Saturday, June 11, 2022

FAMILY MATTERS - Chapter 14

 





                           Chapter 14


“She’s what?”

“She’s gone,” Delaney repeated softly. 

It took me a few seconds to get past the sight of my granddaughter’s obvious discomfort. She was frightened....perhaps bracing herself for my reaction, expecting me to be mad as hell, maybe at her. 

A moment later, as I processed the impact of her hesitant report, I was reminding myself to stay calm. Hopefully I could learn what I wanted to know without upsetting the girl more than she already was. 

“What do you mean, she’s gone?” I asked.

“She left.”

“Where’d she go? When’s she coming back?”

“She didn’t say, Grandpa. She just drove off.” Delaney must have read the anxious questions that spread across my face.  “She took a suitcase,” she explained. “So I guess she was planning to stay for a while.”

If the girl was waiting for my response she would be waiting a while. By then I was having trouble finding anything coherent to say. Instead I walked to the kitchen and poured a cup of harsh, late- afternoon coffee.

“Can you believe that?” I grumbled as I returned to the family room. “Every morning for forty-some years I went off to work, hoping that someday the two of us would be able to have a life of our own, a chance to do what we wanted.” 

I looked up at Delaney, wondering what she must be thinking, hearing her grandfather going off like that. Still, I had more to say. 

“Now that we’re finally there," I continued. "We can’t even agree on what the heck that means. You’ve heard how she is. She won’t have anything to do with what I want. She just totally ignores it. And now what does she do? Why she packs her bag and leaves. Just hits the road. Is that silly, or what?”

I was in a thoroughly disorienting space, where the givens I normally relied on seemed out of reach. That was not so surprising, since the absence of my ultimate ‘given’ was at the heart of my distress. It was the kind of situation that normally had me turning to Nell for help. But now, instead of coming to my rescue, she was the one causing the problem. That in itself was hard to get my mind around.

Meanwhile Delaney seemed to stand aside, probably thankful that I was not yelling at her. Still, she must have been weighing the possibilities, like the one that prompted her next question. 

“Do you suppose you could call around to see where she is? She’s probably staying with a friend, someone she knows. Don’t you think?”

I was shaking my head, hoping my bemused granddaughter would understand my logic. “I’m not going to look for her,” I said. “Maybe I could find her. But that’s not the point. Your grandma and I have always been able to put our heads together and muddle through whatever came along. If she can’t do that this time, then I guess she’ll have to decide when she’s coming home, or if she’s coming home.”

If she’s coming home.” I watched as Delaney absorbed my words. For a moment I thought I saw her shivering. 

“But, what if she......?” she began, reaching up to brush a tear from her cheek as her question died in mid-sentence.

A second later I was at her side, resting my hand softly on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, sweetheart,” I said. “There’s no reason to be upsetting you with all this silliness of ours.”

With a finger I tilted her chin up, offering my smile, wanting to coax one from her. “I don’t know how all this is going to work out, but Grandma and I have walked through fire before. And we’ve always come out the other side. We’ll get through this, I promise.”

“But couldn’t you find her and bring her home?”

“Maybe. But it sounds like that has to happen in its own good time. Actually her own good time. I don’t know how to hurry that.” A moment later I turned our dour conversation in a new direction.

“I’ll tell you what,” I explained. “I don’t know if you can cook. I can guarantee that no one would to eat anything I fixed. And since our head cook seems to be on vacation, I think we ought to eat out tonight. Would that be okay with you?”

That was enough to win Delaney’s grinning acceptance. It seemed that she was surprised by my understated reaction to her Grandma’s desertion. Hopefully, she would not be too intimidated by the prospect of a quiet visit over dinner.


         ~~~


That night, after her first ‘fine dining’ restaurant meal in a very long time, Delaney retired to the basement. There, as she danced along to the pulsating sounds of her MTV videos, her uninhibited performance was interrupted by a knock on the apartment door.

With a playful scowl aimed at her music, her grandfather nodded toward the stairs. “You’re mother’s on the phone. Why don’t you take it in the kitchen.”

In a matter of seconds Delaney was perched on a breakfast-bar stool, phone to her ear. “Hi, Mom.”

“Hello, dear. What have you been up to?”

“Not much. Why are you calling tonight? Is something wrong? I just saw you yesterday. Remember?”

“Nothing’s wrong. But I had some news I wanted to share, so I’d thought I’d call. How was your day?”

“Kind of crazy. But I guess it ended okay. Grandpa and I went out to eat. We got just back a few minutes ago.”

“To a restaurant? That’s a surprise. When it comes to eating, Dad’s usually a homebody. He’s always said Mom’s cooking is the best in town.”

“Eating out was his idea,” Delaney said, suddenly aware that she was being backed into an all-too-familiar corner, about to become the bearer of bad news. There was no avoiding what came next. Better to get it over with. “Since there was just the two of us,” she continued. “We decided not to cook.”

“Did Mom have something else going on?”

For long seconds there was only silence. “Not really,” she finally answered. “The thing is, Grandma’s not here. She’s gone.”

“Gone where?”

The girl braced herself for another round of the same uncomfortable questions. “I don’t know. She wouldn’t say.”

“But why? I don’t understand.” Delaney heard the wondering concern in her mother’s voice. “Did they have another shouting match?”

“I don’t think so. At least I didn’t hear it. Maybe it was a carry over from yesterday....when we heard them yelling. 

"Anyway, Grandma was real quiet this morning. Like she wanted to get away before they went at it again. So while Grandpa was downtown, she packed a bag and left, She said she had some things to sort out.”

By then Kathy had checked out of their conversation, drawn away by her own questions. First there had been Gary’s unwelcome departure. Now her mother’s. What did it mean, having everyone leave like that? “How did Dad take that?” she finally asked.

“At first he was real mad. But then he turned kind of quiet. Didn’t say much of anything. Finally, after a while he just looked kind of sad. It must have hurt a lot, thinking that she’d do that.”

Sitting on the edge of her apartment bed Kathy switched the phone to her other ear, sensing her daughter’s unspoken wish to move on to something more upbeat. But how could she do that, given Delaney’s present state of mind? 

“So it’s just you and Dad,” she said. “Is that okay with you?”

“I think so,” the girl replied, wondering how her mother would react to what came next. “Besides, I’m going downtown on Thursday, to see what I’m told are the ‘highlights’ of Tanner.”

“Dad’s giving you the tour, eh? Showing you the sights. He’ll be a good guide. He knows all that stuff. Heck, he was around when most of it was built.”

“It’s not Grandpa,” Delaney said, hoping for a casual tone. “It’s Antonio.” By then she was giggling to herself, certain that she had her mother wondering.

“Antonio? The new friend Mom was talking about? Is that the one?”

“Yeah. He mows their lawn. Grandma thought he might be some sort of a geek. Remember? But we’ve talked a couple times. He seems nice. I think it’ll be okay. At least it’s a break in the boredom.”

“You just be careful. You hardly know him.” It was a hard thing, Kathy told herself, being a ‘telephone mother’....watching from afar, wanting the best for her daughter, while having to rely on her parent’s endorsement of young Antonio and Delaney’s good sense.

A moment later Delaney was moving on to her mother’s next dilemma. “Have you heard from Gary,” she asked.

“He called this afternoon. Actually, that’s why I was calling so soon.” The mention of his name had Kathy on her feet, pacing from one end of her cramped room to the other. “He was pretty excited. He thinks he has a job lined up.”

“Wow. That sounds like good news.”

“It’s a fellow he’s worked with before. He’d be doing exactly what he likes to do. So I guess we need to keep our fingers crossed.”

“I can’t tell if you’re hoping for or against,” Delaney said, trying to read the sound of her mother’s words. “Do you want that to happen or not?”

Again the line was silent. How could she answer her daughter’s question when she had yet to decide for herself? “I’m not sure.”

“You know,” Delaney said. “If he has a job, he’ll want you to go back.”

“I suppose so.”

“And if he does? What then?”

That stopped Kathy for an instant. Though she had yet to create her own answer, she wanted to hear her daughter’s thoughts on that possibility. “I don’t know,” she said. “How about you, honey? If you could vote on that, what would you say?”

Delaney was not ready to hear her mother’s question, and even less prepared to provide an answer of her own. A week earlier her vote would have been automatic. Now, things were not as clear cut.

“A part of me wants to go back,” she said. “But right now, to take off and leave Grandpa all alone probably wouldn’t be a good idea. I suppose I’d need some time to figure that out.”

“Me too,” Kathy replied. “I haven’t changed my mind, you know, about Tanner. I still think it’s the best place for us. But having us here, and Gary down there, that’s a bummer. Hopefully by this weekend we’ll know more. If I hear from Gary I’ll call .”

“Okay.”

“And in the meantime, you watch your step with that Antonio boy. You hear?”

“I hear.”



No comments:

Post a Comment