I watched him from afar, lonely speck of black in a sea of white. He liked to do this after every event, sit smoking a cigarette amidst the pieces of themselves the guests left behind on the grounds he kept. Just one cigarette, though. He had quit for real a month and two weeks before I announced that I was marrying the daughter of his greatest enemy.
I walked, the grass beneath my feet muffling my approach. I was late today, and I wondered if my father noticed this where he sat sending wisps of smoke up in the air. There was something essentially the same about the different events that held here: weddings, parties, conventions, concerts. The things that the guests left behind on my father’s grounds – the scarves, the condoms, the books and underpants and wallets – should each tell a different story. But knowing that my father would look upon every one of these things made the stories all merge into one – the story of his life.
He did not say anything that day, after I shared the news of my coming wedding. He just strode out and returned with a pack of his favourite brand of smokes, Gold Star. He’s never spoken a word to me since. By marrying into the family that had stolen his small business and made him into a groundskeeper, I had chosen sides. There was nothing to say.
Except that today there was.
He did not look up when I reached him. His lips were rounded as he made a perfect O with his smoke. As a child I would reach up, put my index finger through the hole and watch the smoke fade around it. Would it make him laugh if I did that now? I sat and looked off into the distance.
We had made a baby for him. After three years of trying, we finally had. When I first held her in my arms I knew she would be the one, the mender of fences, the bridge under which the waters of our strife would flow. She was doing it already; her other grandfather had visited for the first time yesterday. Maybe if I found the right words my father would too.
I could start by saying we had decided to call her Gold Star. I hoped he would like this.