone felt the atmosphere would be perfect. The reception would be held on the boat.
Jo wasn’t sure whether it was her subconscious working or not. Maybe with everything that had been going on, her routine had been disrupted. She’d finished showering and was looking for something to cover up a little poison oak rash she’d picked up at George and Mindy’s place a few days before, when she opened the medicine cabinet and a small box tumbled out.
It was her birth control pills and she suddenly realized she’d missed taking them for several days. She had a sudden flush of panic and then she stopped, smiled to herself and threw the box out. A couple of weeks later she was pretty sure she’d started to ovulate. She didn’t vary their routine any. The frequency of making love had not really diminished much and the intensity hadn’t slackened at all.
It was the second week in May when Mike looked at Jo. He sort of frowned or scowled a bit, then kissed her goodbye as she left for the hospital, wondering what that was all about.
She was working at her desk after her morning appointments when Kate stuck her head in the door.
“Jo, there’s a florist delivery man here with flowers for you. I know it’s not your birthday or anniversary. Did you and Mike have a fight or something?”
“No. I’ll be right there.”
Jo walked to the nurse’s station where the deliveryman was unwrapping and arranging what must have been three dozen red and gold roses in a very pretty vase.
Jo picked up the envelope and took the card out of it. She read it and started to giggle and laugh. Then she began to cry. “God, I love him. How did he know?”
“Know what, Jo?”
The hospital hadn’t heard such carrying on since Mike had proposed to Jo the previous summer.
After the pandemonium receded, Kate accompanied Jo back to her office.
“How far along are you?”
“Maybe two, three weeks. I actually don’t know for sure. I went off the pill last month and didn’t tell Mike. I suspected I was ovulating around the first of the month and needless to say we are still making up for the lost years. I should have started my period and ….
”Kate, I haven’t told you this. I did tell MK. Mike has always been able to tell when I’m going to start my period. As you know, he was with me that first time and he was with me the second time. He always knew. Why wouldn’t he know if I was pregnant? I think he is able to detect the pheromones and hormones. I have an EPT kit around here somewhere. Let me step into my little room and see.”
Of course the test was positive.
The first call was to Mike. “The flowers are lovely, Mike. Everyone thinks they are beautiful. How did you know? I just found out for sure a few minutes ago.”
“Well at least I don’t have to feel stupid. I don’t know what it was, Jo. I have been feeling there was something different about you for several days and this morning I realized what it was. I wasn’t sure if you were trying to hide it from me or not, so I decided to take the ball out of your court. How do you feel about it?”
“Mike, I threw my pills out last month. I wanted to surprise you. You have always made it clear that you wanted to start a family when I was ready, and last month I realized I was. How do you feel about it?
“Great. Somebody just came through the door. Do you want to tell her?”
“You must mean Mindy. Sure, put her on.”
“Mindy, Jo wants to tell you something.”
“Hi, Jo, what’s going on?”
“I’m pregnant. I just found out a few minutes ago.”
“That’s wonderful! I am so happy for you. George will be too. May I tell him?”
“Sure. I guess I’m going to have to make some phone calls. Let me talk to Mike.”
“Here he is. I’m going to go tell George. Bye.”
“Jo, when will you be due?” asked a suddenly more sober Mike. The impact of impending fatherhood was suddenly starting to sink in.
“Right now I would have to say around the last week in January. We’ll have plenty of time to plan for things. I’m going to make a few phone calls and send some emails. Let’s go out have a nice dinner somewhere, okay?”
“How about the DQ?”
“Sure, if you're buying.”
Jo checked the time and realized that MK was probably in class. So, she sent her an email that said simply, “I’m pregnant!” The response came back about 20 minutes later, “So am I!”
Then Jo called her mother and dad at the shop in Loma Sierra.
“Hi, Mom, do you have a few minutes?”
“Sure, Dear, is anything wrong? You don’t usually call this time of day.”
“There is absolutely nothing wrong. Everything is just fine. Nothing could be better.”
“Yes! I found out this morning. Mike guessed and sent me some beautiful flowers this morning. I didn’t know for sure until I took the EPT test. Also, you need to call MK.”
“Why don’t you tell her, Jo?”
“I already did.”
“I think you are trying to tell me something.”
“Just call her, Mom. She needs to tell you.”
One nice thing about being a doctor in a well staffed hospital was that there was another doctor available when you needed him or her. Jo had not specialized in obstetrics, but had delivered several babies and from her experiences knew that being under the care of a specialist, either a doctor or trained midwife was the best way to go.
She made an appointment with Dr. Allison Cooper who was a member of the staff. When she called, word had already made its way to the obstetrics wing. Jo had already been a patient of Dr. Cooper and after her preliminary examination of Mindy months before she’d also transferred Mindy’s care to her.
“Well, Jo, I guess congratulations are in order. What is it that you have in mind?”
“Allison, I still have nightmares that things aren’t right with me. My first doctors told me that after my corrective surgery everything was, how do they put it ... nominal. You said that if I hadn’t told you what happened, you would never have known. Of course, back then, I didn’t realize you already knew. In spite of all the assurances, I want to make sure that absolutely nothing goes wrong that’s preventable. If I accomplish nothing else in my life, I want to make sure that I deliver the healthiest baby possible for Mike and me to love.”
Allison assured Jo that from her previous examinations she was certain Jo was perfectly normal. She did advise Jo to back off on the running as the pregnancy progressed, but that a fast walk would be fine until it became too uncomfortable.
To ease Jo’s anxiety, she scheduled Jo for an ultrasound for just before the trip to Europe and MJ’s wedding.
When the day came, the technician didn’t say much as she moved the wand over Jo’s only slightly swollen tummy. She printed a number of images and took them to Allison while Jo got dressed.
Jo nervously sat across from Allison who was peering over the images.
“Jo, I am pleased to say everything appears to be normal. As I told you, your pelvic girdle is good sized and I see no problems with a natural delivery. Tell me, have you picked out any names?”
“We decided on Sean Andrew for a boy. Sean is Mike’s middle name and Andrew is my father’s name.”
“What did you pick for a girls name?”
“We decided to use our sisters’ middle names – Katherine Jane.”
“Well, you just used them both up. You are having twins. Take a look at these images. They’re really clear. Here’s Sean, and here’s Katherine. It is not easy to tell at this point of development, but I’m almost positive. We can make sure when you get back from your trip. Congratulations.”
Jo studied the black and white images and suddenly realized that any doubts she may have had left in the recesses of her mind had evaporated. She was going to be a mother, and she and Mike were going to be parents. All the pain and torment from years past was gone. Jo broke down and cried her heart out. Allison held her tightly.
Finally the tears subsided. “Allison, I have been very fortunate over my life to have had a wonderful family and friends. There have been low moments, like when I almost lost Mike, not to mention all the torment I got from those two morons and Richard.
“And there have been high moments. When Mike told me he loved me and proposed to me in this hospital, when we made love for the first time, when we got married and when they told me I was a girl those many years ago are just a few. These images pull all those high points into one culmination of joy and confirmation for me. My life is finally normal.
“Thank you Allison. You have no idea what this means to me. You can email these images to me can’t you? I think I want to send them out to the world. Now I need to go fix my makeup before everyone thinks something is really wrong.”
Jo hurried back to her office and Kate stopped her on the way. “Jo, is everything alright? You look like you’ve been crying.”
“Kate, everything is fabulous and I have the pictures to prove it. We’re having twins, a boy and a girl, Sean and Katherine. I am so happy I can’t stand it.”
“That’s wonderful. I think you and Mike are making up for lost time. It’s beginning to seem real isn’t it?”
“Well the morning sickness has been real enough, but these pictures just make it that much more real.
“Speaking of happy, are you and your family ready to take the trip across the pond?”
“Everything is in order," Kate replied. "I sure am glad that we have our staffing where it should be. Going to 12 hour shifts has really helped. We have our tickets and passports. The kids are really excited. This will be our first trip out of the country.”
“It will be mine, too. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Mindy is real nervous about it, but George is reassuring her. He’s been teaching her and the kids some German. I think their kids are really excited. All the girls can talk about is going to a real palace. MJ has assured me the hotel in Amsterdam is expecting us and we will have more than a day to get acclimated to the time change before the boat leaves. I think we are going to have a great time.
"Mom and Dad are already over there. Mom has been working with Liesle to make sure everything is ready. Can you believe it! This wedding is going to be in an actual palace. I think my little sister is getting in over her head.”
There was only one problem among those that had been invited to the cruise, and that was Tony Salcedo. He was in the midst of a pennant run, and he and Cindy and the three children wouldn’t be able to take a trip until after the World Series. When they were able to take the trip, they were properly feted. The Schmidts made sure the family was comfortable and gave them the Owner’s Suite. After all, he was the National League’s Most Valuable Player again, and was also the World Series Most Valuable Player. Very few of the Europeans had any idea who Tony was; however, a number of Americans on board did recognize him. Fortunately, they respected the Salcedo’s right to privacy and the family was able to enjoy the trip, although anyone who wanted his autograph left the boat with it at the end of the trip.
Chapter 41: The Journey To The End
After spending parts of two days walking around in Amsterdam and taking in the sights, they boarded the MV Schubert. Jo was enthralled with the architecture of the city, its diverse population and culture. The smells were so different. Each little street had shops that featured foods and crafts of the area. They had stumbled briefly into the red light district, and Jo was astounded by the openness. The more she thought about it the more she could see that legalized prostitution had a place, especially if the exposure to diseases could be eliminated.
Much of the Redding entourage took one of the longer canal tours and they were all glad they had. It made their return to the area just that much more likely.
When they arrived at the boat their luggage was already on board. After getting over the size of the room (a little over 170 square feet) and realizing that it was only a bedroom, a modest one at that, they understood that the whole boat would be their home for parts of the next two weeks. Many of the guests were already on board and were lounging in the bar and sitting areas.
Some of the guests would be getting on board at other points in the trip to Vienna, which was not a normal occurrence with river cruises. Several would get on at Mainz or Boppard, having flown into Frankfurt. Stan West and his fiancée would be in this group.
This trip was essentially a special charter and it would not follow the normal schedule used when the MV Schubert made the trip from Amsterdam to Budapest. There would be more stops for sightseeing and the trip would terminate at Vienna. The day after the wedding, once all the passengers had disembarked, the MV Schubert would hightail it to Budapest so it could resume its normal schedule.
George, Mindy and the children were on the deck breathing in the rather chilly air blowing in off the North Sea. There had been a few showers earlier, but nothing that was very serious. John could hardly contain his excitement about being on such a fancy ship, for at nearly 350 feet long and nearly forty feet abeam, it really was a ship: everything about it was five-star. The fleet had larger ships; however, those couldn’t fit through some of the locks they would be passing through on the Main-Donau Canal. They had been advised that a safety and familiarization briefing would be given shortly after they departed. Many of the guests spoke only German and there would be a second briefing to accommodate them.
The MV Schubert left its berth at 2:00 PM and headed south down the Kanaaldijk past Utrecht. South of Utrecht the canal would divide and the boat would take the east branch or Kanaaldijk Zuid and eventually join the Rhein near the town of Tiel. They would arrive in Düsseldorf around 7:00 AM the next morning.
During that first late afternoon and evening they found out what it meant to be on a five star boat. After the briefing, ‘Tea’ was served. To say it was sumptuous was an understatement. Along with tea and other drinks there was a selection of pastries that caused tremendous excitement among the children and some adults. The shortcakes and other pastries were often smothered in huge mounds of whipped cream. Jo’s mouth watered. She was already noticing that her appetite seemed to be increasing, and she knew she would have to exercise some control. She also knew that with twins on the way, her caloric intake would be pretty hefty. She wanted to stay in shape and she and Mike had been able to run that morning; however, MJ had told them there wouldn’t always be places they could or should run while the boat was berthed; however, there would be some wonderful places to run alongside the boat on the bank of the canal when they left the Main River near Bamberg. For other times, there was a small exercise facility, and they could watch the scenery as they did their thing on the treadmills. Dinner that night was sumptuous, as it was every night. The menu was varied and they always had several choices for entrees each night.
Many of the folks were having difficulty adjusting to the time change as there was a nine-hour difference between California and the continent. Jo had advised everyone to stay awake that first day after their arrival and not succumb to the temptation to nap. They should force themselves to adjust to the local time as soon as possible. Easier said than done, and many of the children had still not adjusted to the time change. One of the important things to do is to get out in the bright light as soon as possible. Over the years, Jo and Mike would find her advice worked, and each of their many trips would get easier and easier.
After a fantastic dinner many of the guests returned to the upper deck to watch the countryside pass by. It was only a few days before the summer solstice and it stayed light until nearly eleven PM. Sunset was close to ten PM. Many of the passengers, Jo and Mike included, loved to stand up toward the bow and watch the scenery evolve. One of the pastimes that many of the passengers, especially the men, never tired of was watching the boat lock through. They came upon two series of locks southeast of Utrecht and one would think it was the seventh game of the World Series. Passengers were taking pictures of each stage of the gate’s operation. Some passengers took over two dozen pictures during one trip through a set of locks. The picture taking would wane as the trip progressed, but locking through would always catch the passengers’ attention.
They got up early the next morning and headed for the exercise room. There had been a lot of distance to travel and the boat had needed to travel most of the night. The rumble of the engines had to be contended with; however, they'd found it actually helped their sleep and after a very short time they never noticed it unless they were locking through.
Early the next morning while Jo and Mike were getting up, they watched the scenery pass by in the early morning light and Jo just couldn’t get over the buildings. The land was still very flat and they could periodically catch glimpses of the fields beyond the levees. After an hour workout on the treadmills, they returned to their room to shower (Their frolicking in the shower was an impossibility as there was barely room for one; however, the queen sized bed was more than adequate). The area was becoming more and more industrial and during breakfast the boat pulled up to a mooring point, tied off and they were in Düsseldorf.
MJ joined Jo and Mike, and Pat and MK. She had arranged for a car and she was going to give them a special tour while the other passengers could take the more formal bus tours if they wanted to. The tours were not something the Schmidts were providing, so the guests needed to pay for any they took. Despite that, there was no problem filling a large bus each day.
Something else that was a little out of the ordinary on this trip and that was the number of children. Ed and Dorothy Stephen’s children were old enough to enjoy the adult side trips, or at least some of them; however, a number of younger children would probably be happier not being dragged on every bus trip and their parents went together to pay for a sitting service. It made things much more accessible for those who wanted to see the sites.
MJ was fairly familiar with the area and had traveled there with Katrina and her family when she was an exchange student. There was so much history to see. They pulled up to one house and MJ pointed out a plaque indicating that Robert and Clara Schumann had lived there. Jo remarked that Brahms had also probably spent a lot of time there.
“Jo, I couldn’t find out exactly where it happened, but Robert Schumann tried to commit suicide by jumping into the Rhein somewhere near where the boat is docked. The Schumann Society is located here and we might be able to go by there if you would like.”
Jo was pleased her sister had actually researched information like this for her and then realized this was what her sister did for a living. Still, it was nice.
From there they went to the Goethe Museum where historians had filled eleven rooms with more than a thousand pieces of memorabilia relating to the famous poet whose works had influenced the music of untold composers including Schubert, Schuman and Beethoven.
They had a nice lunch at a sidewalk cafe before MJ got on the main road south. Less than an hour later they pulled into the outskirts of Bonn. MJ hadn’t said much except to point out places of interest along the way. She drove down some side streets and eventually pulled up into a parking area before she led them down a street that was called Bonngaße.
She explained that a Gasse, or Gaße, was primarily a pedestrian way and only taxis and commercial vehicles were allowed. A Strasse, or Straße, was a street where normal automobile traffic was allowed. The distinction had become a bit blurred over the years.
She stopped in front of a pink, three-story, attached house. Jo looked at it and without reading the plaque knew where she was. It was an emotional moment and the others could see she was moved. She walked up to door below the plaque on the wall and silently looked at it. It was written in German; however, it was easy to translate. "In this house Ludwig van Beethoven was born, December 17th, 1770.”
They spent the rest of the afternoon there. What was amazing was, and MJ swore she had nothing to do with it, a couple of the attendants recognized Jo and Mike. One of them told her associate to tell the others who was there. MJ translated the gist of the conversation and the lady realized MJ understood every word she had been saying. Everything in the museum was written only in German, and MJ had been translating for them.
“I don’t mean to be rude,” she said, “but we just received a copy of the recording you did, and your picture is on it. One of our curators was listening to your “Performance Today” show on the Internet and he ordered the CD. When I saw you together, I knew immediately it was you.”
As they were talking, one of the other associates came up with the copy of the CD. Neither Jo nor Mike had seen it, nor had any of the others for that matter. On the front was a picture of Mike and Jo playing the Arpeggione Sonata and on the back was a picture of Jo and Mike embracing at the end of the concert.
“I guess sex sells,” remarked Jo. “I certainly didn’t know they were going to do this.”
“You are a very good pianist,” the associate said. “Why don’t you play some Beethoven next time? Would you and your handsome husband autograph this for Hans? He’s not here, and he would be really surprised when he comes back.”
“We would be glad to. Does Hans understand English? If he doesn’t, my sister can write something in German for him.”
“Hans’ English is very good.”
Jo thought for a minute, then wrote, “Hans, we were so sorry to have missed you. Thank you for your interest in our music. Best Wishes, Jo O’Donnell and Mike O’Donnell.”
For the next two hours they were taken places and saw things that few of the day-to-day visitors would see. Every one of the docents had a deep love of music and music history. They saw article after article and manuscript after manuscript touched by the great master. They were led to an exhibit of musical instruments actually used by Beethoven. Frau Steiner, their escort, turned to Jo, pointed to the piano, “You play, ja?”
She moved the small barrier and Jo timidly sat on the 200 year old stool. She gently ran her fingers over the keys. Tentatively at first, she started playing. The piano sounded different than today’s big instruments. It was a bit tinny, and had nowhere near the volume of sound that could be created today. Jo played non-stop for nearly 18 minutes. No one said anything the entire time. She played the “Pathetique” Sonata.
When she finished, she turned around and was astounded to see more than 20 people standing in the little room and hall.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that. Something just came over me. I haven’t played that in a long time, and I don’t think I ever played it that well. I think he was with me. Thank you for giving me the honor of playing on his piano. This is something I will never forget.”
“Thank you, Liebchen. You honored the master by playing so well. You will play for us again, sometime, please.”
“Yes, I will.”
Over the years Jo, Mike and family would make several trips to Bonn and Jo appeared at concerts and recitals there and elsewhere in Germany. Her reception was always cordial and enthusiastic. Word of her impromptu performance on Beethoven’s piano eventually spread throughout the music world.
After many handshakes and hugs, the Beebes and O’Donnells headed back to the car and the hour-long drive back to Dusseldorf. They were a bit overwhelmed by Jo’s performance. Finally Mike spoke up.
“I remember listening to Adventures in Good Music some years ago and Karl Haas was talking about playing on the same piano, and what a privilege it was. I think I understand better what he meant now. I didn’t know at first what you were playing other than it was Beethoven, and then I recognized the second movement as the theme from the program. It’s a shame he has passed away, and it would be nice if someone could continue with a program similar to that one.”
They spent the rest of the trip talking about wedding plans. MJ would not be able to accompany the boat on the entire trip, as she and Franz had a lot of paperwork to do. A number of papers had to be processed through the US Consulate in Vienna and when all of that was done there would have to be a civil ceremony prior to the Jewish ceremony at the Schönbrunn Palace.
Only the immediate family would attend the civil ceremony. Andy, Linda, Arnie and Marcia were taking the plane from Vienna to Frankfurt and would then take the train to Boppard and would be meeting everyone there the next day. They had a number of days to relax on the boat with everyone else before they took the train from Passau or Regensberg back to Vienna to take care of the legal matters and the final ceremony. Those not participating in the wedding would stay on the boat all the way to Vienna.
As they arrived at the landing, the last tour bus, having discharged its passengers, was leaving. People from the car rental service were there to pick up the car, and the five of them hurried up the gangplank. Five minutes later the boat was on its way to Boppard. Once again they stood on the deck watching the highly industrialized area of the Rhein Valley pass by. By now the area was much hillier. There was a somber moment when they realized how much of this area had been devastated due to Hitler’s madness. They knew hard feelings still existed among some of the older generation about the destruction, and many of those were still not willing to accept the fact that similar destruction had occurred in England. It wasn’t too many miles south of Bonn when they passed Remagen, the site of the struggle to prevent a bridge from being destroyed so the Allies could cross the Rhein. It was dark when they passed the site of the bridge. Besides, Jo and Mike were too involved in other things to take notice. The bridge is gone now; however, there is a Peace Museum at the site.
The next morning found them moored to a pier in Boppard. Boppard is one of many small towns located along the banks of the Rhein between Koblenz and Mainz. This was wine growing country, and the steep hillsides in the Rhein Valley were covered with vineyards, interspersed with castles, some in ruins and some still occupied. They spent nearly two full days in this area, taking a number of excursions. Jo and the rest couldn’t get over the beauty of the area. It looked just like the travel posters they had seen, but only better.
The Essegians had an early breakfast and walked up to the train station to catch the commuter train to Mainz. The trip took a little over half an hour and they got off in the fairly large station in Mainz. George was familiar with the station, but it had been many years since he’d been there. Still, the station had changed very little. It was very busy as usual, and George and Mindy, keeping the children together, took the stairs to below the platforms to the main exit and back up into the station proper. They had two roller bags with them and George placed them on the conveyor that paralleled the stairs so they didn’t have to carry the bags up and down the stairs.
They walked into the main lobby, where George went to a news stand and purchased tickets for the streetcar. The streetcars came from many directions and stopped at the halt in front of the station. After about ten minutes, the correct car arrived and they got on. George showed them how to validate their tickets and then they sat for the about ten minute trip.
The streetcar fascinated the children. They had never seen anything like it. The noise of the trolley and the sound and smell of the electrical sparks caught John’s attention. Finally they reached a stop in an older area of mixed businesses with flats on the upper floors.
The various shops, food vendors and wonderful smells fascinated Mindy. This was beyond her imagination. She was thousands of miles from home. It was so different, and she loved every cobble, tile roof and covered doorway. She wanted to go into every little shop and soak up the culture. There would be plenty of time for that; however, they were here for another reason.
George stopped in front of a building that looked pretty much like all the rest and had everyone follow him up the stairs. He pushed a button below a small speaker and a voice said something in German. George responded in German and there was a buzz and he opened the door. They entered and climbed up two flights of stairs. There a man and a woman greeted them and bade them to come into their home. They hugged and kissed George, who then introduced Mindy, Rebecca and Susan. The other kids, they already knew, as the older couple were Dieter and Frederica Hoffman, Ingrid’s parents and they hadn’t seen George or the children since the last week of Ingrid’s life and the subsequent funeral.
Frederica grabbed Mindy in a big hug and kissed her many times. She commented in German to George about how pretty Mindy was and how beautiful the two little girls were. She made loving remarks about how big John had grown and how much Lousine resembled her mother. She called John, Johann; George, Georg (Gayorg) and Lucy, Lucia.
The Hoffmans had a large flat, which would be the Essegian’s home for the next two days. George and Mindy had a large bedroom to themselves, the girls had another and John would sleep on the couch in the sitting room.
Mindy had trouble understanding the concept of European real estate until George explained that the situation was very much like a condominium.
George had first met Ingrid in the Base Exchange at Rhein-Main Air Base, which shared the runways with the Frankfurt Airport, the busiest airport in mainland Europe. She was working part time during a break from the university. George had been smitten on the spot, and after some small talk with her over the next few days asked her out on a date at the All Ranks Club. George had been dedicated to learning German and took classes on base. He was eager to practice his limited skills, and the first realistic opportunity he had was with Ingrid’s parents. He’d assumed that she lived close to the base, and was concerned when he found out that she actually lived in Mainz across the Rhein and some distance to the southwest. Fortunately, he did not get lost going to her house. He'd had to pass her parent’s scrutiny as well as that of her older brother, and apparently his attempts at German had helped convince everyone he was on the up and up.
Their first date was very nice; however, George realized that the All Ranks Club was not really the best place to take a young lady. After that their dates were in Mainz and the area around there. He found that she wasn’t really into clubbing, and they gravitated to going to the local movies and restaurants. They also made it to many of the historic spots and they saw a copy of the Guttenberg Bible, something neither of them had seen before. After only a few weeks, they were both deeply in love. George went home on leave and announced he’d found the woman of his dreams.
Then his mother found out that Ingrid was not Armenian, and was not a member of the Armenian Apostolic or Orthodox Church and George was ostracized. That night George knocked on his sister Lousine’s door to say goodbye to her. She cried into his shoulder because she just knew she would never see him again. George had called a taxi and walked out the front door and never looked back.
When he returned to Germany, he asked for Dieter’s permission to ask Ingrid to marry him. Dieter said he would be proud to have him as a son-in-law and that Frederica was already planning the wedding. They were married in the Lutheran Cathedral and found a small flat in Mainz. George commuted to the base, and Ingrid went back to school. George had been working on his degree on base and they both graduated at nearly the same time.
George had picked up an additional obligation when he used government assistance for his education, which meant he’d needed to serve six years. He was 24 years old, a Staff Sergeant and was at the point where he had to make a career decision. The Air Force was not taking many prior enlisted personnel for Officer Training School and George realized his chances for a commission were somewhere between slim and none. He visited the people who helped airmen to transition back to civilian life and found with his degree in Criminal Justice and experience in forensics that a number of civilian police positions were available to him.
He'd applied to the Redding Police Department, as it was in the central valley of California and not too far from what had been his home. He had held onto hope that there might be reconciliation with his mother and family; however, that was not to be for many years.
Redding had thought he was just the man for them and offered him a job, which he accepted. So at age 24, he and Ingrid and their two-year-old son were off to California. Ingrid was pregnant again with the second of what they hoped to be many children. Unknown to them, cancer was already spreading through her body.
Dieter Hoffman was an executive for a cell phone company and the Hoffmans were very well off. They made sure that Ingrid had a sizeable dowry and that, along with George’s savings, allowed them to build the log home of their dreams in the Ponderosa Pine forests west of Redding. It had many touches that some people would call Black Forest architecture; however, it was really just the wonderful woodwork that Ingrid had incorporated that was prevalent in many regions of Germany.
Ingrid had not felt well in the last months of her pregnancy with Lousine, and continued not to feel well after her birth. Then there was the devastating diagnosis of ovarian cancer. The doctors gave her six months to a year on the outside. She managed to hold on for two years. By then the cancer was in her lungs and liver and just about everywhere else. Her parents were with her during her last week and Ingrid was lucid right up to the last day. She told George not to be sad, that she would always be with him. She told him to find a wife. It was fine with her. She wanted George to be happy, and she'd wanted her children to have a mother.
George had sworn there would never be another woman for him. It had taken Mindy to prove him wrong. Dieter and Frederica knew Mindy was the one. They could feel it just like George had that Friday many months before.
George and Mindy made love that night after a particularly wonderful dinner with the Hoffmans, Ingrid’s brother, his wife and children, and Ingrid’s older sister. Maybe they'd had too much good German wine, maybe it was just the good feelings shared by all or maybe it was Ingrid’s spirit encouraging them. They had been reluctant to make love on the boat because of the close quarters, and Mindy’s tendency to get loud at times. This night, those thoughts were gone. They made love twice and Mindy almost bit through the pillow each time. They never were sure whether or not anyone heard them. Their first child together was conceived that night. Her name would be Josephine Ingrid.
Chapter 42: New Friends In Germany
Later that morning the younger generation of O’Donnells and Beebes were sipping coffee when one of the crew came up to them to tell them they had a visitor. They were expecting their parents to show up later in the day and were wondering who it could be at this time of day. They didn’t think there would be any problems so they had the person shown in.
Less than a minute later a rather distinguished appearing, balding man came into the dining area. When he looked around and saw the five of them at their table, his eyes lit up. He walked over to their table and stopped and gave a smart formal bow.
“I am Hans Heinrick and you were so kind to autograph my compact disc. I had to thank you in person. Frau Steiner called me last night and told me you had been at the museum. She knew you were on this boat and I found out you would be in Boppard, so I drove up this morning to thank you. Actually, I very much wanted to meet Dr. and Captain O’Donnell. I wish so much that I had been there to hear you play.
“The Internet is very good these days, and your National Public Radio is excellent. I listen to it in the afternoon on my computer. I heard your performance of the Rachmaninoff and it, as you say, blew me away. Then I heard you and your husband play the Arpeggione. I had to find out what Mr. Child was talking about so I went to our library and found the magazines. The story is unbelievable, and yet here you are.”
“I can assure you, Herr Heinrick, that the story you read in People Magazine, if that is the one you read, is essentially true,” said Jo. “Fortunately, everything has worked out very well for everyone, and we are here to celebrate the wedding of my sister Mary Jane to Franz Schmidt. For many of us this is our first trip to Europe and we are enjoying it very much. I know we will be back someday, and I hope it will be just one of many times.
“We are very honored that you would make the trip from Bonn to find us. Is there anything that we could do for you? Mike and I would be glad to sign more CDs if you have any.”
“No, I do not have any more now; however, I will get more shortly. Dr. O’Donnell, if you would be so kind, would you play a little something for me? I would be indebted to you forever.”
“I would be glad to play something. Do you have something in mind?”
“Thank you, Doctor. The only thing I ask is that you play Beethoven.”
Jo went to the Bosendorfer piano that the on-board entertainers used after dinner each night. She sat and thought for a moment and then for the next fifteen minutes played one of the most beloved of all the Beethoven sonatas, the Moonlight. Hans stood there at a relaxed attention with tears streaming down his face. Many of the American passengers were familiar with what Jo could do, but the German passengers for the most part were not, and really knew nothing of the saga the performer and the others had gone through. There had been about 20 passengers in the lounge when Jo started playing and the number increased to more than 40 by the time she finished. Matt and Roger were among them.
When Jo finished, there was a round of applause; however, Hans was having trouble maintaining his composure. Finally, he turned to Jo and said, “They were right, your are a genius. Some day, I will tell my nieces and nephews that I had the privilege of hearing you play. I am truly honored. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
“Thank you, Herr Heinrick, for your kind words. To play Beethoven is always an honor, and I am happy to have been able to do it for you.”
The other observers also had many more kind words. Finally, Matt and Roger came over and introduced themselves to Hans. Neither Matt nor Roger was interested in the more mundane tourist activities. They were both fluent in German, they been early objects of MJ’s practice sessions, and thought they detected a kindred spirit in Hans. They wondered if he would be interested in assisting them in checking out some of the more artistic features of the area. As it turned out, Hans was more than happy to be a tour guide. After a short discussion, Matt and Roger grabbed a change of clothes and the three of them took off in Hans’ BMW.
Once on the road, Hans asked if the story about Jo’s childhood was true. They told him that it was.
“How could anyone have not seen the truth?” asked Hans.
“Some people did,” said Matt. “Roger saw it the first time he saw Jo. I think Mike saw it too, even though he was only ten years old. It’s hard to believe, but they have been in love for almost seventeen years. Did she tell you she is pregnant? She is expecting twins. She told me the other day that when she saw the sonogram, everything came together for her. I think she has lived with a lot of doubt in spite of the physical evidence. When she saw those images, the last tendrils of doubt evaporated.”
“I think she still has some doubt about her abilities,” commented Hans. “She is very, very good. Two days in a row she has, without any preparation, played a Beethoven sonata perfectly. I am a musician and a music historian, and I know talent. She is very talented. There are many excellent pianists in the world today and I think she is among the top. I have listened to three of her recorded pieces and witnessed a live performance. She could name her price and get it. I understand she does not accept any pay for any of her performances. That is amazing.”
“Hans, as hard as it may be to believe, she is probably a better physician. She is also an excellent painter. She is not yet 27 years old and has been practicing medicine for almost two years. Talent seems to run in the family. Her sister has a Master’s Degree, is fluent in six languages and her brother is a PhD. Her mother is a talented musician and her father is an art historian. As you know, her husband is a war hero in a war he never wanted to fight. One of the men he saved is on the boat with us. They are very close friends.
His sister is special too. Her efforts were greatly responsible for getting them back together after some terrible things happened. There are so many stories to tell and not enough time to tell them. I think the best advice is, that if you hear something good about them, it is probably true. They have touched many people and so many good things have happened because of their love and understanding. There is a family in Mainz right now that would never have been a family if it hadn’t been for them. They are very giving and forgiving people. If you can, meet us down the way. She might be willing to tell you a bit more. I think we are going to spend some time in Nürnberg and Jo said she is going to try to get to Salzburg.”
The elder Beebes and DeBeers arrived at about 3:30 in the afternoon on the local train. They had flown from Vienna to Frankfurt where they picked up the train beneath the terminal. From the train, it had been a short downhill walk to the dock and the boat. After they placed their luggage in their rooms, they gathered around for a light tea and tried to decide what to do for the evening. Many of the guests were planning on dining ashore, and both families thought that might be a good idea. They asked around and several people suggested a Greek restaurant not far from the dock. They were not disappointed.
The next morning, Mike and Jo took off on a run to the top of the plateau the Rhein had cut through over the millennia. The climb was more than 1200 ft. and was the toughest run either of them had attempted in a long time. Jo felt it would be the toughest run she would be taking for a long time to come. When they got back to the boat, Jo had first shot at the shower. After Mike finished his shower, he found Jo lying across the bed in fully unclothed splendor with a bottle of lotion in her hand.
“Mike, my calves are really tightening up, and I think they need you to massage them.” She offered the bottle of lotion to him. Of course the massaging led to caressing and fondling and other things and they ended up being a couple of the later arrivals for breakfast.
After breakfast, the Beebes, O’Donnells and DeBeers took the local train into Mainz. They wanted to see a number of places, but the first place they went to was the home of Dieter and Frederica Hoffman. Needless to say, they were treated like royalty. It was a very busy afternoon and they finished their touring close to the Rhein. They said their Auf Wiedersehens to the Hoffmans, knowing they would see them many times over the years.
Frederica pulled Jo aside and thanked her for helping bring Mindy and George together.
“She is so nice, Jo. Our grandchildren love her, and our new granddaughters are so sweet. How could anyone treat her like her ex-husband did? George told us much of your story. He didn’t tell us everything, there wasn’t enough time, but you and your husband are angels. We know that our dear Ingrid is very pleased with what you have done. Please visit us again some time.”
They all hugged, kissed and shook hands before they got on the boat that was waiting for them and other passengers who were joining the trip at this point. Matt and Roger arrived with Hans and barely had time to say goodbye to their new friend before they hurried on board. Once all the passengers were on board, the gangplank was stowed and the MV Schubert made an abrupt turn across the Rhein to enter the smaller Main River (pronounced ‘mine’).
After another gourmet dinner many of the passengers took their evening coffee and aperitifs on the upper deck. The weather had become quite warm, a pleasant change from the much cooler weather they had experienced the first few days.
Frankfurt was far behind them and there was still a lot of light in the evening sky. Suddenly a rather bright meteor streaked across the sky.
“Jo,” asked MJ, “do you remember that night in the Sierras when that big shooting star streaked across the sky? I asked you if you made a wish and you said you did but you wouldn’t tell me what it was because you wanted it to come true.”
“I remember that night very well, MJ. That shooting star was so verybright, and it left an orange trail across the sky that lasted for a long time. I don’t wish for many things, but I did that night.”
“I remember that meteor too,” said Mike. “It was so bright that it was seen in LA, even with all the city lights. Supposedly, it impacted in Baja. I think some geologists found parts of it. It was one of those rare non-metallic meteors and that was why it left the orange trail.”
MJ, who was sharing a lounge chair with Franz, he had come on board that afternoon, was curious. “Mike, why do you remember that so well? I’m sure you’ve seen many shooting stars.”
“That was after my father barred me from seeing Jo. There had been that incident on the way home from school and then we accidentally met in the mall and Richard was his usual ‘cordial’ self toward Jo. Anyway, I was feeling particularly sad the night when that meteor flashed by. So, I made a wish. Since the wish came true, I guess it’s okay to reveal it. I don’t think it will be rescinded. I wished Jo and I would be friends forever.”
Jo was briefly startled. She sat up and lovingly looked at Mike before she rolled over and gave him a big kiss. “You know, of course, that was my wish too. That must have been one powerful wish. I wonder if there was an exponential factor since we both made the same wish on the same star. That wish has been working overtime these last seventeen years, and I think it has rubbed off on a lot of other folks around here.”
The next morning found them in Aschaffenburg. Mike and Jo got up shortly after the boat arrived and found a beautiful tree lined path along the river that was ideal for running. A number of other joggers and walkers were out enjoying the pleasant, but warm morning. After their run and breakfast, they eschewed the formal tour and walked through the town. They found that it was market day, and they were able to get some fantastic olives and other snacks.
When they arrived in Nürnberg, instead of a car, they found a small bus waiting for them. Too many people in the family wanted to see what was in store for them. They headed north on an excellent highway, passing just to the west of Pegnitz. MJ explained that there was a very scenic route along a small river, but that it would take considerably longer to travel that route. The trip was 85 kilometers, or just a little over 50 miles. They exited just to the southeast of town and suddenly they were in the narrow windy streets of Bayreuth (pronounced buy-roit).
They parked just off the Richard-Wagner-Strasse where they walked along a tree-lined street onto the grounds of Wahnfried, Richard Wagner’s House and now the site of the Richard Wagner Museum. Jo found it all very interesting, and enjoyed hearing excerpts from his operas. She and several others had to remember to separate Wagner the person from Wagner the artist and composer. They purchased memorabilia and some historic recordings before going up the street to where Cosima Wagner's father, Franz Liszt had lived. Jo was much more interested in visiting the home of one of the greatest pianists of all time. He hadn’t really spent much time there, but he had died there and is buried in a nearby cemetery.
The canal south of Nürnberg passed through flat agricultural land, and thankfully they passed through most of the area at night. The land became much more interesting as they approached the village of Beihlgries. The canal turned east and suddenly they were back on a river and in a few more miles were on the Danube, or ‘Donau’. The next stop was Regensberg. Several tours were available; however, Jo opted out. She did some checking on the early music festival that was an annual event here. Early music was not her major interest, but she had a great respect for Bach, and did play some of his keyboard pieces. J. S. Bach actually had not written any music for the piano, as the piano didn’t exist in his lifetime.
Later that morning all of the members of the wedding party departed by train for Vienna. Franz and MJ needed to make sure that all the administrative things were taken care of, and the rest of them went along to lend support. On the day of the wedding, Franz and MJ would already be legally married; however, they both felt that the ceremony was important for both their families and all their friends. They arrived at the Wien West rail station about four hours later. From there it was a short taxi ride to the Bristol Hotel.
The ambience of the entire area was fabulous. The hotel was directly across the street from the Vienna Opera House, and they were only a few blocks from the Graben and St Stephens Cathedral (Stephensdom). Jo found it hard to believe so much of this area had been devastated during the war. It was a hot afternoon, so they decided to walk around before they returned for their ‘fashionably late’ dinner. As they were just entering summer, the days were at their longest, and the sky was cloudless as they headed east toward St. Stephens. People were walking everywhere.
In just a few blocks they entered the Graben, a very wide pedestrian way lined with shops and restaurants. Seeming very out of character was the Bauhaus style café located on a corner just to the northwest. They could see the spire of St. Stephens above the buildings, and as they walked around the corner the massive cathedral came into view. They walked into the massive Gothic structure and let their eyes grow accustomed to the dim light. On the left, and about half way down, was the smaller chapel where Mozart’s funeral had been held. The entire place was overwhelming and Jo constantly had chills as she took in the history of the place and realized whose footsteps she was walking in.
Once outside, they wandered about and noted plaques indicating past residences of Mozart. Not far to the south of the church was the ‘Figaro House’ where Mozart and his family lived at the time he wrote the Marriage of Figaro. Several floors were dedicated to the life and compositions of Mozart, and they spent more than an hour taking in the exhibits and listening to the headset that gave details about Mozart’s life.
After returning to the hotel and cleaning up, they dressed for dinner. Franz and MJ had arrived along with Ernst and Liesle and they had a fabulous dinner in the luxurious dinning room. The next day was going to be a busy day. There was going to be a marriage, and they had an appointment at 10:00 AM at the Standesamt, the vital statistics office, for the civil marriage ceremony.
They met at the Standesamt about 15 minutes early, and promptly at 10:00 were ushered in for the ceremony. Jo remarked afterwards that it was like getting a drivers license. The officials offered their congratulations and after signing some papers, they were shown the door. The next couple was already waiting outside for their turn. The whole thing was rather sterile, and certainly did not have the emotional impact of a ‘real wedding’. The three now married couples had a little time before they wgrabbed the train to Salzburg for a brief visit. Jo was adamant that she had come this far, and not to visit Mozart’s birthplace would be a travesty.
It was a quick trip to the train station where they caught the train for the three-hour trip to Salzburg. MJ and Franz had been able to work some magic, and the three couples were given complimentary rooms in the Goldener Hirsch Hotel. It was still early when they arrived, and as soon as they were settled Jo and Mike grabbed a cab back to the Mozarteum where they introduced themselves, not really expecting anything for it. Had it not been for the time, they would have walked there. What they had not realized was that Hans Heinrick had run some interference for them. He had studied at the Mozarteum and had considerable influence there.
“Oh, Dr. and Captain O’Donnell, thank you so much for coming. Hans wasn’t sure if you would be able to get here or not. We are only open for a little while longer, but we would love to show you around.”
The Mozarteum was a music school as well as an archive and performance center. The performance hall was a really quite small lovely old building. It was just a rectangular room with a slightly elevated seating area in the rear and a tiered area in the front for the performers. It was an intimate setting, and Jo could tell that the acoustics were excellent. She would later play there as many times as all the rest of the places she would play in Europe. The Salzburg Music Festival would become one of her favorite events.
After a fabulous dinner, they had a Salzburger Nockerl, (a sweet soufflé the city is famous for), for desert, a decadently rich finishing touch for their stay. Franz and MJ were in the main hotel and Jo and Mike and Pat and MJ were in the annex across the street. It had been a busy and special day, and all were exhausted; however, Mike and Jo still found there was enough energy for some excellent lovemaking. They were lying there afterwards basking in the glow, when Mike said he had a question.
“Jo, do you know that MJ is pregnant?”
“You’re kidding, Mike. I’ve just been too close to you and have confused your radar.”
“No, I’m pretty sure she is. She’s very much like you in many ways. I’m certainly not going to ask her, but I’ll bet she’ll tell you before this trip is over.”
“Well, that’s certainly going to be interesting for Mom and Dad, with four nieces and nephews all about the same age. At least this is one thing that I’m ahead of her on.”
The next morning they made their pilgrimage to Mozart’s birthplace and climbed the several flights of stairs up to where the Mozarts lived. It was very interesting to be in the place where he had been born almost 250 years before. Some of the memorabilia was fascinating. MK had not been aware that Mozart was an accomplished Violinist and Violist as well as a piano virtuoso.
They walked back to the hotel to retrieve their bags and had a taxi take them back to the train station. The trip back to Vienna was quick, and they headed over to the Schönbrunn Palace to meet everyone for the rehearsal. The service would be in German, but the rabbi spoke English very well, and would back up parts of the service in English where it would be important to the attendees. The rehearsal went very well and all felt that the setting was wonderful. After the rehearsal, there were several hours before the wedding party would go to the rehearsal dinner.
That was a great time for some additional sight seeing. The Schmidts had a favorite Austrian style restaurant that they had reserved for the evening. It was not kosher; however, that did not seem to be a problem with any of the guests. The food was excellent, and the beer and wine flowed freely. All the members of the bride’s party were to meet at the palace a couple of hours before the wedding, and they wouldn’t be seeing each other until then.
MJ headed back to her flat and Jo cornered her before she could get into her car. She’d seen her talking to her friend, Katrina (Kempf) Mueller, who was to be one of the bridesmaids and had noticed that she and MJ were sharing some sort of secret. Jo had a pretty good idea what it was. Katrina had joined the group that day, along with her husband and toddler son. They had driven from Munich the day before. She and MJ had remained close over the years, and Katrina was really happy that her American friend was now living so close.
“MJ, is there anything you would like to tell me?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you know how Mike is about certain things, and he said that you might want to tell me something. Since you are already a married lady, it really shouldn’t matter, should it?”
“You mean Mike can read me like he reads you?”
“Yep, that’s what I mean. He said he wasn’t going to tell anyone, and I’m certainly not going to either. I guess I’m basically just curious to see if Mike was right.”
“Well, he is. I was getting off the pill and things must have started working right away. I would guess I’m about three weeks along. Franz knows, and he is very pleased.
“We’d already planned on my moving into the office. I’m going to work on quality control and trip development. The tourist boat business is taking off, and we want to get into some other European and American markets. The American markets are particularly interesting in some of the smaller river areas. I’ll still take trips or parts of trips to spell crewmembers that need time off. I’m really looking forward to it.
"One of the other things we will be doing is opening up our business to other markets. We have been catering mostly to the English and German speaking people, and because of my language abilities we are going to start seeking some of the other possible customer bases. It should be a lot of fun and good for the business.
“I’m going to tell Mom and Liesle tomorrow. Mom is going to go crazy with four grandchildren coming all at once.”
“I think there are going to be some other children pretty close to the family coming along soon. Mindy went off the pill not too long ago, and if I know that enlightened lady, she’ll be expecting soon. MJ, you wouldn’t believe the changes she has gone through. Last fall she was near suicidal, and today, she is one of the happiest people I know.
“This trip has been so much fun, and now I know why you like it so much over here. I have just skimmed the surface, and I know I’m coming back a lot. The people have been so nice. We are just going to have to work it in with the jobs and family. I know Mike has enjoyed it. He told me it was infinitely better than where he was before.
“You know I love you MJ, and I will never be able to thank you enough. You helped me through some tough times, and everything is working out so well. The only complaint I have is that you were salutatorian and I didn’t get to do anything. It’s probably just as well, though. I didn’t like to speak in front of the public in those days. It’s different now. I know I can do as well as anyone, and I am no longer afraid.
“Now we have just one matter to take care of at home and I think our life will really be back to normal. Mike doesn’t talk about it much, but I know the upcoming trial has been eating on him. He doesn’t want to get involved. He made a vow many years ago to never speak to or see his father again, and he is very concerned that he may have to face him. I don’t think there is a need to bring him in as a witness. I’m the one who will be on the stand, as will a number of others. Mike’s father will never have a free day for the rest of his life. The one thing that I want to do is keep him from getting the death penalty.
“But, Jo, he is such an evil man,” said MJ. “There is nothing positive that he can contribute to society. He is responsible for at least three deaths, and two attempts on your life. Why should we spend thousands of dollars keeping him around?”
“First of all, the death penalty is not a deterrent. Very few people who commit capital crimes feel they will be caught, and if they did, it certainly didn’t stop them. Second, how can death be a punishment?” Once you are dead, how do you contemplate what you’ve done? Life imprisonment without the hope of ever spending another free day in your life is a punishment! Maybe he’ll tell someone who is in prison for a shorter period what it means to never be able to have a free day in your life again. Maybe, he’ll change just one life. That would be worth it. There’s something else. I don’t want Mike, MK and Marcia living with the thought Richard was executed. Regardless of the feelings they have expressed, I think his death by lethal injection would be an emotional burden on them for the rest of their lives.
“Look, we need to think about life, our own lives. We have so much to look forward to. I intend to live my life to the fullest, and I want my family right there with me.”
Jo grabbed MJ in a big hug and held her for a long time. Mike was the only one who knew at that time what at least part of the discussion was about.
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