Are we all wondering: will she manage to catch up on the challenge? Do we have any bets? 😉
Trixie says that I enable Dad’s agoraphobia. “You can’t go shopping for him whenever he needs milk.”
She’s on her cell and I can hear the kids in the background playing one of those video games that coats the screen in red when you make a kill . . . or are killed. From her righteous tone, I suspect she’s already half-way done with her bottle of oaky chardonnay and probably ready to uncork the next.
“It’s much better to let him starve,” I mutter.
“Drama much, Sher?” she asks before immediately continuing her diatribe. “He needs to get back out there. Your going for him isn’t doing him any good whatsoever.”
As usual, my sister and I will agree to disagree. “Gotta go. I’ve got a sharp right into produce,” I say and then end the call.
I’m no where near produce. I am a liar. A lying liar and I don’t care.
Honey. Dad wants honey. And the song springs into my head: sugarpie, honeybunch, you know that I love you. I grip the bar of the grocery cart. I can see Dad and Mom dancing in the kitchen to that song, laughing as he twirls her around, her giggles like contagious tickles so that me and Trixie who are spying on them in our footsie pajamas adorned in frolicking penguins also giggle, but quietly because we don’t want this magical moment to ever end. And then “Strangers in the Night” follows, and they slow dance and I see how much they love each other and that one evening sets my standard for relationships.
Clover honey. Honey in a plastic bear. Raw honey. Local honey. I grab a jar of local honey and see that I am supporting local honeybee keepers. That sounds like a win-win.
In Dad’s driveway, I sit in my car for a moment. I see him at the window, crewcut, blue eyes sharp. You’d never know there was anything wrong. My dad who retired as a Marine Corps Colonel, medaled, honored, tough as a man can be, undone in a shopping mall.
I grab two of the paper bags and head to the front door. He’s waits until I am a foot away from the door before opening it.
“You got my honey?” he asks.
“Indeed. I’ve got two more bags. I’ll be right back.”
Dad’s never spoken about the details but a cop friend of mine said that he was holding mom’s body and wailing. He was covered in her blood splatter and murmuring that it should have been him, it should have been him. Seven other people were killed in that shooting at the mall but Dad survived because he bent down to tie his shoe and Trixie, who’d accompanied them, because she’d ducked into Cinnabon to yell at her husband on her cell and grab a snack.
I retrieve the last two bags and carry them into the kitchen. The kitchen where they danced, where holidays were made, where twelve weeks ago I sat at the cherrywood table and observed the downside of falling in love with a soulmate and decided it might be better to settle. Settle for someone you’d never love so much that if they died you would not be undone.
When I turn toward him, he’s staring at the tile flooring, nodding. I ask if he’s keeping up with his virtual therapy. He nods. Again. Suddenly he gazes into my eyes, and I know he wants to tell me something, maybe something important, but the moment disappears and he’s removing items from paper bags.
“Local honey,” he says as he removes the jar from the bag. “That sounds nice.”
I hug him and he pats me on the back. “If you need anything, call me.”
He smiles. It’s a shadow of my dad’s old smile. “I will.”
As I turn to leave, he grabs my arm. “Be careful out there.”
I squeeze his hand, give him a kiss on the cheek, and smile. “Always.”
And then I return home, dress in my khaki uniform, holster my firearm, and report to work. At some point during the afternoon, as the sun begins to set, and I’m driving around the blocks near the mall, I’ll remember the call about a barking dog I received that kept me from meeting Mom and Dad and Trixie, and I’ll wonder. What if.