It was late Wednesday morning when Kathy and Delaney helped Nell Padgett into her family-room recliner. With her mother home from the hospital and comfortably settled, Kathy turned to offer the first of several new house rules.
“You’re out of the meal making business for a while,” she told Nell. “The doctor said you have to take it easy.”
Draping an arm over Delaney’s shoulder, Kathy pulled her closer as she continued. “You were very lucky, Mom. As strokes go, it was apparently rather mild. And you got the medications you needed right away, which helped avoid any complications.”
“You’re right.” Nell’s wink was aimed at Delaney. “That’s because my guardian angel was looking after me. She and Antonio showed up at just the right time.”
“For sure,” Kathy nodded. “That was very important. But for now, you heard what Dr. Ryan said. Until you see him next week you have to rest and take your meds.”
Closing her eyes, Nell settled back, soaking up the warm, medication-induced weariness that had her wanting to doze off. Before that could happen the ‘practical’ Nell returned, picking up on Kathy’s instructions.
“I heard what he said,” Nell said. “And that may be okay for a few days. But then you’ll be going back to work, and Delaney will be starting school. That means I’ll be here to take care of the house.”
“And you can do that. But you have to take it slow. I’m sure Dr. Ryan will let you do more over time. But not right now. Not all at once.”
Nell leaned forward with a stern, scolding grin on her lips. “Well, I’m not about to have some hired housekeeper taking care of my home and cooking my meals. I don’t need someone playing nursemaid while I sit on my hands.”
“There you go again,” Kathy said. “You haven’t even come to that bridge and you’re already getting worked up about crossing it. Who knows, maybe you’re worrying about nothing. You never know what might turn up.”
Standing, Kathy left her vague encouragement hanging there, with no further explanation. She had not mentioned her father’s Tuesday night phone call, telling herself that he ought to be the one to spring that surprise. Besides, what if he was sidetracked by one of his silly adventures? In that case his overnight trip might turn into days. There was no need to set her mother up for another disappointment.
The jangle of the ringing telephone pulled Kathy from those thoughts. “Could you get that, Del?” she asked.
Stepping to her grandfather’s desk Delaney answered the call. A moment later she covered the phone with her hand to tell Kathy, “It’s for you. It’s Gary.”
“I’ll take it in the kitchen.” Kathy was already in the hallway, on her way to the back of the house. She had talked to him earlier that morning, when she called from the hospital to explain her mother’s medical situation. Why would he be calling again?
“Did you forget something?” she asked, taking the kitchen phone to the breakfast bar to sit on a high stool. “I didn’t expect to hear from you so soon.”
“Me neither.” For a few seconds there was only silence. When Gary returned to the conversation there was a new and stumbling hesitancy in his words. “But before I go there, how’s Nell doing? Have you brought her home?”
“Yeah. She’s here and she’s doing fine,” Kathy answered, pleased that he was asking. “Now, will you tell me why your calling again so soon?”
Gary’s idea, he preferred to call it an inspiration, was not entirely new. It had crossed his mind more than once in the last few weeks. The difference this time was Kathy’s early-morning call from the hospital. By the time he hung up the truth of their altered situation had finally registered.
No matter how vigorously Kathy had resisted his earlier requests, his dream of her and Delaney joining him had never died. From the day he returned to California that had been his notion of closure....the three of them in Los Angeles.
But now his lady’s mother was dealing with serious health issues, while her father traipsed all over the western United States. In the face of that reality the odds of luring her back to California were even slimmer than before. Clearly his dream of a happy California ending was in need of revision.
“Look, our talk this morning got me thinking,” he began. “I’ve known for a while that once I got up to speed on this new job, I could do most of the work from home. In fact, I’ve been doing some of that already. After all, it’s all done on my computer over the internet. ”
“So? What does that mean?”
“It means a couple things.” His unexpected laugh must have had her wondering. “Beginning with the obvious. It’s plain to see I’m not going to talk you into coming back to L.A..”
“I’ve told you that a hundred times. There’s nothing new about that.”
“I know. But all the same I was hoping. You can’t blame me for that.”
After one deep breath, then another, he was as ready as he would ever be. “The thing is, from now on if you’re going to a soccer game or anywhere else, I’d like to be the guy you’re going with. If, that is, I’m not too late for that.”
“I don’t want to be taking anything for granted. Maybe you’ve already decided you have a new soccer guy.”
“Don’t be silly. It’s just that......”
“Kathy,” he interrupted. “Please let me finish. Then you can say what you need to say. Okay?
“I talked this over with Stan, he’s my supervisor, just an hour or so ago. He likes my work. He especially likes that our clients are happy with what I’m doing for them.
"Bottom line, he doesn’t want to lose me. And he agrees that with some good online-meeting software I could do ninety-nine percent of that work from anywhere. I would probably need to spend a couple days a month down here, just to stay in the loop, but the rest of the time I could do it just as well from Tanner.”
“You could? You could live here, in Tanner?”
“That’s what I’m saying. I spend most of my time writing and testing software, and getting feedback from the client. Those people are all over the country, sometimes all over the world. It’s all done online. They don’t have any idea where I am, and they don’t care. There’s nothing magic about being in L.A., except to stay in touch with Stan and the rest of the staff.”
He paused, waiting for a reply, but heard only her muffled sobs. ”What is it, honey?” he asked. “Are you okay?”
Reaching to the end of the counter for a tissue, she daubed at her tear-stained cheeks. “Of course I’m okay? Actually, I’m better than okay. Why wouldn’t I be?”
Indeed, her rapid-fire mental inventory was hitting nothing but high points as she explained, “Mom’s home and doing well. That’s a blessing, especially when you consider how bad it could have been. And on top of that, though she doesn’t know it yet, Dad’s coming home today. He says he’s here to stay. At least he won’t be leaving again without her.”
Looking up, Kathy was grinning at the sight of Delaney peeking from around the hallway corner. “And then there’s Del.” She waved her daughter closer. “Near as I can tell she seems to be okay with Tanner. I think that may have something to do with the folks’ lawn mowing guy
“Not only that, I think she’s actually looking forward to school. I’m not sure what put her in that mood, but after a few weeks spent hiding downstairs I think she’s ready to venture back into the real world.”
Reaching an arm around Delaney’s waist, she pulled her against her shoulder, ready to let her daughter hear the latest news in an already eventful ‘good news’ day. “And now I’m hearing that my favorite computer guy wants us to be together again, in Tanner of all places.
“I can’t remember a day when everything went so right. All of a sudden Tanner feels like exactly the right place for us, all of us, to be.”