Hank stood at the grill and smiled. His sciatica was acting up, his sons were spraying each other with the hose and drenching the whole family in the process, and he could feel the sunburn starting to form at the bald spot on the top of his head.
None of that mattered. He was thinking about the time when Susan was pregnant with the boys. He was in great shape, their one-bedroom apartment was not yet filled with rowdy children, and he had a full head of hair. They also ate tuna fish sandwiches and instant ramen all month long so they could pay the rent, and they cried in each other’s arms when they had to pay for gas with spare change between paychecks. They only tightened their belts once the boys arrived, but it was all worth it to get to hear their babies babble at them after long shifts at work.
Now, Hank had a home — somewhere to keep the boys safe, somewhere to feed them healthy meals every day, somewhere to nurture their growth into formidable young men. One of the twins turned with the hose in hand and doused both his father and the lit grill, ruining the meal. Hank thought about how his own father would have beat him with a switch for it and his heart ached.
This is what it’s all about, Hank thought to himself. He looked at the waterlogged burgers and massaged his bad leg as he looked out at his kingdom with a smile.
“I love you,” Hank said as his voice cracked. He had never heard himself say those words out loud to his boys, and felt an instant wave of shame and relief for having broken the cycle. He would do it all over again in a heartbeat.