Link back to Chapter 10
Through October and early November Emma and I gradually fell into a pattern of going out to Northwood at least one evening during the week to visit my parents. We usually went out for part of the weekend as well; if we went on Friday night we would stay until late afternoon or early evening on Saturday, and then go home so that we could attend Banbury Road Baptist Church the next morning. If we went out on Saturday morning we usually went to the village church Sunday, had lunch with my parents and then went home early in the afternoon so that I could finish my school preparations for the week ahead.
One weekend in mid-November we drove out to Northwood for supper on Friday night, intending to spend most of the weekend. Becca was on call but she was planning on joining us for supper on Saturday, and so was my Auntie Brenda. My father was getting over a mild stomach bug and was still feeling a little nauseated, so he went to bed early. I had brought some work out with me, so I asked my mother if she and Emma would excuse me for a couple of hours; “If I get this work done tonight I’ll be able to forget about school for the rest of the weekend”, I said, “or at least, ’til Sunday afternoon”.
“Of course” she replied; “Would you like to use your dad’s study?”
“Actually the kitchen table will be fine, if you don’t mind?”
“Not at all”.
So I sat in the kitchen for a couple of hours, marking assignments and then doing preparation work for the week ahead. In my early days as a teacher I had found marking tedious; reading thirty papers one after another, each one dealing with basically the same material, had a tendency to drag after a while. But gradually over the years I had come to see it as an opportunity to get inside the minds of my students; not all of them would let me in very far, but some did, and they gave me insights about themselves I would not have been able to discover in any other way.
When the marking was done I made a few general notes to cover with the classes the following week, and then did a little re-reading of some material I would be introducing to my Year Elevens on Monday. I was almost finished when my mother slipped her head around the door. “Can I come in?” she asked with a smile.
“Of course; I believe it’s your kitchen!”
“I’m just going to put the kettle on. Emma’s reading her book in the living room but she tells me she thinks you might be just about ready for a cup of hot chocolate”.
“She knows me well. I’m nearly finished here”.
“I hope I’m not interrupting?”
“No – I’ve got about five minutes to go, so by the time you boil the kettle I’ll be done”.
She came into the room, glancing at the files on the table in front of me. “I remember you talking with your brother about these long working evenings”.
“I’m used to it. Usually I’m at my desk for two hours at least two nights a week, but with this unfamiliar curriculum it’s more likely to be three. I try to keep my weekends free until Sunday afternoon but this week I got a little behind, so that’s why I’m playing catchup tonight. On Sunday afternoons I start work around three or four and I usually put in at least three hours”.
“It’s a time-consuming job”.
“True – but as Dad used to remind me frequently, the holidays are good”.
She went round to the kitchen sink and poured water into the kettle; “I’ll just put this on the stove to boil”, she said, “and then I’ll leave you alone for five more minutes”.
As usual I was awake early the next morning, and I went out for a solitary walk before anyone else was up. My mother was making tea by the time I got back; I took Emma a cup and then, as sometimes happened on a Saturday morning, I sat in her room with her while she was drinking it, talking with her about all kinds of things. After about half an hour she glanced at the clock beside her bed and said, “Well, I suppose Grandma’s waiting patiently to make us some breakfast”.
“What about Grandpa?”
“I haven’t seen him yet”.
“He’s starting chemo again soon, right?”
“Next week, if they think he’s well enough”.
“Do you think his stomach bug is chemo-related?”
“I doubt it; it’s been a couple of months since his last dose”.
“Well”, she said, swinging her legs out of the bed, “I’m heading for the shower. Tell Grandma I’ll be down in ten minutes”.
By mid-morning my father had still not appeared downstairs. My mother went up to see how he was feeling, and she came down a few minutes later to tell us that he sent his apologies and would probably not be joining us for morning coffee; he was still not feeling well enough to leave his room.
“So this is a little more than a mild stomach bug”, I said.
She shrugged; “It’s persistent, anyway”.
“Should we call a doctor?”
“I’ll wait ’til after Becca comes; if she thinks it’s more serious I’ll do whatever she suggests”.
Emma had been sitting quietly in the corner reading; now she closed her book and said, “Would you like me to make him a cup of herbal tea, Grandma? It’s a lot easier on the stomach. Do you have any in the house?”.
“I think there might be some chamomile somewhere in the kitchen. We very rarely drink it; I don’t know what he’ll think”.
Emma got to her feet; “Shall I put the kettle on?”
“Alright, then, I suppose there’s no harm in trying”.
They went out to the kitchen together. I sat in the living room alone for a while, sipping my morning coffee and enjoying the sunshine pouring in the windows. It was a fine late-autumn day outside, and the weather was beckoning me; I was already planning a long walk that afternoon. I glanced at the book Emma had been reading; since finishing Wendy’s introduction to George Eliot, she had begun to slowly work her way through Daniel Deronda.
After a few moments I heard the creak of the staircase as Emma and my mother made their way upstairs, and then for a long time all was quiet. I could hear the ticking of the grandfather clock out in the hallway, and back in the kitchen the faint sound of a radio playing classical music. Finally I heard footsteps coming down the stairs; my mother came back into the room, a smile on her face, and sat down beside me. She leaned over and poured herself a cup of coffee. “I know I’ve said this before”, she said, “but you’ve raised a wonderful girl there”.
“She’s charmed her way into Dad’s good graces again, has she?”
“He was surprised, of course, but she sat down beside the bed and asked him how he was feeling. The next thing I knew she was helping him sit up a bit and putting some pillows behind his back; then he started to drink the tea she’d poured for him and she started asking him questions about this and that, and now they’re chatting away like old cronies up there”.
I smiled and nodded; “I’ve seen that happen many times. She just seems to have a way with older people, especially when they’re feeling under the weather. Kelly was like that too”.
“Yes – she’s so very much like her mother, isn’t she?” She glanced at the book in my hand; “What are you reading?”
“It’s Emma’s book actually. She’s on a George Eliot track right now”. I told my mother about our discovery of Wendy’s book, and our meeting with her; to my surprise she remembered Wendy very clearly from our student days. “Yes – you and Owen brought her out here a couple of times; you played a concert for our music society one night, didn’t you?”
“We did – I’m surprised you remember!”
“I remember it very well. It wasn’t often I got the opportunity to hear you and Owen play after you went to university, and then when Wendy joined your group – well, I think that was the only time I heard the three of you together in a concert setting. She had a marvellous voice, didn’t she?”
“Yes she did”.
“Do you think you’ll be seeing much of her?”
“I’m not sure; she seems fairly busy”.
A few minutes later I heard Emma coming down the stairs. She came into the living room, put two empty cups on the coffee tray and said “Well, I think chamomile tea was a hit”.
My mother put her hand on Emma’s. “Thank you; you’ve brought a little bit of sunshine into his life this morning. I know he sometimes seems hard and unfeeling but he’s actually really very pleased that you’re here”.
“I know he is”, Emma replied.
Emma and I went out for a walk for a couple of hours after lunch. She enjoyed having me show her the country walks Owen and I had taken when we were teenagers and she especially liked the footpath along the bank of the Thames, which had become a standard part of our afternoon outings. Also, it had become customary for us to drop by for half an hour at the home of George and Eleanor Foster. Eleanor’s hip was giving her a lot of trouble but George often joined us for part of our walk; he had discovered that Emma enjoyed good books and he liked talking with her about her reading.
When we arrived back at my parents’ home later in the afternoon my father was sitting in the living room with my mother. In answer to our queries, he said that he was feeling a lot better, and perhaps there was something in chamomile tea that could be marketed to the National Health Service. Then, sitting in his easy chair by the fire, he looked across at Emma and said, “Speaking of the National Health Service, what’s happening about that little glitch you ran into when you were applying for your nursing training? Have you got it sorted out yet?”
“Yes and no”, she replied quietly. “They’ve admitted I don’t really fall into either of their usual categories, so they’ve agreed to let me begin nursing training next September after only a year’s residence in the UK instead of three. But they won’t waive their policy of not funding me until I’ve lived here for three years”.
“That won’t be a problem”, I added; “As I said, I’ve got the money to cover it”.
“Where will you be going for this training?” my father asked Emma.
“Oxford Brookes – the School of Health and Social Care is right in Marston and the teaching hospital is the JR”.
“So you’d be living at home?”
“Yeah – that’s one of the nice things about it”.
“And is this a degree program or some sort of diploma?”
“A degree; that’s what I want to do – or at least make a start on, depending on how long we stay here”.
He nodded his approval; “Very wise. Now tell me – exactly how much per year is this going to cost?”
“Dad, you don’t need to worry about this”, I cut in. “As I said, I can handle it, and the chances are that before too long Emma will be able to get a paying job too, so she can help”.
“Will you just answer my question, please? How much money are we talking about?”
I was determined not to let his insistent manner irritate me. “For an overseas student it’s around six thousand pounds a year”.
“Emma’s considered an overseas student, is she? Even though she’s a British citizen?”
“And that cost probably doesn’t include textbooks and other incidental expenses?”
“No, it’s just registration and tuition”.
“That’s a lot of money”. He turned to Emma; “I’d be glad to pay those fees for you”.
“Dad!” I exclaimed angrily; “Haven’t you been listening? I’ve got the money – we don’t need financial help!”
“But there must be many other things you could spend the money on; if you end up staying for a longer period of time you may want to buy a house, and the Oxford area’s very expensive. If I cover Emma’s fees you’ll be free to use your money on other things, won’t you? And why shouldn’t I do this for my granddaughter? Surely you’re not saying you don’t ever want me to give her anything?”
“Of course I’m not saying that”. I frowned; “Are you planning on doing this for Rick’s children too?”
“They probably won’t need it; Rick’s making a lot more money than you are”.
“Dad, I really would rather you let me handle this in my own way. I’ve got enough money to cover it”.
He eyed me in silence for a moment, his face hardening. I could feel myself reverting to my fifteen year old self, and I knew that if I wasn’t careful his overbearing manner would provoke me to lose my temper.
“I don’t understand this”, he said slowly and coldly. “I’m offering to pay Emma’s fees through her time at university. This will be a real help to her because she won’t have any financial worries through her nursing training. It will be a real help to you because you’ll be freed of the expense of her education and you’ll be able to use the money you’ve saved to get ahead in other ways. And it will be a benefit to me too, because I’ve hardly seen her at all for most of her life and I haven’t had the opportunity to do her any good. But you’re sitting there telling me you don’t want this help. I find it hard to attribute that attitude to anything other than unwillingness to accept anything from me, and I find that quite offensive”.
“You’re wrong”, I said quietly; “That’s not the reason”.
“As I keep telling you, I have plenty of money to cover Emma’s education, and at the moment I don’t really have any other pressing financial needs. We aren’t planning on staying here permanently so I don’t need to buy a house, and I can cover our monthly rent from my teacher’s salary with a little help from what I’m earning in rental income on our house back home. Emma and I are living simply – which is the way we’ve always lived – and we really don’t need a big infusion of cash right now”.
“Don’t be ridiculous. That car of yours won’t last very long – it’s already five years old – and anyway, I’m sure you’re going to want to make some trips over to Canada to see family and friends some time in the next couple of years, and those trips will need to be paid for. There isn’t a person alive whose daily living couldn’t be made more comfortable with a little more money. Why not let me cover Emma’s fees, at least? That way you’d have another six thousand a year as a cushion”.
I shook my head slowly. “I really don’t know what else to say. I don’t know how else to convince you that I’m fine and I don’t need your help”.
“But I’m not asking you to let me rescue you from financial difficulty; I’m asking you to let me give you a gift, so you can use some of your money on other things or save it for a rainy day. Why won’t you let me give you a gift?”
“Yes – honestly”.
“Because I know there will be strings attached”.
He looked at me coldly; “What do you mean?”
“I mean you’ll assume that providing the gift gives you the right to exert control over our lives, just like you tried to do when I was in university”.
“Don’t be ridiculous! How could I possibly exert control over you and Emma? You’re proving the absurdity of that remark right now!”
“You’ll find a way”.
He stared at me for a moment and I saw the anger in his eyes. “And you wonder why I find your attitude offensive”, he said.
“You say it’s a gift?”
“Then why aren’t you planning on giving the same gift to Rick’s children?”
“As I said, Rick’s in a much better financial position than you are”.
“Maybe so, although you don’t really know anything about the financial position I’m in. But Emma’s got some advantages too; for instance, her dad’s not a workaholic. I don’t spend all my time at work and when I’m home I’m not constantly answering work-related phone calls; Emma and I actually get time to do things together. That’s got to be worth something”.
“This is not about Rick’s busy life; that’s an entirely different subject”.
“Not really; this is about you comparing your two sons – the older son who refused to go along with your plan and went off to Canada to find his own way, and the younger son who dutifully went along with the path you had planned for him and who’s now very successful and very wealthy”.
“Well, you must admit there’s some truth in that – Rick’s financial position is very good and his children will have no worries when it comes to university. And as for you refusing to go along with my plan for your life – well, I still think you made a big mistake there. If you’d stayed in England and gone into Law, Emma would be a UK resident and the NHS would be covering her fees now, and you’d be a lot better off financially than you are”.
“If I’d stayed in England”, I replied softly, “Emma wouldn’t be Emma, because I would never have met her mother, and she wouldn’t have had all the benefits of being part of the Reimer family – one of them being that in that family I never once had this kind of argument”.
He shook his head slowly; “I see”, he said coldly; “I spent your high school years being unfavourably compared to George Foster, and now I’m going to have to sit here and listen to you telling me I don’t measure up to the saintly standard set by the Reimer family. Don’t forget – I paid every penny for your five years at Oxford, even though you refused to follow the career I wanted for you! I didn’t force you to do what I wanted, or refuse to fund your education unless you went along with my wishes; I paid for the whole thing. And I was able to do that because I worked hard in the job you never approved of. Lots of parents need to ask for government help to fund their children’s education, but thanks to the career I had chosen I didn’t need to ask for handouts like that. There wasn’t even any real need for you to work in your summer holidays – you insisted on doing so, but you didn’t need to. So I’m getting rather tired of you getting on your soapbox and criticizing me for my wealth without acknowledging your debt to that wealth. I find that attitude hypocritical in the extreme”.
“You’re calling me a hypocrite?”
“In this instance, yes”.
I could feel my heart pounding. “Well, perhaps I’m not such a wealthy man as you”, I retorted, “but at least I haven’t been too busy to spend time with Emma while she’s been growing up!”
Emma had been listening quietly, but now she spoke up. “Dad”, she said softly, “please stop”.
I turned to face her; “But…”
“I think you should both stop”, she said, looking from me to my father. “This has gone a lot further than my tuition fees, and honestly, if you’re going to go after each other like this, I’d rather not go to university at all”.
She shook her head. “I think you should tell him, Dad”.
“I would really rather not…”
“I know, but he’ll understand”.
“Tell me what?” my father asked.
Emma fixed me with her eyes. “Please, Dad”.
She reached out and put her hand on mine; “Then let me tell him”.
I looked at her in silence for a moment, and then I shook my head; “I’ll do it”.
“Do what?” my father demanded.
“Hush, Frank”, my mother said softly; “He’s about to tell you”.
I squeezed Emma’s hand and then sat back in my chair. “I don’t need any financial help from you, Dad”, I said. “I have a hundred thousand dollars, plus two years’ worth of interest, in a savings account for Emma. It came from Kelly’s life insurance policy. After her first bout with cancer back in 1986 she insisted on taking it out. She said it would be the smart thing to do, because…” I paused for a moment, feeling the sudden surge of emotion I had been dreading; “Because cancer sometimes recurs, and we had a child to think of”.
I saw the sudden understanding in his eyes. “Of course! I should have realized that! That’s exactly the kind of thing Kelly would have done”. He frowned thoughtfully for a moment, and then he said, “Well, that was very wise of her, but I still don’t see why you won’t let me pay Emma’s fees; then you could save that money and use it for something else in the future”.
“Oh, for God’s sake, Dad!” I cried, blinking back the sudden rush of tears; “Can’t you see that I could never live with myself if I used it for anything else? Don’t you get it, even now?”
“Oh Tom”, my mother breathed.
I wiped my eyes angrily with the back of my hand. “How could I possibly allow myself to benefit from Kelly’s death? Don’t you understand that I’d give up every penny I had, and far more besides, if I could only get her back? The only reason I haven’t given every cent of it away is that I know Kelly would never, ever want Emma to be deprived of a good education just because she’s not here any more to help me pay for it. But I can’t possibly use it for anything else; I just can’t”. I got to my feet quickly; “I’m sorry”, I said; “I need to…”
My mother reached out and put her hand on my arm. “Go”, she said quietly; “Take all the time you need”.
I nodded gratefully at her, and then turned and left the room.
About half an hour later I was sitting in the wing chair beside my bedroom window when I heard a quiet knock on the door.
“Who is it?” I asked.
“It’s me, Tommy”, Becca replied.
She slipped into the room, closed the door quietly behind her, and then came and knelt down on the floor beside me. “Hello there”, she said, sitting back on her heels.
“Hi; did you just get here?”
“I’ve been here for about ten minutes; Auntie Brenda came out with me. Are you okay?”
She put her hand on mine. “I heard what happened. Emma’s worried; she told me she was the one who suggested you tell Dad about the money”.
“And she was right. I should have told him a long time ago, but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it without breaking down – which is exactly what happened”. I looked at her; “Is he down there still?”
“Yes, but he’s not saying much”.
“I still don’t think he understands how I feel”.
She frowned; “I wouldn’t be so sure, Tommy. I’ll be surprised if he brings up the idea of paying Emma’s tuition fees again”.
“I do. It took him a bit longer to get there, but I think he’s there now”.
I gave a heavy sigh; “I hope so”.
She squeezed my hand. “Come on”, she said; “Every minute you spend up here by yourself makes it harder for you to come down. Mum’s made a pot of tea and she and Auntie Brenda are working on dinner; let’s go down and give them a hand”.
Emma and I drove back to our place early on Sunday morning to go to church. Later, when we were sitting at the table eating a light lunch, she was strangely quiet. Eventually I said, “Are you okay?”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m just thinking”.
“About anything in particular?”
She nodded, looking at me seriously. “Why do you and Grandpa have such a hard time getting along with each other? I sometimes think you really hate each other”.
“That would be a pretty strong word”.
She shrugged; “I’m just telling you what I see”.
“So – what’s it all about?”
“Well”, I said reluctantly, “that’s a big subject”.
“I thought it would be”.
“You want the whole story, do you?”
I looked down for a few minutes, collecting my thoughts; then I said, “Okay, but it’s not a pleasant story, Em”.
“I understand that”.
I took a sip of my coffee and looked down at the plate in front of me. After a moment I said, “I don’t remember him being around much when I was little; he was busy building up the law firm, and he worked long hours and often brought work home with him. He pretty much left the day-to-day upbringing of his children to my mum. I have no memories of walks or games with him when I was a kid”. I paused for a moment; “Are you really sure you want to hear this?”
“Yes; I want to understand”.
I nodded; “Okay. Well, despite his absences, he was the kind of father who likes to control his kids’ lives and likes to push them to go further and achieve more. Nothing was ever good enough for him; no matter how hard you tried he’d always be able to find things to criticize. He had a wicked temper too; when he got angry he’d say things he shouldn’t have said, really hurtful things, and I was a sensitive kid, although I did my best to hide it. And like I told you a while back, he had definite plans for me”.
“Becoming a lawyer and taking over his practice”.
“Yes”. I gave her a wry grin. “That’s how ‘the Great War’ began; that’s what Owen called it. It started when I was fifteen. I had known since my early teens that Dad was raising me to be a lawyer, but by then I’d met Owen and his dad and I’d begun to realize for the first time that maybe my relationship with my dad wasn’t a normal one. Owen’s dad was my first taste of what a father is meant to be like; he was the one who first inspired me to want to be a teacher, too.
“I told Dad when I was fifteen that I wanted to become a teacher and we fought about it for two years. He’d followed in his father’s footsteps, and he’d just assumed I’d do the same. He was determined to stop me from screwing up my life, and I was just as determined to do what I wanted to do.
“It all came to a head in my last year of high school. We had a spectacular shouting match that lasted for hours, but in the end Mum took my side, and Dad knew he was beaten. From then on he very rarely spoke to me. I studied in Oxford for five years and every day he drove into Oxford to work, but he never once came to see me or asked me out for a drink or made any attempt at all to contact me.
“But even though I hardly ever saw him I could still feel his disapproval. Whenever I went home for holidays the atmosphere in the house was ice cold. He made no secret of how he felt; he was paying the bills so he ought to have the right to tell me what I should be studying and what I should be doing with my life. In his eyes paying for my education was a claim on my future, and I was rejecting that claim. After I finished my three-year English degree he put the pressure on again; he said it wasn’t too late for me to change my mind and I could still transfer to Law.
“But I refused, and for a few months after I started working on my PGCE he was angry with me again. But then he changed tactics; he started to try to control my teacher training and my plans for the future. He criticized the schools I chose to go to for my practicums – especially the one I went to in south Oxford, because it was in a poor area of the city. And then he started looking at job advertisements for me. Once toward the end of my second year of training he even called a school on my behalf to try to arrange an interview. He had no sense at all of how inappropriate that was; when I challenged him on it he said he didn’t want me throwing my life away teaching in third-rate schools on council estates. That’s how far he was willing to go in trying to control my life”.
“And that’s one of the reasons you don’t want him to pay my fees – because you’re afraid he’ll try to control my life too?”
She put her hand on mine; “Oh, Dad”, she whispered.
I was quiet for a moment and then I said, “In the end I decided that the only way to be free of his interference was to leave the country. There was a student from Canada at our college and he told me about openings for teachers on the prairies. I made all the inquiries in secret, I applied for jobs and initiated the immigration procedure, all without telling Mum and Dad. I knew that once Dad found out he’d go ballistic.
“And I was right – he did”. I stopped talking, took a sip of my coffee and stared off into space. “I had lied to the whole family and told them I was going to get a job in Reading. Then a week before I was due to leave I told them the truth. We were all in the living room, including Rick and Becca; Becca was eleven at the time. I told Mum and Dad I had some news for them: I’d decided to move to Canada and I had a job at a school in Saskatchewan. Mum started to cry, Becca started to cry, and then Dad started to shout. He called me an idiot and a fool and a sneaking liar, and then he took his walking stick and attacked me with it”.
“Oh my God!”
“He struck me three times across my shoulders and twice across my lower back. Mum was crying and pleading with him to stop, but he didn’t, not until I managed to get out of the room and out of the house”.
I had avoided this scene in my memory for years, and as I was retelling it the raw anger was resurfacing. When I was able to continue I said, “So a week later I flew to Canada. I avoided home for that last week; I stayed at Owen’s. And as you know, since then I’ve only come to England a few times and dad has never been to Canada to visit – not for my wedding, and not even for your mum’s funeral”.
She looked at me for a moment without speaking, and then she squeezed my hand; “I don’t know what to say”.
“There isn’t really very much to say”.
She shook her head slowly; “You’re amazing, Dad”.
“Amazing? Where did that come from?”
“When you heard that he was dying you came over here anyway, despite all you’ve told me, and you’ve been doing your best to be patient with him. And you’ve been so different in the way you brought me up – so patient and gentle and loving. Where did you learn to be such a good father?”
“Sometimes I’m not sure I am”.
“Yeah, you are”. She frowned; “I remember you told me once that you and Auntie Becca had a quarrel when she was younger”.
“Yes; she felt really hurt because I hadn’t told her what I was going to do: in fact, I’d lied to her about it. I’d told her the same thing I told the others – that I was moving to Reading to take up a teaching job there. She felt like I’d betrayed her; she refused to read any of my letters for the next two years. It was the only time in our lives that there was ever anything like a breach between us”.
“What brought you back together?”
I smiled at her; “Your mum, of course”.
“We came to visit here two months before we got married. We attended Rick and Alyson’s wedding, and two weeks later Owen and Lorraine got married. But in between times we stayed at Northwood, and your mum was just herself; she spent time with Becca and listened to her and won her trust. And eventually she got Becca to talk to me, and we apologized to each other, and after that things got a lot better”.
“Auntie Becca’s in your wedding pictures”.
“Yes, your mum asked her while we were here if she’d be one of her bridesmaids. Becs was pretty excited”.
Emma leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. “I love you”, she said.
“I love you too, honey. Do you understand a little more about Grandpa and me now?”
“Would you like some more coffee?”
“You sit tight; I’ll make it”.
She got up, picked up our mugs and went across to the kitchen sink; she rinsed out the cafetière, and then filled up the kettle and plugged it in. I watched her for a moment, and then got up and went to stand beside her as she was taking the ground coffee down from the cupboard. “You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about this since yesterday, and I’m wondering if I’m not just being stubborn”.
She rinsed out the mugs, wiped them with a tea towel and stood them on the counter; “You think you should let Grandpa pay my fees?”
“I don’t know. What I said is still true; I honestly don’t know if I could bring myself to use your mum’s life insurance money for anything else”.
“But maybe I’m wrong about your grandpa’s motives. Maybe at seventy-two, with terminal cancer, he really doesn’t have the energy to try to control people’s lives any more. He certainly hasn’t shown any desire to control yours; quite the opposite, in fact”.
“What do you mean?”
I smiled at her; “Well, you have your mum’s way with you. I think he really likes you”.
She shrugged; “Maybe. I know he’s old and tired and he feels ill a lot of the time, and somewhere down inside there he must be scared, even if he won’t admit it. I try to keep that in mind when I’m with him”.
I bent and kissed her on the forehead. “Emma Dawn Masefield”, I said, “you are one special kid”.
She grinned at me; “You’re not bad yourself, Dad!”
“Do you have time for a walk after we have coffee, or do you have to get right down to work?”
“I have time; let’s wash the dishes up while the kettle’s boiling, and then we can have our coffee and go out for a while”.
Link to Chapter 12