Tim knew he was in trouble when he turned on Oprah and saw his mother sitting on the sofa with a book in her lap.
“Have you read your mother’s book?” His office mates clapped him on the back as they passed by his desk. “Powerful stuff!” Tim hunched his shoulders and pointed to his Bluetooth, pretending to be on a customer call.
At home Sarah suggested that it might be time for Tim to pay a visit to “I don’t think you’ve seen her since last Christmas.”
Tim thought back. it might have been two Christmases ago, or maybe three. They talked on the phone but he was pretty sure she had never told him she was writing a book.
On Saturday, Tim climbed into his Mini Cooper. He made a quick stop at the grocery store and bought the freshest bouquet of daisies he could find. Three hours later he stood on the porch of his mother’s bungalow and rang the doorbell. A teenage girl answered the door.
“You must be Tim,” she said. She smiled and motioned for him to follow her into the family room. “I’ve seen your picture.” Tim remained standing while the girl folded herself into the leather chair his Dad used to sit in. “Nana’s not home right now, but she’ll be back soon.”
Nana? This can’t be one of Taylor’s kids. They’re, like, two and four.
“I’m sorry, we haven’t met. I’m Chloe."
Tim set the daisies down on the coffee table and stuffed his hands in his pockets while he looked around the room. Except for the leather chair, he didn’t see one thing he recognized. Could he be suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s? Was that genetic?
“Are you a neighbor?”
“Noooo,” Chloe said, shaking her springy curls. “I’m, like, your sister. Nana adopted me two years ago.” Chloe bounced to her feet swooping up the daisies and headed to the kitchen for a vase.
“These are pretty but I don’t want to leave them here. Nana’s allergic to daisies you know.”
Tim’s face began to burn. He rubbed his eyes in an attempt to clear his vision.
“Do you mean my mother adopted you, like adopting a cause?”
“Ha,” Chloe took a knife out of the drawer and began cutting the woody part of the stems off the daisies. “You make me sound like a puppy. No, Nana adopted me with lawyers and court hearings and all that. And in case you are wondering, I call her Nana because we both decided that was nice. She’s a little older than most of my friends’ mothers, plus there’s the joke.”
Chloe popped the daisies in the vase and set them in the laundry room.
“What joke?” The juices in Tim’s stomach were churning.
“At my adoption hearing Nana told the judge that she always said that if her kids didn’t get busy and make her a grandmother, she’d have her own grandkids. Don’t you think that’s funny?”
“Taylor has kids!”
“Well, her husband is with the foreign service.”
“Not the point.”
“What is the point?”
“Read her book, Tim.” Chloe left the room and returned with a hardback that she handed to Tim. On the back cover of the book’s glossy jacket he saw a familiar photograph of his childhood family. It was the before picture—before his dad got sick, before he got busy, before Taylor moved away.
Feeling his knees weaken, He flipped the book to the front and ran his hand across the embossed title. The book was titled, The Joke.
“Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” Exodus 20:12
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