Chapter 46

December 24th, 2010


I closed-down the Garden Center Complex at 11:30am on Thursday, and went home to a nice warm condo. Although it was 25°F outside with a Wind Chill of 19°F, I just couldn't get warm. It wasn't as bitter cold as Tuesday and Wednesday were, but the forecasters were calling for 1-2" of snow to coat the roads, and I didn't want to get caught in that mess, with all the idiots who drive 2WD vehicles, no ABS, their inevitable "fender-benders", and constant slipping and sliding all over the roads, causing massive traffic delays. There'd be plenty of days coming for that to happen, in January and February. No sense in rushing it.

The light, powdery snow started at around 1:15pm, and continued for most of the afternoon. It came down hard as the storm passed west to east, with sleet and freezing rain just a few miles below us, in Maryland. I'm glad I left work when I did.

I went home and napped for 3-4hrs and then called Gabrielle, to see if he was finally ready to come to York, to live with me. She was. She'd been packing with Bev and had everything she owned in boxes and suitcases ready for transport to York. I was elated.

With 1-2" of snow on the roads, Dad & I both decided at 8:00am on Friday, not to go down to the GC&N Complex, but rather stay inside our respective homes, where it was warm and cozy and avoid that drafty old Main Building. 21°F/ Wind Chill 13°F. He's 86 and I'm now 61, and we just can't tolerate the cold anymore. Brrrrrrr! Snow coming this Sunday and next Saturday, Christmas Day, the forecast says. Yuk.

I went back to sleep on Friday at 8:30am and slept until almost 12noon. I got a call on my cellphone from Sgt Atler, who was still subbing for the "hobbling-around" Chief Bunce (with his still-healing, broken ankle), saying that I'd better get up her "right away". It was about Gabrielle. He would say no more. I dressed and left in a heartbeat.

When I got to Sgt Clay's Office, he told me to sit down, poured me a strong cup of coffee with some Brandy in it, and said that Gabrielle had been killed in a snow-related traffic accident just 45 minutes before, on a snow-covered back road, as a large GMC SUV had slid on the ice/snow-covered road, crossed the center line and hit her head-on, causing instant death by blunt-force head and chest trauma, in her little Toyota Camry. She was at the Coroner's now, with Bev & Tony, awaiting autopsy results. They weren't able to save the unborn baby, which was only 2¼-mos old and couldn't live on its own, even with the best medical assistance they had available. It had no chance at life at all. I was stunned and my eyes teared-up immediately. I chugged the coffee with Brandy and started running for the door.

We ran to Clay's Patrol Car and sped "Code 3" (lights and siren), to the Memorial Hospital Coroner's Office, where I embraced Bev & Tony in the waiting room, all three of us crying our eyes out. I fell into the chair like a limp rag, my hopes for a life with Gabrielle dashed, forever. Bev & Tony were besides themselves with grief. As the Coroner's Team came out, they said she died instantly at the moment of impact, and that if she'd been driving a medium-to-large SUV, it would have taken the "hit" and she'd be alive. She was wearing a seatbelt and the two front airbags had deployed, but that wasn't enough. She and the baby were dead. I was inconsolable and very, very angry at "my loss".

I asked Sgt Clay to take me to where Gabrielle had died, on Rt 707, but first we stopped at the local florist's shop, and I bought a bouquet of 24 Red Roses, Ferns and Baby's Breath, to lay at the site. I vowed to have an appropriate cross made for that spot, and replenish the bouquet, each year on the day of her death.

What now? It sure didn't feel much like The Christmas Season anymore, as far as I was concerned. The Coroner had her diamond ring, diamond necklace and other "special" personal effects I had lovingy-given her, in a plain manila envelope and asked who should receive it. I told him I wanted the diamond ring put back on her hand, exactly where it was bfore, as well as the other personal items put back on her, after the plastic surgeon had finished, I'd given her as gifts. She'd be buried with them, exactly as she wore them. Bev & Tony agreed. We hugged and cried. He asked if we wanted to see her before they call the Mortuary to get her prepped for the viewing and funeral; we said no, that we wanted to remember her as she was, not what she looks like now. He agreed that would be best, considering the physical conditional she was in from the wreck. He'd take care of the arrangements with the best Mortuary in town and best plastic surgeon, from Harrisburg, and he would keep us informed of his progress.

I turned around to leave and walked straight into a wall, I was so disoriented and distressed. My nose bled. What remained of the Camry had been towed to Roy's Shell Garage & Service Station, and Sgt Atler drove me there. It was a crumpled and bloody mess, covered with a blue tarp. I could only imagine her last few seconds of life. Then, Sgt Clay took me back to his Office to get my Jeep, and I drove to The Cabin. There'd never be another woman like Gabrielle, in my life, ever. I knew that. I never felt so empty and alone inside, that I just sat down at the massive dining room table and cried. Jenny howled, pitifully; she knew somehow what had happened, since Gabrielle wasn't with me this time. The love of my life was gone, forever.

I called Mom & Dad on my cellphone, and told them what had happened, and that Gabrielle wouldn't be coming for Christmas Dinner or to marry and live with me, and that our unborn baby was also dead, and they broke down in tears, as did Sister Becky, when I called her in SF, at work. I was lost, adrift, rudderless, directionless, alone and totally-empty, for the first time in many, many, many years. I called Sgt Clay to ask who the other SUV driver was, and how he'd fared. He said that it was just another family of four coming to their woodland cabin for the weekend, driving on nearly-bald tires (illegal), all had minor cuts and bruises, and that they had been treated and released from Memorial Hospital. Citations for the illegal tires had been issued, but beyond Vehicular Homicide, if the DA chose to go ahead with that charge, nothing more could be done to prosecute them. I didn't want to ruin their lives; three lives had been ruined already; no sense in spreading the anger and misery around if it wasn't warranted. It was just an horrible accident that all parties "would have to live with, for the rest of their lives".

I closed-down The Cabin, fed and watered Jenny, gave her a kiss on the top of her head, wished her a Merry Chiristmas, armed the building, set the spotlights on automatic for dusk, and left for York. I had many, many things to do to get ready for Gabrielle's viewing and funeral.

I had to buy a black suit, white shirt and black tie, socks and black shoes for the viewing and funeral, as I had nothing to wear for such solemn events, left from my days in NYC's Madison Avenue Advertising Jungle wardrobe; I'd donated all 27 Brook's Brothers suits ($1,500 - $2,500), slacks and sportcoats back in 1991, to The Salvation Army and taken the tax write-off. I stopped at a local Jos A Bank Clothiers and got out-fitted for the appropriate attire, right down to socks and shoes, and they said it'd be ready within 2-3 days. They'd call my cellphone to arrange for a second fitting check. I then went home to my condo, lit a fire, laid-down on the couch and tried to sleep. All I could see was her laughing face and her nubile, young body and remember the great sex and the endless talks we'd had over the past 3-4mos, our new baby, about our "future", which was ancient history", now. Flurries were coming down from squalls moving through the area. I made a couple of stiff (triple, IIRC) drinks of Vodka & Diet Cranberry Juice, took 3 Rx 1mg Lunesta®, and went to sleep for a few hours on the couch. Forgetting wouldn't be easy, for me. After a few hours sleep, I could "almost" once again deal with what had happened in Adam's Junction, to sweet, young Gabrielle.

I awoke about 4:00pm, and it was still snowing lightly. I went to my computer and just sat and stared at a blank screen. I didn't pull-up Gabrielle's picture, because it would make me worse-than-sad, and I was "all-cried-out", for the day. I had 217 calls in the queues on my cellphone, one from Mom & Dad and two from Becky, which I answered, but the rest I ignored, for now. I'd unplugged my two condo phones, so no messages there. I knew that I had to "do something" to get my mind off this horrible tragedy, but I didn't know what to do, right now. My email box was full, and I ignored it for now.

I took an Rx 12.5mg Ambien® CR™ sleeping pill before going to bed on Friday night, and slept like a baby. I had to deal with a "massive void" in my life now, unlike anyother I'd ever experienced.

Instead of going into a "deeper, blacker funk", I decided to get out of the house, go do some food shopping, drive around for a while and perhaps get the Jeep washed. Anything to get my mind off the horror of Gabrielle's death in Adam's Junction.

At 18°F, I re-thought about washing the Jeep, as the doors would probably freeze shut and I'd be locked out. It's happened before, so I scratched that chore from my list; maybe when it warms-up later in the month. Food shopping and some fresh air would be my two options for Saturday and Sunday, since we're closed at the GC&N Complex on weekends. And going to The Cabin was definitely out of the question, considering the state of mind I was in. I decided to scratch the food shopping for today, too, as I didn't want to be around all those people; maybe I'll do it Sunday.

Just a drive and some fresh air for today, and if I find a church, I'll go in and pray for Gabrielle's soul. I pulled into St Paul's Methodist Church and went inside. I went down to the Altar and lit a small votif candle for Gabrielle, sat in the front pew across from the candle, and prayed for her mortal soul. As I opened my tear-filled eyes, I could see her standing and smiling just a few feet away from me, but when I blinked, she was gone. I put $20 in the collection plate at the Altar, and left the Church, and went for a drive in the now 30°F weather. I don't remember where I drove, but I burned-off 22gal of gas and had to refill quickly, as the damned *fuel-low* buzzer was going-off.

Somehow, by 11:30am, I wound-up back at the condo, turned-up the heat, lit the gas fire and laid down on the LR couch. I didn't even bother checking email or my cellphone messages, as they were unimportant in light of what had happened on Friday, IMO.

I slept much of the day, and woke about 3:15pm, and then began checking email and cellphone messages: 500+ emails and 299 cellphone calls. I scanned them all, and called back to those I deemed most important. I'd get back to the rest, after the Viewing & Funeral. 90% were about Gabrielle's death and how was I holding-up. I broke-down several times and had to recompose myself before continuing the few conversations with people I called back. It seems that the accident and death made many newspapers and TV stations, due to my "standing" in the surrounding communities and counties, and Bev & Tony had submitted her obit to "The Junction Record" Newspaper, which included my name and business and was picked-up and spread far-and-wide by the wire services. Many Dear Family & Friends called with condolences, and I profusely-thanked them for their care and concern.

I made a very stiff (triple) Vodka & Diet Cranberry drink, and vowed that after the viewing & funeral on Tuesday, December 28th, I'd get "back to normal", alone, once again. I was going to sell The Cabin, minus a few choice items – guns, ammo, roll-top desk etc – as I couldn't bear going back there anymore. Too many bad memories for me. I'd have to make several more trips to Adam's Junction, to get "my affairs" squared-away, but then it would be over for good, at least up there. The hurt and pain I'd have to carry for the rest of my life would never go away; only fade over time. I could deal with that, I guess.

I got back on the new HP 6000 Pro (Win-7 Pro) computer, filtered-out the "junk", and answered the emails I deemed important, as I did with the cellphone messages. After 2½hrs, I wsa finished, and made myself another triple-drink. I watched several movies which I'd DVR'd a few months back, and reheated some 2 pizza slice for dinner. I decided to drive-up one of my 3 Silver Stars from 'Nam, to put aound Garbrielle's neck, during her viewing, before her Burial. I called The Funeral Home and expressed my wishes, and they asked that I please get it it up here on Sunday, so they the could accommodate my wish. I would and did so.

On Sunday, Jos A Bank Clothiers called and said my new clothes were ready for a "final fitting", and that I should come in between 11am-3pm, to get it done, if I wanted the suit for Tuesday's viewing and funeral. I did, and everything was perfect, so I paid them and took it all home. The fresh air felt good, although it was only 19°F/ Wind Chill 13°F. The brisk, cold air felt good in my lungs.

I started plodding through my cellphone calls and email queue, and most were either "junk" or about Danielle's death, those of which I answered briefly with a simple, "Thank You For Your Condolences". The wedding announcement had gone out nine weeks ago, and now with the accident story, TV coverage and obituary, it seemed everyone had been "alerted", and I had to deal with it. I called Bev & Tony and asked how they were holding-up, and they said they'd shut the business down until after the viewing and funeral, but there was a very long line, depite the cold and snow, around around the block, of locals with candles, cards and condolences. I told them about my deluge of email and phone calls and they weren't surprised; she was a beautifully-popular girl in that town, and I was a "York community figure of regional importance"; put the two together and you have a news story with "legs".

I suddenly realized that "I have to get back to normal", after the vewing and funeral on Tuesday. Things just can't go on like this; my life is all messed-up with grief and sorrow, and I have an 87 year-old Mother & an 86 year-old Father to watch-over, plus a business to run, and a million other things to do. 5:00pm on Tuesday would be the "end of it". Normalcy is what I needed, once again, in my now-shattered life.

I started my "To Do List" for the coming week and found it to be lengthy, but manageable. I got 3 of the 10 tasks accomplished on Monday, and will attack several more on Tuesday. I have an 8-9lb, bone-in, spiral-cut "Honey Baked Ham" on order for pick-up on Thursday, December 23rd. They used to be "Heavenly Ham", but a lot of franchises were dropped, although they carry and sell the exact same products; only the storefront signs have changed.

Bev & Tony called to tell me that the viewing and funeral had been postponed until Thursday, due to the Harrisburg plastic surgeon's difficulties in "reconstructing" Gabrielle's face and cranium, from the blunt-force trauma accident. I suggested a "closed casket", so she could have a prompt burial, but they insisted on an "open casket" viewing, and I went along with their wishes. Afterall, they'd raised her and considered her their "daughter". I was now merely the "former husband-to-have-been". I asked them to keep me informed, and if they needed me to come to Adam's Junction, for any reason whatsoever, I'd be there in a heartbeat. They said they'd handle it, but they'd keep me up-to-date on developments. I hung up, even more depressed.

I closed-down the Complex at 1:00pm on Monday, and went home to a nice, warm condo. It had taken 2 hours to warm-up the GC&N Complex, and my fingers were still cold. I had several stops to make: several bank deposits, fill a low tire on the Jeep with air (needs a tube, I think), get a "$60 (cash) Christmas Bonus' for my cleaning lady and her husband, and drop some shirts-off at the cleaners. The traffic leading to the Galleria, York Towne Mall and York Mall was building, and I squeezed through at 2:30pm; by 5:00pm, it would be a fricking nightmare. It's that way every year. I hate it: last minute people doing their "crisis Chistmas shopping", clogging the roads and making life miserable for the rest of us just trying to get home. Start and finish in November, you clowns!

On Tuesday, after warming-up the Complex and taking out the garbage, I did some paperwork, re-designed CHCA's (Carriage Hill Condominimum Ass'n) Letterhead for their monthly newletter and Executive Board Minutes, started my extensive year-end listing of all JSGC&N's Equipment and Vehicles Inventory. My friend Lee, stopped-by and left some wonderful peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies his lovely wife, Annette, had baked. His large poodle, Surely, took a dump on my showroom floor and he cleaned-it-up. Normally, she goes outside, but was inside with us on this bitter cold day; good thing she didn't have to pee. I closed-down around 12:15pm, and went home to a nice, warm, cozy condo with Murphy. Charlie Lehr, the CHCA Sec'y Treas, stopped-by to pick-up the newly-redesigned paperwork, and was stunned at how nice it looked, as compared to the "old stuff" from 20 years ago. It took me all of 10-15 minutes in MS-Word to do it. He wanted to give me "credit in their next publication, but I declined.

I laid-out everything I'd need for Thursday's viewing and funeral in the 2nd bedroom, and closed the door, so Murphy wouldn't get in, lay on it and get "cat hair" all over the pristine black suit etc. Thursday would come all too quickly, IMO, and I'd have to make some decisions about The Cabin and 64 acres by Spring. I couldn't stay there any longer, I thought, without Gabrielle.

I opted to stay home for Wednesday, water & feed Murphy, and just sleep-in until 11:30am. I had Gabrielle's viewing and funernal to go to tomorrow, at 10am and 1pm, was very tired and needed some rest, so I went to sleep at 7pm, on Tuesday evening. I was emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted from the past two weeks' events. It was 30°F/ 17°F Wind Chill, and I just didn't feel like wasting the LPG and electricity with so little office work to do. It could wait until next week, besides I had to get back and get the Christmas Ham by 5pm, and fight my way through all that traffic at the three large malls I nearby. It would be a struggle as it got later in the day, so I planned to leave right after the funeral to get through it all.

Thursday was a very sad day for me: I was up at at 8am, dressed in my new funeral garb, and up to Adam's Junction by 9am to meet with Bev & Tony, for Gabrielle's viewing and funeral. The viewing started at 10am and there were hundreds of locals there. Gabrielle looked beautiful; the Harrisburg plastic surgeon did a masterful job. I gave Tony a check for $5,000 to help cover the myriad expenses. I was #3 in "The Greeting Line" and shook so many hands and received so many hugs, that I had to excuse myself every ½ hour to go out and have a smoke and wipe my eyes dry. At 12:15pm, the undertaker closed the casket and wheeled it out to the hearse and the procession to the cemetary started. I was one of the six pallbearers, along with Tony. It was a sunny day, fierce winds, 34°F/ 13°F Wind Chill and we huddled inside a tent structure. The pastor from her church said all the right things and she was mechanically-lowered into the ground. I laid a bouquet of 24 Red Roses, Ferns and Baby's Breath on her casket before it went down and everyone broke into tears. I shook hands with the pastor, hugged Bev & Tony, and left at 2:15pm. I stopped at The Cabin, fed and watered Jenny, and left for York. Too many unpleasant memories in Adam's Junction, for me to process, just right now. My life would never be the same again.

I got the 8-9lb, pre-cooked, bone-in, spiral-cut ham from the Honey Baked Ham Co in plenty of time to avoid the traffic, went home to rid myself of the funeral suit, get into some casual clothes, and just relax. I called longtime friend Al, at AAP Signs, who has made all my signage for the GC&N Complex for the past 21 years, and asked him to sketch-out an appropriate "road marker" for Gabrielle, for me to approve and him to produce, so I could place it on my next trip to The Cabin, on Rt 707, where she died. He'd work on it right away and fax me some sketches to choose from on Monday. He could produce it in 3-5 days. I thanked him and wished him Merry Christmas.

I built a gas log fire in the condo, after turning-up the new furnace's heat to 76°F, laid down on the couch with Murphy and fell asleep, still thinking of her and all our now-dashed plans. Later, I checked my cellphone's queue, and there were almost 100 messages in it, which I scanned. I returned about 90 of the calls, except for the "junk", and they were all about "my loss". I kept thinking, "What about Bev & Tony's loss?"

Somehow, I had to put all this behind me and get on with my life, such as it was, now. Keep or sell The Cabin and its 43 acres? Never go back to Adam's Junction ever again? Leave that Virtual World and its "real people" behind me? What?

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