"That bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot." -- Michael Altschuler
|It was Saturday morning and Jack's gloves were soaked through as he put the last of the leaves in its plastic sack. He hauled the last bag over to the pile by the street counting twelve sacks for today's effort. It had taken him three hours and his back ached. There was also a sense of accomplishment as he looked across at his garden and drive now clean of leaves. He entered the house removing his filthy shoes and gloves and headed for the shower. His son John greeted him on the way up the stairs. |
"Dad, you promised to take me to MediaMarkt to get my new headphones this morning," said John. He looked a little irritated with his father's dirty appearance.
"I haven't forgotten, the leaves just took longer than I thought, I will be ready in about twenty minutes."
About fifteen minutes later Jack and his son were ready to leave. He knocked on his daughter's bedroom door to let her know. There was no answer so he pushed the door. She had earphones on and was seated by her desk doing homework. She looked a little startled at his entry. She removed the earphones to hear what he had to say.
"I did knock but I guess you were in your own world. Just to let you know that I am off to MediaMarkt with John, so you are in charge of the house. Your mother is still asleep and probably will not be up before midday. I will cook when I get back."
She nodded and promptly put her earphones back in. She would not hear the door if an Amazon parcel man knocked. Jack inwardly shrugged, they would not be gone for long, hopefully, it would not matter.
Climbing into the car with John he noticed that John still wore an irritated look.
"Go on spit in out, what is on your mind?"
"Why are you still with mum? Why don't you just leave her?"
"What kind of question is that for a son to ask his father?" said Jack. He put the car in gear and reversed out of the drive.
"She never does anything around the house. You do all the work and you do your job. The weekend should be your days off because you work a ten-hour day during the week. She is turning you into some kind of housewife with her lazy selfishness. It is clear you do not sleep with her anymore and she has gotten fat and ugly and she is on half a dozen sets of pills. Why bother with her at all?" said John.
"How much do you do around the house? I do not remember you volunteering to help with the leaves. You should not talk about your mother like that. Everyone thought her beautiful once and I still see her like that." Jack put the car on the road.
"Do you Dad, do you really? I have seen you look at men not women and I think that you are in fact gay. Why did you marry mum in the first place?"
Jack glanced over at his son and realized with a shock that his son was more observant than he had given him credit for. Maybe this was the time to have an open and honest conversation about this.
"I have my struggles, but I married your mother because I loved her and you and your sister would not exist if we had not. Besides I made a promise before God that I mean to keep, it went: 'for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health, for better or for worse till death do us part.'"
"But if you are gay why do follow God? You know that gay guys go to hell."
"Now wait a minute, there is a massive difference in struggling with sinful thoughts and acting on them. God is bigger than you have conceived and more merciful than you give Him credit for. I will honor God and it is my deepest hope that you will do the same." Jack said. As he did so he looked over at his son with some concern for his spiritual wellbeing. "John, why are you asking me these questions now? You do still believe in God don't you?"
John paused before answering, as if working through his thoughts. Finally, he answered.
"Yes I believe, but I was not sure that you did. Now I know that you do and I do see the pain and the struggle that you endure. Actually, when I started this conversation I was thinking my dad is a hypocrite, living a lie, but now I see a real man struggling with stuff but still there in the fight."
"That is probably the nicest thing you have ever said to me."
"Well, I really want those headphones."
They were approaching the car park for MediaMarkt.
"Are you ready for that school trip to Munich on Monday? Do you have all your position papers done?"
"Yes, and I can discuss them some more on the bus to Munich. It will be alright. This car park looks full, we should have come earlier as we planned," said John.
"No there are still a few spaces."
Jack moved the car into a space.
It was two hours before John finally decided on a pair of headphones. They were, of course, fifty euros more than budgeted. Then they discovered that the box with the earphones in was actually empty and had to go all the way back upstairs to get a full one.
On returning to the house Jack was greeted by an irate wife Gillian, now risen from her slumber but still in her pajamas.
"This place is a tip, have you done any of your chores this morning. You need to hoover, the laundry is still piled up and we need feeding. I am still feeling faint from my episode and so I will be on the couch if you need me."
"OK, shall I bring you your medicine?"
"That would be nice thank you."
Jack nodded and John rolled his eyes. Having sorted the medicine Jack went down into the Kellar, he had started the first laundry load before the leaves but there were at least three more to come. He moved the first load into the drier and started the next in the washer. He collected the foodstuffs he needed from the larder and moving into the kitchen he switched on the Thermomix. His daughter Marie arrived down the stairs wanting to talk through her latest history homework. This they did while he fed the Thermomix and pushed the buttons for the meal. He also emptied the paper stache from the last week bringing it out to bins while Marie chattered beside him. He collected the hoover but waited for a break in the conversation with Marie before starting it up. Finally satisfied that she had what she needed Marie went back into her room and Jack hoovered the house. When the Thermomix or washer alarms went off he went and did the appropriate actions or pushed the correct buttons.
The family gathered for the meal. Mainly they talked about John's trip and about what he would say in Munich. It was an UN-organized event and John would represent France and had to argue about nuclear proliferation, arms trafficking, and the impact of the Israeli - Palestinian tensions. Jack had done much of the research for this project and they had extensive discussions about this, he knew that John would be fine. He let his family talk while he just listened.
By now the laundry was ready for sorting. Jack brought it into the living room and switched on the news so that he could watch it while he sorted. Gillian gave a grunt of disapproval and put in her ear pods to watch Tik Tok on her mobile.
It took half an hour to do the laundry. When he had finished he called the kids to collect their piles and carried up some himself also putting towels back in the closet upstairs.
Gillian called from downstairs, "Can you check the bulbs in my car? I think I lost my front headlamp."
Jack knew there was a spare in the car. He changed the bulb but it took him a while as he had big hands and had to reach behind a small space to get the bulb in. He cut his hands doing this.
It was getting dark by now and he realized that he had to think about the evening meal. That took another hour and then the family gathered again. He did not remember what they talked about he was starting to get quite tired.
Finally, the day was over and he settled down with his laptop in the living room intending to continue with that novel he had started writing, But the words did not come tonight and he felt like he was just about to fall asleep. Gillian switched on the TV and started watching a dating program for farmers. Periodic guffaws of laughter interrupted his train of thought further. After staring at a blank screen for about an hour he realized he needed to go to sleep.
He said goodnight to Gillian and went up the stairs. He went to his daughter's bedroom where he prayed with her as was his habit. He had done the same with his son up until his confirmation date.
Then he went up the second flight of stairs to the main bedroom alone. He drew the shutters and switched the bedside lamp on. He picked up his book, as was his custom before he dozed off. He read this quote from Michael Altschuler, "That bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot."
He reflected a moment, the time had indeed flown by today, there were a great many things that had not been done, uncompleted projects that waited for tomorrow. Maybe his novel would never get written. But he was the pilot, as it was his decision to make this family work and to struggle to beat the odds. Was that good news? Maybe not for him as he was the one making all the sacrifices to achieve his purpose. That said his children had a home and his sick wife was cared for and he was doing his best to honor the promises he had made to God. So maybe all this was good news in a larger kind of way. He switched off the light, said his prayers, and a few seconds later drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
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