He’s pouring a drink. He’s just learned he’ll be a father. The plane only touched down two hours ago. I wonder if this was the right time to tell him.
For a while the secret was just mine and hers. Even when her stomach lurched each morning, while I bounced around inside her, she was happy. And he was oblivious.
He’s the silent broody type, my dad. Finally he speaks.
“This wasn’t our plan. How?”
Later at dinner, they keep up appearances. The other couple unaware as they share the seafood platter and toast their combined 40ths. She puts her hand on his thigh and he pushes it off, annoyed. Their friends head to the bar for another round. My mother tries again.
“It’s my last chance, please be happy.”
“You never mentioned it before.” He says gruffly but allows her hand to stay this time. “We agreed no children.”
The tension is thick and the couple wave from the bar, concern on their faces as they observe the strained conversation.
“I don’t think I can be a part of this.”
Shock. I never imagined he’d opt out. She’s shocked too. She knew he would be upset at the secrecy but was sure she’d talk him around.
When the couple return, the charade continues. It’s awkward and I can feel my mother’s stomach churn. She barely touches her food and neither does he. Their friends have noticed.
Over the next few days, there are arguments and fights. Their holiday companions have left for the island early. They can’t bear the silences any longer. And this holiday is nothing like it was meant to be. We, my mother and I, were hoping that it would be a joyous occasion. Sure, there would be the initial shock but we were never prepared for this.
He says he’s going to leave.
My mother sobs and begs.
It’s not until the fourth day when there is a shift in his attitude. I’m not sure if it is the sight of a Vietnamese family clinging to each other atop a motorcycle. Or perhaps it’s in the gallery amongst the paintings and photos of young children at war.
That night he concedes. He will stay. Relief is visible not only in my mother’s face but also his. I can feel it too, coursing through my physical being. Everything will be alright. We will be a family.
They take the next plane to the island. After an emotional night filled with promises and forgiveness, they can’t wait to tell their friends. They hold hands as the plane takes off, smiling at each other with their revised life plan. The pilot too, sits back relaxed, as if he knows the news he is carrying.
And then a jolt. A bird is sucked into the plane’s engine; its life over in a flash. My parent’s hands now grip in terror.
The plane tumbles from the sky. Our family over in a flash.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash