What Can I Say?

By Debbie

EMAIL: Debbie

Jim always marveled at the relationship Blair had with his mother. There were differences between mother and son, but there was also deep love. However, Naomi Sandburg is not the typical mother. Blair calls her mom, but more often than not, he calls her by her first name. From the time Jim met her, she treats him like another son since he is a friend to Blair.

The whole relationship makes Jim wish he knew more about his own mother. He would like to ask her why she left her sons during their childhood. He would like to let her know that both he and Steven turned out to be upstanding citizens, despite little input from a mother that abandoned them.

When Jim became a detective, he pondered the idea of tracking his mother down and demanding an answer. He had even started a search a couple of times, but got cold feet and dropped the whole idea. He was a little wary as to what he would do or what he might say.

~*~*~*~*~*

Jim watches as Blair and Naomi say their goodbyes to each other. Naomi stayed a couple of days and now she's off on another adventure. It's an easy relationship, one that has had time to grow and evolve over the years. Jim wonders if it would ever be possible for him to have a relationship like that with his mother, if he could ever find her.

Blair walks back into the loft and Jim makes up his mind. He grabs his coat off the hook and puts it on.

"Where are you going, Jim?"

"I just remembered something I need to take care of, Chief. I'll be back later."

"You want me to wait dinner for you?"

"Nah, I'll grab something on the way home."

"You want me to come with you?" There's a hint of concern in Blair's voice.

"No. I'll be back later." Jim leaves the loft before Blair can give him the third degree. Sometimes Blair can be as tenacious as a pit bull and as inquisitive as the best detectives on the police force.

~*~*~*~*~*

Jim pulls into the driveway and sits in his truck, trying to get up the courage to walk up to the door and knock. He has all types of questions ready that have been on his mind since he was a young boy. He knows that his father may not know where his mother is, but he can tell Jim why she left and why she didn't want to stay.

Finally, Jim gets up his nerve, getting out of his truck and walking to the front door. He rings the doorbell.

Sally opens the door, smiling when she sees who it is.

"Jimmy. It's good to see you."

"It's good seeing you too, Sally. Is my dad home?"

"Yes, he's in his study, doing some paperwork, but I'm sure he wouldn't mind if you interrupted."

Jim almost backs away, wanting to postpone what he's come to find out. However, he cements his resolve and follows Sally down the hall to his father's study. The room was always a formidable place to Jim growing up. It was where his father would teach Jim and Steven how to be men.

~*~*~*~*~*

William Ellison looks up from the papers on his desk as Sally and Jim walk inside the room. He smiles at his son.

"Jimmy! What brings you here? Sally, get us some coffee."

Jim answers quickly. "Ah...no thanks, Sally. Nothing for me."

William nods at Sally and she goes, leaving father and son alone.

"Have a seat, Jimmy. Why are you here?"

"I have some questions about my mother."

For his part, William doesn't flinch or show any emotion.

"What questions, Jimmy?"

"Can you tell me why she left?"

"She didn't want to be married to me anymore. We grew out of love. It had been happening gradually over the years. Even before Steven was born. I thought having another child would bring us closer, but it seemed to be yet another wedge between us."

Jim only nods, not commenting on what his father says.

"Why didn't she take us when she left?"

"She didn't think she would be a fit mother. She didn't know where she was going, she had very little money of her own and she knew she would have to get employment to make it. To be burdened with two young boys was too much for her. She asked me to raise you boys. She knew I would be able to give you what you needed. Well, most of what you needed."

"I know you did the best you could, Dad. It's just that strict discipline alone doesn't always cut it. Sometimes, you have to let kids be kids."

"I suppose so, but I didn't know how to let you boys be kids."

"Is she still alive?"

"She is. She even calls occasionally, asking about you and Steven. I tell her that she should get in touch with the two of you, but she dismisses such things. She thinks that neither you nor Steven will want to have anything to do with her."

"Well, she is right on that account. I mean, I was six years old when she left and Steven was only three. What little memories we have of her aren't enough to establish a relationship with her. She would be like a distant relative. But, I would like to talk to her."

"What is bringing this all up now, Jimmy?"

"Nothing, really. I've had questions for years and I just never had the guts or courage to pursue it until now."

"This wouldn't have something to do with your friend Sandburg, would it? I seem to remember he had a significant role to play in the reestablishment of our relations."

Jim smiles. If it weren't for Blair Sandburg, his life would be empty. "Maybe indirectly, Dad. His mother was just visiting with us and I actually envy his relationship with her. It just renewed my interest in finding my mother."

"I can give you the contact information I have for her. I'm not sure how receptive she'll be to the contact, but all you can do is follow through."

William gets out an address book, writing down an address and a phone number on a sheet of paper and handing it to Jim.

"Thanks, Dad. I'll let you know how this turns out."

"I hope she doesn't shut you out, Jimmy. It would be a shame if Grace missed out on how much you have accomplished in your life."

Jim gets to his feet and leaves the study. He says goodbye to Sally and leaves the house, returning to his truck. Only then does he look at the sheet of paper. His mother is living in San Diego. Obviously, a phone call is the best way to make a first contact.

~*~*~*~*~*

It's late when Jim walks into the loft. Blair looks up from the book he's reading.

"Did you finish your errand?"

"Not quite. There's still a couple things I need to do."

"You want my help?" Blair is hoping Jim accepts his help.

"Actually, I think I could use some of your expertise." Jim walks over to the couch where Blair is sitting.

"Expertise in what, Jim?"

"Relationships and small talk."

"What is this, Jim? A new lady friend?"

"Not exactly. I'm going to take a trip to San Diego and I figured you might want to tag along."

"San Diego? What in the world is in San Diego?"

"My mother. I talked to her earlier and she asked me to come visit her. I thought I'd take you along to help us bridge those awkward pauses that are bound to come up."

"Well, sure, Jim. I'd love to go to San Diego, but I don't want to interrupt or hinder your relationship with your mother. I mean, it's been years since there was any contact."

"I trust you to know when to interject and when to back away. You did a wonderful job when you pushed me to talk with my dad. He even said you played a significant role."

"Well, then, who am I to question such a smart man? So, your dad knows where you mom is, huh? How does she sound?"

"Like a middle-aged woman. She's kept occasional contact with my dad over the years. She was a little surprised to hear from me."

"I can imagine. It sounds exciting, Jim. Now, you'll have contact with both of your parents. It's an important thing for grown children to have contact with their parents and to be at least on speaking terms with them. There have been studies done that show that the family unit is important in all cultures."

"Well, then, the next time Naomi visits, we can pin her down and ask her about your father. Maybe she can come up with some realistic candidates and you can have contact with your father."

"You'll never get her to admit anything, Jim. She's tough."

"Tougher than an ex-Army Ranger? I have interrogation techniques she's never encountered."

"She's immune, Jim. She'll never divulge her secrets. I don't need to know who my father is."

"You say that, but somehow I don't believe you. Every kid, no matter how old, wants to know about their heritage, their background. It's a combination of a mother and a father."

"You sound like a sociologist, Jim. I know my heritage. It may only be on my mother's side, but it's enough for me. A father wouldn't add much to the mix for me."

"I still don't believe you, Chief, but I won't bug you about it. We leave in three days, so make the necessary arrangements at the university."

"How long are you planning on staying?"

"I got Simon to give me a week off. If I need more, he says I can have it. You don't have to stay the whole week, though, if you don't want to."

"I can get a week, Jim. No problems. Any longer, though, and I might have to bail on you. Not that I wouldn't still be there with you in spirit."

Jim sits down beside Blair. He reaches out, gently squeezing Blair's shoulder.

"I know you'll be there with me."

~*~*~*~*~*

Both Jim and Blair sit in the car, staring at the house.

"You think she knows you're here already?" There's a slight nervousness in Blair's voice.

"I suppose we should just walk up and knock on the door." Jim starts to get out of the rental car.

Blair grabs hold of the sleeve of Jim's coat. "We shouldn't rush into this, Jim."

"The way you talk, you would think this is a relative of yours we're going to see. If you want to wait in the car, it's okay with me."

"I just don't want you disappointed, Jim. She may reject you."

"Gee, Chief! Why don't you rain on my good feelings?" There's a slight irritation in Jim's voice.

"I'm sorry, Jim. Go. I'll call a cab, go back to the airport and return to Cascade."

"I don't want you to leave, Chief. Just don't voice all of my insecurities aloud. She talked to me initially when I called and invited me to visit her here in San Diego. I'm hoping she didn't bring me all this way just to reject me."

"I know…I know, Jim. We might as well get the initial face-to-face meeting out of the way."

Jim can tell that Blair still isn't all that enthused, but they leave the rental car and walk up the sidewalk to the house. Jim knocks on the door, surprised to hear music and voices talking inside the residence.

The door opens and a woman in her mid-sixties stands there. "Jim." She whispers the one word, but Jim hears it clearly.

"Hello…" Jim can't quite say 'mom' or 'mother'.

"Come in, come in." She steps aside to let Jim and Blair into the house. "Who is this, Jim? Your son?"

"No, ma'am. I'm Blair Sandburg. Jim and I are partners at the station and good friends. Jim asked me to come along, for moral support."

"Well, it's nice to meet you, Mr. Sandburg. I'm Grace Anderson. I have my own moral support with me, also. Come on into the living room."

Jim and Blair follow Grace into the living room where there are several other people. Any chance Jim thinks about having a private conversation with his mother will have to wait.

"Jim, this is my other family. Shortly after leaving Cascade, I came to San Diego. I got a job as a waitress in a restaurant where I renewed an acquaintance with Max Anderson. We went to college together before I met your father. We fell in love and married."

Grace looks over at her second family sitting there, staring at Jim and Blair.

"Jim, this is Max, my husband, Shirley, my oldest daughter, Max, Jr., my son, and April, my youngest daughter. This is my son, Jim Ellison."

Blair glances over at Jim to gauge his reaction to having half-siblings and the fact that his mother remarried and stayed with this family. There is nothing outwardly noticeable in Jim's reaction except for a slight jaw clenching.

"Nice to meet all of you." Jim doesn't betray anything as he delivers the greeting pleasantly enough.

"Nice to meet you, too." Each member of the Anderson family repeats the greeting.

Blair feels like a third-wheel, left out of the whole interaction. It is the opportune time to observe the interesting dynamic playing out before him.

"This is my best friend, Blair Sandburg. I brought him along for moral support."

Blair nods his head, glad to know Jim didn't forget about him.

Then there is the first awkward silence. You wouldn't think with so many people it would happen, but here it was.

"Well, isn't this an interesting situation? Old family meets new family. There's always a period of adjustment that needs to take place to find out where everybody stands." Blair notices the blank looks he's getting from everyone and the frown he's getting from Jim. "Hey, I know about these things. I'm an anthropologist and I study these things."

Grace coughs and the attention shifts to her. "Why don't I get us all something to drink? I hope you both like lemonade. I made a pitcher this morning. Shirley, why don't you help me with the glasses?"

As they leave the room, Jim walks forward, shaking hands with Max, Max, Jr., and April.

"Grace told me about her two boys that she abandoned in Cascade all those years ago. She's kept up with you and your brother. Both of you are quite successful."

"Yes. I wasn't aware she had remarried and had a whole other family."

"I told her repeatedly over the years to get in contact with you or your brother. I wouldn't have even been averse to her visiting either of you. She felt as if she had abandoned both of you. She didn't feel she had a place in your life because of that."

"It would have been nice to hear from her, even sporadically."

"You'll have to convey that to her directly, Jim."

Grace and Shirley come back with the lemonade and Blair helps to pass out the glasses. Grace brings Jim his glass and hands it to him.

"I used to make lemonade for you and Steven on hot summer days. Even when it wasn't hot outside, you always wanted my lemonade."

"I remember that. You used to sit outside on the back porch and watch as Steven and I ran around the yard, playing cowboys and Indians." Jim takes a sip of the lemonade. He closes his eyes.

Blair watches as the smile comes across Jim's face. He knows what is going on in Jim's mind. It's a sense memory of when he was a young boy, playing in the backyard and then drinking his mother's lemonade. A good memory.

Jim opens his eyes and looks over at Blair. He nods his head slightly and Blair smiles back at him. It may be shaky for a while, but mother and son will be able to reconnect.

Jim starts to relax and sits down to find out more about his extended family. Soon, the conversation includes all aspects of the lives of the family.

Grace asks Jim about Steven and if he told him, he was coming to see her.

"I told him I was coming. He wasn't quite ready to come with me. I think if you call him, it would go a long way."

Grace agrees with Jim. "You're probably right, Jim. I was just so afraid of rejection and that neither of you would want to have anything to do with me."

"Well, dad never remarried, so there wasn't anyone else in the picture for us to call mother. It was just a void in our lives."

"I am sorry so much time passed without any connection."

Blair is pleased with the turn of events. He's glad his earlier apprehension seems unwarranted.

~*~*~*~*~*

Jim sits on one of the beds in the hotel room, while Blair finishes up with room service. As soon as Blair hangs up the phone, Jim speaks.

"I thought it went well."

"You said that when we left their house."

"But you didn't say anything. I value your opinion of situations, you know."

"I know you do, Jim. Okay. It went wonderfully. Both of you connected on a familial level. Did you talk about seeing her alone while you're here?"

"Yeah. We're meeting on Thursday, for lunch. I thought maybe you could do the tourist thing that day."

"Sure, Jim. I don't mind. I told you I'd give you space if you needed it."

"Maybe you can call Shirley, April or Max, Jr. and get together with them?"

"They're not my family, Jim. I'd just as soon be off on my own."

"Suit yourself."

Blair can tell Jim is just a little put off that he doesn't want to have anything to do with his second family.

"I'm happy for you, Jim. As I said, though, they're not my family. It just seems a little soon to be so accepting of your mother having a whole other family, while she ditched you, Steven and your father."

"My dad said she didn't love him. There hadn't been any love in the marriage for some time. When Steven was born, he was hoping that would bring them closer together, but it seemed to have the opposite effect."

"But leaving two vulnerable, young children without a mother? I can't imagine a mother doing that and then expecting to have it all forgiven years later."

"She had no resources to give Steven and me what we needed back then. My father had all the money. She would have had to get a job and leave us during the day anyway. Much like what your mother went through, from what you have indicated."

"Leave my mother out of this discussion, Jim! She kept me, fought to keep me and raised me as a single mother! Yes, she struggled at times and it all wasn't rosy and happy, but we were together. She never had one thought about leaving me in the care of others, except in extreme circumstances."

Blair moves over, grabs his coat off the other bed, and puts it on.

"Where are you going?"

"I need some space, man. I'm going for a walk."

"You just called room service. What about that?"

"I need a walk. Send the food back."

"You need to eat, Chief. How about no more talk about families?"

"Just keep my food, Jim. I won't be gone long."

Blair leaves the room. Jim only shakes his head, wondering why Blair is so touchy about this whole situation.

~*~*~*~*~*

Three hours have passed. Jim just checked his watch. There is no sign of Blair. Jim even stretches out his senses to the limit to try to snag some indication that Blair is in the area. There is nothing.

Jim walks over to the table and picks at the remains of the salad Blair ordered for him earlier. Jim asked for steak, potato and broccoli with cheese sauce. Blair substituted the house salad for the broccoli. Jim wants to yell at Blair for making him eat salad.

Several minutes later, Blair walks back into the room.

Jim points at Blair and starts to speak.

"Before you say anything, don't. I'm perfectly fine and I'm not some little kid that needs to be on a curfew. I'm also sorry I've been a wet blanket on your reunion with your mother and meeting your half-siblings and stepfather. I guess in hindsight, it was more than I could even take. I think it just hit too close to home and then your comments about my mom on top of that…"

"I'm sorry about that remark, Blair. It was in response to what you told me. Here, sit down and eat your dinner. I even saved you most of my salad."

"Hey, I got that salad for you! I ordered one for myself."

"Well, then, the extra won't hurt you. I'm full from my steak and potato."

Blair laughs, smacking Jim on the arm. "Right. I try to look after your health and well-being and this is the way I'm repaid."

Blair sits down beside Jim at the table and starts to eat his sandwich, passing the chips over to Jim to eat. "Enjoy yourself, big guy."

"Thanks, Chief. So, do you want to pursue the idea of who your father could be?"

"No." It is all Blair says as he continues to eat.

Jim wisely drops any other comments he was thinking about.

~*~*~*~*~*

Jim is surprised to see Blair in their hotel room when he comes back from his lunch with his mother.

"I thought you were going to go to the museums in the area?"

"I didn't feel like it. I just sort of hung around the hotel most of the time."

Jim knows this is unusual for Blair. "Are you sure you're okay?"

Blair shakes his head, and Jim knows his over-protective streak is showing. "I'm fine. How was lunch?"

"I understand your cautiousness earlier. It will take longer to become close to my mother. She didn't seem sorry for abandoning Steven and I all those years ago. I mean, I know it's been over thirty years since she left, but to young, impressionable kids, it's earth-shattering." Jim covers his face with his hands.

"Are you okay, Jim?" Worry tinges Blair's voice as he crosses the floor where Jim is standing.

"I'm fine. It's just…the memories of everything." Jim drops his hands and slumps down onto the bed.

Blair reaches out to touch Jim on the shoulder. "I'm sorry. Now, maybe you understand why I'm not crazy about pursuing who my father could be. There's always a bit of disappointment involved."

"See, that's why I brought you with me to San Diego. You're wise beyond your years, Chief. Thank you for being the voice of reason."

"I was hoping I'd be wrong. I also have to admit I was seriously thinking about trying to find my father. That's the reason I decided not to go to the museums - I had too many thoughts whirling around in my head. I knew I'd never be able to concentrate on what I was doing or seeing. I just stayed in the hotel and ordered a chocolate milkshake."

"I think we need to return to Cascade, Chief. We're both out of our comfort zone here."

"Well, I was thinking, if you didn't have anything planned for tomorrow, that we could go sight-seeing together and then maybe return to Cascade by the end of the week."

"Would I have to go to museums?"

"Not necessarily, Jim. We can just be tourists and explore the sights."

Jim nods his head. "Sounds like a plan."

"So, are you and your mom going to keep in touch?"

"I think so. I don't think she'll be a major part of my life, but she does want to be able to talk to me. And to Steven. Of course, I'll have to convince him of that when I get back to Cascade."

"The best thing is to lay it all out for him, the good and the bad. What about your half-siblings?"

"They are in the same situation as I am, basically. I think there may be more of a kinship with them. And Max, Sr. seems like a decent guy. I don't want to cut them out completely."

"Sounds like you've got everything figured out."

"Well, I kept thinking that they are all part of my family. I don't want to be the one perceived as not trying to get along."

"Yes, image is everything, especially with family. I can see it all now, years down the road: you, Steven, William, Grace, Max, Sr., Shirley, Max, Jr., and April having a family reunion where you all get along and are great friends."

"You forgot someone in that reunion, Chief."

Blair counts the people on the fingers of his hand and frowns. "No, I didn't forget anyone."

"You forgot yourself, Blair. I won't go to any family reunion without you there."

"Aw-w-w, Jim! You say the sweetest things!"

The End