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The Jacksons – for Jul. 2, 2009

Spring in Manitoba is like childbirth.” Rose Jackson leaned back in her lounge chair, closed her eyes, and let the bright afternoon sun beat down on her as she spoke. “The longer it takes the more it hurts and after awhile you begin to think it’s never going to end, and then suddenly it’s over. And all it takes is one glorious day of summer and then you can’t remember what all the complaining was about.”

Andrew closed the lid on the barbecue and sat down in his favourite lawn chair. Taking his beer from the holder in the arm he took a good pull before he replied.

“If that’s what childbirth is like then you ladies have my deepest sympathy,” he said. “Because that was just painful.”

“Your sympathy is appreciated,” said Rose. “At least spring wasn’t your fault.”

“Thank you for acknowledging that,” said Andrew.

“Just look at it now,” said Rose opening her eyes. “I can’t believe how quick it changed.”

Andrew took another drink and looked around. The sun was high in the western sky and the big elm tree in the front yard cast a wide shadow on the lawn, a shadow dappled here and there by bright spots of light where the sun’s rays found their way through the thick canopy of leaves and branches. Andrew sat in the shade of the tree, while Rose lay on her lounger in the sun. Beyond her at the edge of the lawn a high lilac hedge heavy with sweet-smelling flowers completely hid the trailer they had moved in three years earlier for Randy and Jackie. The faint sound of a stereo playing an Allison Kraus tune drifted across the lawn occasionally, when the breeze was just right. Jackie must have a window open, and if it weren’t for that, Andrew and Rose might well have thought themselves the only two people within who knows how many square miles. Andrew glanced approvingly at the smoke curling up around the barbecue lid.

“That is going to be one tasty steak,” he said.

“Two tasty steaks,” corrected Rose. “What a change from last weekend, with Grant and Karen here on Saturday night and then all the kids on Sunday for Father’s Day. Man, that was crazy.”

“What a great Father’s Day,” said Andrew getting up and taking the barbecue tongs off the hook on the left-hand shelf of the barbecue. He opened the barbecue lid and thick, aromatic smoke rolled around his head, making him cough for a moment. He reached in with the tongs, picked up the steaks and turned them over, admiring the dark criss-cross pattern that the grill had seared onto the steaks from below. “Now that’s what a steak should look like,” he said. “And smell like for that matter.”

Rose opened her eyes for a second. A red-tailed hawk soared high above the summerfallow field to the south and three small, wispy clouds floated slowly across the sky. After a second though the sun was too bright and Rose closed her eyes again.

“So what makes a great Father’s Day?” she asked.

Andrew sat back in his chair and pondered that for a moment.

“Good question,” he said. He thought about it for another moment. Glancing upwards he saw the hawk fold its wings suddenly and drop like an arrow towards the ground. Just above tree level the wings spread and the hawk hung for a second in the air then folded its wings once more and disappeared behind the curtain of leaves. “That’s one gopher less,” said Andrew.

“Huh?” said Rose.

“Just watching a hawk,” said Andrew. “Ah, yes, I saw it,” said Rose.

“First you have to have kids,” said Andrew, returning to the previous conversation. “And decent kids. Not like some of the riff-raff I’ve seen around.” He paused. “I’ve got that. Second, you need to have a nice day, and that was a nice day. Twenty-five degrees, sunny, and a nice breeze.” He took another sip of his beer. “Third, you gotta have a wife who can cook. And believe me, my wife can cook.” Andrew leaned back in his chair. “And last,” he said, “but not least, you want a day where from the moment you open your eyes till the moment your head hits the pillow you don’t have to do one single thing that you’d rather not do.” He smiled. “How often do you get a day like that? Once a year.”

“If you’re lucky,” said Rose.

“I am luckier than most,” said Andrew. “You hungry?” he added.

“If I am, does that mean I have to move?” said Rose.

Andrew reached over and uncovered the potato salad that Rose had made earlier and put on the picnic table when they came out. “Nope,” he said. “You can stay where you are.”

“In that case,” said Rose, “I’m starving.”

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