Emma’s hand was small in John’s. It was soft and the simple gold band signifying she was his and his alone was the only thing that interrupted the softness. Emma loved walking through the park on bright sunny, summer days like this. John walked because Emma enjoyed the park. She had often told him taking a stroll through the park close to their house was a good way for her to decompress after a busy day at the adult day care. Several years ago John would never have thought there would be anything like an “adult day care”, but as the population grew older, so did the need for some place for the elderly to go and feel safe, and entertained. Luckily for Emma, she didn’t have to work with any of the Alzheimer’s patients. Emma had a huge heart. Was it big enough to forgive him? He was going to have to tell her soon.
They moved around a large tree with a small plaque detailing its history and what kind of tree it was: an oak. This is the oldest tree in Woodfair Park the plaque boasted. On a bench, in the shade of the old oak, sat an old woman with white hair and a round, happy face. Her hands were quick and wrinkled as they busied themselves knitting a tiny red sweater. Maybe it was for her grandchild, or a great-great-grandchild. The sweater looked soft, delicate. The bright color would please any small child.
John smiled. He couldn’t wait to see what cute little things he could find for the baby.
But what if Emma left him?
It was a mistake. It shouldn’t have happened. He had been weak and selfish and now he was bringing a new life into the world, but not with Emma. Emma had always wanted children and couldn’t have any. They had thought of adopting, but Emma had said God would provide. Was this a way of God providing? His unfaithfulness? Joanna wasn’t going to give up the baby, though. She had already told him, and she expected him to be part of the child’s life. Would Emma think he had gotten with Joanna just so he could have a baby? That would destroy her! How could he make her see it had all just been a stupid mistake with disastrous consequences.
A child should never be viewed as a disaster, his conscience snapped.
He couldn’t get through this without Emma. What if Emma left him?
John had stopped walking and was staring at the little red sweater forming on the old woman’s knitting needles as tears began to flow.
How was he going to explain it all to Emma?
Emma tilted her face to the sun for a moment, sliding her free hand into the pocket of her jeans. John always made her feel safe, protected. For a moment her grasp on his hand tightened. Her hand dwarfed in his. Sometimes she felt like a little girl again walking with her Dad in the park on the way home from the hospital after seeing Mom. The walk always renewed them after really bad visits. It had been difficult for her to watch her Mom slip into madness. The doctors didn’t know why it had happened. For years Emma feared she would one day go insane like her mother, but she didn’t. The last time Emma had visited her mother at Eastern State the mother didn’t know her daughter, or anyone or anything else. How long ago had that been? Fifteen years? It had been a long time.
Emma had thought a lot about her Mom for the past few days. Sharing her news with her mother would have been a perfect topper to wonderful gift she had been given. They were given. It was a miracle. It was a straight up miracle and she was finally going to be able to tell John. Today.
As they rounded the old oak tree in the middle of the park, Emma couldn’t help but smile at the older woman sitting there quietly knitting a red baby sweater. Emma’s heart soared. How pleased was John going to be? The knowledge he was the father of their baby trilled through her veins like an unspoken, un-sung song of joy. He would make a wonderful dad.
John stopped to watch the woman knit. The woman’s hands moved with confidence with the soft red yarn and the knitting needles. How difficult was it to learn to knit? Maybe she could learn and knit something for the baby. Could she learn enough to knit a cap and maybe a blanket, and some booties?
Emma leaned against John, the side of her face pressing into the side of his arm. Everything was perfect now.
John began crying. He was just standing there crying, watching the woman knit the sweater. Was he thinking they would never have a baby and the little garment was reminding him of the joy they would never know? Emma smiled at the secret knowledge she held and turned to wrap her arms around him.
“It’s OK, John,” she began….
Paula loved knitting in the park. She could stroll off the porch and walk 26 steps and she was at her knitting bench. Since Norma had moved in with her, life had improved. There was someone to talk to, knit with, quilt with. Norma loved to cook which meant Meals On Wheels was now just for lunch and a good expectation for the day. Norma was only in her mid-sixties so there was lots of life in the house now. Neither of them were alone any more, which was good for both.
Norma had down days, of course. Paula didn’t expect anything less since Norma had only recently lost Bill, her husband. They had children who had all moved away. Norma couldn’t make the house payments on her check and Paula’s house was far too big for one person to keep clean, though she could do it when she was younger. When you turned 88, though, you didn’t mind so much if the dusting was done. You were just thrilled you woke up! (Sometimes you were sad about waking up, too.)
Paula shifted, getting more comfortable on the pillow she had brought to sit on. Norma was making her daily circuit of the park. She always started from the knitting bench and always ended there, too. Then, Paula would collect her knitting and pillow and they would link arms and walk back to the house together. Life was better now.
Paula glanced up and saw a couple nearing along the path. They didn’t see her at first. The man was handsome with short-cropped brown hair and clean-shaven. He wore dark framed glasses adding just the right amount of accent to his face. His mouth was a little pinched, though, and his eyes would sometimes get a far-off look to them. He was struggling with something. The woman at his side was small, petite, with red hair and a happy, blissful smile. She was glowing from the inside out. Paula smiled at her. If she saw them again she would offer to knit her something for the new baby. The woman was so happy she didn’t see the man’s discomfort.
The couple stopped right in front of Paula’s bench. The woman watched her knit enwrapped.
Suddenly the man-made coughing sounds. When Paula looked up the man was crying. The coughing sounds were his sobs.
“It’s OK, John,” the woman started.
“No, it won’t. You don’t understand!” The man was beside himself with grief.
Paula collected her knitting together, her pillow, and then her cane. She would go back to the porch and knit a few more rows while waiting for Norma to finish her walk. If she wasn’t on the bench Norma knew to come look for her at the house.
“Emma, there’s something I need to tell you,” the man, John said at Paula’s back.
“Here, sit down. There’s something I need to tell you, too.”