(Continuing from Bellows and Whimpers)
"How you doing, snucklebum?" I nudge him, watching his profile silhouette, lit randomly by the hall light. I see the sudden gleam of silver as he fights tears again, hear him whimper once, and then he sniffs.
"I love you Mum." he states against my arm, resting his forehead near my shoulder.
"I love you too," I kiss into his hair, brain stalling and fizzing like sherbet about the next bit. I suck in a long slow breath, let it seep out, then quietly state "I need to talk to you."
"Hmmm?" he breathes, twisting to peer at me with one eye.
"I'm worried that you're confusing things. Stuff that has happened, and what you think happened, or wish had happened. So I'm going to go over it again for you, the stuff I've told you before."
I have his absolute attention, and my pulse ramming through my veins. I take a deep breath, and charge into the Valley Of Things Unhoped For Yet Revisited [Maps Not Available].
"Your Dad was a good man." Wong's eyes ratchet wide, startled at this opening volley. I look into his eyes, and nod in emphasis. "He was, Wong. He was a good man." Another breath, this one still deep but not as jagged. "He loved you. Don't doubt that. He loved you, and your brother, and he loved me. He loved God, and believed in Christ, and really was a good man."
Wong shifts slightly on the bed beside me, until he's lying on his back, hands clasped gently across his belly, reflecting my deliberately casual sprawl. I glance sideways at him, and his eyes are still wide, with a sheen thickly balanced against his bottom lid.
"Your Dad was a good man. But he started making decisions which lead to him to do things.." another breath, a wordless prayer sent hurtling through the atmosphere " wrong things. He decided to go and spend time with people, and lied about who they were and what they were doing. He was a good man, and he had his agency, and used his agency to change."
I can't believe I'm saying this stuff, I think to myself, trying to find an almost stable footing on the topic's rocky valley floor. When will this whole mess be done and history? Wong frowns beside me, and I abruptly recognise a mash up of my grandfather' and Wong's paternal grandfather's frown creasing his forehead, bobbing his nose and raising his chin. Oh, I realise yet again. Never. Our families are always part of who we are.
I slowly blow out a sigh, knowing the next bit of ground will involve painful jabs, ragged edges and scraped memories. "He started to spend more time with Jezzie. Even though they were both married. And they decided they wanted to be together." Wong sobs once, twice beside me, his pox dappled belly twitching with the effort of staying quiet and calm. We hook our arms together, and take some time to contemplate the ceiling and other mysteries.
"George was a good man, Wong. He was a good Dad. He loved you very much. I'm sure he still thinks about you. But I'm worried you're not understanding what happened, that he was a good man and made decisions which hurt you, and your brother, and me and have contributed to us being here, right now. I know you wish things were different-" I pause as a silver bead plunges over the curve of his cheek, and I lean in to kiss his forehead "we all do. Wong....." In my head I stand at the edge of a dark green pool of water, rust brown rocks around me as I toss a round stone in, and watch the cream of it dissolve into the cool, hungry depths "I wish things were different. I miss the man I thought he was, and it's okay for you to miss him too."
He squeezes my hand, and sniffs tears back. "But I'm worried you're spending your time and energy looking backwards, and not forwards. I know you're angry, and frustrated, and disappointed." The bed shimmies slightly as Wong nods energetically, "That's totally fine. I still feel that way sometimes too, and that's okay. But it's important to look forward. If you keep looking back, you're not planning for the future - for the things you want to do with your life, for the Dad you want to be to your kids. If you're looking behind you, you have no idea where you're going. Do you understand?"
He pauses, considers, and grudgingly nods again.
I see him chewing over thoughts, so we lie in quiet for a minute. I'm prepping myself for the next leg of the valley's conversation; it's loose slag, skittering chunks of slate hiding blackberry coils and potholes. And all ridiculously steep, leading uphill.
"Wong, I think it's time you try something. I know it's hard just to think about, and even harder to try to do, but it's important to forgive your dad for hurting you."