He was sitting in his study reading the paper when the storm struck.
The first signs were the sounds of wheels on the gravel, then car doors
opening and slamming shut again, raised voices, kids complaining,
adults cajoling and arguing. The noise made its way to the front door
and into the house as he sighed and turned back to his paper.
The door to the study swung open and his daughter came in. He looked at
her over the top of his paper and she looked at him, both daring the
other to speak first. In the end, he gave in.
"Well?" he asked, putting down the paper.
"He made a scene in the middle of Mass," she said, his question
triggering a long rant. He tuned the rest out: he had heard it many
times before. Although the details were different, the rant was always
the same, whether it was the cinema, the beach, the zoo, or this time,
He pictured it in his mind's eye: his son-in-law had made some
inappropriate comment, spoken his mind when it would have been better
left unspoken, committed an indiscretion or failed to act when required
to. She in turn had over-reacted. There had been a row. He had "spoiled
it all". She had demanded that they leave and created an even bigger
scene. The first would have been noticed only by her or those around
her, the last by everyone there as she marshalled the unwilling
children ("we don't want to go"), put on coats and hats and marched
everyone out of the church, probably (judging by the time of their
return) right in the middle of the service. He felt sorry for the
children, his grandchildren, who were only there for the spectacle, but
in this case he felt particularly sorry for his wife, the only devout
one in the family.
He waited for his daughter to finish, sighed again and asked once more:
"Why does he do it, Dad? Why does he spoil everything?" she demanded.
"Because he always does," he replied. "You knew that when you married
"But I thought I could change him."
"Then you're a fool," he said quietly, with a feeling of relief. It had
finally been said, after many years of biting his tongue and after many
"I beg your pardon?"
"You're a fool," he said, louder this time, so there could be no doubt.
"You should always love a person for who they are, not who you want
them to be."
She turned on her heel and walked out of the room, pausing only to slam
the door. He sighed again and went back to his paper.