That day, Abraham W turned sixty-three.
His son, Elijah, calls him the night before so that he and his wife and his son, Joseph, can sing him happy birthday. He also calls to ask him what he wants for his birthday. Abraham tells him that all he really wants to do is spend time with the family. Alright, how about lunch tomorrow, Dad? It’s on me, Elijah says. I think I can do that, Abraham says, as long as I can bring the misses? Elijah laughs. Yes, you can bring the misses, and I’ll bring my misses. Susan has work off tomorrow and Joseph can afford to take a day off of school. Abraham laughs. Oh, I’m sure he’ll mind that.
Elijah asks him where he wants to eat. Oh, how about someplace nice downtown? Show us your favorite place to take Susan? Are you sure? asks Eli. We can come to you, Dad. It’s your birthday, you don’t want to drive on your birthday. Seriously, we’ll come to you. No, Lu and I won’t mind the drive. I don’t get to drive all that often and I like to drive. Are you sure Dad? Yes, I’m serious. Eli doesn’t think Dad is a safe driver anymore. Why don’t you and Mom just meet as at our place and we can drive to the restaurant together? Dad laughs on the phone. What’s funny Dad? Oh, Mom is dancing in the kitchen. She is trying to get me off the phone. Ha! Hey Dad. What? What time should we expect you and Mom? Oh, I don’t know. When can you have us? Really, anytime. I don’t think I’m going into work tomorrow. Just come some time before noon. Oh, noon? Does noon work? Yes, noon works. I’ll see you at noon. Okay I love you. I love you, too.
Elijah sets his phone down and rubs his eyes. “Oh, Dad,” he says.
“What is it?” asks Susan from the kitchen doorway. She is rubbing her hands in a green dishrag. She smells the rag and makes a face.
“Dad. He is so hard to talk to on the phone. I don’t know what it is. He just talks so quiet and he gets distracted.”
Susan holds the rag at her side between two fingers. “Don’t let it annoy you.”
“It doesn’t annoy me at all! It’s just funny. He’s aging more quickly, I can tell. Like his mind is still there and he still has a good memory, but he is just a bit careless. No inhibitions, none at all.” Elijah draws both his legs under him, so that he sits cross-legged in the armchair. Susan throws the dishrag into the kitchen sink and comes into the living room to sit in the other armchair. She crosses her legs and folds her hands on her lap. She swings her left leg contentedly. Elijah turns on the lamp between them and they talk to each other under the lampshade.
“Maybe he’s just relaxed or finally at peace. He worked so hard for so long to provide for you guys and now that you provide for yourself and he can see that you are mature and responsible, he has nothing else to be anxious for. But I don’t know.”
“No, that’s good. I think you’re right.”
Susan holds back a smile by pursing her lips and looks into the kitchen at the sink under the fluorescent lights. She expects Joseph at any minute to come to the sink with a glass of water. They say nothing to each other. They are not thinking of anything to say, because they never feel the need to talk if there is nothing to figure out. If there is no problem, why talk? If there is nothing new, why talk? But there is something new and Elijah almost forgets to mention it.
“So, hey,” Elijah says, swinging his hand towards his wife. Joseph stands at the sink and puts a glass under the faucet. He is in his pajamas, a white t-shirt and flannel pants that he has outgrown. Susan turns her head to Elijah and gives him that look when something is wrong, big eyes. “Dad and Mom are going to be here sometime before noon tomorrow to meet us for lunch.”
Susan looks confused. “Is your dad driving?” Elijah nods his head with a slight smile. “Why didn’t you tell him that we could drive to them? I would have been more comfortable with that.”
“I did tell him that.”
Joseph finished his glass of water, but he is still standing at the sink with his hands in the sink.
“Joey, stop playing with the bubbles. It’s nine o’clock. You should get to bed.”
“I am going to bed,” he says. He looks at his mom and for a moment she sees her dad. Joseph inherited all the traits of his grandfather; pitch black hair and mute blue eyes. It would not be so shocking if Joseph’s father was not fair, she thinks.
“Okay, hun. Hey, before you go to bed, come here.” Joseph comes into the living room and leans himself in front of her chair, so that she can hug him. She brings him closer and pats him on the back of the neck. Joseph thinks it is an awkward angle and he wonders why he ever kissed Mom and Dad every night before bed. “Oh, my sweet little Joy,” Mom says, “I hope you never outgrow hugs.”