“I have a daughter, Lisa, and she is basically a good girl, or she would be if she would just let go of her Jezebel spirit.” Nathan talked as they walked.
“Her what?” Mya asked as she chose to let go of Nathan’s hand and walk at his side. She felt like she was getting too big to be hand holding like that, and anyway, he said she was growing up so she decided she had better start acting more grown up.
“It means she always has to be in charge and control everything,” he said. “She has driven out three of the last four preachers at the church.”
“I thought priests got appointed,” Mya said. She did not understand.
“Not in the Baptist Church,”
“Oh, we’re Episcopalian.”
“I’m sort of a mix myself.” Nathan let out a little smile. “I guess that is why I fit well with the Baptists.”
“I’ve always been Episcopalian,” Mya said in all honestly.
“Anyway, I have a daughter, Lisa, and she is all right I suppose, but a hard woman. She does not put up with any nonsense and does not have much of a sense of humor.”
“So you are married?” Mya said, seriously, but it was like a question.
“Was married.” Nathan answered and came to a stop. He stooped to pick up a stone from the curb and tossed it into someone’s yard. He missed the tree he was only half aiming at. “Penny ran out on Lisa and me when Lisa was about your age, seven I mean. Actually, she was eight.”
“I’m not eight anymore.” Mya said with a grin. Once again, Mya had accepted all that was happening to them. It was Nathan who was having a hard time thinking of her as anything other than a crippled seven-year-old.
“So she abandoned us.” Nathan went to pick up the story but he felt Mya’s hand on his cheek and in his hair.
“Poor baby,” Mya said, softly and with all gentleness. Nathan turned, and there must have been something in his eyes because the girl quickly withdrew her hand and looked almost like she was scolded, even without a word. “It is what my grandma always says.” She cringed a little in defending herself.
Nathan softened. “I didn’t mean to startle you.” He did not want to upset her because after all, she was only a child. “I got over it. What?” He asked what because she was staring at him. Her hand reached very hesitantly for his hair again, and he did nothing to stop her, so she combed it behind his ear.
“You have brown hair. It’s nice. You know it isn’t so gray anymore.” He did not know, but to be sure, he found the whole idea of getting younger a bit disturbing. He was glad for her, that she was growing up, but he was not sure he wanted to get much younger. He lived a good long life and he was afraid that he might start to forget who he was. He decided that he needed to get them back on the subject so he started to walk again and she walked at his side.
“Anyway.” He exaggerated the word. “I have two grandchildren. My granddaughter, Susan, is twenty-eight and lives in California with her husband and two perfect children.” He rolled his eyes for her and that made Mya giggle. “My son, Stephen is local, and still married, sort of, and they have a daughter, my great-grand Emily. She is eight.”
“What do you mean, sort of still married?”
“Separated.” Nathan shrugged. “But they are in counseling so who knows? Maybe they will reconcile. Personally, I am not holding my breath.”
“You don’t sound very happy with any of your family.” Mya thought hard about it.
Nathan shrugged again. “I suppose I blame myself.” He held up his hand to keep her quiet until he explained. “I am the one who raised Lisa to be the way she is. I don’t know, but I think she needed her mother, a mother, any mother. I was working way too much and I put too much on her shoulders at too young an age. I made her grow up too fast, you see? That is my only real concern for you.”
“I will be fine,” Mya said quickly and took his hand once again to reassure him. “I don’t need to be in charge of anything.”
He glanced at her. “You say that now, but wait until you’re a little older.”
“You mean ten minutes from now?” She asked, and they both laughed a little.
“Anyway.” Nathan stressed the word again. “I’m the one who made Lisa into a hard woman, and she raised Susan and Stephen to be warped in their own ways.”
“I think your wife might be blamed for some of it,” Mya suggested.
Nathan shook his head. “I can’t blame her. She wasn’t there.”
“Exactly,” Mya said. “My mother and I are alone, too. I know that is not the way it is supposed to be. My father should be there. I am sure I missed out on lots of things because he was not there.” She paused and wondered ever so briefly if she was clinging to this man because he could maybe be the father she never had. “I am sure my mother has had me take responsibilities that I should not have to take, or have taken, back, you know, when I was seven.”
Nathan let out his breath in what was almost a little growl. “Parents talk all of the time about raising their children, but I think most of the time all we do is ruin them. We fill them with our disappointments, our anger and frustrations with life and twist their little minds until they become something they were never meant to be. I suppose that is the nature of sin. I never realized it before, the way the sins of the fathers keep getting passed on from one generation to the next and get twisted in the process until it becomes something downright wicked.”
“Stop it.” Mya interrupted his tirade. “I am sure you did just what you told me to do. I am sure you did the best you could and my grandmother used to say you can’t expect to do any better than your best.”
“I suppose,” Nathan said, but he became quiet for a time.
“How come you never remarried?” Mya asked at last. Nathan looked at her for a minute before he answered. He wondered what was going on in that little mind of hers.
“Because it never seemed the right time or the right woman, I don’t know. It had to be right for Lisa, you know. Not just for me.” He shook his head and looked away from the girl. He took a deep breath before he spoke again. “I guess I did not want to go through all of that again. I was thirty-four when Penny left, but I still feel the sting of her rejection. She ran off with a minister, though how you reconcile infidelity with ministry, I – I.” He shrugged again, and did not have the words. When he looked again at Mya, she was deep in thought. He nudged her rather than ask what was on her mind.
“Uh?” She looked up. “I was just thinking that I hope my mother remarries, especially now that I am, you know, gone and all. I think she needs a chance to start over, and I was thinking that maybe I was kind of standing in the way of that, do you think?”
“I don’t know,” Nathan said. “I can’t imagine you standing in the way of anyone’s happiness.” He smiled and she did too, drew a little closer and tried to match his stride as they walked. Nathan noticed that Mya now stood as tall as the half-way point between his elbow and shoulder. She was certainly growing. Her bumps were getting bigger, too, and she was showing more curves in that figure. She was turning into a beautiful young woman and he was happy for her. He put his arm around her in his happiness and in true affection. “You’re as tall as my heart now.” He said and sounded very much like the grandfather that he thought of himself, or the father Mya presently imagined him to be. She stopped and gave him a big hug.