A few years ago I wrote a novel which I posted online on a separate blog which I have since deleted. I’ve been doing a major rewrite recently: the story has not changed substantially, but I’m hopeful that there’s been an improvement in the style of the writing. I’ll be putting the chapters up gradually. If you’ve read it before, let me know what you think of the changes (if you notice them!). If you haven’t read it before – well, I hope you enjoy it!
I picked up my mother’s letter at the post office on a Friday afternoon on the way home from the school where I worked as a teacher. It was a blustery prairie winter day, and I had made a concession to the stormy weather by driving to school that morning, rather than walking as I usually did. Amongst the bundle of bills and flyers in my mailbox I noticed my mother’s handwriting on an air mail envelope from England, and I thought nothing of it; she wrote to me regularly, and I tried to answer at least once a month.
My daughter Emma and I lived in a modest house on the edge of our small Saskatchewan town. I turned my truck into the back alley, gunned it through a couple of new snowdrifts and pulled in behind our garage. I had shoveled the walk to our back door that morning, but the snow had been blowing around while I was in school, and I could see I would have to do it again before the day was out. In the summer we had a sizeable vegetable garden in our back yard, but this was late January, and the ground was under two feet of snow.
There was a note in Emma’s handwriting waiting for me on the kitchen table:
‘I’ve put the lasagna in the oven, and I’ve just run down to the store for a few things. I’ll be back before it’s time to take it out. There’s fresh coffee. Love, Em’.
I turned and hung my coat up in the closet, poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down at the kitchen table. On the wall above me was a family photograph taken four years previously, while my wife Kelly was still alive. My eyes lingered on her picture, dwelling on the soft curve of her cheek, the sparkle in her grey eyes, the way her long hair fell on her shoulders. Thirteen-year old Emma, standing between us in the picture, was like a younger version of her mother, with the same blond hair, grey eyes and slightly upturned nose.
After a moment I took a sip of coffee, opened my mother’s letter, and spread it out on the table in front of me.
‘January 20th 2003.
‘I’m writing to let you know that your father is rather seriously ill. He has been diagnosed with lymphoma, and the doctor has said that he has two years at the most to live, probably less. I’m writing the evening after we received this news, so you will excuse me if I can’t at this point remember the exact medical details of the diagnosis.
‘Tom, I know that you and your father have had a difficult relationship for over twenty years. I want you to think very seriously about what it would mean to let that quarrel go to the grave with him. I know that he can be a very hard man to love, but I also know that deep in his heart he would want to be reconciled to his oldest son before he dies. He is a stubborn man; so are you. I hope the two of you can let go of your stubbornness and realize what’s most important.
‘I know that Emma will be finishing Grade 12 this year and she has plans for university. However, we do have universities in England, and if you could see your way to moving back here, even if only for a year or two, it would mean a great deal to me and, I know, to your father as well.
‘Think about it, my dear son. Give my love to my granddaughter, and keep lots for yourself as well.
I glanced at my watch; six hours’ difference meant that it would be eleven-thirty in England. It was too late to call now; it would have to wait until tomorrow.
I opened the back door and stepped out into our yard, my coffee steaming in the frigid air. I stood outside for a few minutes, breathing deeply and thinking about my father. Then I went back inside and called Joe Reimer.
Joe was Kelly’s older brother; he was our local vet, and he was also my closest friend in our little town. He was tall and wiry, with broad shoulders, graying blond hair and a crooked nose. We met that evening at the Meadowvale Beanery, a small coffee shop opened recently on the main street as an alternative to the various greasy spoon joints on the highway. It had wooden tables and chairs, shelves with bags of flavoured coffee and tea for sale, and paintings of old grain elevators on the walls. It had quickly become a popular spot with some of the younger people in town, although most of the older folk continued to favour the two local truck stops.
When Joe and I arrived that evening the place was about half full; we exchanged greetings and nods with the other customers as we waited at the counter for the owner, Brenda Nikkel, to pour our coffee into large brown earthenware mugs. We took our seats across from each other at a small corner table beside a window. Joe took a sip of his coffee, cradled it in his hands, and looked at me expectantly. “So, what’s on your mind?”
“I had a letter from my Mum today. My Dad’s been diagnosed with cancer”.
He raised an eyebrow in response. “She didn’t call you?”
“Mum’s funny that way; that sort of news needs the dignity of a letter”.
“I see. Is it bad?”
“Very bad. They’re giving him two years at the most, probably less”.
“I’m sorry, Tom”.
I hesitated for a moment, and then said, “It’s not as if he and I are especially close…”
“No, but he’s still your father”.
“Do you know how far along it is? Is he in pain, or losing weight, or that sort of stuff?”
“I haven’t talked to anyone else about it yet, so I don’t know. By the time I read my Mum’s letter it was too late to call England. I’ll call her in the morning and ask about that kind of stuff”.
“Might not hurt to call Becca, too”.
“Yes – that’s a good idea”. Becca was my younger sister; she was a medical doctor and lived not far from my parents.
He sat back in his chair and looked me in the eye. “So – how are you doing with this? Mixed feelings?”
“All over the map. Sorry for him, although God knows it’s hard for me to muster any amount of affection for him after all that’s passed between us”.
“But that just makes me feel guilty, too; he is my father, despite everything, and I ought to be able to feel something for him. I should have made more of an effort to build bridges with him”.
“He’s never been an easy father for you to love”.
“So, are you going to go for a visit?”
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about”. I paused for a moment, looked across at him, and said, “My mother wants me to come home”.
“For a visit?”
“No – she wants me to move back to England for the next couple of years, so that I can be close to my Dad”.
I saw the surprise flash across his face. “I see”, he replied.
“What do you think?”
“More importantly, what do you think?”
I shrugged; “I think it would be very difficult”.
“Well, Emma’s seventeen, and it’s not a good time for her to be moving to a foreign country. She’s already got her application in to go to Saskatoon in the Fall”.
“But it wouldn’t really be right to call it a ‘foreign country’, would it? You’re English, and Emma’s been to England before, and she likes it. In fact, she’s quite an Anglophile, I would say”.
I smiled; “I guess that’s right. Still, visiting is different from moving over there”.
“Have you talked to her about this?”
“Not yet; I wanted to discuss it with you first”.
“It’s what – six years since we were all over there?”
“Yeah, and you saw how tense things were between Dad and me”.
“I did, but that wasn’t the whole story, was it? You enjoyed being back in Oxfordshire, and you loved being with Becca, and Owen and his family. Emma had a pretty good time travelling around and seeing the sights, too”.
“But I only lasted a week at Mum and Dad’s, didn’t I? And anyway, Emma was only eleven then. Since then she’s gone through the death of her mother; that’s got to make it more difficult for her to adapt to new situations”.
He frowned; “But you wouldn’t plan to stay at your parents’ place anyway, would you? After all, there’s no guarantee you’d be able to get a job close by”.
“No guarantee I’d be able to get a job at all”.
“That’s true, although I’d think that a person with over twenty years’ teaching experience might prove quite employable”.
“The curriculum’s different; it would take me a long time to catch up”.
He laughed and said, “Are you purposely dragging out every possible difficulty for me, Tom?”
I shrugged my shoulders again; “Do you think I should go?”
He was silent again, drinking his coffee, tracing circles in the spilled water on the table between us.
“What reason could I possibly have for giving up everything that Em and I have here?” I asked.
He put his cup down, sat back in his seat and looked at me. “Well”, he said, “Let me put it this way: would you like your Dad to die while there’s still this unhealed rift between the two of you? If that were to happen, you might end up regretting it for the rest of your life”.
“My Dad doesn’t want any kind of relationship with me. He and I have never understood each other; I’ve never come up to his expectations, and he’s made no secret of what he thinks of me and my way of life”.
“Agreed. Nonetheless, things can change. An awareness of mortality can change them”.
“Never. That man’s the most stubborn human being ever born on God’s green earth”.
“A stubbornness he seems to have passed on to his son”.
The tension flickered suddenly between us, and I glared angrily at him. “Oh, no!” I said, shaking my head vigorously; “You will not accuse me of being my father’s son!”
He raised his eyebrows; “You are your father’s son, Tom; you might not like that fact, but you can’t undo it”.
“You know what I mean”.
“And you know what I mean, too”.
For a moment neither of us said anything; we continued to look at each other while the quiet coffee shop chatter went on around us. Eventually he picked up his mug, took another sip of coffee, put it down on the table again and said, “Look, please don’t think I want you and Em to leave. You and I have been friends for twenty years, Kelly was my sister, and our kids are like siblings. I sure don’t want any of that to end”.
“Neither do I”.
“But there’s a bigger picture here, isn’t there?” He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table between us. “Making things right with your Dad before he dies would be a pretty important thing to attempt, I think. And I would guess that you won’t be able to do that in a month’s holiday over there”.
“No – two years might not be long enough”.
“Well, that part’s not under your control, is it? But the way you act toward your Dad is under your control”.
It was my turn to look away; I drank some coffee, looking out of the window at the headlights of the cars and trucks cruising by on the main street. A few tables down from us, a woman’s laugh rose above the general hum of conversation. Joe was still silent, looking at me steadily.
“I’m not sure I can do it”, I said.
“It would be very hard, I know”.
“It’s not just my father, you know, although that’s bad enough. It’s the thought of leaving here. This is our home”.
“Of course it is. You have a lot of good friends and family here, and we’d all miss you very much if you left. But you have friends and family in England too, don’t you?”
“Yes, that’s true”, I admitted.
“Owen Foster’s your oldest friend. And then there’s Becca; she comes to visit every year, and you always enjoy each other’s company, and of course she and Emma have their own special thing going”.
“True enough”, I conceded; “I think you’ve made your point”.
“Actually, I haven’t quite finished making my point yet”.
I grinned; “You’ve got a lot to say for yourself this evening!”
He laughed softly. “I was just thinking about how you often talk fondly of England, despite your messy relationship with your Dad. You love the countryside and the sense of history; you love English literature. And a lot of your stories about growing up are good stories; you liked your home town, you enjoyed your schools and your time at Oxford, and your friendships there run very deep”.
“Well then, perhaps this doesn’t have to be as tough as you think; there might be all kinds of good things about it, too”.
I looked down at the table, my mind racing, and once again we were silent for a few minutes as I thought things through. Eventually I looked up again. “I guess the first thing I should do is go home and talk this over with Em”, I said.
“I think that would be a good idea”.
When I got back to our house Emma was curled up on the couch beside the fireplace, reading a book. The curtains were closed against the darkness of the night, and a standing lamp in the corner threw a soft light into the living room. I stood in the doorway and looked at my daughter for a minute, noticing the way her hair fell on her faded denim shirt, remembering the year I had met her mother. Then she turned and smiled at me. “Did you have a good visit with Uncle Joe?” she asked in her soft-spoken voice.
“Pretty good”. I hung my coat up in the closet, came into the living room and sat down in my easy chair across from her. “What are you reading?”
“Middlemarch. I really like it”.
“Me too; I wish I could use it as a set book. Eliot’s one of my favourite authors”.
“Yeah, I saw a few others by her on your shelf where I found this one; are they all this good?”
“Some of them are, anyway”.
“I’ll have to read the others, but I think this one’s going to keep me going for a while”.
“Yeah, they’re not short, are they?”
“That’s for sure! So, are you full of coffee?”
“I don’t think I’ll have any more tonight, if that’s what you mean”. I hesitated, looked across at her, and said, “Listen, I went out to talk to Joe about something specific, and now I need to talk to you about it too”.
“What is it, Dad?”
“How would you feel about putting your university plans on hold for a couple of years and moving to England with me?”
“To England?” she exclaimed; “Are you serious?”
She frowned; “Is something wrong?”
“Yes; I’ve had a letter from your Grandma. Grandpa’s very ill”.
“Yes, he’s got cancer, and the doctors are giving him two years to live, at the most”.
“What sort of cancer?”
“Lymphoma”. I got up from my chair, went out to the kitchen, and picked up the letter from the counter where I had left it. Coming back into the living room, I offered it to Emma; “Read it if you like”, I said.
She took the letter from me, and I watched as she read it. When she was done, she looked across at me with a thoughtful look on her face; “I wonder what Grandpa thinks of this idea?” she mused.
“That’s a very good question; I don’t know if Mum’s talked to him about it”.
“You’ve never really told me the story of this feud between the two of you, Dad”.
I shook my head slowly; “I’m not sure I’m ready to yet”.
“Okay. But it goes back a long time, doesn’t it?”
“Do you think it can be fixed?”
“I don’t honestly know, Em”.
“But you think it would be a good idea to try to fix it?”
“Well, I certainly think I ought to try, if I can. I must admit I don’t relish the thought, though”.
“Because of all the history?”
“Well, there’s that. But the whole idea of picking up and leaving, after all these years…”
“Yeah, that’s a little daunting, isn’t it?”
“What about you; how do you feel about it?”
She got up, went out to the kitchen, poured herself a glass of water, and then came back into the living room and sat down again. “Free board and lodging in England for two years, while you slave away as a teacher and I get to be a tourist?” she said with a grin; “I could live with that!”
She nodded; “Okay – but I was being at least partly serious, Dad”.
“So you’re not completely opposed to the idea?”
“Of course not; I totally understand where Grandma’s coming from, and if you wanted to go over there and you were willing to take me with you, there would definitely be things I’d enjoy about it. I like England and I’d love the chance to live there for an extended period of time. And now’s probably as good a time as any to think about it, too; I’m finishing Grade 12 but I haven’t started university yet”.
“There are universities in England, too”.
She raised an eyebrow; “Are we talking longer than two years now?”
I shrugged; “I wouldn’t think so; that’s how long his doctors give him, on the outside”.
“Have you talked to Becca?”
“Not yet; by the time I picked up the mail it was after midnight in the UK”.
“Of course”. She gave a little frown; “So you’d look for a job over there, would you, Dad?”
“A teaching job, yes – as close to the Oxford area as I could get. Not that it would be easy to move there; Oxford’s one of the most expensive places to live in England”.
“So you’d sell the house here and buy something over there?”
“Selling the house wouldn’t be my first choice, but I think I might have to do it”.
She shook her head; “I don’t think I’d like that”.
“I know, but it might be unavoidable”.
She gave me a sideways glance; “Are you sure you’re only thinking in terms of two years? Sounds to me like this might be a little more permanent than that”.
“I’m not intending it to be permanent, Em. That doesn’t mean that unforeseen circumstances might not surprise me”.
She nodded; “Okay, I understand”.
“So there’s got to be a down side, right, from your point of view?”
“Oh yeah”, she agreed. “Putting off my nursing training; leaving home and friends, leaving Jake and Jenna, and Michael and Rachel”.
“Especially since you were planning on boarding with Jake and Jenna in Saskatoon”. Jake and Jenna, Michael and Rachel were Emma’s cousins; Jake and Jenna were the children of Joe and his wife Ellie, and Michael and Rachel were the children of Kelly’s younger sister Krista and her husband Steve Janzen, who worked for Parks Canada in Prince Albert National Park.
Emma nodded thoughtfully; “That was the plan”, she agreed. “I’d be sorry to miss out on that”.
“I’d be sorry for you to miss out on it, too”.
For a few minutes she said nothing; she reread my mother’s letter, gave a little frown, and stared into the fireplace. Eventually she said, “I need to think about this some more, Dad”.
“I’m going to go to bed now, if that’s okay?”
I looked at my watch; it was just after nine o’clock. “A little early for you, isn’t it?”
She got to her feet, gave me a quick smile, and slipped off down the hall; after a moment I heard the click of her bedroom door closing behind her.
I understood immediately what was going on; some people deal with shocks and surprises by running for company, but Emma had always preferred to run for solitude. I knew I had to give her some space to work things out for herself. I sat quietly for a few minutes, then got up, picked up my guitar from the corner, and began to play some quiet instrumental tunes. I knew that my daughter would be sitting on her bed, thinking and writing and praying, and I probably wouldn’t see her now until the next morning.
The next day was a Saturday; I got up at around eight, showered and dressed and went for a two-mile walk as I usually did in the mornings. The storm had eased off, the eastern sky was just beginning to get light, and the temperature was hovering at around minus twenty.
Our town of Meadowvale was situated on a main highway about ninety miles northeast of Saskatoon. The highway ran just east of the town, with the railway line running parallel to it; that was where the concrete grain terminals and the gas stations and highway restaurants were located. Emma and I lived on the northwest corner of town; west of us, the street soon became a gravel highway running out into the country. A block east of our house, a narrow creek cut a gully across the town from north to south, before bending around to the east, flowing under bridges for the railway line and the highway, and emptying into Roberts Lake southeast of the community. I followed the trail along the river until it joined the highway, and then I came back into town on one of the main north-south avenues. Trucks were already beginning to move on the streets as people made their way to their favourite restaurants for their Saturday morning coffee. I had lived in Meadowvale for over twenty years and I knew all the drivers; most of them exchanged cheery waves with me as they passed me on the road, bundled up in my parka.
When I got back to the house I made a pot of tea and dropped a couple of slices of bread into the toaster. I was just spreading peanut butter on the toast when I heard Emma coming into the kitchen behind me. I put the knife down, turned and smiled at her. She was wearing her old bathrobe; she had not yet combed her hair, and the redness around her eyes told me that it had not been an easy night for her. I put my arms around her; we held each other tight for a long time, and I kissed her gently on the top of her head. “Good morning, Em”, I said.
“Good morning, Dad”.
“Want some toast?”
I poured tea into a mug and handed it to her. I pushed the plate of toast and peanut butter over to her, popped a couple more slices of bread into the toaster for myself, and sat down with her at the kitchen table. “You okay?” I asked.
“Not bad, especially, but I had a lot of thinking to do, and it kind of kept me awake”.
“Want to talk some more about it?”
She inclined her head a little, thought for a moment, and said, “After I have breakfast and take a shower”.
So we ate and drank quietly, chatting about nothing in particular; she had a second cup of tea, then excused herself and went off to take her shower. While she was in the bathroom I picked up the phone and called my mother in England.
“Hi, Mum”, I said when she answered the phone; “It’s me”.
“Hello, Tom; how are you?”
“Pretty good. I got your letter yesterday. How’s Dad?”
“Not very well today. He’s lying down for a rest right now”.
“He gets tired easily, I expect?”
“Very easily, yes”.
“Is he in pain?”
“Not a lot of pain, no. It’s mainly the tiredness, the dizziness, that sort of thing”.
“Is he in treatment yet?”
“Not yet; they’re still doing tests”.
“Can you tell me any more about his diagnosis?”
“Not really. As I told you in the letter, the cancer is in his lymph nodes, and it seems to have established itself all over his system. The specialist isn’t saying there’s no hope at all, but he’s saying the most likely scenario is eighteen to twenty-four months”.
“I see. I’m sorry, Mum; are you okay?”
I heard her hesitate for a moment before replying; “Well, your father’s dying, and I don’t like the fact. I know you know what that feels like”.
I felt the lines of sympathy flickering between us; “Yes, I do”, I said.
“Do you think you’ll be coming over?”
“I need to think about it a little more”, I replied. “Last night I broached the subject of moving with Emma, and while she had some hesitations about it, she was happy about some parts of it too. But of course, she’s already got her application in to Saskatoon, and by now it’s probably too late to apply to British universities for the Fall term; students coming from overseas usually have to get their applications in by the end of November”.
“Emma needs to take her time about this stuff, Mum, and to be honest, I do too. It would be a big step for us to sell our house over here and move back to England; the housing market is a lot more expensive and I’ve never taught in the English school system. I need to look into a few things and see what my chances might be; I’m not even sure if the UK is hiring teachers from overseas right now”.
“You sound as if you’re doubtful about the whole idea”.
“I wouldn’t say doubtful; I just don’t want to promise what I can’t deliver. I’m definitely going to look into it, and meanwhile, I’ll probably try to make a quick trip over during Spring break”.
“That would be nice; I’ll wait to hear from you about that. I’m sorry your father’s sleeping; it might have been good for you to talk to him”.
“Yes. Give him my best, please”.
“I will. Give my love to Emma”.
“Right”. I stopped, hesitated, and said, “I love you, Mum”.
She was quiet for a moment, and then I heard her whisper, “I love you, too, Tom. ‘Bye for now”.
Putting the telephone down, I stood up, went out to the kitchen and opened the blinds over the sink to let in the morning sunshine. I turned and looked at the photograph of Kelly, Emma, and me; I remembered that terrible last year of Kelly’s life, when she was fighting her own final battle with cancer, and I breathed a quick prayer for my mother.
Emma emerged a few minutes later, wearing jeans and a thick sweater, her hair still damp from the shower. “Do you want to go up to the recreation area and go snowshoeing?” she asked.
“Now. It looks like a nice morning out there”.
“Not ready to talk yet, eh?”
“More ready to walk; talking might follow”.
“Okay then; I’ll make a thermos of coffee, and you take the hair dryer to your hair. I don’t want you going out at minus twenty with your hair still wet”.
The sun was shining a dazzling light on the fresh snow as we drove out to Myers Lake Recreation Area, about seven miles from Meadowvale. Over the years our family had spent a lot of time there; Myers Lake itself was a great place for waterfowl in the summer time, and there were miles of walking trails snaking through the bush and along the shores of the lake. Emma enjoyed cross-country skiing very much, and in her early teens she had really taken to snowshoeing as well. I myself had been a bird watcher since my childhood, and in summer or in winter I enjoyed getting out of doors to see what I could see.
There were no other vehicles in the tiny parking lot when we arrived. We got out of the truck, and I pulled on a backpack holding a thermos flask, a couple of mugs, and some snacks to keep us going on the trail. By now it was about ten-thirty in the morning; the sky was still a clear and brilliant blue, and I guessed that the temperature had dipped a couple of degrees since earlier on. We lifted our snowshoes from the back of the truck and bent to strap them on. I slung my binoculars around my neck, grinned at my daughter, and said, “You lead the way”.
We stepped off the beaten trail as soon as we could, moving into the deeper snow close to the spruce and poplar trees, where the snowshoes could do their work. Emma loved to break trail like this; she led us out along the edge of the lake, stopping every few minutes to get her breath, look around, and decide which direction to take. We didn’t say very much to each other. I was keeping my eye out for winter birds, and sure enough, in the first hour I saw chickadees, a downy woodpecker, a little nuthatch, and of course several ravens soaring noisily in the sky above us. When I stopped to raise my binoculars to my eyes I didn’t bother to call out to Emma; I knew she was keeping an eye out for me as I followed her trail, and sooner or later she would stop and wait. I had a pretty good idea where she was going by now.
After about an hour we stopped at a place where a frozen creek snaked out from a stand of spruce trees into the lake. There was a picnic table partially hidden in the snow under the trees, and I saw Emma make her way over to it, clearing the snow from the top with her gloved hands. She smiled at me, her face red and glowing; “Coffee time?”
We took off our snowshoes and sat side by side on the top of the picnic table with our feet on the snow-covered bench. I took out our thermos and poured hot sweet coffee into the two plastic mugs; I handed one to Emma along with a granola bar, and took another bar for myself. We grinned contentedly at each other and sat in silence for a few minutes, sipping our coffee and chewing on our granola bars, our breath hanging in the cold air. I felt her lean towards me slightly until our shoulders touched.
“I think I’m ready to talk a little more now”, she said.
“Thanks for waiting, Dad”.
“So, you’d need to apply for jobs, and then interview for them?”
“I’m assuming I’d need to have some sort of interview, though I don’t know if it would be by phone or in person. But I’m thinking I should probably go over to the UK for spring break anyway, just to see how my Dad is doing, so that might be a good time to interview if that was possible”.
“What do you think your chances would be?”
“I’m really not sure, Em. I was talking to Grandma while you were in the shower, and I told her that I don’t even know whether UK schools are hiring from overseas right now. I’ve got a lot of research to do”.
“How’s Grandma doing?”
“Well, she’s upset, of course”.
“Any more word on Grandpa?”
“Not really; she said he’s tired and he gets dizzy, but he’s not in much pain”.
We were quiet for a few minutes, watching a raven soar over the trees on the other side of the creek. Then she said, “You’ve always mentioned that the cost of living is higher over there”.
“Yes, it is”.
“That would be hard for us if we had to buy a car, furniture, that sort of stuff”.
“Yes, and shipping furniture would be expensive, too. I’d hate to leave all our stuff behind and buy fresh, though; I’d like to have a few familiar things around us”.
“Me too. Can we afford this, Dad?”
“It would be tight, but I think we could manage it”.
“You’d be happy to see Owen and Lorraine again and live close to them, wouldn’t you?”
“I did a bit of research online about nursing training in the UK”.
“Ah, so that’s what you were doing in your room last night”.
“One of the things I was doing. Oxford Brookes University has a good program”.
“Pretty good. Pretty pricey, too”.
“That goes for all universities over there. Of course, a lot of students get good grants from local education authorities”.
“I probably wouldn’t get one of those”.
She gave me a sideways glance; “There’s a lot to think about, isn’t there, Dad?”
“And how about this reconciliation thing? Do you think it would work? Haven’t you tried to do something about it before?”
“Well, I don’t know if I can really say that I have. I wish I could say that, but if I’m honest, I’d have to admit that I’ve mostly avoided the issue”.
“So do you think moving over would work?”
“I really don’t know. All I can do is try, I guess”.
“What did Uncle Joe say when you talked to him?”
“He said he thought if I didn’t do it, I’d feel bad about it for the rest of my life”.
“And do you think he’s right?”
“I think he probably is, yes”.
She nodded, looking suddenly older than her seventeen years. “So I guess you have to decide whether what you want to do can be done in two years, right?”
“Right, and also whether it’s important enough to uproot you from your friends and family over here, and plunge you into a strange and very expensive education system”.
“I’d be too late now to apply to a British university in time for the Fall term, wouldn’t I?”
“I think you would, yes”.
“Okay, here’s a thought; would you consider leaving me in Saskatoon and moving to England by yourself?”
I had been afraid that she would suggest this, and my heart sank. I had been dreading the thought of her moving an hour and a half’s drive away to Saskatoon in the Fall. The thought of being separated from her by most of the North American continent and the breadth of the Atlantic Ocean was too overwhelming for me to even contemplate. However, I knew that it was a fair question.
“I suppose I’d have to be honest and say that I’d hate for that to happen”. I put my arm around her shoulders, hugged her a little closer, and said, “I’d miss you dreadfully. Still, you would have to decide whether or not that would be the best course of action. I think it would be more difficult for me to help you out if I was over in England. It’s that whole cost of living thing again”.
“Perhaps if I moved to England with you, I’d be able to do some tourist stuff in the Fall and then start university in January”.
“That’s possible. It’s also possible that you’d be able to find work for a while doing the same kind of thing you’ve been doing at the Lodge here”.
She was quiet for a moment, gazing out over the lake. Then she said, “Well, like I said last night, there are lots of good things about it. For me, it would be more of an adventure, and it wouldn’t have to be an irrevocable move. But for you, Dad…”
“You’d look for a job in Oxford, would you?”
“Well, the Oxford area, anyway – somewhere within striking distance of Northwood”.
“How soon do we have to make our minds up about this?”
“Well, if I’m going to get a job in the Fall, I should probably start making inquiries pretty soon”.
“But you can make inquiries without actually putting in applications, right?”
“For a little while, yes”.
“Can you give me a week? I need to think about this some more”.
“Okay; I can give you a week”.
“Jake’s back in town for twenty four hours this afternoon; can I talk to him and Jenna about this?”
“Sure. Actually, I’ll probably talk to Joe’s mom and dad about it as well”.
“Okay. Thanks, Dad”.
“For being patient with me”. She reached across and put her hand on mine; “This whole thing isn’t easy for you, is it?”
“No, it sure isn’t”.
“Are you going to call Becca?”
“Yes, I think I’ll do that as soon as we get home”.
“Good idea”. She slid off the table, stretched and straightened up. “I’m getting a little cold; I think we should move on”.