Ray opened the side door of the house and came into the dining room late that evening. Time had gotten away from Ray as he was working because he couldn't keep his mind on the work at hand.
Today was March 24, Daniel's birthday.
He would have been twenty-two years old had he he been alive. Ray remembered the day his little brother was born like it was yesterday. Ray enjoyed being a big brother, and he loved the way Daniel like to tag along with him and how he thought Ray was cool. Ray always looked out for Daniel. Always wanting the best for him. Daniel enjoyed school but for different reasons than Ray. Daniel like to go to school to see his friends and see how many girl's hearts he could break. Ray never understood why girls always came around knowing that Daniel would probably break their heart. They acted as if it were better to have a heart broken by Daniel Singleton than to never have.
Ray wanted the best for Daniel and wished he would focus as much on school as he does girls and having a good time. Ray loved to have a good time, but there was a time and place for everything. Ray often covered for his little brother's chores with his dad.
Ray's dad would always say, "I can't blame you doing for Daniel. If I had a little brother, I'd have done the same."
Daniel looked up to his brother and respected what Ray thought. That is why Daniel always talked to Ray about his thought, his dream, his hopes, and his fears. It was those late nighty talks in the bunk room that Ray gently guided Daniel to be the man he later became; honarable, dignified, honest, and true to the heart.
After their parents passed away, Ray took care of Daniel who was only thirteen. Daniel always helped Ray and valued their time together. As Daniel became a young man, he and Ray became closer and closer. He always did what Ray asked, which was never too much or anything Ray wouldn't do himself. Daniel knew that Ray had given up a lot to raise him. He gave up time that he could have been and should have been courting and finding a wife. But instead he chose to raise Daniel and give him the best that he could. Ray tried to make Daniel's life as easy as possible, and make up for not having parents to be there to raise him. Ray and Daniel had talks like they were brothers and they had father son talks when Daniel needed Ray to be the Daddy. Ray didn't like it when he had to be stern with Daniel, but he knew that Daniel would better because of it.
Ray taught Daniel how to farm, how to fish, how to hunt, how to provide for a family. Ray told Daniel that loving your wife and showing her that you love her and providing for her so she doesn't have to worry about anything is being a man. Daniel listened to Ray, and knew Ray wished this for himself. Daniel hoped that Ray would find the love of life before she got away again. Ray loved Daniel with all his heart and he wanted Daniel to be happy. Ray knew how much Daniel loved the ocean like their mama and grandparents. Ray always thought that the land locked Danny's growing up and someday he'd make to the ocean. But until then, Ray had a responsibility to raise him as he saw fit.
Ray and Danny developed a bond during these years that grew so deep that it reached their souls. They knew when the other was hurting, happy, or just content. They were both happy that they had the other.
One night at supper Ray knew that Danny was keeping something from him. And Danny went to bed early. Ray went to bed after looking over the farm books, and he had to ask Danny what was bothering him. Ray asked Danny if he had ever given him reason to feel he couldn't talk to him.
Danny replied softly, "No, Ray. But it's something I really want and I'm afraid you'll tell me no."
Ray quickly said, "Try me." Because he knew it was hard for him to disappoint Danny and not give him what he wants. Danny excitedly told Ray about the Navy Recruits that came to the high school today and talked with the boys about the opportunities the Navy had to give them.
Danny said in conclusion, "I could finally see the oceans that I've always wanted to see. I could do it while serving our country. But Ray, I know it will be hard for you to run this farm with little or no help. I will stay and help you, Ray. I owe you that. You've sacrificed alot for me."
A lump developed in Ray's throat that he usually got when he knew he had to lie. Ray told Daniel that he really wanted him to be able to see the world. They would think of something. Ray knew that if he didn't give Daniel encouragement to go that one day Danny might leave and not ever come home. Ray didn't realize that this was true no matter which one Danny did.
The next day, Ray told Daniel that he would stay back and work the farm and let Danny go and see the world as he always wanted to.
On Danny's eighteenth birthday, they went to the recruiting office and Daniel Singleton became apart of the US Navy. He would leave the week after graduation for boot camp in Long Island,NY. Daniel was so happy but he also realized the sacrifice again that Ray was giving again for him. That night at supper, Danny told Ray to promise him that he would now use his free time to look for a wife. He deserved to have someone to spend the rest of his life with. Daniel told Ray that when he got out of the Navy, that he would come back. And he and Ray would live in the house together with their wives and children.
Daniel jokingly said, "You can have mama and daddy's room because you've earned it."
Ray replied, "I'm holding you to it. Just come home little brother."
Livy was startled by Ray when she walked into the kitchen. Livy did not realize Ray had come in. Ray looked so sad, she thought. Livy knew why and she hoped she would be able to ease some of the pain for him. This was Ray's first year on Danny's birthday that he had someone that he loved could share some of his pain with.
Ray cried that night, but for the first time since Danny's death he didn't cry alone. He had Livy. He knew Danny was looking down from heaven and smiling because he had someone to love him and share his live with.
Daniel will always be in Ray's heart, but the pain seem to lessen every day because Ray had new hope and a new found family.
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