It was on a Tuesday in the spring that you came home to find your father sitting at your kitchen table. He was playing with the dog while Heather cooked dinner. Her back was turned, but she took a moment to give you a frantic glance.
“Dad, what are you doing here?”
“I was in the neighborhood.”
“So, you just happened to be in the city?”
“I live in the city.”
This made you drop all your things and pull up a chair facing him. “What do you mean?”
“I sold the house. I have an apartment on Wilson.”
“That’s a tough area.”
“It’s not so bad. I can afford it. Now I’m a lot closer to you. It only took two busses to get here.”
“What about your car?”
“It’s fine. Who drives in this town?”
“I do. I could have given you a lift. Why didn’t you tell me you were moving?”
“You have enough to do. Besides, I wanted to surprise you. So, I’ve been sitting here talking to your bride to be waiting for you to come home.”
“That’s great!” You are thrilled. Since your mother died you have wanted to reconnect with your father. You talk on the phone all the time, but it’s not the same as seeing someone face to face. “Heather, it looks like my dad is staying for dinner.”
“I know!” She chimes in, but there is stress in her voice. “I need to do some work in the bedroom while this cooks.”
After she leaves your father leans in and asks in a whisper, “Is she alright?”
“She hates the unexpected.”
“You two aren’t fighting are you?”
“No.” You reassure him. “Not really. I mean, no.”
“Good. I’ve been here an hour or so and barely gotten more than a couple words out of her at a time.”
“She can be like that sometimes. It’s not personal.”
“Hey, she knows what she’s doing in the kitchen. You have no idea how long it took your mother to figure out meatloaf. Don’t mess this up.”
The meal goes well and Heather begins to warm up to her guest. The three of you drink wine and the small talk flourishes. It’s when your father asks a serious question that things grind to a halt.
“I still have not gotten my wedding invitation. When exactly are you two tying the knot?”
Heather looks down to indicate it is a subject she doesn’t want to discuss, but it is something that has been bothering you so you wade in.
“I don’t know.” You direct your words at Heather. “Honey, when are we getting married? Or, are we going to be like one of those Hollywood couples who don’t need a piece of paper to prove our love?” You are trying to be funny and you spoke in a satirical way, but the answer is important to you.
She keeps looking at the table before her and says, “We need a house.”
You hadn’t heard this request before and you want some clarification, but your father interjects.
“A house! Of course, you need a house if you’re going to have children. Get married, move into your new house as newlyweds, and have children. That’s the way it’s supposed to be done.” He is happy with himself like he just solved a riddle.
Heather gets up from the table and says, “I need to clean up in here. Do you want to take care of Milo?”
“That’s a great idea!” Your father says as he slaps his hand on the table. You realize that he is a little bit tipsy. You had never seen him drunk before. You had often wondered if he was a happy drunk or a surly drunk. You are glad he’s the former and not the later. “Let’s take my grandson for a walk!”
Outside, the conversation returns to Heather.
“She got some cold feet, my son.”
“I suppose. She was fine with getting engaged and she already has the wedding completely planned out. She just won’t agree to a date.”
“Whatever you do, don’t force the issue. You can’t make up a woman’s mind for her. If you could you wouldn’t love her. Trust me. She’ll come around when it’s right for her.”
It is sage advice that you take to heart.
That night, as your father sleeps it off on the couch and you lie in bed next to Heather, you decide to smooth things over. “I’m sorry if I put you on the spot. I’m ready when you’re ready and we don’t have to rush into anything.”
“And, I’m sorry about my dad barging in here without any warning. It surprised me too. It’s so nice to see him.”
“I think he’s going to be coming around all the time now.”
“Are you alright with that?”
“I will be. Go to sleep.”
As you drift off you are enchanted with a feeling of closeness to your father that you never had as a child. Your family is whole again. You rest serenely. In the morning his blanket is folded on the couch and a note is on the coffee table thanking you and Heather for letting him stay the night. He got up and left for home before either of you two had awoken. All through breakfast you wanted him to come back.