If he was a girl, Susan was going to call him Joy. Since he was a boy, she called him Joseph. Susan waited a long time to have a child. She thought that her first child would probably be her last and if she had to choose, that only child would be a daughter.
Elijah tells Joseph that he loves him as he walks away. Joseph says he loves him too, but he does not look back. Joseph walks down the dark hall to his bedroom and Susan watches her son open the door and close it. More than my son; my life. How can I live without him, apart from him? I don’t know.
“Tomorrow will be good,” Elijah says, making sure that they are not too negative about his dad’s birthday. “Joseph will get to see his grandparents.”
Susan puffs air out of her nose. A laugh. She stares at the edge of the carpet before the kitchen floor. Elijah watches her from under the lampshade, with his chin resting on his fist. He is waiting for her to say something. If she looks at him, she will not be able to see his hair, only his forehead. It will make her laugh. But she does not look at him and she says nothing, so Elijah continues her thought, because they have talked about it before. “He never sees his grandparents. Do you think Mom even knows how old he is?” He makes a small laugh.
Susan shakes her head, “No, but how should I know?”
“You shouldn’t. She should. I did just think of something. This is not an accusation. I am guilty of it, too, if it is a problem. Do you think we are being fair when we don’t want them driving up here, but still want them to see Joseph? Isn’t it our fault? In a way?”
“Eli, what are you asking? Why are you pushing this?” Susan asks.
“We want them to see Joseph, but we don’t want them driving.”
“I don’t want them to see Joseph. I mean I do. I don’t care. But they could see Joseph every day and not have any relationship with him. I want them to want to see Joseph. I want them to make an effort to see him. I want Abraham to call on the phone and say that he hasn’t seen him in a long time and that he wants to. I want your mom to bring him up more often in conversations. I love your dad, but he has trouble showing affection. I don’t know…”
“No, you’re right. It’s just, I think that is an unfair thing to want – what I mean is, they are getting older and it is harder for them to drive places.” Elijah stops looking at Susan and they both look forward, their gazes meeting somewhere near the dining room table.
“Eli, you are not listening to me. I am not asking that they drive here. All I want is for them to express an interest in their grandson; more interest at least. We show interest in them and, you know, in relationships there is a back and forth. I don’t know. If they were more aware of things like that, they would be interested in our son. He’s all I – I mean all we – care about. If your dad wants to really know who we are and what we stand for, he should try to get to know his grandson. I don’t know who I am anymore outside Joseph. All I ever think about is Joseph and I want him to have a relationship with his grandparents, especially his grandpa. I don’t know.” Susan does not want to look at Elijah, because grandparents are a source of conflict for them. She does not like that Elijah brings it up so much. Why can’t he just let it go?
“They are interested in him, Dad just has trouble showing affection. His dad never showed him affection growing up. He never had a relationship with his grandpa – and neither did I. Even as his son, he had trouble. You know that Joseph is important to him and he loves him.”
“Did he ask specifically for me and Joseph to come to lunch with you?”
“Did he say that he wanted to go to lunch with the three or something?”
“He said he just wanted to spend time with the family.”
They say nothing.
“I think I’m going to bed. Anyway, tomorrow will be good. I’m glad they will get to see Joseph. It’s about time. How many questions do you think your dad is going to ask him?”
“Does it matter?”
Susan gets up and stands in front of Elijah. “Goodnight, Eli. I love you,” she says, leaning over to kiss him on the lips, “Tomorrow will be good.”
Abraham and Lucy W live hours outside the city. They live in a one-story house with blue metal siding. There is a concrete landing going up to the door where a flower pot sits. There is hardly enough room for both of them on the landing. They dance around each other when Abraham opens the front door and pushes the screen door open. Lucy buttons up her green wool coat. You can see her riding boots. She tucks her scarf into her coat while she looks down at the flower pot. Abe is just closing the screen door.
“What were those last summer?”
“Daisies,” she says.
“Are you going to replant them? I like that pot.” He bought it for her last spring.
“I don’t know. Maybe in a few weeks.”
Abe walks down the stairs before her, but she looks back at the living room window. She sees the reflection of the gray clouds between the glass panels.
“Shouldn’t we close the curtains? It’s still pretty cold out and you know the windows bring in a lot of cold.”
Abe turns around to see her standing on the landing in her riding boots.
“No, it’s really not that cold, dear. That’s just you.”
“Then for me, please?”
Abe sighs and walks up the stairs and goes inside. She stays on the landing and watches him draw the heavy curtains inside. He comes back out. She sees him in his brown overcoat and hat. He looks handsome.
“You’re sweet,” she says. She smiles and he kisses her, tilting his hat back.
“Oh, I know.”