While my contemporary romance novels center around the love between a man and a woman, they also include other stories of love. The love between siblings. And, the love between parent and child.
In this scene from my debt contemporary romance novel, The Reunion, I delve into the relationship between fathers and sons. The scene was inspired by a speech someone gave at my Toastmasters club. He talked about the difficult relationship he had with his father. It was a memorable, poignant, and somewhat bittersweet speech. In my version, Ian is talking to his teenage son, Larry, about the difficult relationship he had with his father, as well as the difficulties he is currently experiencing with his older son, Jeremy.
A father and son scene from The Reunion
The day Ian had dreaded was finally upon him. It was his final day at Salisbury & Norton. The timing was like a double-edged sword. It also happened to be the Friday before Christmas; the same day Salisbury & Norton always held its annual employee holiday party. They had offered to combine his retirement party with the holiday party, but he declined. Ian had no desire to include festive lights, Christmas trees and menorahs to the strain of having to wear a false smile and pretending to be happy when he wasn’t. He had devoted nearly half his life to Salisbury & Norton, and his plan had always been to leave on his own terms. Now, he was being prematurely pushed out the door, yet another casualty of downsizing in a weak economy.
He spent the day packing up his personal belongings, closing out his company email account, taking phone calls from well-wishers, and spending time with co-workers who filed in and out of his office to say goodbye. It was a few minutes after three when he shut down his computer for the last time. He took a deep breath and let out a long sigh before loading his car and turning in his employee badge. As he drove out of the parking garage he felt as if a giant door had slammed shut behind him. Upon arriving home, Larry greeted him with a puzzled look as he carried in a cardboard box full of odds and ends.
“What’s up, Dad?”
“Early retirement, that’s what,” he said as he headed up the stairs. “There’s another box out in my car. Would you mind getting it for me?”
Larry went out the garage and brought up the box from the passenger seat. “So what’s going on? I thought you’d be staying on until next spring.”
“That’s what I thought too, but apparently it made their accounting easier to have me out before the end of the calendar year, so I’m done. Finished. Kaput. End of story. Twenty-five years with Salisbury and Norton, and now it’s goodbye, Merry Christmas, and kiss my ass.”
Larry followed his father back downstairs. Ian made a quick exit to the garage, returning a minute later with a painting of an old tractor in front of a rustic old barn. Larry joined his father in the family room. Ian took a seat in his easy chair, while Larry inspected the painting as it leaned against the coffee table.
“We’ll have to find a place to hang this.” He examined the painting more closely. “Wow. Gillian Matthews did this?”
“Yep. I bought it at her show at Sorenson’s Gallery last April. I had to have it. I don’t know how much you remember about your grandparent’s farm, but the barn looked at lot like the one in the painting.”
“Yeah, I remember, although I don’t recall our going there very often.”
“I guess that’s my fault. I was the rebel son, and because of that, I avoided your grandfather for many years.”
“What do you mean?”
“That farm had been in our family for generations. It had been passed down, from father to eldest son, since the end of the Civil War. When my parents sent me to college, it was to get a degree in business administration, and they sent me to Arizona State because the business school had a good reputation. However, I had no intention of spending my life being a farmer. I wanted to be an architect. It’s what I’d wanted since I was younger than you. Little did my father know that ASU also had a pretty good architecture college, and once I arrived, I changed my major to architecture. I didn’t tell my father I made the switch until the summer before my senior year. Let’s just say it didn’t go over well.”
“What about Grandma?”
“My mother understood,” said Ian. “She said I had to do what I thought was best for me, but my father didn’t see it that way. Never mind what I wanted. I was breaking generations of family tradition and it just didn’t sit well with him. So, I decided I would work my way to the top, no matter what it cost me, just to prove to him that I was right, but you know, in the end, it really didn’t matter. My father never forgave me, and, as of today, it’s all over. I’ve been officially put out to pasture. I’m sure the old man, wherever he is, is having a good laugh at my expense.”
“Somehow, I don’t think so. If Grandpa did harbor any ill feelings toward you, Jeremy and I never knew about it.”
“I see. So, did he ever talk about me to you?”
“Sometimes, and whenever he did, it was always good. I know for a fact that in his own way, Grandpa was proud of you. I could hear it in the sound of his voice. Jeremy says Grandpa once told him times had changed, and it had gotten to be too hard to pass family farms down. He said he was relieved you went into another line of work.”
“No, Dad, I’m not. Ask Jeremy.”
“Then why the hell didn’t he ever tell me that?”
Larry shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe he meant to, but he just didn’t get the chance.”
Ian let out a long sigh. His eyes grew misty and he had to blink several times. “My father was always distant, and throughout my entire life, there were four simple words that I longed to hear from him, but never did. Those four words were, ‘I love you, son.’ I guess it just wasn’t his way, you know.”
“I’m sorry, Dad.”
“Me too, and because I didn’t have the best relationship with my father, I really tried to make up for it by being the best dad I possibly could to you and your brother.”
“I know you did, and I know I haven’t exactly been the best son either, but I’m trying to do better, I really am. I just wish you’d work things out with Jeremy.”
“Your brother and I have hit a big bump in the road all right. Hopefully, someday, he and I will be able to work through it.”