“Well, well, so here you are, safe and sound,” John’s mother, Alma said, opening the screen door to let us into her sizeable house that was tucked into a large piece of property adjacent to John’s home. Alma acted as if we had been gone a month, when in fact it had been seven days.
My husband’s father, John Sr., sat in his favorite chair in the darkened living room, watching baseball. It was near the end of the season and he was zeroed in on the Los Angeles Angels. Stepping inside the house, I could hear his “goddammit,” as he urged them on to the playoffs.
My new father-in-law did not look up as he yelled over the television in our direction, “Yes, she’s been as worried as a cow about to drop her calf. She never let Johnny out of her sight until he was fifteen. What in the hell do you think she’s been like while he’s been in Hawaii?”
Alma poo-pooed his comment. “Oh, for heaven’s sake, dear! You know that isn’t so.” She reached up, grabbed my husband’s face with both of her hands, and kissed him on the mouth, leaving the mark of her vivid red lipstick. I stared at them for a moment and then looked down at the beige carpet feeling like the odd man out.
Perhaps she realized she left too visible a sign of her affection, because she reached up again to John’s face and wiped her lipstick off with her fingers. Then Alma smiled brightly at me. “Sit down and tell me how Mrs. John Stewart, Jr. is.”
“Me?” I asked, not really sure whom she was referring to because she spoke in the third person.
My new husband interrupted. “Yes, Veronica…Mama is asking how you are.”
What an odd way to frame a question, I thought. “I’m fine, Mrs. Stewart,” I said. “A little tired, the airline trip was long. I’m eager to see my children.”
“Oh, they’ve been fine! Deena (my husband’s 20-year-old daughter) brought them over a couple of times while you were gone. That oldest boy of yours sure is quiet,” my new mother-in-law said as she continued to stand lovingly by my husband and pat him on the chest.
I said nothing, but felt a rise of anxiety because my son George was never quiet. I had put my sons into the care of my new step-daughter because the school semester had begun while we were on Maui. That decision was done with much consideration and with the knowledge that I could now afford to call them every day from Hawaii. The only solace I could cling to at that moment of sudden unease was that my boys were but the length of half a football field from my in-law’s home and that they would be in my arms soon.
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