It took half an hour of delving through store shelves before I found the perfect card. A young man on it looked out of focus in his cap and gown. He held a diploma. The caption read Son, know that I’m proud. Inside were words I could also have said: “I applaud you, especially for this accomplishment you’ve worked for. But there has never been a moment in your life when I haven’t felt proud to call you my son.”
I signed Love, Your Dad and mailed it.
Sometime around now Blake would be graduating. I hoped he’d like the card. I almost put in a hundred-dollar bill, but didn’t know how he’d accept money.
To count down the final days, I busy myself with the brick fence. I’ve been creating it behind my house for when Blake comes back from overseas with his great wife and their baby, Matthew, the only grandchild I’ll ever have. I’m making little crosses in the fence that Matthew will be able to put his little feet in while he enjoys the mysterious swamp beyond my yard.
I could work much quicker, but need to haul the bricks and mortar alone since the men who work for me are bricking a house. And my body tells me not to rush things. Of course that doctor told me not to lay bricks anymore since my heart attack, but it was a small one and quite awhile back. And he can’t see me behind my house anyway.
While I work, a thought of my deceased wife Ruth surfaces, making the past and present collide. She’s gone. Why do I still sense guilt about my feelings for Grace, that wonderful newcomer who made me come alive again?
With a jumble of thoughts, I work bricks, notice zydeco thumping next door, and try not to pay attention. There isn’t much time left, and the cross openings I’m fashioning slow me down.
Bea’s music squeaks, then quit playing. A dove calls. I’m pleased to hear nature instead of her music blaring.
“You’re working on the fence again?”
How long has she been standing there? “You quit playing your music?” I ask.
Looking sad, she nods. “I had it on loud. Then the stereo made terrible sounds and just stopped.”
“Probably blew out the speakers.” I spy envelopes in her hand. “The mailman came?”
Before she answers, I run past her. At my mailbox, I flip through trash mail and one bill.
I curse, return to the yard. Thank goodness, Bea left, apparently seeing he wasn’t in a mood to converse. Each day that passes makes the return of my family more urgent. The turmoil of my mind with Ruth, and the problems at work with the owners not pleased with bricks they chose all take a rear shelf in my life. Grace has noticed my impatience and says she understood, yet we haven’t spent as much time together these last few days.
What I’m waking up for now is to prepare for Blake and Gizelle. And a small boy named Matthew.
Blake wouldn’t have a job yet, but nurses are needed all over. I know places for rent and which ones are the best. They’ll probably need to rent for a while, Gizelle has mentioned, until they can save up for a place of their own.
I’ll offer them to stay with me, a little while if they want, or long term would be better.
Whatever time they spent with me is all right. Young couples need their privacy—their own spaces to grow, argue, and make love. Their child needs a yard to play in, and I have a big one. I’ll have Matt stay over often. I already asked Grace for advice. I fit a sliced brick into place, renewing her instructions in my mind.
“Everything will come naturally. They make you act like an idiot, and that’s fun.”
She gave other advice, like don’t let them suck on your chin if they’re teething, but Matt should be past that stage when I meet him. He’ll be about one.
I had no idea what to do with a wet diaper, so Grace used a paper towel on a stuffed bear to show me. It looked pretty easy.
I hadn’t diapered Blake. Hadn’t even played with him much when he was real small. Now I wish he had. But back then, I thought I was too busy with work.
Why hadn’t I taken more time for my child?
I unclench my fists. No wonder Blake resents me so much that his wife is writing to me about the baby, but no word from my own son.
Nothing I can do about what was undone back then. But I’ll do all I possibly can now.
What day, what time will they arrive? I need to see them—to see that grandchild.
My neighbor from across the road limps with his bad leg in my gravel driveway, bringing okra from their garden.
Pleased that I’ll have some for gumbo, I grab packs of shrimp for them.
“Oh, this was in my mailbox. It’s for you,” he says.
I rip the envelope open, smiling, and read aloud, “Dear Paw Paw Sam.”
My neighbor grins and goes on his way.
I’m sorry to tell you, I read, feeling the blood drain from my face.
** June is giving away a kindle copy of RED SKIES. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. Contest ends April 27. **
About Red Skies:
Outdoorsman Sam Halson’s life has little meaning ever since his wife died and their estranged son left south Louisiana and moved overseas. Discovering his son fathered a boy, Sam gains new purpose—to see the only grandchild he’ll ever have. But his uncompromising son thwarts every attempt.
To keep in touch with the growing child, Sam and the boy exchange letters that Sam and his daughter-in-law write. While Sam makes every effort to see the boy, exciting newcomer Grace Owens forces him to deal with the pleasures and guilt of new love. She and the boy’s mother become the strong women who strive to get their men to overcome past hurts through the child that could bind them all together—before it’s too late.
Meet the author
Southerner June Shaw is the author of a mystery series, including the books Relative Danger, Killer Cousins, and Deadly Reunion. She’s written the inspirational NORA 102 ½: A Lesson on Aging Well and a picture book How to Take Care of Your Pet Ghost. She represents Louisiana on the board of Mystery Writers of America’s Southwest Chapter and is the Published Author Liaison for Romance Writers of America’s South Louisiana Chapter. Learn more about June and her books at www.juneshaw.com.
Book is available at online retailers.