by W.P. Gerace
A son comes back for the Traditional Memorial Day Barbecue to make amends.
W. P. Gerace
Luther had not been home to Phoenix since his father Brad, a proud Navy Seal, threw him out choosing a life of luxury, as his father said in his stern, judgmental words. Luther could still see his father's face lobster red with anger when he announced he withdrew his enlistment to join the Navy and decided to pursue a career in journalism. Luther was happy for all his chosen career's numerous advantages, but this was not enough for his father, who believed every man should enlist in one of the military branches. His mother had a manipulative approach to Luther, hence his 800-mile trip to the Valley of the Sun this holiday. If it weren't for his mother's pleas for him to come home for the traditional family barbecue, a tradition they held at Moon Park every year on Memorial Day, he would have just stayed in his cozy home with his wife Mindy and their two cats Hector and Moses in their home in California.
Driving up to the park, he could see his father from afar. He was different though he was no longer this tall, strapping man with a loud tone that could carry miles. Now this was another Brad Peck. This one appeared small and frail. His skin had lost its tannish glow, replaced with a pale, almost ghostly white. Sitting in his car, he could not believe what he saw. Was his father in a wheelchair attended by a towering woman with brunette hair wearing a nurse's cap? Absorbing this all, what has happened to his once vibrant father, winner of Purple Hearts and many other prestigious awards? Just taking this all in, he would have sat here another hour if it wasn't for a quick pinch from Mindy. Staring at him with her soft brown eyes, her dark almond skin surely to draw a stare or two, another thing he held from the family since he did not intend to return.
"Babe, leave this car and see your father and family. Come on, we can do this. I love you, and no matter what, you tried. "Mindy spoke in that soft-spoken voice sprinkled with hints of her still prominent Jamaican accent.
"Ok, but you do not understand my family, especially my father. But he might not have the same stamina. I will be the adult here and walk up. Shall we go? "Luther asked, smiling. He loved Mindy. She was the best thing in his life.
He grabbed Mindy's homemade Steak and Ribs made with a spicy Jamaican sauce, a family favorite, from the back seat and held her hand. Anxiety started to take over his previous courageous spirit. Everything he fought to be a man to erase nearly 20 years of abuse as a child was suddenly flooding back to him. He was once again that little boy in the corner who feared for his father's muscular body. Always quick to use the belt and scold Luther for everything to make him be a man despite his mother's desperate pleas for him to stop. The closer he got to the brown picnic table where his father and mother sat, these memories began taking over.
"Son, you made it. I knew you would. I am so happy you are here. We have missed you so much. "His mother, always the one to break the ice bolted up her once vibrant blonde hair now had more shades of grey in them. She, too, looked withered and frail.
"Mom. It's been too long. I am so sorry. I missed you guys. "Luther clutched his mother and embraced her. Too many years had passed since that tragic day when he was twenty-one.
"Sweety, that is irrelevant now. I am just so glad you came. Who is this beautiful girl? "His mom spoke up, pointing to Mindy.
"Hi, Mrs. Peck. I am Mindy Luther's wife. We have been married for four years now. "Mindy was straight to the point and did not believe in pulling punches.
Luther waited for his parents to give one of their evil judgmental looks. Any moment one of them would provide a darting eye or flicker or something. He was ready for it. To his surprise, his mother embraced Mindy and told her to welcome her to the family. She was so happy that Luther found happiness. Standing back, Luther could not believe what his mother, Annie Peck, said. Had she had some brain transplant or changed in thinking in the past 15 years?
"Honey, this is your father's nurse, Pearl. She is the best. Your father had a massive stroke six months ago. He has not been the same since. But he recognizes everyone. He was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He understands and knows everything. "His mother spoke in that sweet third-grade teacher voice she must have used on her students to explain the simplest things.
Luther lost it. So much has changed. His father was different. He missed everything over a stupid career choice. He wanted to be there when his father retired from service, but stubbornness and hate for his treatment blocked him. Bawling like a child, Luther was so distraught.
"Son. I love you. Do not worry. I will be fine. It was me that was wrong. I agree with your mother. Your wife is gorgeous. I am so glad you came back. "His father smiled that sparkle came back into his turquoise eyes.
Grabbing Luther's hand, he squeezed him with both arms in a giant bear hug. There would never be anything to keep them apart ever again.
"Let's eat. The traditional Peck Memorial Barbeque begins. "His mother smiled.
Things were good again.