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...but for Broader Shoulders

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...but for Broader Shoulders

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My father lights the Shamos, and after he uses it to light the one other candle in the menorah, we quietly say the two standard Hannukah blessings followed by the Shehechianu, which is only spoken on the first night. We exhange gifts - a beautiful pendant with aquamarines for me, a necktie for him - and long, warm hugs. Then we sit down at his dining room table, which is conspicuously set for two instead of three - or four.

"Where's the good doctor?" I ask as I spoon out some applesauce and sour cream for my potato pancakes.

Dad smiles. "She's with her father tonight, too. We'll have our own candle-lighting tomorrow, though without the latkes this time. Two nights in a row of deep-fried foods isn't allowed when you're dating a physician, I'm afraid."

"It's not allowed two nights in a row when your tips depend on maintaining a girlish figure, either. Which is why I'm having as much as possible tonight." Dad laughs, and we eat in silence for a few minutes.

"Have you heard at all from Jenny?" I take a deep breath, and Dad apologizes.

"That's okay, Dad. No, not since before Thanksgiving. And I wouldn't be surprised if she never speaks to me again."

"I'm sorry," Dad says for the second time. "And how's the new place working out?"

"Not bad. I like Emily well enough, for as much as I ever see her. I haven't figured out how to get her cat to stop scratching at my door in the morning, though."

"You know, you were welcome to stay here as long as you wanted after..." He stops there.

"It's okay to say it out loud, Dad. After Jenny threw me out. That is what happened. And I know that, but honestly, waiting an hour and a half after closing for the first train of the morning got pretty old pretty fast." I manage to add a smile.

"How is it you're not working tonight? I thought Fridays were great tip nights."

"They are, but I've only been at the Pub for a few months, so I don't have the seniority I used to at the Bar. And I probably would've asked for the night off anyway, or at least for a later shift - I wouldn't have missed your latkes for the world, you haven't made them in five or six years."

"Yeah, I probably won't do it for five or six more, after the mess I made."

"Oh, for heaven's sake, Dad, I'll clean it up - it's the least I can do." I take another few pancakes, despite starting to feel full. It's once a year, I remind myself.

My father wipes some applesauce off his moustache, and takes a long swig of his wine. The silence fills the space between us, and I can practically feel him reading my mind, until the tears start forming in my eyes.

"Debra, what happened to Jenny isn't your fault. It just doesn't work that way, no matter what you think you did or said wrong."

I move some pieces of browned potato around my plate. "Daddy, I lost the woman I love, and it wasn't because of anything she did or said wrong. So tell me, when is it going to start feeling like it wasn't my fault?"

"I don't know, honey. I don't know."

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