Lori White
The Pablo Plan
         The morning your father decides that Pablo the neighborhood peacock is lonely, he starts a campaign to find him a wife.  You’re his first recruit to the cause.  He stations you at your mother’s desk with the yellow pages and the telephone, but your sister Eileen’s daily check-in call interrupts the search.  Before you can finish telling her the Pablo story, she says, “Clearly, Dad’s still in his mourning period” in a tone she reserves for psychological issues of which she is the expert.  But even a high school dropout like you can identify depression, a skill you’ve honed over the past year.  Why depression must be measured and documented is clearly something only your sister the Phd can answer.  But instead of asking her, you suggest she lay off renting nature films for a while.  “Dad didn’t leave his room the whole next day after that penguin movie.” 
         “Kathy, you need to stop protecting him.  It’s healthy for him to feel the pain.  Sixty years of marriage is a considerable loss.”
         Yet another complicated observation.  What Eileen ought to observe is your father’s shadowed face in the late afternoon when you try coaxing him out of bed to swallow some tea and toast.  You’re more than familiar with what losing a wife of sixty years means and you consider telling Eileen this, suggest she try cooking the meals and cleaning the house, try shuttling an eighty-five year old man back and forth to the doctor’s appointments, the bank, the grocery store, the retirement homes that now house his few remaining friends, and to the cemetery every other day with fresh flowers and two beach chairs. 
         You rehearse this rant in the shower on mornings you sense will be particularly hard, the ones when you can hear him crying softly in his bedroom while you wait outside the door, helpless, wishing you’d stayed in Hawaii, where the biggest decision was what color umbrella you wanted in your drink, far away from the aftermath of sixty years, those days when you’re ready to tell your sister the Phd, “You pick him up, you take him there.  You pick him up, you take him back.  You be the bus driver for a change,” knowing full well you’ll never say any of these things because of a promise you made to your mother Eileen knows nothing about.      
         So instead, you deliver the phone to your father and go back to the yellow pages.  There’s a feed store in Fillmore, and though peahens may not qualify as poultry, you figure it’s a good place to start. 
         He comes in after hanging up and tells you Eileen doesn’t like the Pablo plan.  “Your sister says we shouldn’t be fouling with nature’s intentions.”
When you ask if that was an unintentional pun, he slips on one of those secret smiles you’ve shared for years at Eileen’s expense.  That’s when you tell him, “Get your jacket, Dad.  We’re going to Fillmore to find ourselves a bride.”
         Your father places the ladder against the garage and holds it for you. Pablo is perched under the eaves outside your bedroom window, his favorite spot in the late afternoon.  You set the peahen on the roof and climb down to watch from the driveway.  The peacock approaches his intended with a confident swagger, his plumes barely grazing the shingles, and after a few moments of nudging and pecking, he leads her back to the eaves.  Pleased with yourself, you get a bottle of wine from the fridge and open it on the patio so you both can watch the romance unfold.  You hold your father’s glass for him as he stretches out on the chaise lounge. When the peahen follows Pablo down the roof to the wisteria trellis, you raise your glass and tell your father, “I think we’ve got ourselves a match.”