“Grandma, did your son die?”
I gasp at my six-year-old’s innocent question to my mom. We are outside on the patio, enjoying pasta salad and barbecue, lost in mundane conversation about swimming lessons and arranging who will pick up the boys from soccer camp.
She tenses for a moment before saying, “No.”
Only I hear the utterance under her breath. “But it feels like it.”
“Oh, okay. I just haven’t seen him around in a while.” Satisfied with the simple response, he returns to his Pokemon cards and juice box.
Cringing, I mouth an apology to my mom, but she shrugs it off and picks up the bottle of Pinot Grigio. “More wine?” She smiles brightly, but her tone is strained. She begins pouring more into both our glasses before I have a chance to respond.
I proceed with caution. “Have you heard anything from him recently?”
“Not in the last few months. I’ve left a few voicemails, but no response. His inbox is full now, so I’ve left some texts. I’d send a letter, but…” She leaves the implication vague. My brother’s wife would likely just throw the letter away before he had a chance to read it.
“I have some news…” I clutch the stem of my wine glass, taking a long sip before I proceed. “Not from him directly,” I add. “He hasn’t returned any of my texts either. I heard from Aunt Mary who heard from John…” I reach over, take my mom’s hand. “He’s going to be a father.”
“How wonderful!” She pulls her hand away from mine, knocking over her wine glass. There are tears in her eyes.
“Grandma, you made a mess!” my son chides her.
“Silly me!” The tears are flowing freely as she begins to pick up the shards of her glass. “Grandma’s always making messes, isn’t she?”
Miranda Keskes is a freelance writer, editor, and educator living in Michigan with her husband and two sons. Her work has appeared on numerous sites, including Pigeon Review, Ann Arbor Family Press, Scary Mommy, SPM MockMom, and in the anthologies, You Do You, Hysteria, and 100 Ways to Die. Learn more at KeskesInk.com.