"It's great to see you! Come in," she said, greeting me at the door. She gave me a hug, pressed her forehead against mine, and held my hand as she led me into the house. Everything looked familiar in the afternoon light. Fresh flowers were on the table, portraits and art hung on the walls, and wood furniture glowed. "Thank you for coming to see me. I don't get many visitors these days, and, well," she enthused, then her voice drifted.
"Where is he? I'd like to say hi," I offered. She looked at me with a small smile, took my hand, and led me to the kitchen where I saw him seated at the dining table, looking out the window with his back to me. I let go of her hand and seated myself next to him and looked out, too. I turned to him.
"Hi, Dad, what's new?"
He turned his head, looked at me and smiled, and said, "Well, hello there. A nice day out, don't you think? I love watching the day. Birds and deer keep coming in so I need to keep watch." He peered at me. "Dad? you called me dad?"
"Yeah, hi, you're my dad." I put my hand on his shoulder and kissed him on the cheek. "Glad to see you're enjoying the day. Excuse me a moment?" I rose slowly and walked into the next room and looked out another window at the same view he was watching. I glanced across the open door and saw he resumed his gaze out the window.
"It was not easy, a while ago," she said, as she speared her salad greens, trying unsuccessfully to stack them on the fork. She put the fork down. A gentle warm breeze brought the scent of heavy lavender to our backyard table. "But that's because I kept expecting him to act as he was before," she hung quotes in the air with two fingers of both hands.
"I really didn't think you would stay. It was really difficult between you," I said quietly.
She looked at me with steady eyes. "There are always challenges. It's in how you treat them. I've learned that eventually things pass, and it's easier to let them pass. Don't have to forgive or forget, don't have to be a doormat, either. The best thing I learned to do was to be kind to myself. No one else was going to give me that space. I learned that over time."
"And yeah, I didn't think I would stay, either. I did not intend to." She paused and looked up at the window where he was likely looking out. "But it was clear that he was changing, and not for a good reason. So I stayed. He used to be out all the time, on demand," the quotes were hung in the air again. "But there are no more calls, no more errands out. They've gone, and frankly he's gone too, and yet he remains here." She looked calmly at me. "This is where part of him landed. I tend. And that's what I'm still doing."