By: Kenda



The Simon and Simon writers inadvertently offered us two time lines regarding Jack Simon’s death. Based on the episode, May The Road Rise Up, we are lead to believe A.J. was approximately four-years-old, and Rick nine-years-old, when their father died.  But in the episode, Revolution Number Nine and a Half, A.J. speaks of being in Little League at the time of his father’s death, meaning he would have been somewhere between eight and twelve-years-old when his dad died.  Therefore, I have made use of both those timelines in various S&S stories I’ve written. 


Revisit the Past was written as a result of another fan fiction story, Journey into the Past, by Brenda A.  To the best of my knowledge, Journey into the Past is not archived anywhere on the Internet. If I ever discover that it is, I’ll be happy to provide a link for it.


Brenda’s, Journey into the Past, is an excellent story that was set during Rick and A.J.’s adult years, and detailed what events caused Jack Simon’s death.  In 1993, with Brenda’s permission, I worked backwards from her story to further fictionalize the night Jack Simon died. Thank you, Brenda, for allowing me to do this. And thank you, as well, for being the fan fiction writer I aspired to emulate when I started this journey ten years ago. Your masterfully written relationship-dramas were of great inspiration to me.


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*The following excerpt is from Brenda A.’s, Journey into the Past. This seven-paragraph excerpt was used by permission in 1992 in the hard-copy zine, Special Kind of Heroes. Later in the story, references to Arthur Cavanaugh, the role he played in Jack Simon’s death, and A.J.’s part in discovering this, are also from Brenda’s story.  


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     "Andy! Hang on, son!"


     The wagon hit him from behind at the same instant the car reached the curve. The steering wheel wrenched in Jack's hands as the car crashed through the guardrail. The Buick rolled down the hillside, throwing the youngster viciously around inside the car. His head hit the side window, and he felt warm blood running down his face. It was like a roller-coaster ride gone crazy, and seemed to go on forever. The careening car came to a sudden, terrifying stop, and he was again thrown to the floor with shattering force. Remarkably, it landed upright. Andy lay there for a long time, not daring to move. He was surrounded by shards of broken glass, and his baseball uniform was bloodied by dozens of cuts. His head hurt, and he was jammed nearly under the seat, his arm pinned beneath him. When he finally tried to move, he cried out in sudden pain.


     "Daddy! Daddy...I'm hurt!" There was no answer to his cries, and his young voice rose in alarm. "Daddy! Daddy! me!"


     There was nothing but silence from the front seat. Biting his lip against the pain, the youngster managed to pull himself free until he was again crouched on the floor, cradling his broken arm.




The boy pulled himself up until he could see over the seat; his father was slumped over the steering wheel, blood pouring from a gash on his forehead. Ignoring his own pain, the child clambered over the seat until he was next to his father.


"Daddy? Are you okay?" He reached out tentatively and gently shook his father's shoulder, as he often did to wake him from a nap. At his touch, his father began to slowly slump sideways, toward Andy. The youngster was too small to stop him, and he was forced to the floor as the heavy adult form fell to the seat. Jack's ashen face, with his unseeing eyes, stared directly into the frightened blue eyes of his son.


     "Daddy?" His voice quivered. "Daddy, please talk to me."  He was shaking his father harder now. "Daddy, don't leave me here alone! Please wake up!" There was no response, and after a few moments he stopped, slowly pulling his hand away.


     "Daddy?" He stared in horror at the lifeless form for a full minute until realization hit him, and his terrified screams filled the quiet California twilight.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~




Chapter One


     How long he sat on the floor of the car screaming "Daddy! Daddy!" over and over, A.J. didn't know.  He just knew it was now dark outside, and that his throat was raw, his head hurt, and so did his right arm, which he held cradled in his lap.


If A.J. had to guess, he'd say it had been an hour since the accident had first happened, but he didn't know for certain. He was so confused. He couldn't remember anything about the day. He had no idea why he was in the car with his father, where they had been, or where they were going. He realized he had his baseball uniform on, but had no clues as to why. His games were always on Saturdays, but wasn't this Friday? He was sure it was. Mom had just caught Rick smoking behind the garage that afternoon. Or, at least, A.J. thought she had. Every time he tried to sort it all out in his mind, tried to figure out how he had come to be with his father in the car, his head started hurting worse. Hurting to the point it made him want to cry. But he wasn't going to do that. A.J. wasn't certain why he wasn't going to cry; he just knew he couldn't. The hysteria from earlier was also gone, replaced by a determined resolve to act like a man, rather than like a little boy.


     That last demand A.J. placed on himself was a pretty hard one for a boy who had just turned ten six days earlier. It was pitch black out now, and A.J. couldn't see a thing. They seemed to be in an isolated canyon or ravine far below the road. When he looked up, A.J. could occasionally see beams of light from passing cars, or faintly hear the roar of a large truck.


     Once A.J. had calmed down, he had the presence of mind to try opening both front car doors, but couldn't get them to budge. The windows were jagged shards of glass that he couldn't crawl through without being cut. A.J. knew he should climb over the front seat and try the back doors, he told himself this numerous times. But every time he moved to do just that, his breath would catch in a half sob, and he'd sit back down, disgusted with himself and what he considered his failure in his quest to act like a man.


     Anyone else would have easily forgiven the youngster for not being able to get to the back of the car. Getting there meant climbing over his father's lifeless body. For as confused and terror-filled as he was, A.J. had no doubt his daddy was dead. When it was still light out, all he had to do was look into his father's open eyes to see that no life remained. Now that it was too dark to see, A.J. still knew his father was dead. The evidence was right under his left hand where it rested on his dad's bare arm. Jack Simon's skin was already growing cold, and A.J. knew his father wasn't breathing. A.J. was a smart boy for just-turned-ten; everyone said that about him. Therefore, he was intelligent enough to know what his father's cold skin and lack of breathing meant.


     Once A.J. realized that he couldn't get out of the car, and that his dad was beyond the point of needing help, he stopped trying to find a means of escape. He was scared, there was no doubt about that, and his whole body hurt. A.J. began to wonder how long he might be down here before help arrived. Maybe he'd be down here so long that he'd starve to death. Sometimes he was sure this whole situation was a nightmare, and at those times he'd yell for Rick as loud as he could; sure his big brother would wake him and offer comfort. Then Rick would chuckle at him and say, "You and your goofy dreams. You gotta lay off the chocolate ice cream before ya’ go to bed, kid." But no matter how hard A.J. wished it, that didn't happen. Rick wasn't there to wake him up, or to comfort him. For the first time in his young life, A.J. was truly alone.


     Oddly enough, A.J. was scared about a lot of things at the moment, but being in the car with his father's dead body wasn't one of them. He had always felt so safe whenever he was with his dad. Even now, in some absurd way, A.J. felt his father was watching over him and protecting him. Therefore, A.J. felt it was important that he do the same for his beloved daddy. He made a vow that he would not leave Jack Simon's body until help came. A.J. would guard and protect his father in the same way his father had always protected him.


     With all these thoughts running through his mind, A.J. finally gave in to his pain, his confusion, his weariness, and his grief. He laid his head on his father's back and tried hard not to cry as he said, “I'm sorry, Daddy, I'm so sorry. It's all my fault. I'm sorry."


Exactly what was his fault, and what he was sorry for, A.J. couldn't remember. For some reason, he felt like he was to blame for the car accident and his father's death. It was so important to the youngster that his dad knew he was sorry, and that he never meant for any of this to happen.


After A.J.’s voice had grown hoarse from repeating his apology more times than he could count, he remained on the floor of the car. He cradled Jack's body with his good arm, while thinking about how much he loved his father, and how much he was going to miss him. The boy wondered how he, and his mom, and Rick, would ever go on without the presence of Jack Simon in their lives. When that thought brought tears to the surface, A.J. swiped at his eyes with the sleeve of uniform jersey, and vowed, “I’m not gonna cry, Daddy. I promise, I’m not gonna cry.”


The boy gave a hiccoughed sob and swiped his eyes again, while he sat alone in the dark keeping watch over his father’s body.





     The fire engine inched along Canyon Road, its spotlight sweeping over the drop offs and ravines. The local fire department had received a summons over an hour ago now from a woman who reported that she had heard a child's voice calling for help while she was out walking her dog. Because of the way sound echoed in the ravines, she couldn’t pinpoint where the sound was coming from. Canyon Road curved and wound for over ten miles, so it was quite a stretch to cover.


     The firemen were ready to pack it in and go back to the station. The captain, Frank Jonzek, was a stocky, gray-haired man of forty-eight. He turned to the engineer driving the big rig and said, "We're not gonna find anything. That woman was probably just spooked by a coyote howling."


The engineer had just said, “You’re probably right, Cap,” when a fireman riding on the back of the truck yelled, “Cap, I think I see something!”


In fact, he had seen something. The spotlight he was sweeping over the area had reflected off the chrome of the rear bumper of Jack Simon's car. As the man swept a wider arc across the ravine, Frank saw the vehicle below them, and then spotted the broken guard-rail several yards in front of them.


“Pull over here, Hal,” Frank instructed his engineer.


When the truck came to a gentle, rolling stop, the four-man crew descended. They grabbed flashlights, crowbars, and the First Aid kit, as they carefully side-stepped their way down the steep hillside.


     As they came upon the Buick with its crushed driver's side, shattered windows, and bent and battered frame, the only thought Frank had was, It'll be a miracle if anyone's alive in there.


The captain held up his flashlight and peered into the shattered passenger window. Because of his previous thought, he was shocked to see two blue eyes staring back at him.


"Huh...guys, there's a little boy in here. He's alive. Somebody run up to the engine, call for an ambulance, and bring down a blanket."


“Will do, Cap,” Hal said, as he raced up the hill.


     It was after Frank had given those instructions, that his flashlight beam landed on the man that the child was hugging. Years of experience caused Frank to suspect that the man was dead. He called after Hal, "Call for two ambulances!" and saw heard Hal’s, “Okay, Cap!” in return.


     Frank and his two remaining crewmembers used crowbars to pry open the passenger-side door. It took them several minutes to get the twisted metal to give way as a result of their efforts. Frank talked to the boy inside the car while they worked.


     “Hang on, son.  We’ll have you out in no time.  Stay away from the door. Just stay where you are right there on the floor.”


Finally, with one combined heave, the three men got the door open far enough for Frank to worm his way into the car. The first thing he did was to place his fingers at Jack Simon's throat. He wasn’t surprised when he couldn’t detect a pulse. Studying the body with the aid of his flashlight caused Frank to surmise the man had been killed instantly. Judging by the angle of the man’s head, Frank knew his neck had been broken. He thought the victim’s chest might have been crushed against the steering wheel, too, but that was only a guess. There would be specific answers after the body was autopsied.


This poor kid. I bet they've been down here at least three hours, if not longer."


As saddened as he was by the situation, Frank managed to smile at the boy, who still sitting on the floor of the car while clinging to the man.


“Can you tell me where you're hurt, son?"  


For a moment, Frank thought the boy wasn't going to answer him.  Finally though, a quiet voice said, "My head hurts, and my arm hurts real bad."


     "Okay,” Frank said, as he allowed his flashlight to travel the boy’s body as he searched for signs of further injuries. “Do you hurt anywhere else?" 


    A.J. gave a small, negative shake of his head.


"All right, then, let's see if we can get you out of here. How about it, buddy?"


     As he reached for the child, Frank saw fear flash in his eyes, then saw that fear change to stubborn determination.


"No, I can't leave! I won't leave my daddy. I have to stay here until help comes. I have to stay here with him."


     Frank was heartsick over the words the child had spoken. He had suspected these two were father and son. Just from viewing the half of the man's face he could see, the resemblance was remarkable. However, he had been hoping they weren't related. He was praying this was the child's neighbor, or baseball coach, anyone but his father. Not that either one of those scenarios would have made this experience any easier for the boy, it was just that Frank himself was a father, and would never want any of his children to have to go through a situation like this.


     "Can you tell me your name, son?"


     The boy studied him for a moment before answering, giving Frank the impression he was being sized up as to the amount of trust this child was going to place in him. After a lengthy silence, the boy said softly, "It's A.J. A.J. Simon."


     "Well, A.J. Simon, I'm Frank Jonzek, and I'm a fireman. My crew and I are here to help you. Now that you know who I am, and what I’m doing here, how about if I get you out of this car so I can take a look at your arm?"


"No! I can't leave my daddy. I won't leave him. He needs me!"


     Frank was growing increasingly concerned. He needed to examine the boy for injuries. He was sure A.J.'s arm was broken, and by looking at the bump and gash on his forehead, directly above his right eyebrow, he suspected the boy might have a concussion as well. He was also certain A.J. was in shock. There wasn't enough room to offer first aid inside the bent automobile. Aside from those facts, Frank felt it was time for the boy to distance himself a little from his father's body. He hated to force the child to do that. In some ways, Frank wanted nothing more than to be able to leave A.J. with his dad until the child felt he was ready to let go. Unfortunately, Frank knew that just wasn't possible. A.J. needed medical attention, and it was the captain’s job to give it to him.


     "You know, A.J., I'm a daddy, too. I have eight kids. Do you believe that? I have a boy just about your age, as a matter of fact. I bet you're about eight, huh?"


     A.J. shook his head, then winced at the pain the movement caused him. "No, I'm ten. My birthday was last Sunday."


     "Wow, ten. You're older than my Paul, then. He just turned

eight in June. He's a ballplayer, too. What position do you play?"


    "I don't know! I don't wanna talk about it! I don't ever wanna talk about baseball again!"


     Frank was taken aback by this change in the boy. He had no idea what he had said to upset A.J., but he feared he had just lost what little trust he had managed to gain.


     Gently, he tried again. "You know, A.J. I'm only here to help you and your dad like I said earlier. I can't do that though, if you won't get out of the car. There just isn't enough room in here for me to give you the care you need. You've done a good job of staying with your dad, and watching over him. I know you're a brave boy, and I know he's very proud of you. But, help is here now, so I think it would be all right if you got out of the car. We won't go too far. We'll just sit right outside here. How about if we lean you up against the car? That way we'll be close by."


     When A.J. didn't answer him, Frank said, "Remember that I told you I'm a daddy, too. If my Paul was hurt in a car accident, I'd want him to let the firemen help him. It would hurt me if I thought he was in pain, and wasn't letting anyone make him feel better. I'd want him to be a brave boy and do what the firemen said, no matter how hard that was for him. No father likes to see his son hurting. Don't you think your dad feels the same way? Don't you think he wants you to let me help you, and make you feel better?"


     A.J.’s eyes dropped to the floor of the car. "My daddy doesn't like for me to be hurt or sick. It makes him feel bad. He told me so once."


    "See, I told you. That's just the way daddies are. So, given that fact, let me help you out now, okay?"


     As Frank reached for the boy, A.J. pulled away again. Only this time rather than protesting about exiting the car, he didn't say a word. He gazed at his father's body a moment with an expression that Frank couldn't quite read. Then A.J. laid his head on his father's back and whispered, "Goodbye, Daddy. I love you."


     Tears stung Frank’s eyes, and a lump formed in his throat. He had been wondering ever since he came upon the car if A.J. knew his father was dead. Now, he had no doubt. Frank could tell from the boy's expression and soft words, that he was well aware his father was no longer among the living. Had A.J. known that from the very beginning? Had he been trapped all this time knowing his father was dead? Frank shuttered at those thoughts. He was forty-eight years old, and couldn't begin to imagine how heartbreaking this situation would be for him in regards to his own father, let alone for this to happen to a ten year old.


Frank chased his dark thoughts away as backed out of the vehicle sideways, then assisted A.J. in doing the same.


“Watch yourself there, kiddo. The metal on this door is sharp.”


 Frank wrapped a hand around A.J.’s left arm and guided the boy to the other side of the vehicle.  He had A.J. sit against the front tire on the driver's side. He didn't want the on the passenger side, since he knew that would be where the body would be removed from when the ambulance arrived. The other firemen had waited until Frank had A.J. settled, and then one of them covered the body with a blanket.


     Frank threw the blanket over A.J.'s shoulders that Hal had set on top of the First Aid kit. Using the beam from his flashlight to see by, Frank began looking the youngster over.


     "What's A.J. stand for, sport? No, no, don't tell me. Let me guess. I bet Abel Jonas."


Without cracking a smile, A.J. said, “No.”


     "Can you move your fingers for me, A.J, the ones on your right hand? Let's see, how about Alvin Jacob?"


     A.J. was able to move two of his fingers, though he winced as he did so. “No, that's not what A.J. stands for."


     As Frank continued to lightly probe A.J.'s arm and the gash on his head, he said, "Okay, one more try, and then I give up. Adolph Jasper. I bet that's it."


     That got a slight smile out of the blond boy as he told Frank, "No, that's horrible! That's not my name."


     "All right, A.J. Simon, you win. What does A.J. stand for?"


     It stands for Andrew Jackson...ouch!" A.J. cried, as Frank moved his arm.

      I'm sorry, buddy, I won't do that again. You've got yourself a broken wing here, A.J. I don't think it's too bad, though. They'll be able to fix you up in no time at the hospital." Frank winked. "Andrew Jackson, huh? Just like the president. Pretty impressive."


     Both ambulances arrived as Frank was cleaning and bandaging the gash on A.J.'s head. "So, tell me about yourself, Mr. President. Do you have any brothers or sisters?"


     "I have a brother."


     "Older or younger?"


     "Older. He's fifteen."


     "Oh, practically a grownup. What's his name? No, don't tell me. Let me guess. I bet it's Abraham Lincoln, and you call him A.L. for short."


     "No," said A.J., joining in their game once again.


     Trying to keep A.J.'s attention away from the stretcher and the men who were now on the other side of the car working to remove Jack Simon's body, Frank continued to tease A.J.


"Okay, let's see. I'll bet it's Thomas Jefferson, and you call him T.J."


     "No,” A.J. said as he strained to see around the car. “That’s not it.”


     "Don't move there, Mr. President. I need you to look at me while I bandage this cut." Frank placed his hands on A.J.’s shoulders and urged him to sit facing forward once again. "Okay, I get one more guess. I know this one is right. George Washington Simon, and you call him G.W., I bet."


     "No, you're wrong. His name is Rick. Well, Richard, really, but only when our mom's mad at him."


     "Kind of like I’m Francis when my mom is mad at me, huh?” Frank chuckled.  “I'm going to splint your arm now, A.J., so we can move you without causing you pain. It might hurt a little, but I'll do my best to be careful, okay?"


     At A.J.'s tentative nod, Frank began immobilizing the arm. "So, tell me about Rick. Is he a good big brother?"


     "Yeah, he's the best."


     Frank smiled at the boy. "He's the best, huh? What kinds of things does Rick do that have earned him that reputation?"


     A.J. shrugged his uninjured shoulder. "I don't know...lots of things. When I was little, he always read me stories before I went to sleep. He taught me how to ride a bike. He plays with me, takes me fishing, and he watches out for me. Stuff like that."


     "He watches out for you? I bet he doesn't let anybody pick on you then, does he?"


     "Nope. Rick always says, ‘Nobody better mess with Rick Simon's kid brother, unless he wants to mess with Rick Simon.’”


     Frank laughed. "I'll keep that in mind, Mr. President. Thanks for the warning." As Frank turned to put things back in the First Aid kit, he asked, "So, I suppose your big brother even helps you with your homework, doesn't he?"


     "No," came the sincere reply. "Actually, I help him with his."


     Frank laughed again. "I'm glad I got to meet you, A.J. Simon. You're an interesting young man."


     Frank finished giving A.J. what aid he could, so they could transport the youngster to the hospital. Throughout their   conversation, Frank could tell A.J.'s attention was only half on him and what they were saying. The boy continued to subtly try to see what was occurring on the other side of the car.


     Finally, the ambulance attendants came around the back of the car bearing the stretcher that held Jack Simon's body. Frank had no idea what kind of reaction to expect from his young patient, so prepared himself for anything. He was thankful that his men had enough sense to shut off their spotlights, and only use flashlights, as they walked ahead of the stretcher. He was thankful, as well, that they had thought to take the body up from behind the car, and not in front where he and A.J. were sitting.


Because of the darkness, one could barely discern that there was a body on the stretcher, which was good. Frank didn't think A.J. needed his father's blanket-covered body paraded past him in some sort of an absurd funeral procession.


    A.J. didn't say a word, but instead watched silently as his father was taken up the ravine and put in the back of an ambulance. Only then did he speak.


"Where are they taking my daddy?"


     "To the hospital, A.J. We'll be taking you there in a minute, as well, son."


     "Why are they taking him to the hospital? He’s dead. I know he is. He's in Heaven, now."


     Talking past the tightness in his throat, Frank laid a hand on A.J.'s uninjured shoulder. "You're right, A.J. Your father’s in Heaven now. And we know Heaven's a wonderful place, don't we?"


     A.J. nodded as Frank said, "Your father’s body will be kept at the hospital for a little while, then it will go to the funeral home until the time for the funeral."


     When A.J. didn't say any more, or ask any more questions, Frank kept his peace. Not knowing the family, or their beliefs, meant he didn't want to overstep his bounds.


     Within minutes of the first ambulance leaving, Frank was ready to have A.J. transported. It was then that he got a reaction out of the boy. Frank's assumption from earlier that this child didn't give his trust easily proved to be correct. A.J. threw a fit as the ambulance attendants tried to get him on the stretcher. He kicked at the attendants while clinging to Frank.


     “Frank, come with me!  Please come with me! Please!”


Frank didn't think twice about complying with A.J.’s frantic request. He calmed the boy by promising to ride to the hospital with him. Frank knew how frightened the youngster must be.  First he'd been trapped alone for hours with his dead father, and then strange men appeared in the darkness. Now that he finally trusted one of those men, that man was going to hand him over to other strange men. Frank could barely imagine how alone A.J. must have been feeling at that moment.


     Frank waved the ambulance attendants away and gently picked up the boy. "Okay, Mr. President, I'm going to carry you up the hill, and then you and I will ride in style to the hospital in style.  Sirens, and lights, and the whole works. What do you say to that, Andrew Jackson?"


     A quiet "All right," was all Frank received as A.J. molded himself to the fireman's broad chest. Looking down at the blond head, Frank's heart ached for the boy who had suffered so much in the past few hours.


I hope this boy has a strong, loving, family to go home to. He's sure gonna need one to see him through all this.  He’s surely gonna need one.


Chapter Two



     Doctor Robert Barton had received a call from the hospital that Saturday evening just as he was about to sit down and read a story to his youngest daughter. As soon as he heard that two of his patients were being brought in by ambulance, and who they were, he rushed out the door with a quick goodbye to his wife and three little girls, and headed for County General Hospital. Jack Simon and Bob had been best friends since their freshman year in high school. He had been the Simons’ family doctor since he had gone into practice eleven years earlier, and had delivered Jack's youngest son.


     By the time Doctor Barton had arrived at the hospital, the ambulance had already been there and left. He ran into the emergency room, inquiring of the nurses as to the whereabouts of his patients. A nurse, not knowing that the deceased man and Doctor Barton were close friends, told him, "The man, John Simon, was pronounced D.O.A., Doctor. His body's been moved to the morgue. Positive identification is pending until the arrival of the family. The boy is in Trauma Room 2. Doctor Ellingston is in there with him. He’s all ready had skull and arm films taken."


     The color drained from Bob Barton's face as he stood rooted in front of the nurses' station, while trying to  absorb what he’d just been told.


     "Doctor Barton, are you all right?"


     Clearing his throat, Bob said softly, "Yes...uh yes, Nancy, I'm fine." Running a hand through his thatch of thick reddish-blond hair, he asked, "What happened? How did Jack...Mr. Simon...die?"


     "It looks like his neck was broken, and possibly his chest was crushed by the steering column. The firemen are pretty sure he was killed instantly. Other than that, I don't know much. They think that the accident occurred between three and four hours ago. The car evidently didn't make a curve on Canyon Road from what I gather. The child was trapped in the vehicle with his father's body for quite some time before someone noticed they were down there."


     Oh my Lord, poor A.J.


"What's the boy's condition?"


     "Seems to be surprisingly good. A fireman carried him in here. He's in the trauma room with Doctor Ellingston and the boy yet. They're fairly certain Andrew's right arm is broken, and he has a deep gash on his forehead. Other than that, there doesn't seem to be anything else wrong with him. They're waiting in there for you."


     Bob nodded as he looked toward the room that held his young patient. "Is the family here? Have they been notified?"


     "Yes, Mrs. Simon has been notified. She's on her way here in a patrol car now."


     "Do me a favor, please. When Mrs. Simon gets here, put her and any family members that come with her in the empty office down the hall. Let her know what you've told me about Andrew. By the way, they call him A.J. Please assure her that he's not seriously injured. Then let me know that she's arrived."


     The man heard her, "Yes, Doctor," as he hurried down the corridor. Bob came to the room A.J. was in and leaned against the door before opening it, while trying to compose himself. The doctor pushed the anguish and sorrow he felt over the loss of Jack Simon aside, as he prepared to enter the trauma room and gaze into the face of the boy who looked so much like his old friend.


     As long as Bob Barton lived, he didn't think he'd ever forget the look of relief he saw in A.J. Simon's eyes upon entering the examination room that night. A look that seemed to say, "Finally, someone I know."


     Bob did his best to smile.  “Well, young Master Simon, I hear you’re paying me a visit this evening.”


     The doctor wasn’t surprised when he didn’t get an answer, or a smile, in return.




     Doctor Barton had been in with A.J. for close to an hour, and as each minute passed, he grew more concerned about the boy. A.J.'s physical condition wasn't too bad considering all he had been through. A clean break to his right arm that would require a cast that Bob could put on in the emergency room, and a gash to A.J.'s forehead that took ten stitches to close. A.J. had a good size lump surrounding the gash, as well as a mild concussion. The numerous cuts that ran up the youngster's arms, and dotted his chest and back, required no more than a gentle cleaning. What Bob was concerned with, was the fact that A.J. seemed to be shutting himself off emotionally, for lack of a better way to put it. He was answering all Bob's questions willingly, and seemed to be listening to what Bob said to him, yet A.J. wasn't reacting the way Bob thought a ten-year-old would to the trauma A.J. had just experienced. Bob knew how much A.J. loved and worshipped Jack, yet there were no tears, no signs of sorrow, no anything. A.J. hadn't asked for his mother or brother, either. When Doctor Barton asked A.J. questions about the accident, he received a blank look from the boy. The only thing A.J. would say in reference to the accident when Bob questioned him, was in turn to ask Doctor Barton, "It's Friday, isn't it, Doctor Bob?"


     To which Doctor Barton would reply, "No, A.J., it's Saturday."


     "No, Doctor Bob, it's Friday." This was always said emphatically, giving Bob the impression A.J. needed to convince himself it was Friday for some reason.


     This scenario was repeated three times before Bob said, "A.J., son, it's Saturday. See, you have your baseball uniform on. You had a game today, didn't you?"


     Bob was certain A.J. had pitched a Little League game that afternoon. For one thing, A.J. was wearing his uniform pants yet, and his jersey was lying beside him on the examination table. For another, Bob had just seen Jack Simon Wednesday night, and Jack had told Bob how anxious he was for Saturday to arrive. Jack had rearranged his busy schedule in order to spend the day with his youngest son, and to attend the first game of A.J.'s that he was able to make it to since the season had started eight weeks earlier.


     At Bob's questioning A.J. about his ball game, A.J. once again became upset, as he had earlier with Frank.


"No! No! You're wrong. It's Friday! I know it is! I don't wanna talk about baseball, not ever! Don't ever say that to me again!"


     Doctor Barton was caught off guard by this reaction. Here he had been worrying about A.J.'s lack of emotional response, and then all of a sudden the youngster is shouting at him over a Little League game. Not to mention the fact that Bob doubted A.J. Simon had ever shouted at an adult in all his ten years.


     Bob was also concerned by the fact that, though A.J. had been looking at him when shouting, A.J. didn't seem to be seeing him. The boy's eyes had taken on a vacant cast, as if A.J. had somehow mentally removed himself from the room, while at the same time he was shouting at someone else. But whom? The more thought Bob gave to it as he tended to A.J.'s cuts, the more he concluded, A.J. was yelling at me, yet it seemed as if his anger was directed at himself. But why? Could A.J. be blaming himself for what happened this evening?


     As he mulled these thoughts over, Bob patted A.J.'s left knee. "We're ready to put a cast on that arm, A.J. I'll get the things I need, and then you'll be fixed up as good as new. What do you say to that, champ?"


     As if the shouting and upset of a few minutes earlier had never happened, A.J. replied calmly, "That's fine, Doctor Bob."


     Doctor Barton walked to the supply cabinet to get the items he needed in order to put the cast on A.J.'s arm. He motioned for Frank to follow him. The nurse who was assisting him kept A.J.'s attention focused on her by making small talk. As the doctor removed the medical equipment from a shelf, he quietly asked the fireman, "Did A.J. say anything about the accident when you were at the scene? How it happened? How long they were down there? Anything?"


     “No, he didn't say a word about it. And he kept insisting it was Friday with me, too. The more I talked with him in the ambulance about it, and from what I've seen since we arrived here, the more I've come to believe that he doesn't remember anything about today. I mentioned that to the other doctor who was in here before - Ellingston. I thought part of his memory loss might be due to the concussion."


     Doctor Barton sighed as he glanced past Frank to A.J.


"Well, he does have a good sized lump on his head, but nothing that should cause a memory loss this severe considering the positive results the x-rays showed.”


     "I wanted to tell you, too, that A.J. reacted to me almost in the same way he did to you, Doctor, when I said something to him about baseball. All I said was something like, ‘I bet you're a ball player,’ and he got really upset and yelled at me just like he did to you.”


     "That's not like A.J. at all - to yell and get upset like that, especially at an adult. And, baseball - well, A.J. lives, eats, and sleeps baseball. He loves it. I don't know what, but something is going on inside that boy that's hurting him a lot more than he's letting on to us."


     “But what could it be?”


     Bob shook his head as he shut the cabinet door.  “I don’t know. And until A.J.’s ready to tell me, I probably won’t know. Which, by the way, is not something I’m looking forward to sharing with his mother. Poor Cecilia is going to have enough worries as it is.  This will just be one more she doesn’t need.”


     Frank silently agreed with the man, knowing that Mrs. Simon was now a young widow with two sons to raise by herself.





     Twenty minutes later, Doctor Barton was putting the finishing touches on A.J.'s cast.


     "Well, buddy, there you go. You're all set. Now you'll have something for all your friends to write their names on."     


A.J. gave Bob a slight smile, while nodding his head. The doctor just didn't know what to make of all this. A.J. had continued to sit calmly throughout all of Bob's treatment of his arm, not even crying out when Bob had to set the bone before he put the cast on. He knew that was painful; he could see the pain in A.J.'s eyes. But once again, there were no tears, not a single “Ouch!” nor a reaction of any kind.


Bob had just finished casting A.J.’s arm when a nurse had come in to tell him Cecilia and Rick had arrived. The doctor watched A.J. closely after that, and was puzzled because A.J. had no reaction at all to the news that his mom and brother were there. Bob expected him to ask for one of them, or both of them, especially for Rick. In all his years as the Simon's family doctor, Bob couldn't remember a time when Rick wasn't hovering over A.J. like a hen with only one chick whenever Bob was patching A.J. up after some fall, or treating him for his numerous bouts of bronchitis, strep throat, or pneumonia. Usually, where you found one Simon brother, you found the other. Yet A.J. just sat quietly, not asking for anyone or anything.


     Bob Barton had very little experience with amnesia and its causes - physical or emotional. Furthermore, he had absolutely no experience with a child suffering from it. He suspected that A.J.'s memory lapse was caused more by emotional trauma than by physical. A.J.'s head injury was, by far, not that serious. Upon questioning the boy further, Bob was fairly certain A.J. had not lost consciousness at any time after the accident occurred. Overall, he just didn't have enough knowledge in this area to make any guesses. Maybe all it would take would be a good night's sleep accompanied by a few days rest, and A.J.'s memory would return. Bob decided not to push any harder with the youngster for the time being. He would discuss it all with Cecilia first, and then the first thing on Monday morning, if A.J.'s memory hadn't improved any, he'd contact a pediatrician friend of his. Perhaps this friend could put Bob in touch with someone more experienced than himself regarding children and their reactions to trauma.


     "A.J., how about if you stay here with Mrs. Jenkins while Frank and I go to talk to your mom for a few minutes?" Bob inquired of his young patient.


     A.J. looked warily at the nurse who had been working with Bob. When she perceived his hesitation at being left with her, she assured him, "Hey, sport, I don't bite. I've even got a daughter at home about your age."


     A.J. looked at Frank. "Can't you stay here, Frank? Please?"


     Frank sat on the examining table next to A.J. and put his arm around the boy's shoulders.


"Well, Mr. President, I really have to get back to the fire-station, and before I do that, I'd like to meet your mom. I wanna tell her what a brave guy you've been. and how glad I am I got to meet you." Frank rubbed A.J.’s shoulder. "I'll see you again, A.J., I promise. How about if I come by your house in a few days to see how you're feeling?"


     "You'll really come to our house just to see me?"


    "You bet I will. It's not every day I get to help a president." Frank cupped A.J.'s chin in his a calloused hand and told him solemnly, "Yes, A.J., I'll really come to your house to see you one day next week, I promise."


     "Okay." A.J. relaxed a little then, taking comfort in the fact that Frank wasn't going to completely disappear from his life.


     "A.J., does your head still hurt?" Doctor Barton asked.




     "I bet you haven't had any supper yet, either. Are you hungry?"


     A.J. shrugged his good shoulder. "I didn't eat supper, but I'm not really hungry, Doctor Bob."


     "Well, how about if I spring for a grape juice and a package of M&M's? Would you eat those for me while I'm talking to your mom?"


     "I don't think Mom will want me to eat candy if I haven't eaten supper yet."


     Bob smiled. Well, that's the first thing A.J.'s said since I came in here that sounds like him. He’s the only kid I know who would refuse candy by confessing that his mom wouldn't want him to have it because he hasn't eaten supper yet.


     "I think it will be all right just this one time. I'll clear it with her, okay? I'm going to give you a couple of aspirin to take while you eat your candy and drink your juice. You can't take them on an empty stomach. They might make you sick if you do. The aspirin will make that headache go away, so you eat for me, all right?"


     A.J. nodded. Doctor Barton turned to the nurse, handing her some change from his pockets. "Bev, will you please go to the lounge for me? Bring a juice and M&M's for A.J. Also, would you have someone call up to the pediatric ward for some books. A.J. loves to read. Frank and I will stay here until you get back."


     "Sure, Doctor."


Nurse Jenkins smiled at A.J.  "I'll be right back, A.J. What kind of books would you like?"


     A.J. just shrugged his left shoulder, not answering her.


     Doctor Barton made eye contact with Frank, who simply shook his head slightly at the youngster's sudden unresponsiveness. Bob prompted A.J. with, "A.J., you like all kinds of sports, don't you."


     Turning to the nurse Doctor Barton said, "A.J. likes boxing."


     "Boxing!" Mrs. Jenkins exclaimed. "Do you box, A.J.?"


     A.J. finally responded to that. "Yeah, I have a punching bag, and boxing gloves, and everything. I box a lot. I’ve been doin’ it since I was a little kid of about six years old."


     The adults smiled slightly at this comment.


"Wow, I've never had a patient who was a boxer before. But I'm not sure we have any books on boxing up there. What else do you like?"


     “Football, race cars, the Hardy Boys, if you've got one of those. I don't care."


     Not thinking, Bob Barton added, "I know I saw a new book on baseball when I was on the pediatric floor the other day. A.J. loves baseball. Bev, maybe someone could bring one of those--"


     None of the adults were paying any attention to the growing look of panic and fear on A.J.'s face, as Doctor Barton spoke about baseball. All three focused their attention on him, however, when started pushing Bob away from him.


"No! No! I told you, no baseball. I don't wanna talk about baseball!"


     Doctor Barton took hold of A.J.’s left arm. "Okay, A.J., okay. I'm sorry, I forgot. Calm down, now. Calm down. No books on baseball, I promise."


     A.J. continued to try to push Bob away, and once again the doctor noticed the far off look in the boy's eyes. It was as if A.J. wasn't seeing any of them any more.


     As A.J. continued to struggle with Bob and shout at him, the doctor grew more alarmed. He wasn't sure what it all meant, or what was going on inside A.J.'s head. However, he did feel it was important to bring A.J. back from the place of terror to which he had retreated. Bob gripped A.J.'s arm a little tighter.


"Listen to me, Andrew. That's enough now! Stop it, please, or you'll hurt yourself. I mean it now, A.J., stop it!"


     As abruptly as it all started, A.J.'s struggling ceased. He blinked his eyes a few times, as if orienting himself to his surroundings. Bob thought A.J. seemed dazed, as if he had no idea what had just occurred.


     The room was bathed in silence a moment, then the nurse said, "If you three gentlemen will wait here, I'll be right back. I'll go get A.J. something to eat ,and I'll see if we can't find something for him to read. I think we've got a book on football upstairs. I'll call and find out."


     Bob smiled his appreciation. "Thanks, Bev. We'll wait here for you."


     Bob released A.J.'s arm, and reached up to run his hand lightly through A.J.'s thick, blond hair.


"Are you doing okay now, buddy?"


     A.J. gazed at the man for a second, and then answered, "Yeah." After a pause he added, "My head really hurts."


     "We'll get those aspirin in you in just a minute. Let's see if they help, all right?"


     Bob checked A.J.'s pulse and blood pressure again, then pulled out his penlight and looked into the boy's eyes once more. He asked A.J. to follow the movement of his finger as he had done earlier. Everything checked out fine, as it had earlier, so Bob wasn't too concerned. He was fairly certain A.J.'s headache was the result of tension more than from the lump on his head. Doctor Barton asked him again if his stomach hurt, or if he was dizzy or felt nauseous. And once again, the youngster answered negatively. Bob decided he would re-examine A.J. after he talked to Cecilia, then he would make a decision whether to admit A.J. for observation that night. Normally, he probably would have kept him in the hospital until morning, but under the circumstances, he was more inclined to allow A.J. to go home with his family if it proved safe to do so. The child had been through a lot that day. Bob hated the thought of the additional emotional strain it would put on A.J., as well as Cecilia, to keep him in the hospital.


     Nurse Jenkins reappeared with her hands full. Doctor Barton rushed over to her side to relieve her of some of her burdens.


     "A.J., you're in luck. We actually did have a book on boxing upstairs. I'd really like you to tell me all about it. We can look at the pictures together while you eat. I know nothing about boxing."


     A.J. replied, "Okay," as Bob asked, "What's this? Chicken noodle soup?"


     "Yes, Doctor, it is. Really, I can't believe you'd offer this child candy when he hasn't had supper yet. He needs more than that in his stomach."


     Frank and Bob smiled as Frank said, "Spoken like a true mother."


     "I got your M&M's, too, A.J. I hope you like chicken noodle soup. It's my daughter's favorite, so I thought you might like it, too."


     "I like it," came the soft reply. "But I'm not really hungry."


     "Try to eat some of it, A.J., even if you take only a few bites. Then Mrs. Jenkins can give you some aspirin for that headache, okay?"


     "Okay, Doctor Bob, I'll try."


     “That's my boy." He turned to the nurse. "I bet you'll be surprised to know that A.J. here can swallow aspirin. He doesn't chew them like most of the ten-year-olds we run across."


     "That's great, A.J. We don't have many patients your age who can swallow pills."


     "A.J.'s an old pro at that, aren't you, kiddo?"


     A.J. had all the adults chuckling at his reply.


"Yeah, Doctor Bob and I go back a long way. I've been swallowing pills for him since I was four. My mom put them in applesauce or ice cream then so I could do it. But I haven't had to take them like that in a long time."


"Well, good for you, Mr. President. I've got a seventeen-year-old at home who still can't swallow pills." Frank patted A.J.'s knee as he got off the table.  "A.J., I'm gonna say goodbye to you for tonight. I promise I'll come see you this week like I said, all right?"


     A.J. nodded before holding open his left arm to the man. The fireman bent down so A.J. could hook his good arm around his neck. Frank returned the hug from this boy he had come to care for so much in such a short period of time.


     "Thank you for taking care of my daddy," A.J. whispered into Frank's right ear.


     "You took care of your daddy, A.J., I didn't. I know he's proud of you, son. You be a good boy for Mrs. Jenkins now, okay, Mr. President?"


     "Okay, Frank, I will."


     With a final pat to A.J.'s back, Frank released him and went to stand by the door.


"Frank and I are going to go talk to your mom, champ,” Doctor Barton said. “In a few minutes, I’ll send Rick in here. Would you like that?"


     Bob couldn't read the expression on A.J.'s face. He was surprised not to receive an eager "Yes!" He wondered about that, and thought back again to the fact that in the hour or more he had been with A.J., not once had the boy asked for, or about, his mother or brother. Bob had the feeling once more, that A.J. was pulling back from reality. Could it be that the boy was dreading what was obviously going to be an emotional reunion with his family? Again, Bob couldn’t begin to guess. He had no experience with this type of situation, and that it involved a child, only further complicated things. But Doctor Barton had made a promise to himself before he had walked into this room. He had vowed he'd do what ever he had to in order to help Jack Simon's son heal. Anything Bob had to offer would be given to A.J. That much he could do for the old friend who was beyond Bob's help long before he arrived at the hospital.


     When Bob realized that A.J. wasn't going to answer him he let the subject of Rick drop.


“You eat that soup for me, A.J., and tell Mrs. Jenkins all about boxing. I'm going to quiz her later. I won't be gone long. When I come back, well see how your head's feeling, all right?"


     "All right."


     Bob turned to walk away, only to be stopped by A.J.’s quiet voice.


"Doctor Bob, are you going to tell my mom and Rick that Daddy's in Heaven, now?"


     Bob had to swallow hard as he turned around. "Your mom and Rick have already been told that, A.J. I'm going to talk to them about your injuries. I’m sure they're both worried about you."


     "Mom will be real sad, won't she?"


     "Yes, son, she will be. But she's got you and Rick to help her feel better, doesn't she?"


     A.J. dropped his eyes to the table and nodded.


     Doctor Barton stood in the room a moment longer, then headed out the door with Frank.



Chapter Three



     Cecilia Simon was reacting to the tragic news of her husband's death and child's injuries, much as Bob had expected she would. With strength, courage, and independence.


     By the time Doctor Barton and Frank had entered the office where Cecilia and Rick were waiting, mother and son had already been to the hospital morgue to view Jack's body. Although it wasn't necessary for Cecilia to do this at that time, she had insisted upon it, and fifteen-year-old Rick had insisted on accompanying his mother. Although she and Rick had now been joined by several other family members who had been called - Cecilia's sister and her husband, as well as Jack's oldest brother, Will, Cecilia was the one who had asked the police officers questions, and was now asking Bob questions.


The woman’s eyes were rimmed red from crying when Bob had entered the room and hugged her. Her tears started anew as her husband’s old friend held her and murmured his condolences, but after they had released one another, Cecilia composed herself and began questioning Bob about A.J.'s condition.


     Cecilia and Rick listened to all Doctor Barton had to say. Rick was seated beside his mother on the office couch and was holding her hand. Bob's first instinct had been to usher Rick out of the room and send him down the hall to his brother. Bob thought better of it though, as he studied the teenager. As Rick sat next to his mother offering silent support and strength, Bob could already see that the fifteen-year-old had decided he now had take his father's place. That Rick, in the space of a few short hours, had gone from being the oldest Simon boy, to being the man of the Simon family. Bob knew it would be insulting to Rick if he chased the teen out of the room. Rick was a smart kid. There was nothing Bob was going to be saying to Cecilia, that Rick wouldn't be able to understand. He recognized that the teen should hear the adult discussion about his younger brother's health. As a matter of fact, it was probably just as important for Rick to hear all Bob had to say, as it was for Cecilia to hear it.


     Rick and A.J. were close. Bob had no doubt they were each other's best friend, even with the five-year age difference that separated them. If A.J.'s amnesia proved to be emotionally linked, Bob knew it was going to be imperative for Rick to know how to deal with that, just as it was going to be imperative for the rest of A.J.'s family to know how to deal with it - aunts, uncles, and cousins alike. Doctor Barton strongly suspected though, that when A.J. decided he was ready to turn to someone for help in dealing with his grief and his loss, that someone A.J. turned to would be Rick.


     The doctor sat down in a chair that was to the right of where Rick and Cecilia were seated. Within fifteen minutes, Bob had finished telling those in attendance about A.J.'s head injury, his stitches, the broken arm, and finally, the memory lapse. He also had Frank fill them in on all that had transpired from the time the fire department had arrived on the scene, until Frank had entered the hospital with A.J. in his arms. When both men were through and had answered numerous questions asked by various family members, Cecilia turned to Doctor Barton.


"What about A.J.'s memory loss, Bob? You said it could be emotional. What exactly does this all this mean?"


     "Cecilia, at this point I'm not sure. If over the next few days, A.J.'s memory doesn't start returning, I'll contact a good friend of mine who's a pediatrician and see if I can't find out more. He may be able to answer some of our questions, or put us in touch with someone who can. As I told you, I really don't have any experience with this type of thing. I can't even begin to make guesses, and I don't want to. I could cause more harm than good at this point.


     "I want both of you to listen to me though, Cecilia, Rick. I can tell you what little I do know about amnesia when caused by a traumatic event like A.J. experienced, and how the two of you are going to have to deal with it.


     "I already told you that A.J. is sure it's Friday. The last thing he remembers is Rick getting grounded for smoking cigarettes, then nothing until he finds himself injured in the car with Jack. Everything from three-thirty yesterday afternoon, until approximately six-thirty this evening, is gone for him right now. A.J. keeps insisting that it's Friday. It's almost as if he has a need to convince himself of that fact.”


     “But why?” Cecilia asked.


“I don't know, Cece. He has no idea where he and Jack had been, where they were going, or how the accident happened. He's confused right now, and I imagine upset and scared, too, although he's hiding those feelings very well. Frank and I, at different times, have both mentioned baseball to A.J. by asking him if he was playing baseball today, in an effort to try and jog his memory. Each time the word baseball is mentioned, he flies off the handle. He says that he doesn't want to talk about baseball, and doesn't want to ever hear about baseball again. A little while ago, A.J. got so upset when I accidentally mentioned it, that he was hitting me with his left arm and trying to push me away from him. He started yelling, and told me not ever to mention baseball to him again. It took me a few minutes to get him calmed down, and then as abruptly as it started, it was all over with and he was fine. It's almost as if A.J. doesn't realize the upset has occurred." Bob sighed as he shook his head. "I just don't know what to make of it."


     “But that's not like A.J. at all, Bob,” Cecilia said. “He never acts up like that, and you know it. And he loves baseball! He was so excited this morning about this ball game when he and Jack left the house. He's been playing shortstop for three years now, and wanted a chance to pitch so badly. Jack had worked so hard with A.J. on his pitching. A.J. was supposed to be the starting pitcher this afternoon. He was so wound up I could hardly get him to go to bed last night. As it was, he fell asleep with his baseball glove on."


     Doctor Barton nodded his head. "I know, Cece, I know. I don't understand it either."


The group fell into silence for a moment, and then Bob got back to the business at hand.


"All I can say for now, is that you and Rick, and the rest of us for that matter, are going to have to respect A.J.'s wishes. If he doesn't want to talk about baseball, if it upsets him to talk about it, then we won't. It's that least for the time being. The best thing we can do, the thing we all have to do, is let A.J. remember on his own. We can't force him to remember the events that occurred today, Cecilia. I know enough about amnesia to know that. If A.J.'s mind has decided, for whatever reason, that recalling what happened is too painful for him, is more than he can handle, then he won't remember. Maybe he won't ever remember. None of us can force him to remember. Even A.J. won't be able to force himself to remember, if the signals his brain is sending out are negative ones concerning today. It will do much more harm than good if anyone pressures him about what happened.” Bob’s gaze took in everyone in the room. “I don't think I have to tell you that A.J.'s been through more tonight than any of us can imagine. None of us will probably ever know what kind of terror and heartache he must have been dealing with during the time he was trapped in that car."


     "What do we do now, Bob?” Cecilia asked. “How do we handle this?"


     "Gently, Cece. Very gently. If A.J. asks you or Rick questions about today, then go ahead and answer those questions. But, if he seems upset by those answers, or disputes them, don't force it. Steer him to another topic, or get him involved in something else...a game, an activity, a television show, whatever. Just don't push him. Otherwise, the best thing you can do is treat him like you always have, like the ten-year-old boy he is. Nobody outside your family needs to know anything about the memory loss right now. A.J. shouldn't be made to feel different because of this. As I said, he may never remember what happened. He's going to have to learn to cope with that as time goes by, if it comes to it."


     Looking at Rick, Bob leaned across the space between them and laid a hand on his knee. "Rick, you may have the toughest job of all of us."


     At Rick's look of confusion, Doctor Barton told him, "I suspect, son, that when A.J. is ready for some answers to all that transpired today, it's you he'll turn to. Maybe not right away. Maybe not this week, or even any time this month. It could be a long time yet, Rick. Or A.J. might occasionally, very soon, ask you one or two questions just casually, off-the-cuff so to speak, when you're least expecting it. You need to remember when A.J. does that, to think before answering him. You may have to try to determine what he's really trying to ask you, if you know what I mean. He may ask his questions in a round about way, as opposed to directly. Does that make sense?"


     At Rick's nod, Bob continued.


"When and if that happens, Rick, just think of all that A.J.'s been through tonight. and try to put yourself in his place. Don't get impatient with him, or try to force him to remember more than he's ready to. A good rule of thumb is to answer all A.J.'s questions, but don't go into too much detail. If he wants to know more, he'll ask you more questions. If A.J.'s satisfied for the time being with what you've told him, then that's where it will end. And, if you're not sure how to deal with something A.J. asks you, or something he says has you confused, then change the subject for the time being and talk to your mom about it later, okay?"


     Rick looked at his mother, and then back at Bob. "I understand. I can do that. I can do whatever A.J. needs me to, in order for him to get better. I promise."


      Doctor Barton patted Rick's knee. "I know you can, Rick. Your dad was very proud of you, son, and with good reason."


      Rick looked away and wiped at the sudden tears that sprang to his eyes.


     Bob gave the boy a minute to compose himself, then told him, "A.J.'s down the hall in Room 2. It's marked. It'll be the second door on your left. Would you like to go there now? We'll follow you in a few minutes."


     Before Rick could answer, Cecilia asked, "You are going to let A.J. come home with us, aren't you, Bob? You aren't planning to keep him here, are you?"


     "I'm going to check him over one more time in just a few minutes. His vital signs have been good, so yes, I'd like to send him home with you. He was complaining of a bad headache, but as I told you before, a nurse is trying to get some soup and aspirin in him right now. I'm hoping by the time we're done here, the headache won't be bothering him like it was earlier. If it is, or if it's worse, then I may decide to keep him here until tomorrow morning. I'll know more when I see A.J. again in a few minutes."


     "If you keep him here, Bob, then I'm staying as well," Cecilia said. "I won't leave A.J. alone here tonight."


     "Me either," Rick added. "I'm staying, too. I'm staying in his room with him if A.J. can't come home with us."


     Bob held up his hands to ward off any further argument.


"Okay, okay, that's fine. If A.J. has to stay, I'll make arrangements for both you and Rick to stay as well, Cecilia.” The doctor turned his attention to Rick. "Go see your little brother, buddy. I believe he'll welcome a familiar face about now. But remember, Rick. Take it easy with him. I don't know for sure how A.J. will react to seeing you, or if he'll react much at all. You'll just have to follow A.J.'s lead as to what it is he needs from you."


     Rick nodded. Doctor Barton had already told him and his mother about A.J.'s seeming withdrawal from his emotions. Had told them how A.J. hadn't cried, or asked for either of them, or even said "Ouch" when his arm was set, or when he had been given a tetanus shot. All that scared Rick. He didn't really know why. He just knew this lack of reaction on A.J.'s part wasn't right somehow. He could tell by looking at the faces of the other adults in the office, that they were scared and confused by these facts, as well. The grownups knew it wasn't right either.


     Rick forced his mind back to the present as he stood and held his right hand to Frank.


"Thank you, Captain Jonzek, for taking care of A.J. My mother and I appreciate everything you've done for him. Thanks for riding with him in the ambulance, and then staying here with A.J. when he asked you to. It means a lot to us."


     Doctor Barton felt sudden moisture in his eyes, while his throat tightened at young Rick's words.


This boy's going to do you proud, Jack. I know he could drive you crazy sometimes, but I also know how much you loved him. You'd be bursting your buttons if you could see how he's handling himself tonight. Rick's a good boy. He's going to be a good man. There's a lot of you in Richard, Jack. You'd be proud. So damn proud.


     "You're welcome, Rick." Frank said, as he shook Rick’s hand. "A.J. told me that nobody messes with Rick Simon's kid brother. I took him at his word on that. You take care of A.J. You've got yourself a special little brother there. He sure thinks the world of you. He's a good kid."


     "Yeah, he's pretty special. I'll take care of him. I always do."


Rick looked at his mother one last time. She smiled and said, "Go ahead, sweetheart. Go see A.J. I'll be there in a minute."


Rick nodded and left the room, closing the door quietly behind him.


     Throughout his adult life, when someone would ask Rick Simon when he thought he had become a man, he would always reply with,  "The night my dad died. I was fifteen." The answer never changed. Over the years, hearing his various buddies talk, Rick came to realize his answer to that question was probably atypical of most of the people he knew. When one of Rick's friends answered that same inquiry, the reply was often, "When I had my first beer," or "When I turned twenty-one," or, "When I slept with a girl for the first time." Years later, A.J.'s reply to that question would always be, "When I was seventeen and Rick told me he had joined the Marine Corps." But for Rick, it was without hesitation, "The night my dad died."


     Rick had been grounded for a week the day prior to his father's death. Therefore, that Saturday had been spent helping his mother do household chores. At ten o'clock that night, Rick was sitting on the couch watching T.V., and his mom was sitting next to him reading.


"I wonder where your dad and little brother are?” Cecilia had said to her oldest as she glanced at the clock on the mantel.  “I know he said they'd probably go out to dinner, and maybe even stop and see a movie, but they should have been back by now."


     "A.J. probably talked Dad into stopping for ice cream, Mom. They'll be here in a few minutes."


     Both Rick and Cecilia had then returned their attentions to their separate interests, neither of them worried. Twenty minutes later, the doorbell rang and Rick recalled his mother smiling at him as she got up to answer it.


"I'll bet that's them now. Your father must have grabbed the wrong key ring again and he's locked himself out."


     Rick didn't even turn around as his mom opened the door. He figured A.J. would be all over him in a few seconds, chattering away at a mile a minute while relating to him the day's events.


     But it wasn't Dad at the door, and A.J. didn't come running into the room all excited. Instead, a young police officer brought tragic news to Rick and his mother. News that Rick would realize, years later, influenced every decision he made concerning his mom and A.J. for the rest of his life. News that suddenly made Rick the ‘man of the family’ - a responsibility he accepted willingly.


     Rick Simon became a man the night he held his mother in his arms as she sobbed in the backseat of the patrol car that took them to the hospital where his father's body and injured brother were. Rick had never held his mother like that before, offering the comfort and strength his father would have offered her had he been there. That night was the first of many in years to come that Rick would be the one to comfort his mother in times of crisis.


     Rick cried,too, as he held her. He didn't think it was possible to feel so empty inside. Like a part of himself had been torn out upon being told of his father's passing. Rick was scared, as well. They had no idea how badly A.J. was injured at that point. The police officer could tell them nothing more than A.J. had been hurt. If the accident were so bad that it had taken Rick’s his father's life, then that could mean A.J. would die, too. As empty as Rick felt at the news of his dad's death, he couldn't even begin to imagine the emptiness he would feel upon A.J.'s. His little brother was his best friend. He loved the kid, even though he could be a pain sometimes. Rick couldn't begin to fathom a life that didn't include the younger brother he adored.


     And then, throughout the rest of that long evening, Rick knew he had become a man when he went with his mother to the hospital morgue to view his father's body. When his mother held Rick's hand as they waited to learn more news of A.J.'s injuries. When Rick explained to the relatives who had come to the hospital the events of the evening, because Cecilia was crying too hard to continue. And, finally, Rick knew he had become a man when Doctor Barton didn't chase him from the room when he came to talk to the family about A.J.'s physical and emotional injuries.


     It's not the way Rick would have chosen to enter adulthood, had he been given a choice. So, that was the night in 1959, when Rick accepted what life had dished out to him, and chose to do his best job he could at taking the place of Jack Simon in the lives of his mother and younger brother.


     The teenager leaned against the wall for a moment before going inside the trauma room. He was scared. What if he said the wrong thing to A.J.? What if A.J. asked him a question he couldn't answer? What if Rick couldn't figure out what A.J. needed from him? Was this what it was like to be a man? Did grown men sometimes not have all the answers? Rick didn't like that thought very much. He should know what to do. Nobody knew A.J. better than he did. Walking through that door shouldn't be so hard. Rick finally calmed down as he remembered Doctor Barton's advice.


Treat A.J. like the ten year old boy he is. Follow A.J.'s lead.


     "I can do that," Rick murmured softly. "I can give A.J. whatever he needs from me in order to help him get through this. We'll help each other, just like we always have."


Having gained some of his confidence back, Rick took a deep breath and pushed the door open.






     A.J. was still seated on the examination table when Rick entered the room. He was leaning on his left hip and left arm, with his back to the door. There was an empty soup cup and juice bottle sitting on the medical tray that was mounted on wheels. The tray had been pushed to the side, and a nurse was standing next to A.J.  They were looking at a large picture book that A.J. had lying on the table. As the door sway shut, A.J. and the nurse turned around.  With barely a glance at his brother, A.J. returned his attention to his book.


"Can I help you, son?” the nurse asked.  “Are you looking for somebody?"


     Before Rick could answer, A.J. said without looking up from his book, "That's Rick."


     "Oh, so you're A.J.'s big brother. He's told me all about you."


     Rick smiled at the woman, then stared at his brother's bare back, unsure of what to do next. The nurse broke the uncomfortable.


"A.J.'s been teaching me all about boxing. We've got a book here we're looking at. He tells me he's a pretty good boxer. Is he telling me the truth? Do you box, too, Rick?"


     " No, I don't box. And yeah, A.J.’s a good boxer. Once he starts growing and gets some weight on him, I'll have to start bein’ good to him. Or else learn to run real fast."


     Mrs. Jenkins chuckled. "Oh, I don't think you'll have to worry about that. A.J. tells me you're the best brother in the whole world."


     Rick felt his cheeks flush. He smiled while shrugging his shoulders. "Sometimes he exaggerates."


     They fell into an uncomfortable silence once again then, or at least uncomfortable for Rick and the nurse. A.J. ignored them, seemingly engrossed in his book.


     Nurse Jenkins gave Rick a smile of encouragement as she motioned for him to move closer to the table. She walked away and began cleaning up the various medical equipment and debris that was still sitting about.


     Rick couldn’t remember a time in his life when he had felt nervous around A.J. But he sure was nervous now. He didn't know what to do, or what to say. Rick knew he had to say something. It was evident as each minute passed by, that A.J. wasn't going to speak. Therefore, Rick told himself, Remember, follow A.J.'s lead, as he moved to stand beside his little brother.


     "So, they found you a book on boxing, huh, kid?"


     A.J. continued to stare at the book. "Yep."


     “Looks like a pretty good one."




     "Is this where you got your tetanus shot?" Rick asked, while lightly touching just the edge of the bandage that covered a small spot on A.J.'s upper left arm.




     Oh boy, I'm really making progress here. Come on, little brother, help me out. Show me what you need from me, please.


     Nurse Jenkins walked over to the tray and picked up the empty soup cup and bottle.


"Boys, I'm going to throw some things away. I'll be back in a little while." To Rick, she added quietly, "I'll be at the nurses’ station if you need me. You're doing fine, Rick. Just keep talking to him. He'll come around."


The woman gave Rick a final smile, then spoke to her patient. "A.J., if you start feeling sick to your stomach, or if your head starts to hurt again, you tell Rick right away so he can come and get me, okay?"


     Again, without looking up from his book, A.J. replied, "Okay."


     The woman exited the room and allowed the door to swing shut behind her. Once again, Rick was bathed in unsettling silence. Finally, the teenager decided he'd had enough silence, and enough small talk.


"A.J., please turn around so I can look at you."


     Rick's request was not complied with, and silence reigned in the room once more. Just as Rick was about to repeat himself, A.J., with his eyes still focused on his book, said, "Don't make me feel bad, Rick. I'm not going to cry, not ever. So don't make me feel bad."


     Rick stared at his little brother, not knowing what to say. What did A.J. mean? Did he think that Rick was mad at him, and was going to yell at him? Or that Rick blamed A.J. for what had happened?  Or, did A.J. really mean, "Don't make me feel sad." And what was all this stuff about, "I'm not going to cry, not ever." Jeez, after all A.J. had been through, he'd better cry. Rick was sure A.J. needed to cry - that it was healthy for him to do so. Rick had cried upon hearing the news of his father’s death, and he hadn't gone through anything compared to what A.J. had faced.


I thought Doctor Bob said A.J. would turn to me for answers, or ask me things I wasn't sure of, in the coming months. Man, I've only been in here ten minutes, and I'm all ready failing the kid.


     "A.J., it's okay to cry. I've been crying tonight, you know."


     “That's you, Rick, not me. I'm not gonna cry, and nobody can make me."


     A.J. was so cold and distant that his demeanor frightened Rick.


     "A.J., I'm not gonna make you feel bad, I promise. I have no reason to make you feel bad, little brother. If you don't wanna cry, that's all right. No one's gonna force you to.” Rick laid a hand on A.J.'s left arm. "Please turn around so I can look at you. I just wanna see the bump on your head, and your cast, that's all. I'm worried about you. You know how uptight I get when you're hurt. I'm not gonna stop worrying until I see for myself that you're all right." 


     When A.J. still didn’t comply, Rick said, “Please, kid.  For me.”


     A long moment passed in which Rick wondered if A.J. would do what he’d asked, when finally the boy turned around. A.J. swung his legs over the table and sat facing Rick.  The teenager smiled his thanks while taking in the cast that ran from A.J.'s upper arm to his fingers. Rick thought of how obscene it looked when compared to A.J.'s skinny arms and shoulders. There was a bandage hiding A.J.'s stitches, but Rick could see a bump the size of a silver dollar above A.J.’s right eyebrow. The area around the bandage was black and blue. The bruising and swelling extended down to A.J.'s right eye.


"You're gonna have yourself quite a shiner there, kiddo."


     A.J. gave Rick a half smile as the teenager’s eyes continued to travel over his brother's bare chest and left arm. He took in the multitude of cuts, bruises, and scrapes that dotted A.J.'s upper torso. As bad as all of it looked, Rick consoled himself with the thought that things could have been so much worse. A.J. could have been seriously injured, or even killed. Rick figured a broken arm, a bump on the head, a few stitches, and some scrapes and bruises, weren’t bad trade-offs considering what could have happened.


     Rick looked into A.J.'s eyes and saw how exhausted the boy was. He wondered how A.J. was staying awake. There were dark circles under both of his eyes, and he sat now with his shoulders slumped forward, as if sitting up straight, as he had been doing when he first turned around, was too much of an effort. Glancing at his watch, Rick saw it was a few minutes before midnight. He knew A.J. had hardly slept the evening before because he was so excited about his baseball game. When Rick had gone to bed at ten on Friday evening, A.J. had still been awake, which was unusual. His younger brother was sent up to bed at nine, and was generally asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. Rarely did he wake up when Rick arrived upstairs an hour later. But last night, A.J. had been wound up, and the two boys had talked until after eleven. Rick knew A.J. had been up at six that morning. Rick had made a playful, sleepy swipe at his brother with his right hand when he felt A.J. give him a teasing poke in the ribs as the kid ran out of the bedroom doorway at the crack of dawn.


After all he's been through, I can't believe he's not layin’ on this table sound asleep.


     A.J. interrupted his older brother's thoughts.


"You can be the first person to sign my cast, Rick. If you want to, that is."


     “Sure I wanna. I'll even write a joke on it, or draw a picture or something. I'll do it up right."  Rick studied his brother a moment. "Mind if I sit next to you?"


     “No, I don’t mind.”


     At those words, Rick hoisted himself up on the table. He put an arm around A.J., resting his hand lightly on his brother's cast.


     “I've got half of my M&M's left. I saved them for you, Rick. You want ‘em?"


     Rick smiled and said, "Sure," as A.J. handed him the package of M&M's he'd been holding in his left hand.


     "Are you okay? Does your head still hurt?"


     "A little, but not as bad as before. My arm kinda hurts, and so does my eye."


     "Why don't you lay down in my lap, kid?” Rick urged A.J. into a reclining position. “Close your eyes if you want to. It's getting pretty late. You look tired."


     A.J. stiffened at Rick's touch, then relaxed and brought his legs up. He bent his knees and lay on his left side with his head cradled in the crook of Rick's left arm. When Rick felt A.J. begin to unwind, he brought his right hand up and began rubbing A.J.'s shoulder just above his cast.


"Aren't you gonna eat those M&M's I saved for you?"


     Rick looked down and smiled. "Nah.  I'll keep ‘em until tomorrow. Then we can split the rest of the package."


     "But they're yours, Rick. I already had my half."


     "M&M's are the kinda candy that's meant to be eaten with someone, A.J. That's why they put ‘em in the package that way, so many of 'em in all those different colors. Tomorrow we'll split 'em up and eat 'em together. As a matter of fact, I think M&M's were invented by two brothers named Michael and Martin. So see, they're a brother kind of candy."


     A.J. turned his head and looked up at Rick to see that he was being teased.


"You're goofy. That's not a true story. You're making it up. But they're yours now, so if you wanna save them, that's up to you."


     After all that happened, Rick thought discussing M&M's at midnight with his brother was a little odd. But he recalled Doctor Barton's words from earlier about following A.J.'s lead, so he did. Rick was willing to do whatever it took to help A.J. deal with all of this. And if discussing a package of candy was what it took, then he'd do it.


     Rick would never know how much he was helping his little brother that night. How discussing something so trivial as a package of M&M's was just what A.J. needed. Doctor Barton had assumed right, when he guessed that A.J. was dreading an emotional reunion with Rick and Cecilia. At that point, A.J. was so overwhelmed by his own emotions - by his own feelings of loss, grief, anguish, and guilt – that he’d buried them deeply hours earlier, when he was still in the car with his deceased father. Those suppressed feelings wouldn’t be dealt with until years later, long after A.J. had grown into manhood.


Despite his youth, that night A.J. understood enough about what he was feeling to know that he couldn't deal with the tears of his mother and brother. That's why when Rick had come into the room, A.J. was forthright with his brother and said, "Don't make me feel bad. I’m not going to cry." A.J. would always appreciate the fact that Rick had respected those wishes. As an adult, A.J. would realize how hard respecting those wishes must have been for Rick. He'd realize how scared that fifteen-year-old kid must have been, and A.J. would then be doubly grateful to the big brother who had tried so hard to give to A.J. whatever he needed the night their father died.


     And talking about that package of M&M's, for as silly as it seemed to Rick, meant a lot to A.J. That's just about all be was up to dealing with at that time, and Rick went along with it.


     The boys passed the next few minutes in silence. Rick thought A.J. had fallen asleep, but realized otherwise when a quiet voice asked, "Do you know about Daddy, Rick?"


     Rick looked down at his brother's closed eyes and expressionless face. "Yeah, A.J., I know."


     "Does Mom?"


     "Uh...yeah. Yeah. A.J. She knows, too."

     A.J. opened his eyes now, but stared at the wall ahead of him. "Are you sad, Rick?"


     "Yes, A.J., I'm sad."


     "Did Mom cry?"


     Feeling once again that it was important to let A.J. know it was all right to cry, Rick said, "Yeah, A.J. Mom cried. So did I. You can cry, too, if you wanna. I won't tell anybody."


     "No. I already told you that I'm not ever gonna cry. I don't want to." A.J. moved his head and looked up so he could make eye contact with his brother. "You won't leave me, will you, Rick?"


     "No, A.J., I won’t leave. I'll stay right here with you."


     "I don’t mean just now. What I mean is, you won't ever leave me, will you? You won't go away, will you?"


     Rick didn't know what to say to his brother. He knew that someday, in a few years when he was eighteen or nineteen, that he probably would leave San Diego. Rick all ready knew he wasn't college material. Studying and schoolwork wasn't for him. He knew he wanted to travel and to do different things, things he couldn't do here in San Diego. Yet Rick had always known when that day came, it would be hard to say goodbye to A.J. The tragic events of that night were now going to make that inevitable day of parting even harder.


     For now, Rick kept his answer simple. Sometime in the future, when A.J. was a little older, and Dad's death wasn't so fresh in his mind, Rick would explain that all kids grow up and leave home. He would make A.J. understand that the bond they shared as best friends and as brothers, would continue even if miles separated them. But instinct told Rick that A.J. wouldn't understand that right now - that A.J. was seeking assurance that his world wouldn’t change any more drastically than it all ready had.


     "No, A.J., I won't leave you. You'll always be my kid brother, no matter how old you get. Even when you're eighty-five, and walk with a cane, and have to push me around in a wheelchair, I'll still be your big brother, and I'll still be around buggin' you."


     Rick's words made A.J. smile. He couldn't imagine being that old, let alone being Rick's little brother then.  


     Silence prevailed in the room, until the door opened and Doctor Barton walked in. He smiled at the boys.


"Well, A.J., you sure comfortable than the last time I saw you. I bet you're getting tired, aren't you?"


    Still lying in Rick's arms, A.J. replied softly, "A little

bit, I guess."


     The physician gently probed the area around A.J.’s bandage. "How's your head feeling?" 


     "Better. My headache's almost gone."


     "That’s good news. When you wake up in the morning I bet it’ll be gone completely. If not, your mom can give you some aspirin when you have your breakfast." Bob patted A.J.'s leg. "Can you sit up for me? We're going to do the same things we did before when I checked you over, then we'll be done.


     With Rick’s assistance, A.J. sat up.  Rick kept an arm around his brother’s shoulders while the examination commenced. 


     A few minutes later, Bob pronounced A.J. fit and ready to go home. "Why don't you help A.J. get his shirt on, Rick. Don't try to get it over his cast, just drape it over his right shoulder and put his left arm through. I'm going let your mom and Uncle Will know that A.J.'s ready to leave. You boys come out when you're finished. We'll be waiting in the hall."


     At Rick's, "Okay, Doctor Bob," the man left the room.


     Rick jumped off the table and picked up A.J.’s uniform jersey.  He stood in front of his brother and helped him get the shirt on.  Rick buttoned the top two buttons, which was the best he could do because of the cast.


"All done, kid. You ready to go?"


     A.J. didn't answer Rick. He’d been silent ever since Doctor Barton had walked out of the room. He was distant and withdrawn again, just like he had been when Rick had first arrived.


     Reaching out, Rick laid a hand on A.J.'s left arm. "It'll be okay, I promise. Nobody's gonna make you do anything tonight that you don't want to. Not me, not Mom, not Uncle Will, not anybody."


     The only response Rick got was the long gaze A.J. gave him through his eyelashes.  It was then that the teenager realized that A.J. was in need of some brotherly support over the prospect of seeing their mother for the first time this evening. He held out his hand.


     “Come on. I’ll help you offa’ there, and then we can go find mom.”


     A.J. hesitated a moment, though deep down he knew he couldn’t stay in this trauma room forever. If he refused to leave with Rick, then Doctor Bob would make him stay in the hospital all night, and A.J. knew he didn’t want that to happen.


     “Kid?” Rick prompted, as he offered his right hand again.


     A.J. reached out with his left hand and grasped Rick’s palm.  Rick helped the boy ease off the table, then continued to hold his hand as they walked toward the door.  Right before Rick pushed it open he gave his brother’s hand a squeeze and promised, "Everything will be okay, A.J., don't worry. Everything’s gonna be okay."





     Doctor Barton was in the hallway with Cecilia and the rest of her family, while giving her final instructions concerning A.J.’s care. He offered her a small bottle of mild tranquilizers for herself in order to allow her to get some rest, but Bob wasn't surprised when she refused to accept them. She could be just as stubborn as Jack when she wanted to be.


     “If you change your mind, just give me a call I’ll...”


     Bob’s sentence trailed off unfinished as the door to the trauma room opened and the boys appeared. A.J. was clinging to Rick’s hand. His head was bowed, and he allowed his brother to guide him to their family.


Cecilia approached her youngest and knelt down in front of him. Softly, she said, "A.J.?" but received no acknowledgement of any kind.


     Cecilia looked up at Bob for guidance. The doctor nodded his head, silently communicating to the woman that she should try again.


     “A.J., can--"


"I read a book about boxing, Mom. Doctor Bob had a nurse bring it to me."


Cecilia wasn’t sure how to respond, though she recognized this was A.J.’s way of telling her he wasn’t ready to talk about his father’s death.


"Oh, a book on boxing. One of your favorite sports. That was nice of Doctor Bob, wasn’t it?”




     "A.J., can you look at me? I've missed you today, you know."


     There was a moment of hesitation on A.J.'s part - a long enough moment that everyone in attendance wondered if A.J. was going to do as his mother asked, or ignore her request.


     Finally, he raised his head and met his mother’s eyes. For the first time all evening, Cecilia got a look at her youngest son’s face.  She took in the bump and bandage, the scrapes and bruises, the black eye, and most of all, noticed how exhausted he looked. Actually, exhausted and lost, like an abandoned puppy who’d been trying to find his way home.


     Cecilia tried to stop the tears that welled up in her eyes and ran down her cheeks. She didn't want to upset A.J., but she couldn't stop herself from silently crying. The face that was usually so expressive, so happy, was now full of nothing but pain. Cecilia's heart broke at the thought of all her child had endured in the span of a few hours.


     Cecilia held her arms out to A.J. The boy didn't move for a few seconds, but rather studied his mother from the haven of Rick's side. He finally let go of his brother’s hand and stepped into his mother’s embrace. Cecilia cradled A.J. against her and kissed the top of his head.


"I love you, A.J. I love you. I'm so proud of you. Captain Jonzek told us how brave you were, and how you watched over Daddy and stayed with him." Cecilia couldn’t stop the flow of her tears, no matter much she might have wanted to. "I love you, honey. I love you."


     A.J. was unresponsive through all his mother's ministrations, until he finally told her, "I'm not going to cry, Mom. You can't make me."


     Cecilia looked up at Bob again, who just shrugged his shoulders. She made eye contact with Rick, who said, "He told me that, too, Mom. A.J. told me he's not ready to cry yet."


     "No, Rick," A.J. disputed from where his head rested against his mother’s shoulder. "I told you I was never going to cry, ever. I mean it, too."


     Silence prevailed in the corridor until Doctor Barton realized everyone was looking to him for leadership. He walked around behind Cecilia and crouched down so he could look A.J. in the face.


"If that's the way you feel right now, A.J., then that's okay. You’re right. Nobody can make you cry. Nobody will try to, either. It's up to you to decide when and if you do.”


     A.J. nodded at that man, then said to his mother, "Mom, Daddy's in Heaven now. You know that, don't you?"


     Cecilia closed her eyes and stroked a hand over A.J.’s hair. "Yes, sweetheart, I know that."  When the woman had composed herself, she spoke again. "Are you ready to leave? Uncle Will's going to take us home now."


     Cecilia heard a sigh, and then a soft, "Yeah, I'm ready to leave. I was ready a long time ago."


     "I know you were, honey,” Cecilia said as she stood. “I know you were."


     Will Simon reached out.  "How about letting me carry you out to the car, sport? You look like you’re about ready to fall asleep standing on your feet.”


     A.J. went to his uncle without protest. Cecilia had been wondering how A.J. would react to Will. Although Will was one of A.J.'s favorite uncles, Will also looked so much like his younger sibling, Jack. There was no doubt Will and Jack were brothers, right down to their height and weight, and even the moustaches they both sported. People, who knew the Simon family only casually, often got the two men mixed up. Cecilia hadn’t been certain as to how A.J. would react to that uncanny resemblance right now.


     But watching her youngest son settle in his uncle's arms and rest his head on Will's shoulder, Cecilia could see that tonight A.J. was finding comfort in Will’s presence - finding comfort in the arms of the man who looked and sounded so much like Jack. So, with Will carrying A.J., and with a final hug and thank you to Doctor Barton, who promised to stop by the house next day, Cecilia took the hand Rick offered her and prepared to go home without her husband that night. The first of many nights she would go home without him in years to come.


Part 2