Bing Crosby crooning the sentimental lyrics of I'll be Home for Christmas wafted gently in the background, blending with smell of banana bread baking in the oven. The natural gas powered fireplace appeared to be crackling beneath a mantle decorated to look like Santa's workshop. All in all a very festive and holiday ambience surrounded Cheryl and me as we sat, trading sections of the Sunday Free Press and sipping our beverages; tea for her, coffee for me.
Suddenly she lowered the section she was reading and looked at me. "Are you picking up Uncle Billy on Tuesday?"
"No." I kept scanning the article about how the Lions playoff hopes depended on the game with the Giants this afternoon.
"No? He is coming, right?" she asked.
I lowered my section to look at her. "Well ... yes ... but he won't be here until five o'clock ... what made you think of that anyway?"
"I was just reading this article about older people spending the holidays alone ... if you're not picking him up how is going to get here?"
"You're not going to believe this, but he and Clara are volunteering at the soup kitchen on Tuesday ... from noon until four."
Cheryl sat forward. "What?"
"That was pretty much my response when he told me." I took a sip of my coffee.
"That had to be Clara's idea."
"How in the world did she get Billy to do that?"
"Must be love ... that's the only thing I can think off."
She sat back, a contemplative look on her face. "Well, I knew he cared for Clara ... but love? I didn't know Uncle Billy was capable of it."
I set down my coffee cup. "Come on ... you know he loves us."
"Well, yes ... but it always seems a little more out of obligation than from the heart ... don't you think?"
"That's just Billy's way ... he doesn't always show what he is feeling ... you know that."
"Still ... you think he loves Clara?"
"I do ... but he'd never admit it ... at least not to others."
"Do you think he's told Clara?"
"I doubt it ... but agreeing to volunteer at the soup kitchen has to be a clue for her."
"So, is Clara coming for dinner too?"
"No ... she is going to her son and daughter-in-law's ... she's going to drop off Billy on her way."
"Hmmmm ... I wonder why Billy isn't going with her?"
"He said he want's to spend Christmas Eve with us ... the tradition and all that."
Cheryl smiled. "That's nice ... the boys do enjoy his company."
"That's because they only see him once a year."