The man watched in silence as the young mother brought her newborn into the house for the first time. The infant wasn’t the only new thing in the house. The watcher was new as well. The young mother ignored the man as she passed him on the stairs going up to the nursery, but the infant did not. He smiled and cooed at the man.
Time passed, and the man watched in silence as the infant first rolled over and took his first step. He watched the young mother doubt her abilities and cry into the early morning, only to find the strength to do what must be done the next day.
Seasons changed, and the man watched the boy laugh and look at awe at his first snow angel. The man watched as the young mother taught the boy how to make the world’s best snowball. As the boy grew older, the man tread carefully around the house to remain unseen.
The man liked to watch. He was happy to watch. It would have been different if he got involved with the young woman and her son. So very different. No, he loved to watch them read at night in the living room. He loved to watch them laugh and play in the yard. He even loved to hear them argue over bedtimes or dessert after dinner.
Contrary to what the young woman told herself late at night, she was a good mother. The boy loved and adored her and she him. She would do anything for her child. That made the man very happy. Very happy indeed.
Five years after the young mother brought her infant into the house, she stood at the kitchen sink late one wintery evening after a long, trying day and wept. She loved her son, but he deserved better. He deserved the same clothes and toys his friends found under the Christmas tree that morning. She had done the best she could that year, but he wanted so much, and she couldn’t give them all to him.
The silent watcher listened as she drove nail after nail into her heart over a life she thought her son deserved. He watched as she picked up the knife and put it to her wrist over the sink under the running warm water.
He could stay silent no more. He could no longer watch. The man wrapped his arms around the young mother and whispered in her ear.
“Michael?” she whispered.
It was his cologne. That was his embrace. After all this time, had he come home?
The young mother put the knife back in the drawer and walked down the hall toward her son’s room. The flickering Christmas lights painted the long hallway in an array of color. She smiled as she remembered the time her and Michael went to Rockefeller Center at Christmas. She peeked in on her sleeping son who was curled up with his new toy.
The man watched her watch her son. She began to apologize again. The man whispered in her ear and she closed her son’s door and walked into her bedroom.
“I’m so tired, Michael,” she said, curling up on the bed.
The man wrapped his arms around her again and held her. She sighed and smiled. After a few minutes she fell asleep and the silent watcher rose and placed a blanket over his grieving widow.