Cara Mia Delgatto and the Bye-Bye Birdie, Epilogue

Note: We’ve had so much fun with serialized stories that I’m trying my hand at one again! Here’s the next installment of a new adventure for Cara Mia Delgatto and her friends. To read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18 scroll to the bottom of the blog where it says OLDER POSTS.

A month after the community had pulled together to landscape Martin Gardens, I received an invitation in the mail to come to a special dedication ceremony. Skye, MJ, Honora, EveLynn, Poppy, and Sid told me they’d gotten similar notes. And so, on a Sunday afternoon, we gathered in the atrium of Martin Gardens. As I looked around, I saw many faces I recognized from our long day of work. Cooper Rivers came over and pecked me on the cheek, despite the dirty look from my sister, Jodi. Detective Lou Murray was there with his big boss, the Chief of Police, Aaron Reiss. Promptly at two, Greta approached the microphone.

“Words cannot express how much you’ve done for all our residents. As you’ll see, the grounds are fantastic, and in a minute, I’ll invite you to stroll outside and enjoy them. But first, I want to introduce a man I’m very proud of, my son Freddie,” and with that, she stepped away from the podium.

Freddy looked fantastic in his blue tie and navy suit. Although sometimes it was hard to understand him, he spoke with a great deal of confidence. “My mom has always told me that love is the most important super-power any hero can have. She is my super-hero, so I believe that must be true. When I come to visit her here, I see other people who are struggling. I struggle sometimes. But when we struggle with friends, all of us do better than when we are alone. The day we worked outside I made a new friend, James Boehner.”

As Freddy gave the CEO a hug, the crowd began to clap, but Jay used his hands to signal for quiet. “I was younger than Freddy when my grandmother came to live with us. My father’s mother had always been an active woman who enjoyed playing canasta, going to church, singing in the choir, and knitting. But after she took a tumble, it was decided that she shouldn’t live alone. My two sisters and I did all we could to make Mimi welcome, but she was angry and bitter. Mostly she took it out on my mother, in secret ways so that my father didn’t know. Mimi also sowed the seeds of distrust between my parents. In two short years, she managed to turn our happy home upside down. My sisters and I no longer felt comfortable bringing home our friends. My mother and father quarreled bitterly. Mimi complained of various ailments. Looking back, I can see how frustrated she was with all she’d lost, but at the time, all I could do was watch my parents’ marriage dissolve. I vowed that one day I would find a place where people like Mimi could live and enjoy their lives once more. That’s how I came to start the Boehner Group.”

By now, most people’s mouths were open, as I know mine was. I never expected to hear anything so personal or so heartfelt. Skye reached over and grabbed my hand. I grabbed Honora, and so on until we were a united front.

“Greta Morgan understands what I’ve been trying to achieve. She took initiative and risks–and when a woman named Helen Berger reached out to her friends, they responded by reaching out to all of you. Even though Helen is no longer with us physically, she’ll always be here in spirit. With that in mind, I dedicate this garden to Helen Berger. And I’ve erected a panel that I ask all of you to sign. We’ll frame it once you’ve finished so it’s a permanent part of this residence, a reminder to all of what love can do.”

Thank goodness they served lots of punch, because I must have wept a gallon. The lump in my throat was impossible to swallow. As we wandered outside, my jaw dropped for the second time that afternoon. Yes, most of the landscaping was exactly as we’d left it, but there had been additions. Notably, the flight cages were filled with small parrots who chirped and called. A large tortoise had been added, and he crawled around happily munching the greens put out for him. By the gardens was a rabbit cage. Two of the seniors who lived at Martin Gardens introduced us to Hip and Hop. Painted on the crossbeam of the gazebo was Helen Berger’s name, with a framed photo of Helen in her younger days.

While Skye and Lou wandered off to see how the garden was doing, MJ waved to Pete, her friend, the veterinarian. He came over and asked, “How is Kookie doing?”

“MJ didn’t tell you?” I looked from her to him.

“I’ve been afraid to ask. I heard about her owner dying. When I saw that cockatoo, it was almost on its last legs,” said Pete. “So go ahead, I’m ready to hear what happened next.”

I smiled. “Jay came up with an idea. He had recorded Helen talking to Kookie. He gave the recording and Helen’s favorite sweater to Skye. She wore the sweater and played the recording, endlessly. We all took turns feeding him figs, grapes, and peanuts. It took a long time, but Kookie made it. He’s back at my store right now. Sitting on his perch.”

“Did I hear my name taken in vain?” Jay appeared at my elbow. “Were you talking about Kookie?”

Pete grinned. “That’s wonderful news.”

 MJ winked at me, and I blushed. The other news was that Jay and I were dating.

Yes, I had a lot of reasons to be glad that Helen Berger had come into my life.

~ The End ~

A Note from Joanna: Thanks so much for taking this journey with me. If you’ve enjoyed it, let me know. I’ll decide whether and how to do it again with another serialized piece of work!