Over the next few weeks spring came to Oxfordshire. The days lengthened, the rain showers did their part in greening up the grass and trees, and the spring bird migrations were in full force.
We continued to spend a lot of time with my mother. She gradually got into the habit of staying over a couple of nights each week at Becca’s flat in town, and Emma and I often hosted her for supper, along with Becca and Mike if they were free. I knew that my father’s death was hitting her hard; I spent as much time as I could with her, and she talked freely with me about her loneliness and sadness and general lack of energy. I was used to seeing her as the steady, unemotional member of our family, the one we relied on to hold things together and get things done; it was a new experience for me to see her openly struggling with depression and having difficulty with simple everyday tasks around the house.
Emma was a big help here. She realized what was happening, and as she had done with my father, she quickly moved into her familiar supporting role without any fanfare or fuss. At least once a week, when she wasn’t working and I was busy with marking and other schoolwork, she took the car and drove out to Northwood to spend the evening with her grandmother. When I asked her what they talked about together, her reply was almost identical to what she had said to me about her earlier conversations with Sarah: “We talk about everything, Dad”, she explained; “Actually, a lot of the time she talks, and I listen”.
About the decision she was struggling with herself, Emma said very little to me, although I knew she talked occasionally with Becca. She was well aware that the longer she waited to put in an application, the harder it would be to get into the University of Saskatchewan if she should decide to take that option. The anxious parent in me wanted to raise this issue with her, but I restrained myself; she knew about deadlines as well as I did.
I heard from Mickey several times. His calls always came late in the evening, sometimes after I had gone to bed; he never stayed on the phone for long, but his questions about Colin were persistent and relentless. What had he been doing? What had I been doing with him? Had he mentioned his father at all? What had Wendy and I been saying to him about his father? How long did I think it would be before Colin would want to see him again? I was honest in my replies; Colin rarely spoke about him, and on the few occasions when he did his words were not complimentary. Wendy and I tried to avoid any mention of Mickey around Colin, but when we were alone together we admitted to each other that we were worried about his new interest in his son.
On a Saturday morning in late May I drove over to Aylesbury with Alyson to bring Sarah home for good. Alyson was in the process of getting their home ready to be sold, but it was taking longer than she had hoped, and so for now Sarah was going to sleep in the spare bedroom on the ground floor. When we pulled into the driveway there was an enormous ‘Welcome Home Sarah!’ banner hung above the front door, and all the rest of our extended family, along with some of Sarah’s school friends, were inside ready to join in the celebration. My mother had baked a cake, and Emma had helped Eric and Anna decorate the house with streamers and more banners. We spent most of the day there, leaving in the late afternoon because Emma had to get ready to work a night shift and I had a date with my other daughter.
That evening I went with Lisa to hear a concert of choral music at the Sheldonian Theatre on Broad Street. The program included works by Palestrina, Gibbons, and Byrd; the unaccompanied voices sounded ethereal, and I could tell by the expression on Lisa’s face that the music was touching her deeply. I had always enjoyed Gibbons’ English compositions from the 16th century, but the Latin pieces by Byrd and Palestrina were new to me, and I had to concentrate hard at times to follow the intricate weavings of the melody lines.
When we emerged onto Broad Street at about nine-thirty we stood still for a moment outside the theatre, the crowd milling around us; Lisa slipped her hand into my arm and said, “Are you going to come back to the house for a cup of hot chocolate or something?”
When we arrived at the Howards’ Lisa let us in the front door with her key; stepping into the front hallway, she called out, “Anyone home?”
It was Colin who answered; he opened the living room door, and I saw immediately the expression of fear on his face. “Colin”, I said, “What…?”
“Dad’s here”, he whispered, “and he’s drunk”.
“Oh shit!” Lisa exclaimed; “Has Mum called the police?”
“No – he’s been threatening her”.
Lisa pulled out her mobile phone. “Is Mum all right?” she asked.
“Who’s that?” came Mickey’s drunken shout from the living room; “Why don’t you tell them to come in?”
Lisa keyed in in a number and brought her phone up to her ear; “I’ll go outside to call the police”, she whispered to me; “Can you go in and try to help Mum?”
Okay”, I said; “Maybe you’d be better to stay out there, Lisa”.
She shook her head as she slipped outside and closed the door quietly behind her. I put my hand on Colin’s shoulder and said, “Right; let’s go back in, then”.
Wendy was sitting on a hard backed chair by the dining table at the far end of the room;
Mickey was standing in front of the fireplace, his long grey hair untidy, his clothes creased and dirty. As I moved closer and held out my hand to him I could smell the stale whiskey on his breath. “I didn’t know you were coming to Oxford, Mickey”, I said quietly.
“You!” he exclaimed; “I thought you were supposed to help me meet Colin!”
“Colin wasn’t ready to meet you yet”, I replied; “I told you that the last time we talked”.
“Liar!” he cried, lurching a little as he stepped forward and grabbed my arm; “I told you not to get between me and my son!”
“Why don’t you sit down?” I replied, trying to keep my voice as even as possible; “We can talk about this over a cup of coffee. Is there any coffee, Wendy?”
“I can easily make some”, she replied, getting to her feet slowly.
“Sit down!” Mickey bawled at her; “I don’t want any coffee! I told you; I want to take my son home with me!” He tightened his grip on my arm and fixed me with his drunken stare; “Don’t you try to stop me, Tom!” he warned.
I heard the front door open and close, and a moment later Lisa slipped into the living room. “The police are on their way, Mum”, she said, moving over and putting her arm around Wendy’s shoulders; “They’ll be here in five minutes”.
“You bitch!” Mickey cried, and before I could stop him he had lifted his arm and slapped Lisa hard across the face. She cried out, her hands flying up to protect herself as he raised his hand to strike again, but I grabbed him from behind, grasping his outstretched arm. “Lisa, you and Colin get outside; you can wait for the police out there”, I said.
“Oh no you don’t!” Mickey cried, twisting in my grip with surprising speed. I saw his clenched fist too late to avoid it, and the next thing I knew I was staggering backwards from the impact of a punishing blow to my jaw. Mickey raised his fist to strike again, but I sidestepped him, and at the same moment Lisa and Wendy both grabbed him from behind. “Mickey, stop this!” Wendy cried; “This isn’t going to accomplish anything for you other than sending you back to jail”.
“Oh, you’d like that, wouldn’t you!” he retorted, twisting in their grip and wrenching himself free. “But I can get out of Britain, you know”, he said as he turned to face us again; “Colin and I can go away somewhere where you won’t be able to find us”.
“Dad, I’m not going anywhere with you”, Colin replied; “I don’t want to live with someone who gets drunk and attacks people”.
Mickey stared at him for a moment, then turned to look at me, lifting his finger accusingly at me. “I told you”, he said slowly, his speech slurred, “not to turn him against me”.
“You’re doing a pretty good job of it right now”, I replied. “Mickey, why don’t we all sit down and calm down and talk about this quietly? This confrontation is getting us nowhere, and it certainly isn’t helping you get what you want”.
“Sit down until the police come, you mean?” He shook his head, a sinister smile playing around his lips. “I’m not such a fool; I don’t think the police or the courts are going to give me what I want”. He looked from me to Lisa, then to Wendy, and finally his gaze rested on Colin, standing by the open door to the front hallway. I saw the fear in Colin’s eyes, and was opening my mouth to speak when suddenly Mickey darted across the room and grabbed his son’s arm. “Come on, Colin!” he yelled; “we’re getting out of here!”
“No!” Wendy screamed, and the next moment she had flung herself on Mickey, her hands pulling at his, trying desperately to free Colin. Colin was fighting too, yelling and pulling against his father’s grip, and after a moment’s desperate struggle he succeeded; Mickey fell back against one of the easy chairs by the fireplace, and Wendy pushed Colin toward the open doorway. “Get outside and wait for the police!” she cried.
“I’m not leaving you in here with him”, he replied; “He can’t take on all four of us”.
Mickey was getting to his feet slowly, and I saw the drunken rage on his face. “Can’t take on all four of you?” he repeated, thrusting his hand into his pocket; “Let’s see what you say about this!” As his hand came up from his pocket again I heard the click, and as the light flashed on the polished steel I realized that he was holding a switchblade.
I heard Wendy catch her breath. “No, Mickey”, she said, and I heard the tremor in her voice; “Please don’t do this. Put the knife down, and let’s talk”.
He took a step forward, the switchblade moving in slow threatening circles in his hand. “I took to carrying this in Iraq, you know”, he said, the sinister smile back on his face. “Wanted to protect myself; all sorts of nasty people out there. A couple of U.S. Marines taught me how to use it; handy little thing, isn’t it?”
I felt my heart pounding as I realized that I was facing the exact situation we’d discussed hypothetically for years in Bible studies about nonviolence in Mennonite churches. What would we do if someone carrying a knife or a gun threatened our loved ones? Did nonviolence mean we should just sit back quietly and let the attacker kill us all? I took a step forward, my eyes fixed on the switchblade as it moved slowly in Mickey’s hand. “Wendy, get everyone outside”, I said quietly.
“No”, she replied, “I’m staying with you. Lisa, please get your brother outside”.
At that moment Mickey lunged forward, thrusting the knife toward my body. I sidestepped him again, putting out my leg as he went past; he swore as he fell to the floor, and the knife flew from his hand toward the corner where Lisa was standing. She bent instinctively and grabbed it; I heard Mickey cry out in rage, and the next thing I knew he was lunging toward her on his knees. She backed against the wall, the switchblade pointing toward him. “You bastard!” she cried out; “You touch me and I’ll kill you – I swear I will!”
He got to his feet slowly. “No you won’t”, he said softly, straightening up and taking a step toward her; “You wouldn’t dare”.
Mickey had his back to the rest of us now; I glanced across at Wendy, and as our eyes met she gave a slight nod. We moved forward slowly as Mickey said, “Give me the knife, Lisa; you know you’re not going to use it”.
She was breathing heavily, the switchblade steady in her right hand, and as I looked into her eyes I saw the hatred there. “Oh, you are so wrong!” she whispered menacingly; “I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for years!”
He stopped moving, and I guessed that he had suddenly realized she was serious. “Now don’t do anything foolish, Lisa”, he said slowly, his speech still slurring a little. “You don’t want this on your conscience, do you?”
I saw the sudden fury flash across Lisa’s face. “My conscience!” she screamed, taking a step toward him. “My conscience! Fuck you, Mickey; my conscience is absolutely clear! You’re a pig, and I’m going to stick you just like a pig!”
He took a step backwards; I nodded at Wendy, and we each grabbed one of his arms and held him fast. “Put the knife away, Lisa”, I said, holding tight as Mickey struggled in our grip; “We’ve got him now, and he isn’t going to hurt anyone”.
She shook her head slowly, the knife steady in her hand, the point a mere couple of feet from Mickey’s belly. “There’s only one way to make sure he never hurts anyone again”, she said menacingly.
I saw her lunge forward with the switchblade, and instinctively I reached out, trying to keep my grip on Mickey with my right hand and grab her wrist with my left. As if in a slow motion movie, I saw the switchblade slice into my left hand; I fell against Mickey in agony, the blood streaming from my wounded hand. I heard Wendy’s cry as Mickey and I both went over backwards; I saw Lisa standing over us with a stunned expression on her face, still holding the bloodstained knife, and at that moment I heard the police sirens in the distance.
I did my best to ignore the pain in my hand as I rolled over and tried to hold Mickey down; I saw my blood smearing his shirt and sweater as he struggled in my grip. “Colin, help me!” I cried out. “Wendy, get that knife away from her!”
I saw Colin drop to his knees, pinning his father’s other arm and shoulder to the floor. The sirens were outside the house now, and as Mickey continued to struggle against us I heard the front door open. “Police!” someone cried, and the next moment two uniformed policemen were in the living room. I saw them taking in the situation, glancing at the switchblade in Lisa’s hand and the blood streaming from my wound. The one with sergeant’s stripes on his arm frowned at Lisa as she stood there, her face white, her breath coming in short gasps. “I think you should give us that knife, miss”, he said.
She nodded slowly and handed him the knife, the tears beginning to run down her face. Then she knelt down beside me and put her hand on my shoulder. “I’m really sorry, Tom”, she whispered; “that was a stupid thing to do”.
“What’s happening here?” the sergeant asked as he closed the switchblade and slipped it into his pocket; “Whose knife is this?”
“This man is Mickey Kingsley”, Wendy replied; “he’s my ex-husband, and he’s served jail time for assaulting me and my daughter Lisa here. There’s a court order requiring him to stay away from Lisa and me and his son Colin here. He came into this house tonight and tried to abduct Colin. Tom here is Lisa’s father; he and Lisa were out at a concert, and they came back to find Mickey here. Mickey attacked us and eventually threatened us with that knife, but Tom was able to trip him up and he dropped it. Lisa picked it up, and unfortunately she lost her temper and attacked Mickey with it. Tom stopped her, but as you can see his hand was wounded”.
The sergeant nodded slowly; “You agree with that story, do you, sir?” he asked me.
“It’s all lies!” Mickey screamed; “Can’t you see I’m the one who’s been assaulted here!”
“You don’t seem to be the one who’s bleeding, though, Mr. Kingsley”, the sergeant replied. “Let him go, please, sir”, he said to me; “we’ll handle it from here”.
I moved over and pulled myself up into a sitting position on the floor, holding my wounded hand and trying to staunch the flow of blood. The two policemen pulled Mickey to his feet; he cried out in anger and tried to struggle against them, and they pushed him face forward against the wall, one of them holding him there while the other snapped handcuffs in place on his wrists. “We’ll get him into the car”, the sergeant said, “and then I’ll come back in and get some more details”. He glanced at my hand, and then said to Wendy, “You’d better ring for an ambulance; that looks like a nasty wound”.
“I’ll do it”, Lisa replied, getting to her feet. “Mum, get something to bandage Tom’s hand until it gets here”.
Wendy bound up my hand with strips of an old sheet, and I sat on the floor with my back against the wall, my head swimming, watching the red bloodstains spread across the white bandages and feeling the throbbing pain in my hand. Wendy sat on the floor beside me, her arm around me; Lisa sat in an armchair by the fire as she and Colin answered the policeman’s questions. A few minutes later the ambulance arrived, and when the paramedics came into the living room I saw to my surprise that one of them was Mike Carey. “Hello, Tom”, he said, crouching down in front of me and taking my wounded hand in his; “What have we got here?”
“It’s a stab wound, Mike”, Wendy replied; “It was an accident”.
“How are you feeling?” he asked me.
“A bit light-headed”, I replied.
“You’ve probably lost a bit of blood”, he said. “I’ll dress that hand and then we’ll take you to the hospital. Wendy, can you make him a quick cup of tea while I dress the wound? Put a couple of spoonfuls of sugar in it”.
Wendy went out to the kitchen to put the kettle on; Mike slipped a pair of surgical gloves on his hands, and then slowly unwrapped the blood-soaked cloths from my hand. He cleaned up the wound with disinfectant swabs, shaking his head and saying, “You’re going to need some staples there”. He was just finishing the dressing when Wendy came back into the living room with a mug of tea. Squatting down beside Mike, she handed it to me and said, “Can you hold this with your good hand?”
I nodded, taking the mug of tea from her; she leaned forward and kissed me on the forehead, then glanced at Mike and said, “Are you taking him to hospital?”
“Yes; he’s going to need some staples. What happened here, Wendy?”
“Mickey attacked us with a knife. Tom got in the way”.
“I see”. He glanced at me and said, “Can you get up without fainting?”
“I’ll have a try”.
“Take a few sips of that tea first, and then take your time; we’ll help you”.
I sipped at the hot sweet tea for a moment, feeling the warmth as it went down. After a minute I nodded and handed the cup back to Wendy; Mike and his partner put their hands under my arms and slowly pulled me to my feet. I stood still for a moment, the world spinning around me. “Hold me up, Mike”, I said; “I think I’m going to faint”.
“We’ve got you”, he replied; “Deep slow breaths, okay?” He glanced over at the policeman who was now getting slowly to his feet. “Sergeant, I need to take Tom to hospital”, he said.
“Very good, sir”, the policeman replied. “I can get statements from Mr. Masefield and Miss Howard later”.
Wendy rode with me in the ambulance to the JR, her hand holding mine as I lay on the stretcher. At the hospital I was given a local anesthetic and a doctor cleaned up my wound again, fastened it with surgical staples, and bandaged it up. I was given some blood and a couple of other injections and was then taken up to a room on one of the wards. “We don’t expect any complications”, the doctor explained to me, “but we’d like to keep you in overnight just to make sure”.
There were three other people in the room with me; visiting hours were long over, but Wendy sat with me for a few minutes, holding my hand in hers. “I expect Lisa’s already rung Emma”, she whispered,
“She’ll want to come”, I replied; “I know she can’t, though; I know she’s got to wait until visiting hours tomorrow. What time is it, anyway?”
“Can you let Becca know? She’ll tell my Mum”.
“I expect Mike’s already told her, don’t you?”
“Of course; I should have thought of that”.
“It’s possible you’re not thinking too straight, my love”.
I nodded and tried to smile; “I suppose not”.
At that moment a nurse appeared at my bedside; “Time to go, Miss Howard”, she whispered.
“Right”. Wendy got to her feet, bent and kissed me on the lips. Holding her cheek to mine, she whispered in my ear, “You sleep well, alright?”
As she straightened up I put my hand on her arm and said, “Wendy, tell Lisa it’s okay, alright?”
She nodded; “I will; see you tomorrow”.
The next day was a Sunday, and Emma picked me up at the hospital in the early afternoon, after the doctor had looked at my hand again and pronounced himself satisfied. There was blood all over the shirt and pants I had worn into the hospital the night before, so I had asked her to bring me in some clean clothes to wear. She appeared at the door at around two o’clock with a backpack slung over her shoulder; I saw her glancing around for a moment, taking in the other patients in their beds, and then she saw me in the corner, standing beside my bed. She came over, put her arms around me, and held me so tight that I could hardly breathe. “Are you okay?” she whispered in my ear.
“Oh yeah – a bit sore, but no lasting harm done”.
She continued to hold me close; “I was so worried about you when Becca called me”, she said.
I tightened my grip around her; “I’m okay now”, I replied.
She released me, stepped back a little and took my injured hand in hers, scrutinizing the dressing for a moment. “No infection?” she asked.
“Apparently not, nurse”.
She laughed, and I leaned forward and kissed her gently on the forehead. “Are my clothes in that backpack?”
“Right – give me a minute to change into them, and then we can get out of here”.
When we got home, Emma insisted that I sit down in my easy chair by the fireplace; she went out to the kitchen and made a fresh pot of coffee, and then we sat across from each other for a while, drinking coffee and talking quietly. It was a warm afternoon, and through the open window we could hear the sounds of children playing outside and cars going by on the street. Emma was wearing her hair loose; she had let it grow in the past few months, and it was now hanging below her shoulders again.
“Wendy and the kids are coming over for supper”, she told me; “They’re going to cook something and bring it with them. They wanted us to go over there to eat, but I told them it would be better for you to stay here and rest”.
“You did, did you?” I said with a smile.
“I did”, she replied defiantly; “I plan to take good care of you until you’re well again”.
“Thanks, love, but I’m pretty well again already”.
“That’s not what I hear from Becca”.
“Yes; she’s been talking to your doctor, and she told me about the wound and the surgical staples and all that. It’s going to take a while for that to heal up, Dad”.
“Do the rest of the family know?”
“Becca talked to Grandma this morning; she’s probably going to bring her over in an hour or so to have a cup of tea and a visit. I called Auntie Alyson and the kids this morning myself; they all send their love”.
“Dad, what exactly happened?”
I took a sip of my coffee, cradled it in my hands, and said, “When Lisa and I got back to their place after the concert Mickey was already there; he was drunk, and had apparently been threatening Wendy and Colin. He wanted to take Colin away. He got aggressive pretty quickly; he slapped Lisa and then attacked me. We tried to restrain him, and that was when he pulled the switchblade. Fortunately he was so drunk that it wasn’t hard to avoid him; I tripped him, he dropped the knife, and that would have been the end of it if Lisa hadn’t picked it up. She was really angry, and she took a stab at him with the switchblade. I tried to stop her, and unfortunately my hand got in the way of the blade”.
“What happened then?”
“That was when the police arrived”.
“Did Lisa get arrested?”
“No, and I don’t think that’s going to happen. No harm came to anyone except me, and I’m not going to lay any charges against her. What she needs is some patient loving, not punishment. Even if it did come to charges, I’m sure a jury would take into account the years in which she saw her mother beaten, and the times she’d been attacked by Mickey herself. He slapped her pretty hard across the face last night; I won’t be surprised if she has a pretty good bruise when I see her”.
“You’ve got a pretty good one yourself”.
“Yes, I saw that in the mirror this morning. I’d forgotten that he landed a punch on my jaw before he pulled the knife”.
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m okay, love”. I took another sip of my coffee, frowned, and said, “The problem is, I can’t help thinking that it was at least partly my fault”.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I was thinking about it quite a lot this morning, and I’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that events may have proved Lisa right after all. She always said there was no point in trying to have a peaceful relationship with Mickey, and she was afraid of where my conversations with him might lead. The fact is, if I hadn’t talked with him and given him the impression that I was in sympathy with his wish for a better relationship with Colin, last night wouldn’t have happened. I might have put the whole family in danger by my actions. That’s not a pleasant thought”.
She leaned forward and put her hand on mine; “You can’t know that, Dad”.
“No, but it does bear thinking about”.
“So you think that loving your enemies was wrong in this instance?”
“I think that the way I chose to love may not have been appropriate, given the other relationships I was in”.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, the relationships I was in with Wendy and the children put me under a certain obligation to protect them from harm. My actions toward Mickey might have had the unintended effect of exposing them to harm. I’m not saying I should have been mean toward him; I’m simply saying that it might have been better if I’d given him a polite but firm refusal right from the start”.
“That’s twenty-twenty hindsight”.
“Yeah, I know. I guess we all muddle through in our lives, trying to find the right thing to do”.
“I guess so”.
I drained my coffee cup, glanced at hers, and said, “Can I get you some more coffee?”
“No, you definitely cannot!” she replied with a grin, getting to her feet and taking my mug from my hand. “What is it about this ‘I will wait on you hand and foot until you’re better’ idea that you don’t understand?”
We both laughed; I took her hand for a moment, smiled at her, and said, “Thanks, love”.
“You’re welcome”, She stooped to kiss me, then took our mugs out to the kitchen. A moment later she returned, handed me a newly refilled mug of steaming coffee, and took her seat across from me again. Putting her own coffee cup down on the end table beside her chair, she said, “Speaking of finding the right thing to do…”
“I’ve decided not to go back to Canada”.
I took a deep breath; “Are you sure about this?”
“Yes – as sure as I think I’ll ever be. But let me say that I do want to spend the summer in Saskatchewan”.
“I think the family are pretty well decided on coming to visit us over here, aren’t they?”
“I know that, Dad, but I want to talk to them about it. You see, once I start my university course I doubt if I’ll have the time to visit Saskatchewan again for more than the occasional couple of weeks, so I’d like to make the most of it this summer. I’d like to go home for a while, and then go to Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan and the Edmonton Folk Festival and then up to Jasper for a while – all the stuff we used to do”.
“Are you going to come?”
“I won’t be able to come for as long as you. Don’t forget that our school summer holidays here in England are a lot shorter; we only get about five weeks off”.
“Right – I forgot about that”.
“Still, I’d like to spend as much of my holiday as I can with you. And there’s another thing, too: Wendy wants to see Meadowvale”.
“So you’re going to bring her with you?”
“We haven’t made any definite plans yet”.
She nodded; “Do you think Lisa and Colin might come as well?”
“I don’t know; we’d have to ask them. Another thing that might change things is that Mickey might be going to trial, and we’d probably be required to testify; depending on when that happens, that might have an impact on our plans”.
“I guess so”.
“What made you decide to stay here, love?”
She gave a little frown; “I’ve thought about it for a long time, Dad. You know all the issues – we talked about that before. This weekend has brought it all to a head, but I was already inclining toward staying. By the way, thanks for not trying to make me talk about it before I was ready”.
I smiled at her; “I know you well enough to know that doesn’t work!”
“Too true!” she replied with a wry grin. “Well, anyway, I gradually came to realize a few things. I really like being close to Becca, I like Oxford, I like being able to spend time with Grandma, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know my cousins. I like our little church, and I also like Marston Court and the people there. Also, I know Sarah’s going to need a lot of help for the next year or two, and so is Grandma. And it’s not like I can’t go and visit the folks back home; Grandpa left you a lot of money, and I’m sure I can sweet-talk you into letting me have some of it from time to time to buy Air Canada tickets!”
We both laughed, and I said, “If that’s the price of having you stay here – I’ll pay it willingly!”
She smiled; “I know you will, Dad – and that’s the other thing, of course. I don’t want to be that far away from you”.
“Thanks, love”, I whispered.
“I knew that before, of course, and for a while I was sort of mad at you for wanting to stay here. But on the other hand, when you talked about a return to Meadowvale being a return to loneliness for you, it made a lot sense to me; I thought of how happy you and Wendy are with each other, and how one day I hope I’ll find someone and have that sort of happiness with them as well. So I gradually came to realize that it was pretty wrong and selfish of me to be mad at you for finding with Wendy exactly the sort of happiness that I’m hoping to find with someone else”.
She paused, taking a sip of her coffee, and then as she put the mug back on the end-table she continued, “And then I got Becca’s call last night, and I suddenly realized that there was no difficulty at all making a decision. When Becca told me that you’d been stabbed, I thought at first that it was a lot worse than it actually turned out to be. I thought about – about losing you, and how awful that would be, and then I was like, why am I even thinking about moving away? That would be like voluntarily losing you! I mean, I know I’m going to leave home eventually and start a family of my own, but I don’t want it to be across an ocean from you”.
“No – I wouldn’t like that either”.
“So, I guess that’s where I’m at right now, Dad. And it’s not that I don’t care for Grandma and Grandpa Reimer, and if they get really sick in the future – well, I can always go over then and spend some time with them, can’t I?”
“So, do you think you and Wendy can put up with me for the next few years?”
I smiled at her, leaning forward in my chair and taking her hand. “We can put up with you for as long as you can put up with us”, I replied.
My mother and Becca arrived at around four o’clock. My mother was visibly shaken by what had happened, and I had to spend some time reassuring her that although the wound was nasty it was healing fine, and I would be all right. Emma then cheered her up immensely by sharing with her and Becca the news that she had decided to stay in England. I thought that, of the three of them, Becca was the most obviously elated; she hugged Emma close and held her tight for a long time.
Wendy and her children arrived at around five-thirty with a casserole wrapped in a towel. As they came in I saw that Lisa did indeed have a spectacular bruise on her cheek. “Ouch!” I said to her; “That looks painful!”
“It’s a bit sore”, she agreed; “How’s your hand?”
“A bit sore too, but it’ll heal just fine”.
Wendy assured my mother and Becca that she had brought lots of food if they wanted to stay, but they had made arrangements to have supper with Mike and so they excused themselves after a few minutes of conversation. Wendy and the children put the food out on the dining table, but we ate sitting around the living room with plates on our knees because, as Emma said, “We don’t want Dad to have to move out of his easy chair”. I protested that they were making far too much out of a little cut, but at that point they all leveled withering glances at me, and that was the end of the discussion.
After supper Colin and Emma did the dishes, leaving Wendy, Lisa and me in the living room. While Wendy was looking at some of the books on my bookshelf Lisa caught my eye; “Can we go somewhere by ourselves to talk for a minute?” she asked.
“Sure. It’s a nice evening; let’s go out the back”.
We stepped out the back door into the yard and sat down together in the wooden chairs by the window; the evening was warm, and the sun was still hanging over the western skyline.
“What’s on your mind?” I asked.
She leaned forward, staring straight down. “Tom, I’m really, really sorry”, she said; “What I did last night was absolutely stupid. If you hadn’t stopped me, I’d be in jail today; I suspect that, as it is, I’ve only barely avoided being arrested. And then, to top it all off, you had to be the one…” She looked up, and I saw the tears in her eyes. “I am so sorry!” she said again.
I reached across and took her hand. “Set your mind at rest”, I replied; “I was never angry at you. If forgiveness is needed, then I forgive you; I know you didn’t mean any harm to me at all”.
“I didn’t, I honestly didn’t!” she exclaimed; “I stood there looking at you with all that blood, and I couldn’t believe what I’d just done!”
“Hey”, I said, tightening my grip on her hand; “Let’s put it behind us, shall we? Like I said, I was never angry with you. Anyway, I’ve got an apology to make to you as well”.
“An apology?” she said with a little frown; “What for?”
“Well, events have proved that you may well have been right; I was foolish to believe that it would be possible for me to have a peaceful relationship with Mickey without bringing the rest of you into danger. If I hadn’t been talking with him, I doubt if he would have even thought of coming and attempting to take Colin away. I’m sure I contributed to that, and I’m sorry. You were right, Lisa; I should have listened to you”.
She stared at me; “You mean you’re changing your ‘loving your enemies’ line?”
“No, but I’m ready to admit that I don’t always know the most appropriate way to love them. In hindsight, it might have been better for me simply to admit that my relationship with you and your Mum and Colin meant that I couldn’t be the one to give Mickey the help he needed”.
She smiled at me through her tears; “I really do respect you for the way you live by your principles, you know”, she said.
“Thanks; I think I fall quite a bit short, myself”.
She sat back in the chair, took out a handkerchief and wiped her eyes. “I swear, one day I’m going to have a serious conversation with you without crying!”
I laughed; “Hopefully it won’t be too long before we can just do ordinary family-type things together, rather than dealing with courtrooms and hospital emergency rooms and all that. Speaking of which, there’s something I want to ask you about”.
“What is it?”
“Do you feel like a trip to Canada this summer?”
“Yeah – I’m going to be going over for the summer holidays”.
“You’re spending the whole summer there?”
“Yes – actually, Emma’s decided to go over for the whole of July and August. She’s got some plans for it, too. She’s going to spend a lot of time in Meadowvale, but she also wants to go to a Shakespeare festival in Saskatoon; she wants to go to the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, and she wants to have a camping trip to the mountains – to Jasper National Park, where we used to holiday all the time”.
“That sounds like quite a trip”.
“Well, it might not be up there with Russia, but…”
“I’m sure it would be wonderful; I’m not sure I can afford it”.
“Money isn’t a problem; as Emma kindly reminded me, my Dad left me a lot of it, and even though I plan to give a substantial amount away, air fares to Canada appear to be an allowable indulgence in Emma’s thinking!”
We both laughed. “It sounds wonderful”, she said; “I’m not really a camping person, but I think I might even be able to put up with camping if it meant seeing the Rocky Mountains. I’ve seen the photos in your albums”.
“Of course you have. Well, shall we go and talk to your mum about it?”
“Okay”. We got to our feet, and I put my arms around her. We held each other in silence for a moment, and then she spoke into my shoulder in a quiet voice; “Can I ask you something?”
“Can I call you ‘Dad’?”
For a moment I couldn’t speak; I kissed the top of her head and held her closer as I struggled to bring my emotions under control. Eventually I stepped back a little and looked her in the eyes. “It would be an enormous privilege for me, Lisa”, I said; “I can’t even begin to tell you how much it would mean to me”.
“Thanks”, she said, looking suddenly a lot younger than her twenty-one years. “I can’t promise that I’ll always be a model trouble-free daughter – as you’ve already seen!” She gave a sudden frown; “Is Emma going to mind me calling you ‘Dad’?”
“I don’t think so, but why don’t you ask her?”
She smiled; “We talk about lots of things, but I’ve been a bit nervous about bringing this up with her. You’re right, though – she’s the one I should be asking”.
“Why don’t we go in and talk to your mum and Colin about going to Canada? And maybe later on, you’ll get a minute to talk to Emma”.
“Right; I think I’m ready now”.