Meet Wolf and Cara. I hope you enjoy this longer than normal post. A story I wrote just because I wanted to create these people. And allow them to create a kind world. Where people matter.
Every Day Ordinary
by: C Faherty Brown
He stuck his hand out. Not with confidence, but in that way a 16 year old boy would do if he was not sure what to do but so badly wanted to be a confident man. Which is exactly what he was.
“Hi, I’m Wolf”. She grinned and looked at his hand and with the very confidence he wished for she took his hand in both of hers and smiled. She was sitting on the steps at the side of the school.
“Wolf? Hi Wolf. I wish I had a great name like that. But all I have is ‘Cara’”. He smiled. Beloved. Her name meant ‘beloved’.
“Beloved.” She tilted her head at him and let go of his hand. He suddenly felt exposed. “Your name means ‘beloved’.”
“Does it? I didn’t know that.”
Up until this day in his life he had never known of her existence. He never lived another day without her in his existence.
He was a junior in high school. She was a sophomore. She moved to town during the summer and they met that first day of school when he got up the nerve to approach her. It was the bravest thing he had ever done. It was the most rewarding thing he had ever done.
Cara stood, not reaching his shoulder. Her long hair was pulled into a loose ponytail at her neck. She was perfect. From the minute he saw her in the cafeteria at lunch he knew he had to meet her. She was new to the school but sat with a couple of girls and boys, all of them talking. He would find out later she was cousins with one girl and knew the others through her. The only thing he actually knew, at that moment, was that the sight of her changed his brain.
He had to look down to see her but felt her presence as something larger than life. Though short, she wasn’t petite. She looked strong, like she lifted weights (she did). He never felt taller and it had nothing to do with his height (though he is tall).
“Wolf?” He never heard his name in a girl’s voice like that.
She laughed “okay what?”
“Everything is just okay”.
“I have to say Wolf, I’ve never had this kind of effect on a boy.” She laughed, he laughed with her.
“I’m not very good at this.”
She reached out and touched his hand “at what?” Her touch both calmed him and encouraged him.
“At meeting someone so beautiful and hoping they will go out with me.” He hadn’t ever asked anyone out before. No one seemed beautiful, like this, to him before.
“Of course I will. But I can’t. Not yet.”
His breath stopped moving within him. Her hand closed around his. It was the longest his life had existed without air. “Wolf. I’m not allowed to date yet.” Her hand tightened on his. “How about we become friends first”.
He put his other hand over her hand. “I would like that”.
So they did just that.
He went home that night and sat at the dinner table with his family. While he was passing the meatloaf to his dad his mother asked how his day went. He said he met his wife today and accepted the green beans from his sister. His family, used to his sentimental and tender heart, accepted it casually and asked about her.
“Her name is Cara. It means ‘beloved’. She’s radiant. She comes up to here” and held his hand to a level below his shoulder. “I can’t wait for life with her”. They were also used to his poeticizing mannerisms. They adored him. They would adore her.
Everyone knew Cara wasn’t allowed to date. They knew Wolf had never dated anyone. No one doubted they would date. No one doubted they belonged together. From the start. They spent that school year becoming friends. Neither of them spoke of love. They both respected her parents wishes to not date. They didn’t hide or sneak or wish things to be different.
Lunch time was spent at a table together, sometimes alone, sometimes with other friends. Always talking. Always sharing. Learning together at school. Learning about one another. Learning about life. That round table at the cafeteria was the hangout. It was safe. It was fun. It was comfortable.
It would be where Wolf would propose to her years later.
Their town was small but large in their lives. Life was not always easy for the families there. The school encouraged all students to participate in something, sports, academic pursuits, art, music, something. If a child wasn’t participating the school reached out to the child, the parents if necessary, to encourage to help to be involved. It was very progressive and very nurturing. The children thrived and the children struggled, like all children do. But everyone seemed to pay attention.
Wolf played football to be with his friends. He was good enough to help the team win when they won. He wasn’t a star and if the team struggled there was always something he could work at to be better. Cara created a ‘buddy bench’ at the school after she read about it at other schools. Any time someone would see another student sitting on the bench alone, students would make a beeline to the bench. It was a safe place to sit and let others know you needed a buddy without having to ask. It was very popular. They learned about compassion. More, they learned that everyone had a hard time asking for help, this made it easier for all of them to use the bench. It made them aware that everyone had struggles.
Wolf was better in languages. Cara was better in sciences and maths. Both excelled in arts of some kind.
They complimented one another.
Life was easier together.
Before Cara’s 16th birthday he found out where her father worked through her cousin. He worked things out with her father.
On her 16th birthday he asked her out for a date. She said she would have to ask her parents. He handed her a phone and told her to call them. She did. They said yes. They were impressed with the young man who had asked to meet with her dad, and given him a chance to get to know him so he would feel comfortable with Cara going on a date.
Cara didn’t know that yet.
He picked her up that night, at home, at the door, with flowers for her and her mother. They went on a date. They went to a BBQ restaurant that had a dance floor. They shared an appetizer of cheese sticks and marinara sauce. They each had a cheeseburger. They shared a piece of carrot cake with a candle in it.
When they left he drove to school. It was dark. He parked the car with his headlights pointing at the side door where they first met. He rolled down the windows, turned the music up, got out and went to open her door. He reached for her hand. She took his and he closed the door behind her. They danced, what may have appeared awkward to others, comfortably and easily with one another. He held her hand over his heart, his other hand softly across the middle of her back.
She stopped dancing and slipped both of her arms around his waist. She tilted her head up. He leaned forward. They kissed that gentle first kiss of young love.
They stood there in one another’s embrace. Just holding on.
Already familiar. That hug. It became a stance of their relationship.
Wolf took college classes at night during the summer between junior and senior year of high school and then all through senior year. When he graduated from high school, he went the next weekend to his college graduation for his associates degree in automobile mechanics. He started working in a local garage while he continued his education working on a business degree.
Cara, taking advise from her parents and Wolf had also started college classes while in high school. By the time she graduated she had almost half of a 4 year degree in education completed. Living at home with her parents and continuing school she completed her bachelors and then her masters in education. She wanted to teach young children.
It wasn’t always easy. None of them were well to do. Both families lived comfortably but not in a wealthy life style. Though neither Cara or Wolf were aware of that. They knew what happy meant. They knew what excitement was. They anticipated life, they dreamed of life, together. Wolf managed to keep his school costs low, paying them off as he went with the help of grants and working while he was going to school. Though his parents couldn’t help with school (and he never would have let them worry about that) they were more than happy to have him still home, working and going to school. This worked out well for all of them. Cara’s parents helped her some, she also received some grants but had to get some student loans as well.
It never occurred to them to dream beyond their life and their love.
What else was there?
Friends went off to college. Friends worked locally in one of the two factories, or family businesses, or left. Many left. A few would return.
Home town wasn’t on the ‘go to’ list of places people hoped to see in their lifetime. But it was something that many people dreamed of without even knowing it. That place where comfort and belonging were there for the taking. Cara and Wolf knew it. They enjoyed the life of familiarity. They enjoyed walking in the evenings and running into one of a hundred different people who could share stories and laughs, or tears and sorrows, with them.
They lived a life of energy and exhaustion. Nearly each day started with energy. Nearly each day wound down in exhaustion. Work, school, cutting the grass, running errands, making time for one another, making time for friends and family. It was a lot. And they never thought it should be any other way.
When Cara graduated with her master’s degree she was already working as a substitute at the very school where they met. She would accept shifts as teacher or cook, whatever they offered. The next year she was offered her first full time job teaching. Wolf clocked out at work and didn’t have school the night Cara was going to go to her first classroom and start setting up for school in three weeks. Wolf went home, showered, dressed casually to help her, packed a picnic style dinner and put in it in the trunk of his car. He drove to Cara’s and picked her and her boxes of classroom paraphernalia up-putting it in the backseat of his car. They drove to the school. He helped her carry her things to the classroom. At one point he excused himself to go to the bathroom, went to his car and retrieved his picnic dinner. He set it up in the cafeteria at the very table where they ate lunch together and got to know one another.
He went back to the classroom and took Cara by the hand telling her he was hungry. He took her to the cafeteria and presented her with a replica of their first school lunch shared. He held her hand to his heart and leaned down to kiss her. He dropped to his knee and asked her to marry him. Cara took his face in her hands and said “okay”. Wolf said “okay what?” Cara replied “everything is just okay”. She kissed this man who was meant to be hers.
The wedding was simple. It was catered by family and friends. The number of people rivaled the size of the town. It was held in the community center and everyone who wanted to come and eat and celebrate love was invited to do so. The leftovers were taken to the homeless shelter when they took some of the homeless who attended the wedding back to the shelter.
The honeymoon was spent together in their first little house. It would end up being their only little house because they never needed more.
That night they lay on the mattress on the floor in the living room. The house was under a major face-lift operation of painting and scrubbing and wood staining. They lived out of the living room for months.
“What do you want out of our life?” He rolled on his side and propped his head on his hand to look at her. She did the same, to face him.
“Well. That’s a big question. I hope I don’t disappoint you with my answer.”
“Okay then, I want to always wake up remembering I work to provide us with a home. To provide us our needs, and some wants. That way, I won’t ever be frustrated with ‘having’ to work. I want to look forward to coming home from work and seeing you because I haven’t seen you since breakfast. I want to be able to save some money for emergencies and just-in-case-events”. He took her hand and put it over his heart. “I want us to find something to celebrate every day. I want our excitement to be centered on what we do together, what we discover together, what we learn together”.
“That, exactly that.”
The next morning they woke to work on their house. They made poached eggs together for the first time. They both felt a little more adult after doing that. During their honeymoon they repainted the entire inside of their home. They built a small fire pit outside and used it two different days after a hard day’s work that week.
Though already familiar with one another they still found new things about one another. They didn’t talk too much about politics. They didn’t agree on politics. It didn’t bother either of them that the other believed differently. They didn’t agree about having cats or dogs as a pet so they had neither because that’s the agreement they came to. Cara liked cats, Wolf was allergic to them. Wolf liked dogs but Cara was not comfortable leaving a dog alone all day while they worked and/or went out in the evenings. No pets seemed more fair to the animals. Wolf enjoyed hunting, Cara enjoyed fishing. They could both go with friends or with one another. Wolf loved to read and often wrote in the margins of books he insisted on keeping. Cara preferred movies to reading. Oft times Wolf would lie on the couch reading with his feet up next to Cara while she watched a movie. Cara loved weekend camping trips to spots where she could climb high into mountains. Wolf was afraid of heights but would go as far as he dared.
Wolf loved his work. He saw mechanics as a puzzle. He also loved the garage he worked for since high school. As he went through business school he would begin to discuss what he learned with his boss, the owner. They began talking more about improvements and better business management. Wolf became a partner in the business. The work and personal relationship would last a lifetime. Cara loved her work but would have been content to stay home and be a mom.
When they decided to have children they felt they were ready to provide for and protect and nurture any child they were blessed with. Anticipation turned to sorrow when a pregnancy did not happen. After a few years they stopped expecting it to happen. They couldn’t afford the treatments to help. The doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with either of them to prevent a pregnancy.
They stopped planning on a child. They weren’t opposed to adopting or fostering children but decided to give themselves some time to heal from broken dreams. They gave themselves a deadline of one month to grieve that it may not happen. Then they would decide what to do. They both felt the need to allow sorrows and depressions to be felt. They knew they were lucky, blessed and well. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t feel sorrow.
After accepting it may not happen, which did not take a month, they immersed themselves in life leaving the grief behind. Their joy was refueled at the high school football games of their alma mater. Of successes in work. Meeting with family and friends on a regular basis. The volunteered sporadically for different events that called upon their hearts. They became the best aunt and uncle a child could wish for.
Five years after thinking a child would never happen Cara sat down at the breakfast table, looked at Wolf, turned to the side and threw up all over the floor after smelling the bacon he had put on the table in front of her. Wolf didn’t say anything but he knew at that moment that she was pregnant. He doesn’t know why he knew, but he did.
And he knew again 11 months after baby girl was born and they had a repeat throw-up incident. Baby boy was followed 15 months later by baby boy number two. Throw-up indicator a sure sign once again.
Life was babies, then toddlers, then school, sports (for all three), dance (for all three) and art classes (for all five of them).
Wolf nearly jumped out of bed each morning to do something for his family. Make breakfast, pack lunches, go to work, go to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins birthdays, pick up little friends to come over and fill the yard and tiny house with lots of noise.
Blessings were said before dinner whether it was five of them or twenty of them. They were never short on snacks, hugs and discipline-whoever you belonged to. At Wolf and Cara’s you were part of the family.
Wolf never felt old until the day they buried his father. It was unexpected, too early and with too much left to live between them all. It made getting up in the mornings even more valued. The day after they buried his father he was sitting in the backyard, his head in his hands, his youngest son came up and leaned over him, covering Wolf’s head with his little body, laying his head on his father’s back. Holding him. Cara had seen it and took a picture. Love helped everything.
Cara liked to sleep more but was never upset or begrudging a child’s cry in the night or excitement in the morning (they took after Wolf) to get up and get going. Whether it was to school, or to a friend’s house or to do whatever activity was planned (or not planned) for the day.
The older they grew the more their friends branched out and traveled. They loved dinner at friend’s homes after a trip some place exotic or exciting, or just different. Evenings spent hearing stories and looking at pictures made them happy.
But they didn’t yearn for that.
They would walk home, or drive home, hand in hand and talk about the wonderful stories and beautiful places. It never failed. They would walk up to their home or get out of the vehicle, Wolf would put his arms around Cara’s shoulders, Cara would put her arms around Wolf’s waist, and they would look at their home. Decorated if it was a holiday, comfortable and familiar always. They would sigh. With contentment. And with something else. They were always grateful and a little bit surprised at ‘home’. They were safe. They were protected. They were in love. They were surrounded by love. Life was busy. Life was family. Life was activity. Life was not boring. They did yearn. But for something they felt a need to constantly work for. Family. Home. Community. Comfort. They worked hard for all of it. They enjoyed all of the rewards of that hard work.
Not that it was only work. They put in the work and reaped the benefits. Children who knew they were loved and had a desire to live like their parents. Children who belonged to something greater than just their family. Family who was more than blood. Community who was part of their world, and they, were part of theirs.
The joys of other’s lives impacted theirs simply by seeing friends happy and doing exciting things. They discovered early that ‘exciting’ is different for everyone. The sharing of it with others is part of it. As they thrilled for their friends adventures their friends were just as thrilled for Wolf and Cara’s.
Their little house saw some changes over the years. Color schemes changed, rooms were used first for one thing then another. As the children grew up and moved out, the house became spacious. No matter how small a home, when the children leave…it gets bigger.
Of the three children two moved away but both returned to make home…home. By the time they started their own adult lives the family all lived within a 3 mile radius. They all felt the comfort and desire to be close. As the children had babies the world became more exciting.
Cara taught school until she could retire. Wolf worked the shop (then shops as the shop expanded to two then three in nearby towns) until he bought his friend and original boss out. When Wolf retired it was his daughter who took over.
They put a swing in the front yard to sit and relax in the evenings and a swing in the backyard to sit and relax in the mornings. It never became a habit but it was there for many sunrises and sunsets, oft times with a grandchild on their laps or sitting between them.
One sunset watching evening Wolf had his arm casually around Cara’s shoulder, her right hand rested easily on his thigh. “Cara”. “hhhhmmmm” she replied. “What is one thing you would change about our lives if you could?”
She turned her head to look at him and looked back to the sunset. “I’ll have to think about it and get back with you on that.” She never got back to him on that.
Life wasn’t perfect. Arguments and disagreements were part of life. But they both had an innate character design that you don’t often find in two persons in the same relationship. Neither of them cared to waste energy on fighting or disagreeing. They had the ability to hear one another out, compromise, agree to disagree or let it go because neither was going to change the other’s opinion. They knew how lucky they were.
When their 40th wedding anniversary was rolling around the children discussed amongst themselves about sending their parents on a romantic trip or a cruise. Or something. But then concluded that their parents wouldn’t like to be away from home for that long. So they did a ‘re-do’ of sorts of their wedding. They invited the entire community. It was a surprise not only to Wolf and Cara, but to the kids, on how many people showed up. People from the original wedding came to celebrate. One man in particular spoke about how Wolf and Cara had left their wedding reception and driven him and some other homeless folks back to the shelter with a trunk load of food. He was driving the bus today that brought the homeless at the shelter he had founded 20 years later and has been running for 20 years. When he left with the folks to go back to the shelter it was packed with the left over food. Additionally, instead of gifts, people were encouraged to bring backpacks full of personal care items and food to donate. They had to take an extra truck to take all of the donations back.
The next evening all of the kids and grandkids gathered at the little house for pizza and a fire in the fire pit. Wolf and Cara sat like royalty in a world where they were surrounded with the riches of life.
Many anniversaries passed. Many celebrations. Many sorrows when the rest of Wolf and Cara’s parents passed. When friends became ill and/or passed away. Cara had a heart attack. Wolf never left the hospital until he brought Cara back home.
The children and grandchildren circled round the little house. Making frequent and almost non-stop visits to spend valuable time with the people who taught them, no, showed them-what value was.
The little house was never without a smile. So much so that one of the little grands drew a smile on the front door. Wolf and Cara loved it and would not allow anyone to remove it.
Wolf eagerly woke, still, every morning. To see what he could do for his family. He emailed, sent texts or made phone calls daily to his children and grandchildren. They looked forward to his memories. One of the older grandkids put all of his story emails into book form and had it printed for the entire family for Christmas one year. It would be a valued gift for generations to come.
Often times it is said all good things must come to an end. But that’s not really true. The good things can go on, maybe with changes, but the goodness and the love put out into the world is most often multiplied. Not divided. Not diminished. When they died, within the same year of one another, their headstone simply read Wolf and Cara, Loved and Beloved.
In homes across town prayers were said, in many different styles. Homes reflected on the kindness shown to them. Quiet reflections were occurring on front stoops, living room couches, at dinner tables. Happy reflections.
In three different homes spouses hugged the three children of Wolf and Cara. Each child, in their own home, said to their spouse “okay” in the middle of a hug. Each spouse said “okay what?”
Each child replied knowing it to be true “everything is just okay”.