Since yesterday’s post, I have finished a book, run to the hardware store, painted a wall, made a few phone calls, played in the backyard, shared the plot lines of my work in progress, all the while thinking about the possibilities that abound in this space.
In this space, my desk is clean and everything is put away. In this space, there is no line at the hardware store. Customer service is polite and able to make an exception for me, just this once. The grey on the wall downstairs is my favorite. I’ve worked out all the kinks in my fantasy fiction. My dentist owes me money. My dogs watch–but do not bark at–the chipmunks below the deck.
And if any of these things are possible, then why not go all the way?
“It just seems that everything I touch today turns to shit,” I say, reaching for the mason jar of iced tea my mom hands me. She sits on the picnic bench across from me and soaks in the rays of sun that sprinkle through the leaves of the maple tree in the front yard.
“Yeah, some days are like that,” my dad says.
Yes, in this space, my dad is still here:
He sits in the chair next to me, his left leg propped at the ankle across his right knee. He holds his own glass of iced tea and lets his words hang in the air. He knows, as always, that one of us–me or Mom–will fill the space.
“First thing this morning, I called insurance to get our primary care docs switched from the ones they assigned us.” They both know what a pain it has been to have to switch insurance companies after work stopped contracting with our provider. They also both know we will not go back to the one we had, the one that is now the only option. A year into Dad’s retirement and neither one of them has to worry about these kinds of things anymore, so they just listen.
“I switched mine and tried to switch Micah’s, but the lady told me she couldn’t because he’s over eighteen. I tried to explain that I wasn’t actually changing his doctor at all, but rather just changing the incorrect information they had on file. ‘Ma’am, I don’t make the rules.’ she said. Ugh!” I take a sip of my tea.
“So Micah will have to call back for himself?” my mom asks.
My dad takes a drink from his tea. His gaze falls on the bees that buzz above the honeysuckle and then he spies a yellow jacket that flies above Mom’s head into the boards of the deck frame.
“I bet he’s got a nest above you,” he says and rises to swat the picnic pest from just above Mom’s hair. She leans over while he reaches between the rafters and pulls down the marble-sized hexagonal home and tosses it into the flowerbeds.
“I need to water,” Mom says, and they share a kiss before Dad sits back down.
“You were saying?”
“Then I went to the hardware store to get the paint for the basement,” I continue.
“What color did you decide on?” Mom asks.
“Chrome.” They both wait. “But I think I hate it. It looks like a cross between the concrete wall that used to be there and car primer.”
“That’s not so bad,” Dad says, trying to smooth this one out.
“Maybe. I decided I’d wait until I got home to decide. Except that I couldn’t finish because the cabinet we put in the corner broke when I tried to move it and so now it’s tipped against the corner and I can’t move it until Micah gets home. But I think I like the brown better anyways.”
“I always liked that brown,” Mom says. She sets her glass down, grabs the hose with the shower attachment, and starts watering the flowerbeds at the front of the deck.
“So you’re going to change it back to the first color?” Dad says with a smirk.
“Always a Mikkelsen,” Mom chimes in.
“Yeah, I guess. I should have known.”
“I thought you said you liked the color-picking process,” Dad asks.
“Yeah, I do. It’s like shoe shopping. But once I pick, I want it to be the right one.”
This time, he laughs. He looks at my mom, shakes his head, and drains the rest of his glass. “You gotta just keep at it until it’s what you want.”
“Yeah, I know. I just got overwhelmed. Because then I called the dentist…”
I continue on with the miseries of the day, an ordinary day that went just a little left of center. I spill it all and Mom and Dad simply listen. They offer a few words of encouragement from their years of experience and from their knowledge of how I work. They pass glances at each other and simply enjoy the company in the backyard.
Cam comes running out from inside. “Gram, can I have a snack?”
“You have to ask Mama.”
“No you don’t,” my dad says. “Come over here. I’ll give you a nice knuckle sandwich.”
“Papa.” She pleads with him.
He reaches over and grabs my girl, tickling her the way he has since she was a baby. This time, though, she can reach the space behind his collarbone, too. I grab the empty glass from the arm of the chair before arms and legs start flailing, and then the giggles erupt–hers and his–both caught between their teeth as they fend off each other’s attacks. They both come up for air, and he sets her back on two feet in front of his chair.
“Let’s go figure out this snack,” he says. They head inside together.
“You wanna stay for pizza?” Mom asks.
“Pizza on a Tuesday?” I gasp and put my hand to my chest. “Man, you guys are enjoying retirement. ” We laugh. “No, we’d better head home. I gotta see about this paint color. But maybe one day next week Micah could meet us over here and we could stay. Or you guys could come up.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Mom says, and she turns off the hose.
I release the latch on the backdoor; it closes behind us as we head inside, together.