Ten years from now, make sure you can say you chose your life, you didn’t settle for itMandy Hale
Collin sighed as he shut off the computer. It had been a very long day, filled with more incompetence from Billy and putting out the fires associated with it.
As much as he wanted to choke and fire Billy, he knew that would never happen. Lucky SOB was the grandson to one of the partners. So, he could be a complete and total screw up, bumbling his way through everything, and good ol’ grandpa would come to his rescue.
Collin ran a tired hand over his face. He grabbed some files and put them in his briefcase to go over at home, it was going to be a long night. He glanced at the clock.
“Damn. I forgot to call mom back,” Collin muttered. He grabbed his office phone and dialed her number.
After a few rings, a woman answered the phone.
“Hello? Mom? My secretary said you called earlier -“
Collin was cut off mid sentence by the woman.
“Collin, it’s Aunt Lily. There isn’t a real easy way of saying this, but your mother passed away this afternoon,” she told him, holding back a sob.
Collin dropped the files he was holding and fell into his chair.
“Mom’s dead?” Collin replied. Numbness settled over him as he looked at the photo on his desk. “But that can’t be. I just talked to her over the weekend, she sounded fine. What happened?”
“Well, you know she’s been battling ovarian cancer for the past year, and her body just couldn’t fight it any longer,” Aunt Lily explained, her voice cracking.
Cancer. His mom had had cancer? That didn’t make any sense, she would have told him. Collin’s mind raced as he stared blankly out the window overlooking the city below.
“Mom had cancer?” Collin finally asked, his voice little more than a whisper.
“You didn’t know?” Aunt Lilly cursed. “That explains quite a bit.”
The older woman sighed, she took a few deep breathes. “Yeah, Collin, she’d had the cancer for years, but it didn’t start getting really aggressive until late last year,”
Aunt Lilly answered. Her voice stronger than it had been.
“I knew she had had cancer when I was attending college, but I didn’t know it was back! I would have been there! She never said anything to me,” Collin fretted.
Aunt Lilly snuffed a few times, composing herself. The anguish in Collin’s voice was going to be her undoing all over again.
“Margaret probably didn’t tell you because she knew how busy you are with your job in the city.”
Silent tears fell on the floor as Collin leaned forward with his head in his hands.
“Like I wouldn’t have left it for her. She was always more important,” Collin spat out. Anger was replacing anguish. Guilt rolled through his body, as regret crashed into him.
“She was proud of you, you know. She used to brag about you all the time to all her friends. You were her joy, and in the end, she wanted you to know that she loved you very much,” Aunt Lily told him.
“And I loved her very much.”
There was a brief silence as Collin composed himself. “If she just passed away, do you need me to come back to the ranch and take care of things?”
“No, you take your time. She took care of all the preparations before her death. She has a will, and a lawyer who will go over it with you. He was asking if you’d be attending the service, which is really the only thing you need to do,” Aunt Lily explained.
Determination swept through Collin. “I’ll be there by tomorrow afternoon, possibly late morning if I can get an early morning flight.”
“Don’t push yourself, Collin. Like I said, Margret took care of everything, so there’s no need to rush home,” Aunt Lilly explained.
“I’m her son, her only child. Damnit! I should have been there, I should have taken her call! I should have been able to tell she wasn’t doing good when we spoke,” Collin lamented. “I need to be there now.”
“Nothing is going anywhere. Come for the service, and maybe stay a few extra days to settle the business with the ranch,” Aunt Lilly reasoned.
“And seeing as how your a lawyer, I’m sure her lawyer can just meet with you at your office, or something more convenient for you. Your mother wouldn’t want her death to be burden on you,” she continued logically.
The breath left Collin’s body in a rush as he realized no one had counted on him in a long time, including his mother. He had always made excuses, using his career as a way to deflect responsibility. And his mother had allowed him to do so because she was hiding secrets of her own.
He always told everyone how close he and his mother were, but how close were they if he hadn’t even know the cancer was back? How close were they if she had felt the need to hide that truth from him?
“I can take a break from work. I haven’t had a vacation in a years, and this is more important. Mom is more important. I’ll be there tomorrow,” Colin stated.
“Collin, it’s at least a day’s drive from where you are. Get some rest, handle your business, and come for the service in a week.”
“She was my mother, Aunt Lily! And in the end, all she wanted to do was have one last conversation with her boy, her pride and joy, her only child, the person she sacrificed everything for, and I,” Collin stopped to catch his breath. To push the sobs threatening to break through. “I told my secretary to tell her I’d call back because I was too busy for her urgent call.
“She never called me at work, and the one time she did, I ignore her! If she’d just said she was,“ Collin broke off, over come with emotion. His head was spinning, his gut was churning as the guilt gnawed at him. What had he done?
Aunt Lily blew her nose and took a few deep breathes before she spoke. “You’re right, Collin. Everyone takes time for granted, and I know if you had known things would’ve been different. She loved you. You were her world, and in the end she died knowing you loved her too.”
Collin snorted. “No, she died knowing her son never had any time for her.”
“You chose to go off into the world and become a lawyer, and you are one of the most successful lawyers for your age. That comes at a cost,” Aunt Lily told him.
“I didn’t get to say goodbye.”
“No, you didn’t. Part of that was her fault, and part it is yours. You do whatever you need to in order to get closure. Her service is in a week, and there isn’t much for you to do until then.”
Collin nodded even though she couldn’t see him.
“I’ll be at the ranch tomorrow afternoon, and I’ll stay for however long I need to in order to handle everything,” Collin said. He was determined to at least do something to make up for everything he hadn’t done over the years.
“Sounds good to me. Take care, and try to get some rest before making the journey. Goodnight.”
Collin blindly hung up the phone. He sat and stared out the window as fresh tears fell from his eyes. The lights of the city sparking, the people down on the street living their lives without a care in the world. Meanwhile, Collin’s world was collapsing.
All he had ever wanted to be was successful. After his father had died when he was 12, Collin had watched his mother struggle to maintain the ranch. He had helped her and they had been a team. But after high school, he had been accepted into law school.
He had left home and never looked back. He always told his mom when he made partner, he would slow down and help her with the ranch. He sent money home and paid for her vacations to visit him. But he had never slowed down.
Even when she had had cancer while he was in college, he just juggled everything. Taking her to treatments, running the ranch, going to classes, and studying. Then she was cancer free, and he had jumped at the chance to live his life and pursue his dreams.
A wave of anger washed over him. In a fit of rage, Collin swept an arm across his desk, his computer, phone, papers, and pens falling to the floor haphazardly. He then grabbed his briefcase and threw it at the shelves against the wall.
Glass shattered, papers floated to the ground as the briefcase snapped open upon impact. The awards falling in pieces upon impact with the floor.
Looking around him, Collin noted how the sudden chaos of his office was the perfect metaphor for his life at the moment.
Looking down, Collin picked up the broken picture of him and his mom. The dam of emotions Collin had been holding back broke, he collapsed into his chair as the sobs wracked his body.
Why didn’t he just take the call? Would a few minutes really have mattered?
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