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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Families

Thanksgiving: Kinds of Love
Martin Green

It rained the day before Thanksgiving. This worried us because our youngest son, Gene, who was 21, was driving from Berkeley to spend the holiday weekend with us in Sacramento. When he hadn’t arrived by ten PM we called but got only his answering machine. Gene arrived early the next morning and nonchalantly explained that he’d been running late, not unusual with him, hadn’t gotten to Sacramento until after midnight and had stayed overnight with one of his friends. He couldn’t understand why we’d been concerned.
Our two cats, Mickey and Binky, came out & investigated all the strange people in our house

Gene found a frozen pizza, put it in the microwave, then went into the family room to watch TV. My wife was busy in the kitchen preparing the turkey. I went back to what was now my room, formerly the bedroom of our oldest son, Ken, and sat before the computer to work on a short story I’d been writing.

I’d been retired from my state job (the reason we lived in Sacramento) for three years and had somehow gotten into doing free-lance pieces for our local newspaper. Now I’d started writing some short stories. The current one was called "Being in Love." I was trying to show what it was like being a young man in love, at least as I’d experienced it. I wanted to describe the obsession with the beloved, thinking that any young woman glimpsed in the street was her, imagining hearing her voice in a crowded restaurant. I wanted to convey the anxiety of waiting for her to return a phone call. Then there was the jealousy evoked by seeing her in the most innocent circumstances with another man. Above all, there was the realization beneath it all that it would eventually end, and, after it was over, the incredible pain, the knife twisted in the heart.

Gene looked in on me on his way to the bathroom. "At the computer again, huh, Dad?" I nodded. He continued on his way. None of my three sons had ever shown the slightest interest in anything I wrote.

Ken and his fiancé Pat arrived in the early afternoon, bringing a bottle of wine and a pumpkin pie Pat had baked. It was funny about Ken. In high school, he’d been our most rebellious son, cutting classes, doing drugs (we suspected) and all but flunking out. We’d managed to get him into our community college and then, after two years, he’d gone off to college in Chico with a beard and long hair coming down to his shoulders.

When, after four more years, Ken had finally graduated he’d returned to Sacramento, moved into an apartment with Pat, worked at a few temp jobs, now had what seemed like a secure permanent job, and he and Pat were to be married next spring.

Ken and Pat took their usual places on the living room sofa, side by side like the old married couple they really were after living together several years, and we asked if they’d heard from our middle son, Jack. They hadn’t. We talked some about the upcoming wedding. Even though it was still months away, Ken and Pat had started calling about a place to have it and many were expensive. I’d just as soon they eloped to Tahoe or Las Vegas but Pat wanted a nice wedding so that was out of the question.

At around four, Jack came with an attractive blonde girl he introduced as Alice. He said they’d gone out to brunch, then back to his apartment before coming over. Alice was quite a chatterbox. She wanted to know all about Ken and Pat’s wedding plans and about Gene’s major at Berkeley and she was amazed that I’d become a writer. She then spotted our family albums in a bookcase and soon she and Jack were looking through them, almost intertwined, and not so covertly doing what we used to call necking. It was likely, I thought, that they’d spent the night together.

With all three sons there, I called my parents in New York. My mother, who was 88, had recently had surgery and I wanted them to say hello to her. My father, who was 95, answered the phone. I asked him how my mother was doing. He said she was started to nag him so must be feeling better. This was what he always said about her. In the background, I could hear my mother saying that she never nagged him. Then she came on the phone and said that while she was in the hospital my father couldn’t do anything for himself. This is what she always said about him. They’d been married 70 years. Everyone took turns talking to my mother, so that was taken care of.

Our two cats, Mickey and Binky, came out and investigated all the strange people in our house. Alice made a big fuss over Mickey, our skittish cat, who ran behind the sofa. Binky sat in one of her customary spots, on top of the television set, and observed everybody.

After the usual big Thanksgiving dinner, my wife began to clean up the kitchen, While Pat went back to the living room, the talkative Alice surprisingly stayed in the kitchen to help out. Around nine, the two couples left and Gene went out to do something with his friends. I’d started a fire in the family room fireplace. My wife and I sat in our side-by-side Lazy-boy chairs, wrapped in our electric blankets, watching something on television. Binky sat on my wife’s lap and Mickey sat on the back of my chair. At eleven, we went to bed.

My wife liked to have her back scratched at night. After I did this, I kissed her and we each turned on our sides to go to sleep. On Monday, my wife went to her part-time job and I went back to my computer and finished the story, "Being in Love." I’d named the woman Julie, which was in fact her real name. After so many years, what difference did it make? But who would have thought that after all those years an echo of that long ago pain remained.

© Martin Green June 2009
The Loan
Martin Green
“Nick’s going to ask you for that loan.   I knew it when they announced those furloughs.”

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