Robert Charles Harriman Crane stared mutinously at his grandmother. His green eyes glittered like green flint. "NO!"
Helen Crane gently buttoned the eight-year old's shirt. "Robert, you have to go. Your daddy is waiting for us there!"
"Robert, this isn't a choice! We have to go!!" She stood and took the eight-year old's hand.
"I don't want to go!"
"Robert, your Uncle Chip and Aunt Matty want you to meet the new baby. We're supposed to meet your daddy at their house!"
"I don't want to meet a new baby! They smell funny!"
"No, they don't."
"Yes, they do! And all they do is drink bottles and dirty diapers and spit up! And they can't do anything! They just lay there and Cry!!"
"When Drew was born, and we had to go and see him and I held him and he spit up on me and it was gross! And now they have another one, and on top of it all, it's a dumb girl!"
"Robert, Alex is a girl!!"
"But she's different! I don't want to go and see a baby! Worse, a baby girl!!"
"Robert," she said gently, "you had better learn right now that there will be many times that what you want to do and what you have to do, are not always the same thing. That's the way it is with growing up. Now let's go, Robert." She said firmly.
Still resisting, he asked, "Grandma, does my daddy have to do things he doesn't want to do?"
She looked at her grandson, who was beginning to look more and more like her son, Lee Crane, and answered him quietly, "Yes, Robert, he does. A lot of times. And some of the time it is easy and some of the time it is very, very hard. You'll have to talk to your daddy about it."
With a lot less resistance, Robert said "All right Gran, if my Daddy has to do things he doesn't want to, then I can too. Let's go and see this baby girl!"
Lee Crane stretched his long legs as he got out of his car at Chip Morton's home. He had missed the presence of his Exec and friend on this last mission. Thankfully it hadn't been a long one, and there hadn't been any of the usual challenges that the Seaview had a habit of facing. He was more than pleased with Bob O'Brien's work in the position of XO, but he still missed the easy camaraderie that he and Chip shared on and off the boat. Over the years, the friendship had deepened and sharing in the responsibilities of parenthood had broadened and enriched it further. Fatherhood! What an up and down experience that was! He often felt like he was a parent in name only, he spent so much time away from his son. His mother was doing fine whenever there was a mission and he was away, on the boat, but still...
Robert, at eight years old was becoming a handful for his grandmother! He was beginning to wonder about hiring someone to help her, but he would have to do that carefully, so as not to hurt his mother's feelings! Then he heard a familiar, demanding young voice shouting his name...
"Daddy...Daddy." Robert Crane ran down the street from his house to the front of the Morton's
and launched himself into his father's arms. He hugged Lee tightly. "I'm so glad you're home! I missed you!"
Lee ruffled his son's hair, fondly, after returning the hug, "I missed you too, Robert. Very much! Were you good for your Grandmother while I was on the boat?"
"Yes, sir.... At least I think so. You'd better ask Gran. She'll let you know."
Helen Crane finally caught up with her grandson and son. Lee leaned over and kissed his mother. "How are you, Mom?"
She laughed, a little out of breath from trying to catch up with the two men in her life. "I'm fine, Lee. Robert is keeping me very busy, but I love it!"
She linked her arm in his, and said, "I think that Chip and Matty are waiting for us, why don't we go in and then we can talk later!" Robert grabbed his father's hand and they walked to the front door of the Morton home. Alex Morton was standing in the doorway.
"Hi RC... I heard you! Hi, Uncle Lee, Nana Helen! Mommy and Daddy are in the den. After you see the baby, RC, so you want to come upstairs and play with me and Drew? We got some new toys when 'she' came home!'
Lee and Helen exchanged significant looks with one another. "The Green-eyed monster is at play here, wouldn't you say, Lee?"
He nodded, amused at the thought of jealousy on the part of the six - year old Alex. His Goddaughter was looking to be quite a beauty, even at six. She had her father's piercing blue eyes, with bits of her mother's turquoise color floating in them. She was a golden blonde, with long hair all the way to her waist. Matty refused to cut it, knowing full well that when Alex reached an age, it would all come off in a single cut! It gave the little girl an added air of maturity. Chip Morton would have a job keeping the boys away from 'his little girl'!
"Sweetheart, " Lee said to her, "why don't we wait until we've all met your little sister and then we'll decide if Robert can play with you and Drew."
She looked up at him, and tugged at his arm, 'Aw, c'mon, Uncle Lee! Let RC come upstairs as soon as possible. 'She' doesn't do anything! Just sleeps and eats and cries! She's really no fun at all!" He laughed heartedly.
"Well now, little Princess, I don't think that you like your new little sister!"
She pulled on Lee's sleeve until he bent down to let her whisper in his ear. "Shh, don't tell RC.... I really like her, Uncle Lee, but RC says he doesn't, and I don't want to make him feel bad 'cause he doesn't have a little brother or sister."
Lee felt a pang of guilt and sorrow in his heart. RC didn't have a brother or sister because his mother, Lee's wife had died six years ago and since then, Crane had built a wall around his heart, dedicating his life to his boat and his son, and not letting anyone in close enough to even try to start a new relationship... He didn't want one!! Didn't want to have that kind of hurt and pain again! And Robert was paying for it! He'd have to take a good long look at his personal life and maybe, just maybe...
They entered the den, and Chip jumped up off the couch, enfolding Helen in a warm hug. "We're glad that you could come over Helen..."He reached for Lee's hand, and shook it. "Welcome home, Skipper!" He turned his attention to his godson, "Well, RC, do you want to meet Catherine Elizabeth?"
As he had promised his grandmother, he was appropriately enthusiastic, "Sure Uncle Chip, where is she?"
"Over here, Robert, " Matty said softly. She held the bundle that lay in her arms out for him to see. He leaned over the baby, and tentatively reached to touch the tiny hand. At that moment, Catherine Elizabeth Morton opened her aqua blue eyes, curled her tiny hand around his finger, and captured eight -year old Robert's heart and soul. He was totally entranced by the baby. He
decided right then and there that he would be her protector. He would look out for her from now on! He looked at his Godfather, and his aunt, and shyly admitted, "She's kinda pretty, you know!"
Chip beamed at Lee's son. "We think so, RC.... Well, now that you've met her, why don't you go and play with Alex and Drew? They've been waiting for you all afternoon. Go, on...upstairs in the playroom."
Robert looked at his father, "Is that OK, Daddy?"
Lee gazed at him, and saw the reluctance in his face to leave the room. "Sure, its' OK, Robert. Go on! Have some fun!" Robert looked at the baby again and then left the room. Lee watched his son leave. He was beginning to show his father's height and leanness, and a certain grace of movement was developing, eclipsing the awkwardness of childhood. He was going to be a
handsome and graceful man!
Lee looked over at Chip and Matty, and grinned, "I know Alex was a heartbreaker from the moment she was born, but your Catherine seems to have charmed my son!"
Chip laughed, "She seems to have done that with everyone! The doctor and the nurses in the hospital, and the couple of crewmen that stopped by, since the boat docked, including the Chief! "
Lee grinned at his friend, "If she can charm that old salt of a Chief of ours, and my son, who hates all girls except Alex, and all babies, then she has the gift!"
"Will you two stop it! Charles Morton, you're talking about a baby only a few days old! And you Lee Crane are just as bad! Catherine is only an infant!"
Chip kissed his wife on the forehead, and teased, "But you've seen her in action, Matty! She's got all their hearts! Not to mention yours, mine, Lee's, the O.O.M's and everyone else's'!" Helen Crane chose to rise and pick up the infant at that moment.
"You know, she is simply charming and beautiful. A perfect baby! I remember when Robert was this small...." She looked at her son, who was watching her carefully..."You, my dear boy, were never this small! "Crane blushed red as his mother began to share a 'baby' story with the Morton's. He knew exactly which one she was about to share, and he excused himself as Helen launched into her rather embarrassing tale. "Why, when I was expecting Lee...."
He quietly went up the stairs to the children's playroom, drawn to the sound of the voices at play. He could hear Robert's voice above the others, but was puzzled by the sound of a fourth voice for a moment. He then realized that Sean Nelson was also in the playroom. He wondered it for a few seconds and then heard another, more familiar voice, much deeper and more resonant. The Admiral! Playing with The children in the playroom! Lee grinned widely and went to the door of the room.
Four youngsters crowded around Admiral Harriman Nelson. He was seated on the floor, his son in his lap, Drew and Alex Morton on his right, and Robert Crane leaning over his left side. The Admiral was intent on whatever was on the floor in front of them. He heard Crane in the doorway, looked up and smiled at the Captain.
"Hi Lee, I was wondering when you 'd be coming up. Robert, here, was full of questions, when he came upstairs, weren't you RC?" Nelson quirked an eyebrow at his Captain, and touched the boy's arm gently..."Something about adults doing what they have to and not always what they want to...anyway, I told him you'd have to answer that one! " He looked down at the floor, and moved his hands around the project again. He raised his hands with a flourish, and a
laugh." There, children...it's done!" He picked up the project, and Lee saw what it was that had the youngsters fascinated, a Lego model of the FS1!
"Can it fly?"
"No, it can't. It's only a toy!"
"Can you make it fly?"
"Sean, " Robert said to the four year old. "Your Daddy can make it fly, but not right now. He doesn't have the time right now! Besides he made the model for Drew and Alex. Yours is at home, remember?"
The four-year-old stared seriously at the older boy and then solemnly nodded. "That's right, RC...I forgot...My momma has it hanging in my room. It looks like its flying!"
2 year old Drew Morton pulled at the model in the Admiral's hands, "Mine!! I want!!!!"
Alex put an arm around the little one's shoulder...."Drew, The Admiral said it was yours, but you don't want to break it, do you." She looked at Robert, "Robert will take it from the Admiral and put it on the shelf, and then Daddy will hang it up for you, OK?"
Drew studied his sister for a minute and then said, "RC put on shelf!"
Robert put Sean's hand in his fathers, and took the large Lego model. Very carefully, Conscious of his father's scrutiny, he carried the model over to a high shelf. He realized that Alex wanted it up there so that Drew couldn't reach it and drop it! He also realized that he couldn't reach the shelf without help.
"Dad, could you help me?"
Lee met his son and lifted him so that he could put the model on The shelf, and then set him down on the floor. He looked up at his father, "Thanks, Dad."
Drew pulled on Crane's pant leg, and Lee bent down on one knee to talk to the two-year-old.
"Sanks, Unca Lee...Sanks RC too!"
Lee hugged him and smiled. "Its OK, Drew!"
He stood, and Nelson was straightening his tie and taking his son's hand.
"Sean and I have a dinner date with his mother. She's fixing Virginia Ham for dinner, and we," He hoisted the four year old to his shoulders, "don't want to be late! Lee, we have a meeting at 0830 on the boat?"
"Yes, sir. Several requests are pending, and we have to decide, which, when and how!"
The Admiral's eyes twinkled, "Why, the one's that will give the Seaview the most prestige, of course! " He laughed warmly. " C'mon Sean...Mom's got Dinner waiting." Nelson bounced down the stairs, and the little boy was squealing with glee, by the time that they reached the foyer. Chip was standing at the foot of the stairs, as the upstairs emptied quickly. Robert and Lee followed the Admiral, and the two little Morton's followed them.
When Drew saw Chip standing there, he jumped off the stairs into his father's arms and he sent him staggering back a step. He looked up into his father's face, and said "Hi, Daddy!"
The adults broke into laughter, and the children joined them. At that moment, the doorbell rang, and Chip, holding Drew under one arm, opened the door. Caitlin Davis stood in the doorway, gift in hand.
"Caitlin! How good of you to come over!"
She gave Chip a dazzling smile. "I really couldn't wait to see the baby. Mom told me that Matty and Catherine had come home today, and I took it upon myself to come and meet her! I heard through the grapevine that she's s real charmer!"
Chip laughed and drew her into the foyer; she leaned over to the little boy under his father's arm, "And I see that you have a wiggle worm under your arm!" She ruffled the little boy's hair, and he giggled..."Not worms...Drew!"
Caitlin turned her attention to Nelson and Crane. "Hi Lee, Hello, HN. Hope that the cruise was an uneventful one."
Nelson grunted" It went well, Caitlin… It went well."
Bending down, she greeted the two older children. "Hi RC, hi Alex…how are you guys?"
Robert and Alex said hello to the Admiral's stepdaughter and sometime baby-sitter. She looked up at Sean, sitting on his father's shoulders. "Sean, how's my favorite little brother?" She reached up tickled the little boy, who dissolved in laughter.
Robert pulled at his father and as Lee leaned over he whispered loudly, "Daddy, don't you think that Caitlin's pretty? I mean really pretty?"
Lee's face flamed and Caitlin just looked at the Seaview's Captain and smiled, first at him, and then at Robert. "Why thank you, Robert! Well, what do you think, Lee?"
Crane shifted uncomfortably. Unused to, and disliking being put on the spot, he cleared his throat, and said, "Yes, Robert… Caitlin is very pretty."
"Why, thank you, Lee! " Her eyes twinkled in delight. She was actually enjoying Lee's slight discomfort. She hoped that he would wake up a bit! She was getting a little annoyed at his seeming denseness to her interest. The adults began to laughter, and the children joined them.
Helen Crane, smiling, joined her son and grandson. She looked at Caitlin somewhat expectantly and the Cranes then left the Morton home. Helen reached down and asked her grandson, while watching her son at the same time. "There, now that wasn't so bad was it Robert?" she seemed to be asking the child, though' the question could have been directed at Lee as well!
"No, Gran, it wasn't. Actually, she is kinda pretty, for a baby and a girl that is!"
Helen smiled at the little boy, realizing he did not want to give into the idea that she may have been entirely right! 'So much like Lee! Stubborn! And not willing to give in a bit! So much like Lee!'
Lee watched the interplay between his mother and his son, and asked her, "What's that all about?"
"A conversation that Robert and I had, before we came Chip and Matty's. He has a few questions that I couldn't answer." She rested a hand on her son's arm, "Why don't you and Robert take a ride in you car, and I'll walk back to the house. By the time the two of you return, I'll have dinner ready. It's beautiful weather!"
Lee took his son's hand, and kissed Helen on the forehead. Looking down at Robert, he said, "Well, Robert, your grandmother's suggestion sounds like a good one. What do you say... Shall we go for a ride? Have a man to man talk?"
"Yes, Daddy. I'd like that!" There was a shyness and reserve in his son that occurred each time he returned from a cruise, and it took a while for the two of them to get readjusted.
"To the beach, Robert?"
"Yes, dad. To the beach!"
Lee opened the door and his son slid into the seat of the bright red sports car. The Cobra was almost ten years old, but Lee didn't intend to part with it. He thoroughly enjoyed driving it, and loved the rare opportunities to 'open it up' on a deserted stretch of highway. Robert also enjoyed the chances he had to ride in it. When he was with his father in this car, he felt very grown up!
Lee fastened the seat belt on his son, and then got behind the wheel and after fastening his belt, put the car into gear and roared out of Officer's Row to a very special beach....
Lee Crane and his son, Robert walked along the beach. The two of them were barefoot, and they walked at the edge of the water. It was just below the guest cottages at the Institute. In another time and place, it had been Lee and Cathy Crane's 'special place', the place they came to when they were courting, and during their brief marriage. They had made their decision to
marry here, made their plans here, and brought Robert here shortly after he'd been born, to introduce him to the sea, that was at the heart of their lives and work. After Cathy died, Lee had come here to try to say good bye to her and to gather the courage that he needed to go on.
He often brought Robert here, in the last few years to talk to him and let him know how special this place was to him. The two of them spent hours just sitting and staring at the sea, and talking together as Robert got older.
Lee was often amazed at the depth of perception of the eight year old, and he often wondered if it was because Robert spent so much of his time with adults, in particular, Harriman Nelson. Whenever they were home, Robert found many ways to spend time with the Admiral. He had an intense interest in science, and Nelson had happily fostered it, encouraging Robert in his pursuits. Lee was a little surprised at this aspect of his son's personality. At Robert's age, boats and ships and the sea had fascinated Lee. Robert seemed to love the sea, but his interests were more into Marine life, than ships and boats.
Harry Nelson would foster that! As Lee and his son made their way to the rock outcropping that they often sat on, Robert slid his hand into his fathers' in the warm, easy way of fathers and sons. They reached their favorite perch, and sat in amiable silence. Lee waited for Robert to ask the questions that he had been keeping, and he didn't have to wait long.
Robert Crane looked at his father. He admired and loved him very much! He also was very afraid every time the Seaview left the Institute. Robert was old enough to hear and see the things going on around him, and he had learned that his father was also a very brave and famous man. But as with all children, he thought that his father only did what he wanted to do not what he had to do. The realization this afternoon had caused him to wonder and he had to ask his father about it.
"Gran said today that grownups do a lot of things that they don't want to do, but that they have to do!"
"That's right, we do."
"You mean that the Admiral can tell you to do something that you don't want to, but because he's in charge, you have to do it?"
"Only sometimes...sometimes we discuss the orders he gives, and sometimes he changes his mind, and sometimes, I do say 'no'."
"You say 'no' to the Admiral, Daddy?" He asked incredulously.
Lee smiled, "At times, Robert. If what he wants done isn't the 'right' thing to do."
"The 'right' thing, Daddy?"
"Yes, Robert. The 'right' thing. Not fair, 'right'."
"I don't understand, Daddy."
Lee reached over and pulled his son into his lap, and wrapped his arms around him. "Let me try and explain it to you... Most of the time when people say something isn't fair, they mean that they don't like it because they don't get what they want. When we say the right thing, it means that it is what is best for everyone, not just one or two people....
“Once, before you were born, the Seaview was in an accident and it sunk. We all had to leave the boat on the bottom. We were told that she wouldn't be raised. The Admiral was very upset, but I didn't think that it was the right thing to do, so I went to Washington and talked to everyone from the Admiral's bosses to the President. I told them it wasn't right, because of all that the Admiral had done for the country and the President. It wasn't right because the Admiral was a great man, and he had given the country a great deal and the boat was a very important part of the Admiral and the Institute. I told them that the right thing to do would be to raise the boat and repair her, because the country and the Navy and the government owed it to him for all that he'd done.
“The Admiral didn't know that I was doing this and when Admiral Stark called him and congratulated him on getting the Seaview back in action, he was more than surprised. It was something that had to be done, because it was the right thing… Not just for the Admiral, but for the crew and everyone that worked on the dock, and on the boat and at the Institute. It was the 'right thing' to do. But at the time it took a lot of hard work, and it was something I didn't want to do, but I had to do, for the Admiral and everyone else."
"Like today, when I didn't want to go see the baby, but Gran said that I had to?"
"Yes, that's right. It was the right thing to do because Chip and Matty are our friends and Chip is your Godfather. We owe them a great deal. They are very happy about the new baby, and we should be too, " He squeezed the little boy tighter, "even…if we don't like babies, and girls."
"Babies aren't so bad, Daddy…and Catherine Elizabeth is kinda pretty, for a baby girl!" He said shyly, "I think she needs someone to make sure that she's always ok!"
"You want to be her protector, do you?"
He nodded his head solemnly.
"Well, every girl needs a knight in shining armor, Robert, and I guess that little Lady Catherine now has hers!"
"I think Caitlin is kinda pretty too, for a girl. I like her a lot. She likes you, too, Daddy. Maybe you could be her knight in shining armor?… That would make her Lady Caitlin, wouldn't it?"
Lee looked at his son, so like his mother, Cathy, in so many ways. Maybe it was time to look beyond his own needs and look to his son's. Caitlin had kissed him after Nelson' and Karen's wedding…She had dropped hints…some of them not too subtle. Maybe….
"Tell me more about 'the right thing' to do." And the little boy snuggled down into his father's arms to listen. Lee was thoughtful for a moment.
Then he said to Robert, "Well, there’s another example that I can give you of the 'right thing', Robert. And maybe it’ll help you understand it better. Before the Admiral and Karen were married, something happened on the boat, and Karen was very badly hurt. The Admiral was very worried about her, and she had to have an operation. She was okay, but when she was better, she became very scared of diving again. "
Robert looked at his father, and questioned…"Aunt Karen, scared?"
"Yes. What had happened to her was very, very frightening. And she didn't want to or couldn't go back into the water. She was in charge of our dive team, and the team had a mission. The Admiral had to do the right thing for the team. They had to get into the water and continue the mission. If Karen couldn't lead them, then the Admiral would have to remove her from the team. That was the right thing for the team and the mission, but the Admiral loved Karen and didn't want to hurt her. He didn't want to remove her but he had to. They had an argument, and Admiral Nelson removed Karen from the team. He didn't want to but he did what he had to do, the 'right thing' for the team. And the team had a successful mission, and eventually it all worked out."
Robert was quiet for a while and then said, "And the Admiral and Aunt Karen didn't stay angry very long, did they?"
Lee smiled a little at the remembrance of the time. "No they didn't. They each knew that the Admiral had done the right thing, even if it was something that he didn't want to do and Aunt Karen didn't want to have happen."
"Does it always hurt to do the right thing?"
"No. Many times it's an easy thing to do and it's a very good feeling. But there are times that it’s hard. And those times make you think about what is right and what you want to do."
"Daddy, did you ever not want to do the right thing?"
"Yes, there have been times. And I guess that there are times that I wondered why I do what is right, instead of what I want or what is easy. But I guess that I try to do he right thing because it is the only thing that I can justify what I do and why I do it."
"I don't think I understand it all, Daddy."
"Someday you will, Robert. Just know that there are times that we do what we want to do, and times we do what we have to do, but the only thing to do is the right thing."
Robert was quiet again for a while. Then he spoke to his father. "Daddy, from now on, I'm going to try to always do the right thing. But you're gonna have to help me, ok?"
"Ok, Robert. I promise I'll help you. As long as I'm able, I'll always help you do the right thing…."
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