The house was exceptionally quiet without the girls. No hair dryers blaring upstairs or voices arguing about who was wearing what. And no one asking the only male in the house to fix something that suddenly stopped working. No, this was a very different morning for a husband and father of two grown girls.
Matt sipped his coffee and pondered the rare stillness. No TV or music. Even the birds were quiet. There was only one distraction. An unsettling thought that wasn't going away. Something that had been subtly bothering him off and on for about a month now. He normally laughed at himself for thinking about it, but this morning by himself in the silent kitchen he wasn't laughing. He had been by himself before but this morning for some reason he truly felt alone.
Matt rose from his place at the table and stepped out onto the back deck where the rolling green hills went on as far as the eye could see. His quiet concerns followed him where he leaned against the stained wood railing.
His wife Sharon, oldest daughter Tori and baby of the family, Leah, were spending some quality “girl time” together. Only fitting really. Tori was already on her own and now Leah was leaving home for college a few hours away. Matt wasn't troubled with everyone being gone. It was something else. Something in what he'd heard his wife say a few times over the years. It was probably all in his head, but still...
They first met in a coin operated laundry. Matt remembers seeing the young mother in the back loading wet clothes into the large commercial dryer with help from her two little girls. After he got his wash started, he took a seat and passed the time reading his truck magazine. A few minutes later the cutest face he'd ever seen crawled up onto the seat next to him. The 4 year-old Leah with curly brown hair smiled at Matt, then quietly looked at the pictures with him. He was surprised with how comfortable she seemed to be with him.
“She's over here bugging some guy, mom,” came the older sister's voice several feet away.
Sharon came over quickly after that. “I'm so sorry about that, sir. Leah, come on back here.”
Matt looked at the young lady and calmly said, “She's no bother at all, ma'am. We both seem to like trucks.”
Before another word could be said, Tori sat down on the other side of him and looked at the magazine too. The single mother stared in amazement at how her girls took to this complete stranger. This stranger in blue jeans and no wedding ring.
The story of how they met and were soon married would be told countless times over the years. Sharon's version seemed to end one way or another with the words, “I was looking for a good father for my girls.” A reasonable wish from anyone, particularly a young mother. Who wouldn't want a good father for their kids? But Matt was troubled by what was missing. What about the woman finding a good husband? What about their love, needs and wants separate from the obvious needs of the children? What happens to their relationship when the girls are grown and gone and a father isn't needed anymore?
Like every family, they'd had their ups and downs but always managed to land on their feet. Matt felt loved and needed. But needed and wanted are two different things.
In recent weeks, and especially after receiving an inheritance from a relative, Sharon seemed more aloof. Matt let her do what she wanted with the money. It was a sizable amount. Enough money to buy a gazillion shoes, take a long vacation or say, start a new life...
About then he heard the front door close. Sharon must be home. A moment later the sliding glass door opened.
“I think we need to talk,” she said behind him.
Matt looked on to the green fields not knowing how to respond. Then he heard the low rumble of something coming around the house to the back yard.
Matt turned to see Tori and Leah driving a sparkling new four-by-four with “Happy Father's Day” painted in large letters on the side.
In unison the three women cried out to the one man in all of their lives, “We love you forever Daddy!”
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