“There you are,” he said, making his way through the crowd, walking over to kiss her.
“The fans are very loud today,” she replied, laughing amid the clamor, folding herself into his bear hug. Luckily, she had secured the last two barstools.
“It’s the playoffs. They’re entitled to a little noise,” he remarked and looked around the cozy, wood paneled bar. Television screens were affixed to every flat surface, beaming in games from around the globe. It was a friendly crowd, yet even decades after his stint in the U.S. Army, he found himself surveilling the area for any threats.
“Did you find parking?”
“I got lucky. Spot opened up right in front. Hey, you look good in your jersey,” he said, smiling as she stood up to briefly model for him.
“Thank you for the gift. I don’t know if I’ve ever worn an official NFL jersey before. They are quite big.” She self consciously tugged it down firmly over her leggings.
“You look great in it,” he said, meaning it, motioning to the bartender who quickly took their drink orders.
He had a beer. She ordered club soda.
“You know, you didn’t have to buy me anything.”
“I wanted to,” he replied, a little stung. “You don’t like the jersey?”
“No, I really like it. Does the number 25 have any special significance? Besides being half my age—”
“It’s Fred Biletnikoff’s jersey number—a Hall of Famer. My dad loved the guy. Biletnikoff played for the Raiders until ‘78. He scored 76 touchdowns. Played in Super Bowl II and XI. Before he died, my dad managed to get his autograph. Dad said that was the best day of his life.”
She listened carefully, trying to digest all that information which seemed so important to him, completely charmed at how wistful he grew when talking about his father. They were both at the age when parents were entirely forgiven of past sins and wholly cherished instead.
“One more thing,” she said. “I was just wondering why you put your name on the back of the jersey,” she asked, one eyebrow raised. She waited again for his reply.
He looked guilty. Of what, she did not know.
“So . . . so I could find you in a crowded sports bar,” he replied, hoping that would settle the matter for the moment. They had only been dating for a few months, but ordering a jersey for her with his last name emblazoned on the back seemed like the most natural thing in the world to do.
She stared at him with an amused smile on her face. Now he was embarrassed. What must she think of him?
He motioned to the bartender for some menus.
“You like chicken wings? They have some really good bacon-wrapped ones—” He deflected wildly.
“I need to tell you something—” she grew serious, biting her lower lip.
“Don’t break up with me.”
“Please don’t break up with me.”
“I wasn’t quite sure we were officially together.”
“We’re together,” he said, motioning to the back of her jersey. “I’m not usually so subtle,” he said, ironically.
“Got it,” she beamed. “I’ve been drafted.”
“Yep, you are on the team.”
“Look, ever since the funeral—” she said, not wanting to bring it up, but her news really couldn’t wait any longer. It wasn’t something that would ever work in an email or a text.
“Look—my wife had been sick for so long. If I haven’t told you, I appreciate everything you did for our family at that time. It was all too much, and your making all the arrangements and the luncheon . . . ” he said. “I don’t know how we’d have done anything right without you. I’m just not very good with those things.”
“I was happy to help, I just—”
“I just wonder what people will think about us now.”
“They’ll think we found a little happiness in this crazy world,” he said, optimistic as always.
“Sure, some middle aged divorcee hanging around like a ghoul waiting for—”
“It wasn’t like that. You’d been her friend. My daughters have already given me their blessing. They knew our marriage wasn’t perfect even before—”
The bartender interrupted, placing their meals before them on the bar. He picked up a bottle of ketchup and doused the french fries.
“I—” she attempted to start again. “I—I really need to tell you something.”
“You can tell me anything. I want to share everything with you.”
“Even your french fries?”
“Don’t touch my french fries.”
“Noted,” she smiled, drinking her club soda. He ordered another beer.
Eating in a companionable silence, they watched the kickoff, listening to the noisy banter of the throngs around them. Finishing, the bartender appeared, taking away all remnants of their meal.
“Okay, spill it. What do you want to tell me?” he asked, his eyes peering into hers, ready for whatever she felt she needed to say.
“I’m 50 and pregnant,” she clarified.
He looked at her, waiting for her trademark grin, preparing for one of her witty remarks.
“So we’re pregnant,” he said.
“Yeah, I guess the menopause fairy didn’t show up after all. It was her sister, perimenopause.”
“What are the odds—”
“We had a 2% chance of conceiving a child,” he said.
“Then,” he said, raising his beer, “lucky us.” He leaned over and kissed her. She started to cry.
“There’s a strong chance of a miscarriage,” she said, smiling and dabbing the tears in the corners of her eyes with a bar napkin.
“Oh, I hope not. I’ve always wanted to have a son.”
“You will be 73 at his high school graduation,” she warned.
“But I will look fantastic,” he replied and kissed her again. “And you will be a beautiful mother.”
“I’m already a beautiful grandmother.”
“So we can get hand-me-downs from our son’s uncle.”
“You want to have this baby with me?”
“Well, there is only one problem—”
“Just one problem . . .” she laughed, unconsciously rubbing her belly.
“They just don’t make NFL jerseys that small.”