Walking was one of the very few things the two men knew the other liked. Now, after a mile and a half of small-talk, they also knew that neither would refer to the lake as Lady Bird Lake. It would always be Town Lake. Not that they had anything against the former First Lady and the lake’s newer name – it was just easier to call it “Town Lake.” So they had that, at least.
“Did you ever go in the lake?” the son asked his father. When the weather was warm, people would go out in kayaks and canoes. But it was a dim December afternoon and the waves clapped with gray spray. Joggers passed the men, bundled in jackets. Neither the father nor the son wore jackets. Though the son had been born in Austin, after the divorce they’d grown used to colder climates.
“No, not down here” the father answered. “I just jogged around it until it got too hard on my knees. Seven miles, every day.”
“The water doesn’t look clean anyway.”
“It’s cleaner upstream,” the father responded. “We all used to go boating up there sometimes. You were probably too young to remember.” The son had a flash, but he wouldn’t call it a memory.
They stopped to watch workers putting up lights at the Christmas Village. It had been almost forty years since they’d been down to see the lights.
“Listen,” the father said, turning to his son. “If I ever get to the point where I’m on life support, I want you to pull the plug.”
The son sighed. He’d always wondered what his parents had seen in each other.
“Yeah. You just start thinking about it.”
The son reached out and put his hand on his father’s shoulder. “You know, mom said the same thing when I was nine or ten. Almost word-for-word. Now she gets mad because none of the stories I write are ever about happy people with happy endings.”
His dad looked away with a chuckle that evolved into a belly-borne laugh that ended with coughs. The son smiled. He thought about putting a hand on his dad’s back, but turned instead to watch the men putting up the lights.
“I wonder what it will look like at night.”
“It will be beautiful,” his dad replied. “This place has always been beautiful. Even now, so much I remember is gone.”