Husband and Wife Disagree
At the home of Moses and Cecilia Freeman an argument had been rumbling since the night after Alva and Moses met. It began when Moses asked Cecilia if she knew what that woman had wanted to see him about and why she hadn’t told him straight up. Cecilia told Moses she didn’t tell him because she didn’t want to make up his mind for him, that it was his decision to make about what he wanted to know and when. She told him she had never been able to make sense of his feelings about his past, and that she had always thought she would want to know who her parents were and why they gave her up. But she told him she respected his wishes because it was a very personal decision. It stopped there, but the next night it started again.
This time he was somewhat belligerent, challenging Cecilia to tell him why he should want to know. Asking what gave her the right to judge him. Saying he had gone all through this years ago when he was a teenager, and it was behind him. Cecilia answered, as calmly as she could, that if it was really behind him he wouldn’t be so worked up about it. That there must be some anxiety for him, some quest he had denied, some need he had that was still unfulfilled. She said he couldn’t hide form it forever and that this was the perfect opportunity to face it.
A few days later he reprimanded a rookie for not hanging his gear up properly. Then he yelled at one of the firemen on his team for having a sloppy locker. He tossed the man’s personal things onto the floor and told him to clean up his mess. There was a sense at the fire station that something was bugging the chief, but no one said anything, instead cutting a wide berth around him.
At home he was curt and short tempered and finally Cecilia confronted him, saying he needed to put his house in order.
He threw a glass of apple juice against a kitchen wall and for the first time in their married life he stormed out the door, coming back after midnight and crawling into bed. But Cecilia was awake and when she heard him sigh deeply, thinking she was asleep, she turned to him and said she always thought she married a hero, a brave man who could face anything.
“What do you know about bravery?” he asked. “You sit in a schoolroom every day and talk about writers who’ve been dead for hundreds of years. I face death every time that bell rings. Your bells just mean it’s lunch time or another group of kids is coming into your room. I know what courage is. And this ain’t about courage, Cissy. You don’t understand.”
“Then explain it to me, Moses,” Cecilia whispered in the dark. “Explain to me how you can have the kind of courage it takes to face those flames, and you can’t talk to one old black lady and hear her side of the story. You explain that to me now.”
“It’s different, that’s all,” Moses said.
It took ten days of this back and forth and finally Cecilia said the one thing he couldn’t ignore.
“It’s fine for you to make this decision for your life,” she said. “But what about those three children of yours? Do you want them to feel the way you feel? And what happens if one day they find out they got a grandmother living in the same city and their daddy didn’t want to acknowledge her? Do you think they’re going to be happy about that? Do you think that’s going to be good for them?”
At the restaurant, Alva finally emerged from the kitchen. She walked over to their table. Moses stood up and held out his hand.
Then he turned to his family and said, “Kids, I want you to meet Mrs. Alva Patterson, your grandmother.”