I love Daddy’s robe. It’s silky soft and cranberry colored with gray lapels and cuffs on the sleeves, and it has a nice thick matching belt that he cinches around his waist. And if I think about his robe, I can’t help but think about his slippers too. They are nice dark brown leather slip-ons, worn soft from years of shuffling down the hall to the dining room on Saturday and Sunday mornings—just on weekend mornings—because there’s no time for padding around in slippers and robes during the week, unless Daddy’s sick, which he is right now—so sick that he’s at Little Company of Mary hospital.
Mommy’s there at his bedside now. She goes every day. During the week she scoots off when we’re at school, and on weekends she leaves in the afternoon. Kathy, Mary Ruth and I occupy ourselves by doing homework, drawing or playing cards and stuff like that. Today, Mommy’s cousin Violet is here with us, which is really strange, and stranger still is that Violet invited Walter, from next door, inside. I don’t know how that happened. All of a sudden there he was, sitting himself down, big as you please, at our baby grand. He’s trying to play Moonlight Sonata. Mommy would probably have a cow if she found out. She never lets us invite neighborhood kids inside. It’s a huge no-no to even ask. But I didn’t let him in, so why should I worry? Soon Daddy will be home, puttering around here in his robe for a couple weeks before returning to work, and that makes me happy because I’ll see more of him, even though I feel bad that he’s been sick.
On workdays Daddy’s usually in and out of the bathroom before I’m out of bed. Then he dresses in his baggy pants and shirt and tie before I’m through eating breakfast. He pulls out of the driveway in his white Ford Galaxy, and sometimes it’s still dark outside. If it’s winter, the snow on the ground twinkles so beautifully in the glow of the streetlight when he drives off. And if it’s one of those rare times when it’s dark out, and snow is falling lightly too, there’s nothing quite like that in the world. It was like that one Christmas Eve after Kathy, Mary Ruth and I were done with the supper dishes, and we were waiting for Daddy and Mommy to carry our presents—all wrapped in green, red and gold patterned paper—from their bedroom closet to the Christmas tree in the living room. We always open our presents on Christmas Eve for no reason other than that’s the way Daddy and Mommy like to do it. I looked out the dining room window and thought those gleaming snowflakes caught falling in the streetlight’s beam were fairy tale magic come to life, especially since there wasn’t even one set of footprints to mar the blanket of sparkles they made when they landed on the ground. When we move, I hope there’s a streetlight near our yard.
Sometimes Daddy wears more casual clothes to work, like the soft gray- and green-toned clothes he wears on weekends, when he’s sawing and hammering, always working on something. He says, “There’s no end to the work your mother finds for me to do here,” as he heads to his basement work area. But even I know that’s not really how it is; the work he does around here is work he’s decided to do; Mommy can’t boss him around, and she can’t boss me around when I’m helping him either. Sometimes I put a pencil behind my ear like he does. He’ll take his tape measure from his pocket, unfold it, lay it out across a board, and point to where he wants me to draw a little mark. I take my pencil from behind my ear, stick the tip in my mouth to wet it a little bit, and then mark a great big dot right where he says. I tried sawing a board once too, but it was taking me so long back and forth, back and forth with the saw across the wood, and it wasn’t nice and even either. I kept getting the teeth of the saw stuck so I had to lift it up and start over.
After a while Daddy got tired of watching me and he took over and, bam, the board was in two pieces in two strokes. He held up the pieces of wood and said, “Someday, Laura, when you’re stronger you’ll be able to saw just fine. But, you know when we move, we’ll have a house that’s already finished, so maybe you and I won’t need to do any sawing at all. Then what will you do?”
“Help you practice golf?” I asked.
“There you go. Maybe you could even learn how. Would you like that?”
“I don’t know.”
Daddy’s learning how to play golf. He says it’s one of the things executives do. He has a set of clubs, and he practices his drives out in the backyard. I chase the balls and bring them back to him. When he practices putting in the side yard, I just watch. I don’t know if he’s any good at this golf thing yet, but I know he’ll get good because he always gets good at the things he does. That’s just how it is.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish