Tim was seven when his parents split up. Looking for a fresh start, Tim’s mother took her two children up to St. Louis. She managed to get a job at a bank as a teller. For the next couple years, she struggled as a single parent of two in her 20s, trying to make ends meet as well as trying to have a social life. When she couldn’t take it anymore, she knew something drastic had to be done she moved back to her hometown and in with her mother.

Between going back to school, her job as a waitress, and boyfriends, Tim’s mom hardly made it back home to her mother’s two-bedroom trailer. On the nights she was home, she shared a bed with Tim’s little sister while Tim slept in a twin bed in the same bedroom.

Tim’s grandmother, Lenore, was put in the position to do most of the raising of Tim and his sister. Though not well-off, evident by her living arrangements, Timothy’s grandmother was not destitute. Her late husband left her the land, which was completely paid for, as well as the trailer in which they lived. Between Social Security and the houses she cleaned for cash, she made a decent living. Enough to spoil her only two grandchildren, who got practically whatever they wanted.

A little lonely Tim’s grandmother welcomed the opportunity to take the role of being a mother. She did an excellent job of it too. She made sure they had breakfast and got them to school in the mornings. Then would pick them up and take them for the occasional McDonald’s milkshake in the afternoon.

At night she made sure whatever homework they had got done. She let them watch a little TV and made them an enjoyable meal. Being The man of the house, Tim got to choose what he wanted for dinner. Yes, he was quite spoiled. His favorite meal were these cheeseburgers his grandmother made on sourdough bread. Later in life, he realized what she was making were Patty melts.

On Saturdays, the big deal was to make a trip to the grocery store. This is where Tim got to pick out what he wanted to eat the rest of the week. Especially his favorite cereals. Saturday nights was also movie nights which included homemade popcorn cooked in a cast-iron skillet on the stove top.

Summer vacations were not typical for Tim. As his grandmother’s trailer was way outside the city limits. There weren’t any neighbor boys to play with for miles. He spent most of his summer days watching daytime television or helping his grandmother tend to their garden. On the days where she left to clean houses, he was left at home alone with his sister.

Tim was a typical big brother. He both bullied his sister and took care of her. He found her as a suitable playmate though he would have preferred the company of little brother.

Though she loved both Tim and Vanessa equally, you could tell that there is a special bond between Lenore and Tim. In her eyes, Tim could do no wrong. They were so connected that she could feel Tim’s pain every time he took a beating from his mother. It broke her heart. Though, she never stepped in to stop it.

*

It was Tim’s grandmother that signed him up for his first martial arts school after he came home from school one day with a shiner. He seemed to be a natural at it and got his Tae Kwan Do black belt in just a couple years. Bored with all the kicks, he signed up at the only other martial arts school in town. A Kempo Karate dojo owned by a guy who had never left the country and who had learned Karate from another man who never left the country. The training was sufficient for most of who attended the school.

By the time Tim was fourteen he had years of training under his belt. Some of his movements had become instinctual. So, he couldn’t help himself when his mother went to slap him in the face. Without even thinking about it, he blocked swing with his left arm. Tim’s mom felt a significant sting when this happened, but it wasn’t as much from the contact her wrist made with Tim’s forearm as it was the realization that she could no longer beat her son into submission. Tim went to live with his father by the end of that very month.

*

One day in fifth grade, Tim got unexpectedly called principal’s office. Expecting some sort of ass chewing, Tim was surprised when he walked into the principal’s office and found his father sitting there. His eyes were dry, but the redness made it evident that he had been crying. The principal asked him to sit down and said that his father had something to tell him.

“Pop is gone, Timmy,” Tim’s dad said just before he broke down sobbing.

Pop was Tim’s father’s dad. The only real grandfather he had. Pop was responsible for allowing Tim to do little boy things. Fishing, riding on the tractor, hunting for crawdads in the creek and the like. Tim’s relationship with Pop was not as strong as his relationship with his grandmother, but it was a close second.

Per the principal’s suggestion, Tim’s dad took him home early from school. Tim had shed some tears when he was told the news but really hadn’t let go until he saw his grandmother.

She was sitting on the couch watching TV when he walked in. She already knew. Her arms were out as soon as he walked through the door. He ran straight to them. That’s when he broke down.

As he sobbed in her big grandma arms, she comforted him and said, “It’s all right.” She rubbed his back and continued with, “Let it out. Let it out.” She didn’t say anything to try and make him feel better, to take away from the reality that was his grandpa’s death. She just gave him permission to cry and let him.

*

”Babe, your phone’s ringing,” Maria yelled from the bedroom. “It’s Vanessa.” She noticed from the caller ID.

Tim came in from the bathroom as naked as the day he was born to get it. “I’m surprised you can even see after what I just did to you.”

“Oh. My. God!” Maria scoffed and then stared at him with an open mouth.

They had just made love, and Tim was quite proud of what he had accomplished. “You love it,” he said as he picked up his phone. Maria still looking at him, amazed by his arrogance.

“Sup, foo?” That’s how he answered the phone when his sister called.

Even though she was a little annoyed with Tim’s cockiness, Maria was immediately concerned as soon as she saw the shit eating grin on his face leave.

Before Vanessa could even say a word, he could tell she was crying.

“Grandma is sick, Timmy.”

It was breast cancer. A mammography found it. It had been quite some time since her previous mammography due to crappy insurance. Surgery was scheduled right away. The issue was her health. It was poor. She was obese and diabetic.  A simple walk from the car to grocery store entrance required her to sit down and catch her breath.  The doctors worried that when they put her under to perform the procedure, she would never wake up.

While the conversation was going on between Vanessa and Tim, Maria held him from behind resting her head on his back.

“Keep me posted,” was how he ended the call.

Tim tossed his phone on the bed and turned around to look at Maria. “My grandmother’s si…” he was sobbing before he could finish the word sick.

Sitting on the bed, she held him while he cried. Rubbing his back and saying nothing to him except, “It’s all right. Let it out. Let it out.”