A man and his father-in-law attempt to capture a possum around the house.
|"Get ready with that trap!"
The words were called out by my father-in-law. We had just brought out three traps to capture possum which we suspected were around. I was not good at this kind of thing, but my wife insisted I go out and help her father.
It didn't help that he and I did not yet see eye to eye. I had trouble connecting wtih him...especially as he was more the man who worked with his hands, accustomed to working outdoors and with machines. I was a scholar, a librarian.
"We'll wait a bit, then check in the morning," he said. I nodded in agreement, searching my mind for something to say.
My wife called out that dinner was ready, so that I was left off the hook.
The next morning we checked the traps one by one. While the first two we came upon were empty, the third revealed to us the culprit that my mother-in-law was frightened by when it made an appearance outside her bedroom window. The possum was not playing...it was quite dead, as my father-in-law put poison in the traps.
"Well, time to bag and toss it." This was the worst part. The thing smelled horribly, filling my nostrils like the stench of an across the river landfill. Also, my phobia of wild animals, even small ones, made me handle it gingerly.
"C'mon, grab hold of it! Be a man!" he mocked me.
Somehow I managed to get it in the plastic bag, though the gloves I was using made it feel slippery. It took too long and my father-in-law chuckling while I reached for the dead animal made it difficult. But, I had the feeling somehow that the ice had been broken between us.
"Well, it took you long enough, son...I'll admit I was the same when I was younger." This was at least something for me in terms of the relationship.
We talked a bit more about the house and wooded area nearby. He'd been born and lived his whole life here, he told me. A small historic town on a small island in the New York Harbor, the place had a country rather than suburb feel. He told me he wanted to die here...literally on the property.
I told him I liked the land here, and the property. It was a good place to live.
"Yep..." he said, looking down towards the small tomato patch he'd planted years ago.
We didn't say anything more for a few minutes, just sat on the stone he built around the property years ago.
"We ought to have some italian wine now." It was a resolution, as if he were saying it would be the last time. He pulled out a barrel he kept in a storage shed and we used paper cups brought out the day before.
The stuff tasted bitter, as it was homemade (given to Tony by a farmer down the road). "Yep, good stuff!" he said.
"This is it...you'll be taking over here soon," Tony said.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"I'm going, I tell ya...you need to take care of my wife and daughter, and this property."
I paused...then, "Of course, I will look after everything, but..."
"No," he interrupted, "no buts!" For him, It was a done deal. He put his small but strong hand on mine, and we shook on it. The magnitude of the situation was dawning on me.
A few weeks later they took Tony away to the hospital...his mind had been slipping and it went past the turning point where we could take care of him. I'd tried not to think about all these things after our wedding, but deep down I knew it was something I'd have to deal with.
The possum was dead, alright. But the air had been cleared.