At the top of the stairs, I knocked. No answer.
I waited, knocked again. No answer. He hadn’t answered his phone but I knew he was there. Just before we left home we’d had a halting, apologetic call from Charlotte saying she had helped him up the stairs and seen him in the door.
I called out “Tim, it’s your sister.” Then, “I’ve brought your cane.” A peace offering.
I tried the doorknob and it turned. As I eased the door open and peered in I heard from the kitchen end of the room a warning: “Don’t come in!”
I held the cane before me so he could see it and walked toward him, under heavy fire: “Don’t come in! Don’t come any closer! Jessica, don’t do this! I’m very angry! We have nothing to say to each other.”
By this time I was standing beside him. He sat at the table surrounded by books, magazines and newspapers. He didn’t look up and he didn’t stop shooting, making it hard for me to be heard: “Don’t do this. I don’t want to talk. Not now. Not tonight.”
I had to interrupt him, say it twice to be sure he heard me.
“Jessica, I’m very, very angry! I came very close to going out and getting a drink!”
My voice was low, my movements uncertain. I hung the cane on the edge of the table and promised, “I will never mention the cane or the walker to you again. You can do whatever you want.”
“Go away,” he said.
I stood there a moment longer, wanting to put an arm around his shoulders as I have before, knowing he wouldn’t receive it. I wanted to ask if he’d like to come home with us but I knew he wasn’t ready. “Do you accept my apology?”
“Yes–” he said, still not looking at me, “–but not now. Tomorrow. We can talk about this tomorrow. I don’t want to talk about it tonight. I’m too angry.”
So I moved away. As I reached for the door he called his characteristic, “Drive defensively.” His little olive branch reached out to touch mine.
I didn’t start crying till I closed the door behind me. I sank to one of the top steps and sobbed silently until I could make myself move.
Jerry saw my tears when I got back in the car. He kissed me but he didn’t ask and I didn’t tell him anything.
The next afternoon I asked Jerry to dial his number and ask if he was all right. Tim answered. He said he was making lists of things he needed to get from our house.
He asked if we had his cane.
Jerry reminded him that I had brought it to him last night and hung it from the table. Tim went to look around and said it wasn’t there, “unless someone had pulled out the desk and stuck in down behind in the darkness and then pushed the desk back in–”
I picked up the receiver and when he heard my voice he used that warning tone again: “NO, Jessica!” I thought he was hanging up on me so I said hastily, “The kitchen table.”
I heard him scuffling and bumping around. “Oh. Here it is.” I put Jerry back on the phone and Tim asked, “Are we all all right now?” Jerry said yes.
But we weren’t.