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The Jacksons – for Mar. 17, 2011

Abitterly cold north wind howled icily across the Jacksons’ yard as Brady Jackson pulled his shiny black Trans Am up in front of his father’s shop and turned off the engine. He opened the door and had to grab at the steering wheel as a particularly violent gust nearly yanked the door out of his hand and threatened to rip it off its hinges.

Brady muttered a bad word under his breath, slammed the door behind him, and then hurried to open the shop door and get inside out of the cold. His father, Andrew, looked up from his job at the workbench.

“Hey howdy,” he said. “Cold enough for ya?”

“Bloody ridiculous,” said Brady, stomping the snow off of his boots. “I mean really. It is March isn’t it? Because judging from the temperature it’s more like New Year’s.”

“New Year’s was nice compared to this.” Andrew wiped his hands on his coveralls and picked up the pot of coffee that was sitting on the hot plate close by. “Coffee?”

“Don’t mind if I do,” said Brady. “As long as it’s good and hot.”

“It’s hot,” said Andrew. “And relatively fresh.” He grabbed a mug from the group that sat upside down on a clean dishtowel next the hot plate and filled it nearly to the top. “You don’t take cream or sugar, right?”

“Ugh. Don’t be disgusting,” said Brady.

“Right,” said Andrew. “Black it is.” He handed the mug to Brady and sat down on one of the chairs that stood handy. Brady followed suit. There was a moment of silence as each of them took a drink. Andrew leaned back in his chair. “What’s new?” he said.

Brady took a moment to think about that. “I’m getting married,” he said.

Andrew nodded. “That’s not all that new,” he said.

“It seems pretty new to me,” said Brady.

“Uh-huh.” Andrew took another sip of coffee. “How do you feel about it?” he asked.

“You mean besides surprised?” said Brady.

“You’re surprised?” said Andrew. “I thought I was the only one.”

Brady shook his head. “You’re not the only one,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d get married ’til I was 30.”

“Could still happen,” said Andrew. “You could have an eight-year engagement.”

Brady laughed. “I don’t think so. If I tried to put off the wedding for eight years I’d have to find me another girl I’m pretty sure.”

“True enough,” said Andrew. “Back to the original question then. Other than being surprised, how are you feeling about it?”

“Good,” said Brady. “Amazingly, surprisingly, more than OK.”

Andrew nodded again. “Well that’s good,” he said. “Could be worse.”

“No kidding,” said Brady. “Who would have thought. I’m 22 years old and getting married and my fiancé is not pregnant.”

Andrew grinned. “I wasn’t going to say that,” he said.

“Thanks,” said Brady. He paused. “Some days I feel a little guilty,” he added.

Andrew raised an eyebrow. “Guilty? About what?”

Brady shrugged. “The way everything’s worked out for me. I got my own body shop, a great car, a nice place to live and a girl who seems to have fallen madly in love with me and wants to marry me and have my kids. Lot of good stuff. Just seems like it might not be entirely fair.”

Andrew thought about that for a second. “Yeah,” he said. “What’s up with that?” He laughed. “Listen kid,” he said, “this too shall pass. I know most people only use that saying when things are going badly, but it’s just as true when things are going well.”

“So you’re saying things are going to get worse?” said Brady. “That’s not a particularly cheerful outlook.”

“Yeah, well, that’s not exactly what I’m saying,” said Andrew. “I’m just saying this too shall pass. Which just means it’s not going to stay like this forever. Could get better, could get worse. You gotta be prepared either way.”

“That’s good advice.” Brady nodded thoughtfully. “You’re so smart. I’m surprised you’re not more successful,” he added with a grin.

“Hey, I didn’t want my kids to have to try to measure up to an impossible standard,” said Andrew, “so I sort of took it easy.”

“That’s thoughtful of you,” said Brady. He took a sip of coffee. “So, what’s the secret?” he asked. “To a long and happy marriage I mean.”

“Well, here’s how your mother and I did it,” said Andrew. “We split up the decision-making duties. Your mother makes all the small decisions and I make all the big decisions.”

Brady looked doubtful. “That works?” he said.

“Perfectly,” said Andrew. “In 27 years, we’ve never had to make a big decision.”

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