The first time I took Noah to my hometown was for my step-father's funeral in October of 2001. Noah was four years old. He knew of Pap-pap, but being that we lived in Colorado, Pap-pap and Noah didn't get to spend much time together. Only when my mom and stepdad came to visit on Thanksgiving and in July did they get the chance to spend time with my son. Adaline and I always felt a bit bad for not going to visit my parents, but the truth simply was that we couldn't find much time away from our jobs. Any spare time we did have was spent working around the house on repairs or the like.

So being that Noah didn't know his Pap-pap very well, he didn't get too upset when we explained that Pap-pap wasn't going to be coming to our house in November. Instead, we told him, we were going to go see Pap-pap for the last time because Pap-pap was going to go to sleep forever now.

Being back in my hometown for the first time in five years was extremely awkward. Adding to the natural oddness was bringing many new things with me, including a wife and a son that had never even seen my parents' home. Never had Adaline set foot in the bedroom that I spent high school in, even though it had been changed into a home office sometime after I moved to New York City.

After the funeral, we had decided it would be best to stay in town for a week or so to help my mother get everything straightened out. Ethan and Isabella, my siblings were home also, with their families staying too. We were all stationed with our familes in the house we grew up in. Adaline, Noah and myself were put in my old room, Ethan, his wife and two children were in his room, and Izzy, her husband and their newborn daughter were placed in her old room, which of all of the rooms was the only one left unchanged.

Noah spent his days around Granny and Pap-pap's, or Granny's house, as it now solely belonged to her, playing with Ethan's son, Brandon, and eating the cookies that neighbors were sending. It was odd seeing him so happy and carefree at this time of loss, but he didn't understand the effect of this change yet.

Thursday morning, Ethan, Izzy and I decided to head uptown to have at least a morning of rest from all the paperwork. We chose to go to a small cafe that we all frequented when we were in high school. We walked in the door, and a bell chimed just as it always had before. Ethan and I hopped up on two of the bar stools, while Izzy placed herself gently upon the stool, as if acting native to this cafe would break her.

We all ordered coffee, toast and eggs and then made small talk with our waitress. Jacquelyn was the name on her tag, but I'm sure she went by Jackie or Jac or Lyn. She was a younger woman, in her early 30's, with big teeth and bangs that were probably unchanged from her high school days in the 80's. She wore large silver hoop earrings and had chewing gum in her mouth that she would crack from time to time.

Ethan was the first to note that something was odd about the cafe. The wallpaper was the same grease stained wallpaper as it had always been, the eggs tasted the same, but still something was off.

"Where's Ginny?" He had finally pinpointed the oddity.

"Who?" Jacquelyn asked while chewing her spearmint gum. "Oh Ginny? She's not around."

"Well how about Lola? She in the kitchen this morning?" I asked for my favorite waitress. Lola had been in her mid-40's at the time I left town. I never remembered coming in and her not working. She worked at least a 50 hour week, every week, if not more. She always had dark circles under her eyes from being so tired but still was always sweet; when my friends and I would come in early on Sunday mornings after having been to a party, she would always give us buttered toast on the house. "Make ya stomach feel betta before ya gotta face ya momma" she would say with a wink.

"Listen, Ginny and Lola don't work on Thursdays. Sorry, Sugar, but the truth is, they don't work here at all anymore. New management came a few years back and fired a lot of the regulars. Matter of fact, hate to break your heart or anything, but Lola died a few years back in a car accident. Sorry, Shug." She popped her gum between her teeth and refilled Izzy's coffee cup.

I sat there stunned for a moment and then began to think about all the change that I had encountered in this town since I had come back. I had been there for a week but had been around town enough to notice that the old library had been torn down, and that the drive-in movie theater had been torn down and turned into a parking lot for a strip mall.

I wonder now if this will be the case for Noah when he comes back home to his town for my funeral. It's still a long time from now, or at least I hope so, but I hate the idea that he could come back to find that every Lola that he found so familiar through his high school years will have been replaced by gum-chewing girls from Jersey named Jackie or Jac or Lyn.

Other nodes in this series of stories include, in chronological order:

I knew enough about him to know his name and what kind of snowball he could make
Get off me Daddy, you're crushin' my cigarettes!
She makes sniffing sounds, and I don't know if she's snorting coke or weeping
Cut off that stupid goatee and move on
I come home, she lifted up her wings. I guess that this must be the place.
A Horse With No Name backwards
Ginny and Lola don't work on Thursdays. Sorry, Sugar.

And More To Come.