Cutting the engine to the tractor Henry sat back and wiped the sweat from his brow with his faded paisley bandana. He gazed up toward the house and pictured the scene to come. It did not make his heart glad.
He snorted his dissatisfaction and climbed down, the soft, new-turned earth giving way in a most satisfactory manner beneath his boots. Entering the kitchen he grunted at Emily, busy chopping onions as several pots on the stove boiled away, steam rising, delicious smells permeating the room.
She glanced over her shoulder at him and smiled to herself. He would come around when the time came.
“You go wash up now Henry. Rest yourself a spell.”
He nodded though her back was to him and shuffled off to the washroom. The soreness in his hands gave way to welcome relief beneath the cool running water. He splashed his face and ran a comb through his thinning silver hair and studied his face in the mirror. Turning away he pushed aside the thoughts rising up.
Emily listened to the hiss of the Naugahyde as Henry sank into his favourite chair and heard the rustle of the newspaper. She set to cutting up carrots and tended to the pots on the stove before going to him.
Wiping her hands on her apron she sat down next to him and waited. Looking up at last he let go his scowl and favoured her with his little boy smile, though she could read between the creased lines around his mouth.
“Henry, it’s going to be a glorious day. You’ll have a good time with…”
“Now Emily, you know I how I am with these get-togethers and such. If it pleases you I’m good with that, but must you tell me how I feel? I’m a grown man, woman. I know my mind.”
He retreated behind his paper and she sat in silence for a moment and then returned to the kitchen. Checking her pies and finding them browning and bubbling just right she set to making the bread dough as she hummed her favourite hymn. Glancing at the clock she was satisfied that everything was on schedule.
They had been blessed with five wonderful children and each in turn had blessed them with grandchildren, twelve in all. Emily had more than enough love in her heart to go around and as they began arriving and the house filled with the sound of laughter and chatter she glowed.
Henry greeted each of his children and their spouses cordially and patted the little ones on the head.
“Now don’t be getting under foot, you hear?”
They nodded and ran off to play. They knew how grandpa was.
Henry set to putting the tables out in the yard and covering them in preparation for the feast to come. He gathered up chairs and brought them outside and kept an eye on the proceedings, his mouth fixed in a firm line. Everyone stayed out of his way; they all knew how it was with the old man and they afforded him respect.
As the sun rode low in the summer sky they sat down at the long row of tables groaning with roast meats, garden fresh vegetables and Emily’s homemade bread. Everyone waited for Henry to lead them in saying grace and then they tucked into the delicious bounty before them. The compliments came fast and thick and Emily received them with smiles.
Eyeing each of them in turn as they filled their mouths and the plates emptied many thoughts were upon him, but Henry kept them to himself and ate in silence, glad to see Emily is high spirits surrounded by all she loved.
After they had all gone inside and were sitting around catching up on the minutia of their respective lives he wandered out to the porch and sat in his rocker and surveyed the aftermath of the feast. His youngest granddaughter came padding through the screen door and climbed into his lap. She put her little arms around him.
“I love you grandpa.”
He stroked her hair and then watched her disappear around the corner of the house chasing chickens.
Looking over his shoulder making sure he was alone he allowed a broad smile to spread across his weathered face. He was satisfied and knew he was blessed, that was for sure, but a man was a man. It wouldn’t do to behave otherwise. He took out his pipe and rocked with contentment.