Dale and I were together in the Florida sun. We were walking, barefoot, in small steps along the cement sidewalk. Our home was in the final stages of becoming some strangers’ home. It was a week after he had just got the new, red hammock to look at the stars and the waters from the backyard oasis, and two months since the scare with the firefighters in the dark night. Graham, our pugnacious puppy, was pulling at the leash.
We were walking. “Ah-Dale…?’ hands in hair.
“Hm?” looking straightforward.
Graham was interested in a LIZARD! along the sidewalk.
“Um, I want to…give you a hug?” looking half-at him, half-away.
He turned toward me and smiled, face looking alive for the first time since he went to the cardiologist at 3 a.m.: “Why?”
Why? Who asks why? No time to be shy, Natalie.
“Because-its-what people, do?” an anthropology expert confesses.
He opened his arms and let me rest my heavy head in embrace. And he let me hug him as I let myself be hugged.
“I don’t want this place to sell,” he reassumed the walk and began with words.
I listened to the fears he didn’t let anyone else hear, and he let me.
Step-father, step-father? What is sacred in those distant titles? No, he wasn’t my Dad, but that never meant he wasn’t still my dad. Maybe we all had My-mom in common.
We talked, we smiled, and we walked. All the way until Graham saw the front-door and bolted inside.
I always thought it was odd how strangers become family.