A family business

For all I knew the Pattinsons had been in roofing since the days of thatch. I married into the business.

It could be hard. By forty Rob had the back of an old man. Our eldest, John-Paul, wanted to join him. School never suited John-Paul. I’d quietly hoped he’d choose something different, but John-Paul longed to join the world. Roofing was there for him. Besides, he admired his father. What chance did I have? I packed his lunch that first day, kissed him goodbye and shed a tear. The first of many.

The call came at 3—Rob’s anguished voice. ‘Get to the hospital. JP’s had a fall.’

Our son woke just once, that first night in intensive care. Trying to smile he mumbled what sounded like, ‘f-f-fern shen-fer.’

The words unscrambled. ‘Phone Jennifer?’ I repeated.

He nodded then fell back into a haze.

I rang a number from his phone, hoping. ‘Do you know, John-Paul Pattinson?’

A sweet voice said, ‘JP. Yes. What’s——?’

She arrived soon after, distress not hiding her prettiness. After introductions I took her hand. ‘Why didn’t JP tell us about you?’

Jennifer’s tear-streaked cheeks flushed. She patted her tummy, rounder than a young girl’s should be. Mother to mother we embraced in devestation while his monitors whirred and beeped.