My sons were watching football with their grandparents.
Their grandmother shouted at the television as the Giants blew it, again.
Jason despaired about the Falcons.
I sat in the living room playing Uno with Lillie.
The Christmas tree was lit with white lights. Ella Fitzgerald sang the Rodgers and Hart songbook.
“I get too hungry for dinner at eight . . .,” I sang along.
“I go to opera and stay wide awake.”
“I never bother with people I hate. Help me, Lillie!”
“I’ll just have to sing it louder then . . . that’s why the lady is a tramp.”
She rolled her eyes. “Dad, it’s your turn.”
“Again? Okay, green five.”
Lillie drew a card.
“Lillie?” her mother called from the sun room. She was splitting one of the two copies of the paper with Richard and Paul.
“Do you want to go to the carousel?”
“In a minute, I’m playing Uno with Dad.”
“Okay. Finish that, and we’ll go with your uncles.”
Lillie returned to her hand.
“Ha! Draw four and the color is . . . blue. Do you have any blues, Dad?”
“That’s for me to know and you to find out.” I tossed down a card. “Blue three.”
Lillie studied her cards. “Hey Dad, do you want to go to the carousel?”
“Sure, that sounds fun.”
“Hey Mom, Dad is coming to the carousel!”
There was a pause. “Okay,” her mother shouted.
“We can try to get the gold ring,” Lillie said, putting down a blue seven. “It’s special.”
“That’s right, the brass ring means a free ride.” I discarded a red seven. “Uno!”
Lillie looked up at me, her tongue in her teeth. She put down a red six.
I tossed a red four. “I win! I win, I win, I win.”
“Whatever, that’s two games for you, six games for me.”
“And five dollars you owe me.”
Lillie lifted a bare foot to my face. “We aren’t playing for real money, Dad,” she giggled.
“Can we change the bet and say we are? I didn’t know I was going to win.”
“No, that’s not fair.”
“Fine. Fine! Maybe you can just give me five dollars anyway?”
“Dad . . .”
“Fine, I’ll just gloat.” I reached for her shoes and socks. “Let’s get ready for the carousel.”
I called to the other room. “Lucy, we’re almost ready.”
I heard chairs move. Richard and Paul passed through the room to the coat closet.
I handed Lillie her coat and put on my own.
Lillie threw her coat on the floor, upside down. This shows her the right way to put it on.
Lucy passed me without looking up. She sat on the futon to watch the game.
“You coming with us, Lucy?” I asked.
“No thank you.”
She sighed, as if uttering those three words offended every fiber of her being.
By mid afternoon of Christmas Eve, I had noticed a pattern.
Lucy wasn’t speaking to me.
If I entered a room, she left the room.
If I spoke to her, she answered in the fewest possible words.
She never initiated conversation with me.
She was employing the silent treatment.
While we were together, even before we married, this was a favored tactic.
I could ignore it at times, and enjoy the quiet. But eventually, I would panic. What if the kids noticed Mom wasn’t talking to Dad? What if the neighbors noticed?
If people knew, I fretted, they would know we aren’t normal.
Two years out of my marriage, I am less concerned.
This is Lucy’s family.
They know we aren’t normal.
She was free to take whatever bizarre turns were dictated by her mental health.
I was free to remain unaffected by her hostility.
“Okay, Lillie, you ready to go?”
“Yes, all ready.”
Lillie ran ahead as I walked with her uncles.
“Nice to be outside,” I said. “Rather chilly inside.”
“Yes, it was pretty nippy,” Richard said.
I bought two tickets at the carousel. I rode behind Lillie, as she wanted, so that I could watch her reach for the brass ring.
We waved at the uncles at each rotation.
They always waved back.
We didn’t catch the brass ring, so I bought two more tickets.
We missed again.
“Ah well,” I said. “We rode twice anyway!”
“Yeah, and on random horses!” Lillie exclaimed.
“Awesome, right?” I didn’t know what it meant to ride on “random horses,” but she liked the idea, so I played along.
We walked home along the bay.
We passed a candy store. Outside, Santa Claus was playing a banjo.
Lillie pointed to him.
“Hello, little girl!,” Santa called. “You are so beautiful with your red hair!”
Lillie grimaced and stiffened her back.
She walked on.
“Such a beautiful little girl!” Santa called to the three men behind her.
“Thanks, Santa,” I called back, waving.
“Think that will shut up the old man?” I whispered.
“I think we can get Santa on sexual harassment,” Richard said.
“You know Santa was talking about me, right?” Paul called ahead.
Lillie spun around. “Yeah, right. You don’t have red hair! You’re bald!” She laughed.
“Ooh, burned you!” I said. “Snap!”
Paul ran his fingers though his hair and grimaced.
I quietly did the same.
We walked home, entering the house through the kitchen.
“Dad! Dad!” Collie called, running to me. “You have to be nice to Jason.”
“Why on earth would I want to be nice to Jason?” I said, unzipping Lillie’s coat. “What’s he done for me lately?”
“He’s sad because the Falcons aren’t going to the play offs. Come on!” he took my hand.
“One second. “ I kicked off my shoes and put my coat in a chair.
Collie led me to Jason.
He was watching the Giants, late in the fourth quarter. When he saw Collie tugging me, he lowered his face in feigned despondence.
His lips curled at the corners.
“Oh my poor baby!” I cried. “So sad, and so much life to live!”
I crawled across the futon to him.
“Hey, you are blocking the view,” Bucky chastised.
“What do I care of that? My baby needs me.”
I took his face in my hands.
“Sweet Jason, it is a tragedy,” I said, furrowing my brow. I pulled him to my bosom. “You will never, never recover from this.”
“You are scarred for life.”
Collie joined me in hugging his brother.
“Poor Jason!” he moaned. “It’s too, too sad!”
“Will you please move?” Bucky asked, straining her neck. “It’s the fourth quarter.”
“Sorry,” I said, standing out of the way. “Lucy gave up on the game?”
Collie piped up. “She went on a walk with Aunt Julia and Uncle Aaron.”
I exchanged a look with Uncle Richard.
This was her third or fourth “walk” of the day.
She must be stoned out of her gourd, I thought.