The son cooks for his father. The old man’s trailer. Yellowed windows. Flies caught on dangling strips. The son prepares meals for the week. The old man smokes and pages through the magazines the son has brought. The old man looks at the pictures, reads a caption or two, turns the page. The son makes shepherd’s pie and chili. Last week, turkey soup. A single meal eaten together, the rest refrigerated. As they eat, one of them will break the silence and share a memory. A house they rented along the railroad tracks, the locomotives’ shaking of windows and dishes. A creek where they fished for steelheads and walleyes, the late summer’s flow speckled with milkweed seeds. A mutt named Bo. The other man smiles. Yes, I remember. The son has forgiven his father for his drinking. Forgiven him for a childhood of chaos. This, to the son, is a miracle, a revelation born from last fall’s hospital visit. The father wrinkled and broken. Tubes to bring him oxygen and take his urine. The body the boy had once feared now shriveled beneath an ill-fitting gown. The son’s forgiveness unplanned, a reflex, and when the weight lifted, he was stunned by the lightness of his body. In the space where he’d once nurtured his hate there was now not love but an emptiness the son understood would be his to fill or ignore.
Later that evening, the son cooks with his daughter. On his clothes, the scent of his father’s cigarettes. The little girl on a chair, a spatula in hand and an apron that reaches her ankles. The countertop a mess, but he doesn’t scold her for the eggs she breaks or the flour she spills. Their kitchen so different, the sunlight and good smells. The girl talks, and he listens to it all, asking questions, feigning surprise. He won’t let his daughter see her grandfather, but he brings pictures to the old man and tells him stories. The girl’s fascination with creek-side frogs. The cat she dresses in dolls’ clothes. The old man smiles. This is so new for all of them.