More Changes

“When will you be leaving?” I asked my father.

We were at the local breakfast diner.  It was Sunday morning.  My father’s routine for the last several years had been to come over to our side of town on Sundays and take all of us kids (and our kids) out to breakfast.  Usually he would come over around 11, which allowed us time to go to Mass first, and then we’d head out for the big brunch meal.

Zach was plowing through a plate of pancakes, eating them without syrup with his hands next to me.  My sister’s little girl was munching on pieces of sausage we’d cut up for her.  My sister was silent as we waited for my father’s answer, but the look on her face said everything I was thinking:  What the Hell?

“In August.  The job starts on August 15.  So I’ll have to go out there ahead of time to find a place to live and figure out how that is all going to work.”

I couldn’t believe it.  Less than six months after my mother’s passing, my father had accepted a job promotion that would require him to move to Baltimore, Maryland.  Hundreds of miles away.

“How long have you known about this?” I continued to press, trying to not sound accusatory in light of my father’s oblivious excitement.

“Well the job posted about a month ago.  I put in for it, not really thinking that it would be something I’d be considered for.  It’s a huge promotion, the chance to finish my career running a whole district office.”  The looks on our faces must have betrayed something less than the level of excitement he felt.  “I know this must be a shock, but please know that I have purposely stayed here in this area, not putting in for promotions, for a good ten years.  I could have taken jobs in all sorts of places, but I purposely turned them down to stay near you kids.  But you are all adults now, with kids of your own.”  He looked over at Zach, who had moved onto his sausage, trying three times before he finally stabbed one of the stubby pieces with his too large fork.

My sister was still silent.  “I get it Dad.  I do.  It’s a great opportunity for you, and of course it’s very exciting.  And Baltimore is so close to your mother and that side of the family out East, you’ll be able to really see them all so much.  It’s just kind of a shock this soon after Mom, that’s all.  We’ll get there,” I smiled, forcing myself to try and see this from something other than an eight year old’s point of view.  “It might just take a little time, that’s all.”

My sister picked up on the tack and continued.  “She’s right Dad.  It’s just a surprise we didn’t expect.  That’s all.  And hey, it’ll give us an excuse to come out East to see you and the family in the summers.”  Her words were right, but somehow my sister’s tone remained unconvincing.

I could hardly blame her.  Inside my head, all I could see was my bright red bitterness all over again.  My father, in the raw minutes after my mother’s death, had promised that he would “be the one who is there” for me.  I wondered, sulkily, how he planned on doing that from five hundred miles away.

“It’ll be fine, girls,” my Dad said, his trademark optimism trying to lift both of us up.

“I’m not a girl,” Zachary piped up from his spot next to me.

The laughter that followed officially closed the subject of my father moving away.  For now.

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