Stacy stared blankly out her bedroom window at the blue skies and sunshine, and it almost seemed to mock her. She hadn’t gotten out of her pajamas, she just didn’t have the strength, and life seemed to carry on without her. The weather didn’t seem to care about her somber mood, and she thought that, if it did, gray thunder clouds would wreak havoc on Makawee. She would have at least found a little satisfaction knowing she wasn’t the only one stuck at home. Unfortunately for her, she knew that lots of people were outside enjoying the warmth of the season, and it just tortured her to think she had no reason to go out and participate in anything like that. She knew she had a lot of work to do to find a job and pay for her divorce, but she couldn’t muster the willpower to do that lately, and she wondered if she ever word.
Barbara walked in unannounced and sat at the foot of the bed. Stacy knew she intended to make another attempt to draw out what she was feeling, and she didn’t want to indulge her. She knew she messed up and didn’t want to hear what she should or should not have done. She also didn’t want to receive any coddling or sappy attempts to buoy her spirits. She knew that at some point she would have to get up and try to fix her life again, but she felt almost ill right now and wanted to wait until she healed a little more. She didn’t say anything to her mother, and for a few moments, Barbara didn’t say anything either. To Stacy’s surprise, Barbara broke the silence by saying, “Look at that cloud! It looks like a cat stretching after it took a nap!”
Stacy curiously peered out the window and studied the cloud in question. She could sort of see what her mom meant, but she found it difficult to get the same joy from it as her mother did. “yeah, sure, I guess.”
“You know, your father and I went cloud watching in the beginning of our relationship,” Barbara brought up. Stacy didn’t respond, but she still carried on, “June fifth, Nineteen-fifty-nine, your father walked me home after church. We passed through the park, and I pretended that I needed to catch my breath under a shade tree, but really, I just wanted more time alone with him. Our conversation wasn’t too deep, we just had so much fun being with each other! We ended up laying down on the grass and just laughed about the shapes we thought the clouds were. It was a wonderful day that I’ll never forget, and to this day, when I feel stressed, I look at the clouds and it makes me feel better.”
“That’s not gonna make me feel better,” Stacy stated baldly. “And I’ve heard this story a million times! Sorry, Mom, I’m just not in the mood to hear how happy you and Dad were on dates.”
“Actually, it wasn’t an official date,” Barbara informed her. “I didn’t tell you the end of that story where our conversation came to a swift halt when Frank’s girlfriend came barging in!”
Stacy bolted up so fast that she almost fell out of bed. “What? Dad had a girlfriend when you met?”
Barbara smiled spritefully as she revealed, “We don’t like to talk about it ’cause it isn’t really proper, but yes, he was engaged actually when I met him.” Stacy’s mouth hung open, and Barbara clarified, “We didn’t sleep together, for goodness sake! We didn’t kiss or even hold hands until he broke up with Ingrid. Ingrid was another teacher at the school I worked at. She brought him in for career day, and as soon as I saw him, I fell in love! I know, love at first sight is so cliché, but something about his aura and the look in his eyes told me he was special! After that, I made a point of hanging out with Ingrid and her social circle just to get close to him. Eventually, Ingrid found out how close we had gotten, called him a cheater, threw her ring at him, and walked right out of his life.”
“You told me you met him at a malt shop!” Stacy found it astonishing that her parents had not me in the wholesome way that they had said before, and it felt eerie to think how much her story mirrored the way she met Nick!
Barbara explained, “I know, it’s the eighties and no one cares about that sort of scandal anymore, but back in the day, we decided to keep the way we met a secret. Sometimes good stories don’t start so cleanly in the beginning. They’re messy and complicated, but then everything works out in the end.”
“Not everything!” Stacy murmured sadly.
“If something hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end,” Barbara sagely doled out. “This man of yours was pretty special too, wasn’t he?”
“How did you know?” Stacy replied incredulously.
Barbara told her, “Sweetie, music may have changed since I was your age, but love hasn’t! You mentioned a married friend, and just based on your behavior, we knew what happened. I don’t think you would befriend a man you weren’t in love with after what you went through. The fact that you trust him means a lot! You got over Hadeon pretty quickly, and I heard that the best way to get over a man is to get under a new one!”
“Mom!” Stacy felt stunned to hear her mother talk about this topic so casually. “I’ve never heard you talk about sex without showing me charts and graphs!” Barbara shrugged. “And we didn’t sleep together! We didn’t hold hands or kiss either! We weren’t like a couple or anything. So, why do I feel like a terrible person?”
“You’re not a terrible person!” Barbara assured her. “I mean, if you constantly went after someone else’s man, then we would be having a different conversation. I never thought I would’ve gone after someone else’s man either. That wasn’t even part of my plan originally. I wanted to get to him more to get this crush out of my system, but the more I learned about him, the stronger I felt. It made me feel a little guilty, but it’s not like either of us could help it! You don’t get to choose who you fall in love with!”
Stacy got some comfort from knowing that she wasn’t alone in this sort of predicament, but it didn’t take away the glumness that still lurked at the pit of her stomach. “So, now what?”
Barbara advised, “You’re not gonna get any answer pining away in your bedroom. You may not feel like it, but you gotta force yourself to get up and take one step at a time. Even baby steps will still move you forward! Now, come on! Get dressed! Today is Pop-Pop’s birthday and we’re visiting him at the home. And I won’t take no for answer!” Stacy knew she meant it, and even though it pained her to get out of bed, she got up and went to her closet.
In a small living room, an octogenarian man sat in a wheelchair while Frank and Barbara brought a cake up to him and joyfully called out, “Happy birthday, Dad!”
Stacy, who sat morosely on a chair next to the sofa, faked enthusiasm as she chimed in, “Happy birthday, Pop-Pop!”
“Thank you, guys!” Pop-Pop reacted pleasantly. Frank sat on the couch while Barbara went to the small kitchen behind them to cut the cake, and Pop-Pop conversed, “So, how are you all doing?”
Frank replied, “Good! Can’t complain!”
“Yes, I can imagine how carefree a cop’s life can be!” :Pop-Pop joked, and Frank laughed. He observed Stacy and asked her, “What about you, Dear? You’re not usually so quiet. Something wrong?”
Stacy didn’t want to explain her sordid love life, so she came up with something that she hoped would suffice, “”I’m having trouble finding work.”
Pop-Pop related to her, “I understand how that feels! When the Great Depression hit, the factory I worked for over a decade shut down, and I had a hard time finding work. Luckily, we kept food on the table when your grandmother got a job at a school.”
“Yes, I remember hearing about that,” Stacy responded. “She became a teacher because no matter how bad the economy got, they always needed teachers.”
“Actually, that was just a perk of going into that field,” Pop-Pop corrected her. Barbara and Frank began eating cake, but Pop-Pop and Stacy ignored theirs as they talked. “Your mother watched me struggle and vowed she would never go through it, so she became a teacher because of that benefit.”
Barbara added, “I started because of that benefit, but I stayed because I found that I love working with kids!”
“Of course, my dear!” Pop-Pop acknowledged.
Stacy inquired, “Why did Gam-Gam become a teacher?”
“She didn’t become a teacher,” Pop-Pop replied. “She taught music. She loved music, believed that it illustrated the heart and soul of humanity, and she thought it was important to spread people’s gifts far and wide.”
“Really?” Stacy had the same instincts as her grandmother, but she didn’t realize it until now!
“Take a look at that photo album.” Pop-Pop pointed to a bookshelf next to Stacy, and she grabbed it from the bottom. She flipped it open, and one of the first pages, she saw a young woman who looked a lot like her holding an expression of pure glee as she conducted a school band. Pop-Pop noted, “You remind me of her so much!” Stacy had previously thought her love of music was wrong because of its association with her fallout with Nick, but now she realized that it ran deeper than that, it was in her blood! Suddenly, everything became so much clearer to her. She did have a purpose, and just because one way she pursued it didn’t work didn’t mean she should stop trying! Her spirits lifted a little, and she knew that she couldn’t give up on something so important!