Note from SweetPoyzin: As soon as Owen was born I knew that one day he would decide to join the army. I agonized for months over Penny’s reaction. I played out conversation after conversation in my head. I knew that Penny would not be okay with the decision and that Owen would have no why his mother reacted to aggressively. After all of this, I never actually wrote the scene…until now.
Penelope (Hanks) McNamara
Finley Owen McNamara
Owen Finley McNamara
Finn and I were sitting in front of the fire late one evening when Owen came into the living room.
“I need to tell you guys something,” he said nervously. Immediately, my mind began racing to dark places. Owen took a deep breath, “I’m going to join the army.”
I froze. Men — no, boys — die in the army. They go out in their uniforms, looking barely past playing army in the backyard, and they get killed far, far from home. No. No! This was not the fate of my Owen. No. This was not an option for him. I’ve lost too many children already. I did not need him to volunteer for it.
“No, Owen. I won’t allow it.” I was surprised by the force in my own voice.
“With all do respect, Mom, but it’s not your call anymore. I’m 21 and done with college. I’m going to enlist next week.”
“No, you won’t. And what about Maureen? You’re getting married in three months. How does she feel about all this bullshit?” He’d never leave his wife, even if he insisted on leaving me.
“She backs me 100%. She knows this is my dream. I really want to be an astronaut, Mom. You know that.”
“Well, very few men actually achieve that. You’re chances are slim so maybe you should stick with something that you can succeed at…like medicine or science.”
“Wow, Mom. Talk about support.” Owen slumped back into the couch cushions and stared off into space.
“Finley, tell your son that he’s making a huge mistake!” My husband has been too silent throughout this conversation. I needed him to be on my side.
“Actually, honey, I think it’s a good idea.” Finn smiled and shrugged his shoulders sheepishly.
“Are you fucking kidding me!? He’s going to die out there! Do you hear me? Our son is going to die.” I was screeching now, worked up into a frantic frenzy.
“I’ll just go to my room now while you all sort your marriage out.” Owen rose from the couch and went to leave.
“Yeah, you go to your room. You’re grounded. No friends! No TV or computers,” I screamed after my son as he retreated in silence. “AND NO JOINING THE ARMY!”
Finn sat silently next to me and waited while I caught my breath.
“Don’t you think it’s time we told him?” He asked cautiously. “It might help him understand your reluctance.”
In my mind’s eye, where the past is always present, I saw Harper chasing Kylie in the backyard before they launched themselves into the pool. I saw Simon smiling at me from his crib every morning as I arrived with his bottle. I saw my three babies playing together in front of the Christmas tree as the fire crackled on Christmas Eve. I felt Emma, the daughter I never got to meet in person, moving inside my womb every time she heard the voices of her siblings. I burst into tears.
“He can’t go, Finley. I won’t lose another child. I won’t let him sign up to die.” I cried harder than I could remember. I realized that I had never really cried for my lost children. It had seemed impossible to cry for my children in the immediate aftermath. It was too surreal. Yet here I was, nearly 30 years after waking up from my coma, completely torn apart by their loss as if it was just yesterday.
“Honey, you have to tell him. He deserves an explanation. He needs to know.” Finn hugged me closer, “And if he still decides to go, at least he’ll know why you can’t be part of this decision. He needs to know that you still love him, because, Penny, I think he’s going to go regardless. You need to be ok for him even if you aren’t.”
Through my tears I promised my husband I’d try. I cried myself to sleep in Finn’s arms.
The next day, Finn piled Owen and I in the car and drove us to our favorite Chinese restaurant. We asked for a private table. After we were seated we busied ourselves with reading the menu so we could ignore the elephant at the table. The waiter arrived and took our order and our menus leaving us with nothing to do but talk to each other.
I let out a breath. “Owen,” I puff out another short breath, “Owen, you’re not my oldest child.” There. It was out in the open. Sorta. “Well, actually, you are my oldest child. My oldest real child, that is.”
“What are you talking about? I don’t understand, Mom?” Owen looked at me with deep concern in his eyes.
I had never actually spoken about my past in front of the kids. They knew the basics: Mom and Dad were supernaturals. I have a twin. I went to college and was once a well-known surgeon. That’s it. Nothing about my world travels, Xander, Peter, and the children who came before. They knew nothing about my car accident, my coma, and the fall-out that comes from waking up to find out the life you thought you knew was a dream and the life you had before was one to which you could never return.
Owen sat in silence while I explained the whole torrid tale. Our food arrived but nobody ate. I spoke for more than an hour and when I finally finished our food was cold and the restaurant was empty. The silence continued for a few beats longer before Owen stood up, came around the table, and hugged me tightly.
“I’m sorry, Mama. I didn’t know,” he said as he squeezed me. “But I still have to do what’s best for my life, Mom, and I’ve been preparing for this since I was 8-years-old.”
“I know, kiddo. You have to live your own life.”
“I’ll be careful, Mama. I’ll be fine. I promise.”
What’s done can’t be undone and what’s remembered must somehow be lived with ever after — even if the memories are insane, I thought to myself as I hugged Owen close.
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, son.”