Just before I began writing this, I pulled Françoise onto my lap and I held James Allen in my arms as they circled around my daughter. Held them both at once, and I closed my eyes. Françoise has had a lot go on around her, and she was tired, so she didn't fuss and James Allen was close to asleep anyway.
We laid James Richards to rest. It was everything I would have hoped from a Patterson funeral. It was at once sad and funny, expected and unexpected. In a lot of ways, if someone looked in on the funeral not knowing any of these people, and saw April's song or Phil's eulogy or Iris's heartfelt comments, they would have....
Well, they would have thought the Patterson clan was exactly everything I thought the Patterson clan was. That's the advantage of being on the outside looking in. You can see the quirky bits and the funny bits and the loving bits and the tragic bits and weave them into something idealized. You don't get to see the bits that just don't work, day in and day out.
Doctor Patterson and his wife weren't there. They were in jail. I was part of that. There had been lies on top of lies -- lies about Michael, lies about Claire, lies about Mrs. Patterson and Doctor Patterson. Lies, I suppose, about me.
In accountancy, we don't work with lies. We can't. People who lie get caught and go to jail.
Speaking of which, I went to see Doctor Patterson in jail. He was not happy with me. He said things -- mean things, really. He accused me of gold digging, of turning his daughter against him, of hiding the truth from him. So many things, really.
I let him talk himself out, and then I told him why I was there. I had made arrangements for caretakers to look after the 'little train house.' Housecleaners to give it a good cleaning. A local property management company to keep the lawn trimmed and the gutters cleaned. When he and his wife were in a position to take residence, it would be there for them.
Doctor Patterson kind of blinked at me. "Why?" he asked.
I frowned slightly. "Because you're my father in law, and because you've done so much for me. I can't ever repay you, but I can help you out when you need it."
He frowned some more. "Why would I go back there?" he asked. "My wife lied to me the whole time I met her. My whole life has been one long lie. One big joke, Anthony. Why would I go back to that house now?"
I shrugged. "If you decide to sell the house instead, it will fetch a better price if the property's kept up."
"Don't change the subject -- tell me what I've got to look forward to! My children are conspiring against me, my son isn't really my son, my daughter has a sister no one ever even told me about, and my private business has been shoved out into the public! How do I look my family in the eye again?"
I took a deep breath. "You just do, sir. When something bad happens, you pick yourself up and do your best to move on."
"Easy for you to say," he muttered. "You don't know what it's like."
I looked at him for a long moment. "Warren Blackwood is the genetic father of my son," I said, softly.
He looked back at me, shocked.
I shrugged. "It was my fault. I made a bad mistake on what should have been a happy night."
"How... how would that possibly be your fault and not Liz's?" he asked, too shocked to even be angry.
I thought about it for a long moment. "Maybe 'fault' doesn't matter," I said. "James Allen Caine doesn't care. He just needs his father."
"Me." And I left.
I can't be disappointed in Doctor Patterson. I didn't understand him -- not really, not with the balance of debt hidden on the sheet, waiting to be uncovered. I'm done being disappointed in people anyway. It serves no good purpose. I have my children. Both of them. I held them in my arms just before I wrote this -- held James Allen and Françoise alike -- and realized I didn't care about the circumstances of their births. I just care about their lives. And so I'll take care of the Little Train House, so Liz, Michael and April don't have to think about it. When Elly Patterson is finally sent wherever she needs to go to get the help she needs, I'll look after that too. When Doctor Patterson needs something, I'll be the one to do it.
Not because I'm better than the others. I'm not. I'm broken -- I don't quite know how, or what to do to fix it, but I'm broken just like they are. But because I'm the only one who doesn't have to fight through half-truths and meanings and lies and whatever else. I'm the one who can deal with Doctor Patterson without judgement. I'm the one who can see Elly Patterson and feel badly for her, not angry at her.
I don't need to have sired James Allen to be his father, to care for him, to love him. I don't need to be John and Elly Patterson's child to be a son to them, to care for them, to love them. I just need to be true to myself.
Which brings me to my own father.... but I may not be ready to write about that. Perhaps next month.
For now, Liz and I are doing better. One step at a time. We still have separate bedrooms. That may not change for some time. But we spend more time with each other, and I like to think I'm listening better. She told me something as we were herding the children for an outing to the mall -- Françoise has been having a wonderful time back in Milborough, especially in seeing my stepmother and her parents again. Anyhow, Liz said that she didn't want to be seen as some prize to be shown off to the world -- some trophy in a trophy case in my living room. She wants to be taken seriously, she says.
"Oh," I said. I've never been good with statements like that. I'm bad with comebacks in general. "You should get a job."
She looked startled. I have that effect on people.
"If you don't want to be defined by me, or you don't want to end up like your mother... you need to establish your own life. Find a job. Stick with it for more than a couple of years. Live your life."
"But... what about the kids?" She sounded... confused? Lost? How can I tell. In a way, I've never really known what she felt, and I know enough now to know what I don't know... if that sentence even makes sense.
"I don't think we're the first parents in Vancouver to need day care. There must be good options out there. We just need to find them."
I don't know if she was happy with my suggestion or mad at it. We went out. But maybe it's not my job to make her happy with things. Maybe my job is to give her the tools to make that life she wants. If that means that I end up supporting a wife in name only... well, I did that with Thérèse and I had less reason to then.
Françoise wants my attention. I think I'll send this off and give it to her. Until next time....