So this is how it feels, she thinks. Hands submerged in the cooling dishwater searching for silverware. She had heard about this. She knew of two marriages in the last three years that had ended in divorces. The empty nest syndrome she guessed. With the children gone there was nothing left to bind them.
Their last child, Paul, was a junior in high school. A year and a half left before he moves out. She turns the faucet on to rinse the spatulas and pots. She puts the frying pan in the dishwater.
“That was a good meal, hun,” he says. She leans into him as he kisses her cheek. He is headed to his chair. It is Monday night so he will watch AMC or the History Channel.
She couldn’t deny that life was good. She was standing in the kitchen she wanted. They had built this home eight years ago. Nothing too grand, about 1500 square feet with an open concept for the living room, kitchen, and dinning area. The basement was finished. Every once and awhile the end of the month was tight, but nothing like their first couple of years of marriage. Life was good.
She started in on the frying pan, scrubbing at the stuck remains of chicken fried steak. Comfortable was good, but was it love? Her mind moved to different snap shots of their life. The time they scrapped together change and had a dinner date off the dollar menu. Their first kiss, right in the middle of celebrating a touchdown during the homecoming game in college. She smiles. It was so quick, and he didn’t talk for the rest of the quarter until she grabbed his hand.
She holds up the frying pan to see if it was clean, nope a little grease still by the handle. She frowns as she scrubs remembering the biggest fight they ever had. Sarah was just over a year old. He was working almost 70 hours a week. She was lonely. The apartment complex was filled with college kids. It was a pivotal moment: money or family. They actually didn’t talk with each other for three days.
She rinses the frying pan. Pulls the drain and hits the switch for the garbage disposal. She wonders why the light switch and garbage disposal are always together. The grinding sound from the sink eases away. She hits the switch off. She grabs the towel hanging on the oven handle. She watches him as she dries her hands. A flood of emotion fills her chest.
On the fourth day he had come home from work with a single flower. A daisy. He said that he would find a better job and that his only goal was to love her. To provide her the best life possible. And here we are, she thought. Wondering at how you can have everything but feel hollow inside.
“Dad, can you read over this essay for me?” Paul had his computer in his hands.
“Yes, what is the topic?” he asked as he muted the TV.
She smiled. Paul looked up at her and smiled back. She stood there watching father and son discuss the homework as she dried the dishes. Fifteen minutes later Paul headed back to his room.
She tidied up the counters. Sitting on an idea. One of those ideas that can easily be dismissed because life would simply go on if she didn’t do it.
“Dear?” she walks to the living room.
“Humm?” he replies looking up at her but then quickly back to the TV. It was Monday night and he was watching the History Channel. He did this almost every Monday night.
She falters in her decision. Life was good. It was predictable and secure. “Do you want to go get some ice cream?”
He doesn’t respond. It seems like he doesn’t hear her question. She starts to walk back to the kitchen, blinking to keep a tear from falling.
He answers quickly as he stands up. “Yeah, I’ve been wanting to try that new blizzard they have advertised. Grab your coat, I’ll get the car warmed up.”
He holds the door open for her at DQ. As she walks past he quickly kisses her. She smiles up at him. He shakes his coat pocket; “I thought we would pay with coins for old times sake.” They both laugh.
Hours later the manager had to ask them to leave because the crew wanted to go home.