The Sidelined Wife(6)

By: Jennifer Peel

The rectangular table always had Ma and Dad at each end, my family and Peter and Delanie on one side, with James’s family and Mimsy on the other. Not sure why, but Reed ended up where Neil used to sit. I thought he would have sat by Peter; after all, they had been friends since boyhood.

Reed started the commotion with an innocent comment when I passed the potato salad to him.

“So how have you been, Samantha?”

“She’s divorced,” Mimsy answered for me while rubbing her rosary beads and crossing herself. She didn’t stop there. She dipped her hands in her water glass and tried to flick some at me across the table while praying to Saint Anthony to help me find my way again.

“Mimsy, that’s not even holy water,” I complained, even though it was Cody that got hit in the face with the water.

Mimsy blew me a kiss before handing over her glass to Peter. “Can you bless this?” She also threw some cash at each great-grandson at the table.

Oh, help us.

Peter tugged on the collar of his polo shirt. “Mimsy, you know I’m not a priest anymore.”

That set Ma off. It was never good to remind Ma that Peter left the priesthood for Delanie. In reality it wasn’t for her; he was following his own heart. I always warned Ma that I wasn’t sure entering the seminary was the right path for him. Peter loved God, but I always knew Peter would want to be a husband and a father. Meeting Delanie only made him see where his true desires lay.

Ma started making comments under her breath about Delanie’s diamond stud nose ring and the vine tattoo down her arm that I found beautiful. Ma was old school and believed tattoos only desecrated your body. And did I mention Delanie wasn’t sure she believed in God? None of the rest of us held that against her, but Ma couldn’t understand how her sweet baby boy ended up with a heathen. Never one to let Ma intimidate her or make her feel less, Delanie grabbed Peter by the shirt and pulled him to her. I would label their kiss as the kind that probably would have been better saved for private. Peter sure seemed to enjoy it, running his hands through Delanie’s hair. Cody and my nephews hooted and hollered like the teenagers they were.

Ma couldn’t take it. She slammed her potato salad bowl so hard on the table that some egg and pickle landed on James. James took it in stride and laughed while wiping off his shirt. That got Peter and Delanie to pull apart, albeit with a too loud suctioning sound.

It was just another night at the Deckers.

I faced an entertained Reed, who couldn’t have looked any happier. “To answer your question, that basically summed up how I am.”

Reed’s laughter filled the crowded room. His jovial tones had a few others joining in. Thankfully, Deckers loved to eat, and before long, people were shoving their faces full of the feast in front of us. Besides, the men had a game to watch, so there was no time for idle chitchat, which was fine by me.

Except, Reed had other ideas. He was politer than the Decker boys and men and took breaths between bites; he was full of conversation.

“I didn’t realize you moved back here. I thought you were living in Chicago,” he said to me.

I took a sip of ice water before responding. “We moved back to Clearfield a few years ago. I didn’t want Cody going to middle school or high school in the city.” And I was ready to build the home I had been dreaming of. The one we saved for and Neil made me wait for. He was adamant that we should pay cash for everything. It was a lot of cash to save, but I guess I should thank him now since I owned it outright.

“So tell us where you’ve been, Reed,” Ma interrupted. She always had to be in the know.

Reed turned toward Ma. “After college I got a teaching and assistant coaching position in Wisconsin close to where my parents are now. But when the head coach position for the Panthers came up, I couldn’t resist being back at my old alma mater.”

I never went to Pomona High; it was built after I had graduated. Back in the day, it caused a lot of heartburn when our city went from one high school to two; now we had three. But I was proud to be the mom of a Panther. Matt and Jimmy attended James’s and my old school. Technically they were rivals with Cody. Thankfully, Matt and Jimmy ran cross country, so there weren’t any hard feelings between the cousins. They were happy to cheer each other on at their respective events.

“How are your parents?” Ma asked Reed.

“Good. Dad finally retired this year and they bought an RV to travel the country.”

Ma gave Dad the eye that said, See? It was her dream to travel with Dad, but Dad wasn’t done working. Dad grimaced before pretending like he hadn’t seen her glare.