He can’t get his hair quite right as he fusses in the hallway mirror. It is Nick’s first date in over twenty years. In the living room the twins, back from college for the holiday, side eye him. They both think it is too soon. The ink is not even dry on the divorce and here he is going out on a date with some young woman he met at a conference. It is like they have forgotten that it was their mother who cheated on him, apparently for half their marriage.
They don’t appreciate him, he knows that. Carol never did. For years, when the twins were toddlers, she complained that he was never home. He should have noticed, he realizes now, when she stopped complaining, but there were contracts to write, clients to please, and ladders to be climbed if he was going to pay for this house and all the comforts they enjoy. His father did the same and he loved him for it. His father appreciated it all, because dad knew the difference.
Growing up in a third story walk up during and after the war, dad would have to endure his father never being there and not having anything to show for it. Opa was a bartender, and apparently everyone loved him. Heck Nick still loves him but he was such an irresponsible goof. He overspent at Christmas, Halloween and Easter. He was great fun, but he and Oma never got out of that walk up. Dad was different.
Dad drove Nick hard to succeed just like he did. He got out of that old building and into the burbs. He loaned Nick the money for college and gave him the drive he needed. That’s why he loves his old man so much, even if they never talk, even though he always forgot his birthday. He gave Nick the best gift he could, and now Nick can afford to send his kids to school, even if they waste it on philosophy and dance. Now he can afford to put his dad in the best assisted living community, even if he never visits him there.
He refuses to feel guilty as the twins roll their eyes and he walks out the door. He made his choices and Carol made hers. Nick has worked hard for it all, and might finally let himself enjoy it.