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“Mom, do I have to go with you? Can’t I stay here in Pittsburgh with Grandma and Grandpa?”

She let out a loud sigh and gave him a curious look before answering him. More than once during the past week, Jason had expressed his unhappiness about spending a month of his summer vacation with his godfather at Fort Jackson.

“In the past, you’ve always loved seeing Ron and Katie and little Jeff. Don’t you want to see their new baby?”

Folding his arms across his chest, he looked toward the front door, which was standing open. “But I’m going to be away from my friends for the whole summer,” he explained. “And Frankie’s dad has season tickets to all the Pirates’ home games.”

He had already presented that argument once before. For a split-second she thought about giving in to him, but she knew it would be a mistake. As the child’s only parent, she should be firm and show her authority. She also had no intention of imposing Jason on her sixty-year-old parents for an entire month.

They did not complain when she came back home after her husband’s death. At the time, there was no other place to go except home to her family. She could sense, however, that it was demanding for them to live with three young children while she looked for a home of her own.

“Jason, I’m not going to let you disappoint Ron that way. He’s really looking forward to seeing you. You know how close he and your father were, and he wants to remain a part of your life.”

He huffed and marched out of the house, letting the screen door slam hard as he dragged his baggage out to the car. “This is going to be the worst summer of my life,” he said in a loud enough voice for his mother to hear.

She walked to the door and watched him climb into the backseat of her father’s late model, black Oldsmobile. He shoved his little sister aside and jerked the door shut.

She looked toward the ceiling and said, “God, give me strength.”

As she tugged the heavy, wooden front door closed and turned the key in the lock, a strange feeling came over her. For some reason, she felt as though this trip was going to be a life-changing experience. Perhaps it was the idea of going back to the last place she lived with her husband that had her on edge.

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