Mrs. Thalia Ludlow knew when her husband's spirit was deeply disturbed, and she could tell by how he got out of the car: the Lord had slapped the taste for that job, and the breaking of other men that it sometimes required, out of her husband's soul.
Robert Edward Ludlow Sr. was a hard-driving man, all the time … his intense and insistent courtship had been welcome to the woman who loved him, and he had always been intense but gentle to her, but Mrs. Ludlow knew that to be on the wrong side of a man like that would be a problem. You did not need that kind of attention in your life.
She also knew about his rage … his rage at being made to see a triple murder at only five years old … the betrayal of his first wife and how that had left their children to the wolves … the choosing of suicide instead of returning to rehab by both his son and daughter … the scattering of his orphaned grandchildren to the four winds … if Mrs. Ludlow was not dealing with that, it had to go somewhere. The enemies of the United States had to deal with it, and then after that, the foster parents who had not done right by his grandchildren had to deal with it. Capt. Ludlow was efficient in converting rage to productive energy.
Nonetheless, Capt. Ludlow was also wise. He knew he needed to heal. He had begun pursuing that when he had realized the trouble his children were in; he had doubled down when he had met his second wife, and tripled down when becoming a custodial grandfather came into the picture. Sooner or later, he would have to give up on the rage conversion to get to fuller stages of healing. He knew this, and his wife watched him slowly but steadily back out of all the places in his life where rage conversion was desirable if not necessary.
Not that giving that conversion up was easy … back of it was a lot of pain and grief, and most men did not handle those two as well in the raw. As long as Capt. Ludlow could convert it to rage and then to action, he didn't have to deal as directly with it … but in therapy, he had begun to deal with his true feelings in the raw, and after years of work, he had been able to handle the distinction.
The day had come also when the love of building and growing, of which the captain had been robbed in his youth, had fully sprung up again, both in building a business with people who had similar God-and-family-oriented goals, and in the wonder of life as seen through the eyes of his seven small grandchildren, the eldest of which had just turned 11.
There was no longer any need for the rage conversion.
Now, it was just giving up the habit, and losing the taste for it.
Clearly, the taste had been slapped out of Capt. Ludlow's mouth.
This didn't feel good to him, but Mrs. Ludlow recognized that it was progress.
Capt. Ludlow had a decontamination process set up – disposal of the mask, clothes in the laundry, a shower in the improvised garage area – before going into the house, and he attended to that before coming in. His grandchildren all lined up to greet him, all of them refusing to eat until he arrived, and then at last lunch could be had.
“Feeling better?” Mrs. Ludlow said after the grandchildren had wandered away after lunch.
“Yes,” he said. “Just confirmation of why I have to leave that job, and the last day cannot come too soon.”
“Total buzz kill, huh?”
“That's such a California civilian concept, but, yeah, Thalia, it's not Southern, but still right.”
“Everybody can't be blessed to be a Virginian just like everyone can't be blessed to be a Californian,” Mrs. Ludlow said with a smile, “which is why we have it all covered, coast to coast.”
At last he smiled, and his eyes twinkled … and then glittered.
“You know what I am looking forward to, 14 days from now?”
“Oh, I can guess, Robert … since you're not going to work at 7:00, I already know what you are going to be wanting to do at 5:00 or 6:00.”
“Five and six, woman – get it straight.”
Out in the yard, granddaughters Eleanor (11) and Edwina (8) heard Mrs. Ludlow laughing.
“I love it when they do that,” Edwina said to Eleanor.
“We finally have parents who love each other, although they are our grandparents,” Eleanor said. “We have had a very hard time, but we have made it at last.”
Edwina teared up, but said, “Yeah, you're right. I wish our parents could have made it too.”
“Me too. I think about that every day, Edwina. But, here we are, and we have to make the best of it, and we will.”
“Yep. We will.”
The two sisters hugged each other and cried for a little while, and then wiped each other's tears, kissed the other's cheek, and smiled again.
“We're gonna make it now, Eleanor.”
“Yep. We will, Edwina.”