Ten Years Later.
The youngest Gallagher son, Steve, brought his drawing portfolio into the large room in front of the fire, laying it out on the table.
When he was ready, Mr. Moranis could go over the drawings and look at the suggested changes that he still needed to approve, about the proposed renovations.
He liked to stay close to all of those things, approving of this, questioning that, as an attentive manager needed to.
‘Moranis Enterprises.’ That was him.
He’d once hoped it would be ‘Moranis and Sons, Enterprises’, but his sons hadn’t shown any interest in it, and his daughter, Barbara, didn’t fit any of what he’d wanted from a son… continuity… a legacy.
Women tended not to stay long in his life, except for his third wife. However, even she, didn’t like an empty house with all of the children gone, or the cold and isolation of winter, so had moved to a home they owned in Arizona for the winter. He’d join her for Christmas, or they’d take an extensive holiday together until spring, when she’d be back home again. His partnership with Gallaghers would ensure that the property would be looked after in his absence.
He’d been too intense for his first two wives. They hadn’t been able to stand the pace… or the quiet.
The Gallaghers were the only ones he trusted with the renovations to the property over the years. They were professional, and they had other business dealings too, with logging, and replanting for the long term. That had been the ethos of his grandfather and of his father too: ‘prepare for the future’.
It was embroidered on a sampler, somewhere.
His ancestors had always thought for the longer term, thinking in terms of property, and land holdings; acquisitions, purchases, as well as family.
A prosperous base made for a secure family.
Except it didn’t always do that.
It was only after his family had left to fend for themselves and to follow their own interests that he realized the importance of putting family first, and of holding them together.
He’d made too many mistakes.
He pushed those naggingly annoying thoughts aside for the hundredth time.
‘Think of the next fifty years, not just the now, or next year’, was what had been drummed into him. He’d become blinded to what was happening at home in the present, and the ‘now’.
There was a steady income from his thousands of acres of land holdings. He kept meticulous records of everything. The only thing he’d neglected—and he could see that now—had been family, and he hadn’t thought much about that until it was slipping away from him for the third time.
He’d gradually let the ranching side of the operation shrink down, focusing more on the need for good logs to go to the Gallagher sawmills, but always with an eye on the risks of forest fire.
Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket.
One of those damned fires could strip away a man’s entire livelihood in a matter of hours. That was the only thing that kept him awake at night in those hot days of summer. He had nightmares about that. It was the one thing that could cost him everything, so he tried to manage his lands accordingly.
He had other things on his mind, unable to settle for the moment.
“Are you married, son?”
“No, sir. No risk of that.”
Of course not. He’d play the field, first.
“How old are you?”
“And a qualified engineer too… civil, and electrical. How in hell did you manage to get so much education?”
“Good luck, with some first-class teachers, and hard work.” And his supportive father and elder brothers, who’d looked upon him with awe at what he was doing, making it look so easy. It had been easy for him. He’d been a bit of a nerd, needing to bury himself in studying... to numb the other pain.
His older brothers would take over the business, while he kept it on track and steered it along. They all worked well together. They were a cohesive family… ‘Gallaghers’.
Chuck Moranis wished he’d had a son like Steve, but could say nothing. That would be admitting too much, even to himself.
“Don’t get married, son. I’ve been married three times. Third time lucky (I think), except she can’t stand the winters up here, so lives in Arizona for four months of the year. I get out to her when I can and she spends the other eight months up here, so I shouldn’t complain.
“My first two marriages were disasters, except for my boys. They worked out okay.”
Except, they hadn’t, but he couldn’t admit that.
They’d also left home just as soon as they could, so there were always those nagging questions and doubts about how they’d actually worked out.
They didn’t need him anymore.
“I had a son by each of my first two wives and a daughter by my third.”
He looked at various photos he had around his living space.
He had to be satisfied with those. They, and their wives and children, rarely visited him except at Easter and Christmas. He had to be satisfied with that.
“My sons have gone now, striking out on their own (turning their backs on the family that had been here for generations), but I made sure they stood on their own feet. I gave them nothing but encouragement .I keep hoping they’ll come back home and get involved in this place again.”
Someday they’d thank him for it.
There were a lot of things that gave him room to doubt even that, but he wouldn’t go there, or he’d get depressed.
He’d likely be dead first, before they appreciated what he’d done for them.
He shrugged off those doubts.
Steve had something to add.
His older brothers had gone to school with the Moranis boys, so he could at least tell Mr. Moranis some of what he knew.
“They’ll come back eventually, sir. I did, and so did my brothers.” He’d never get used to calling him, ‘Chuck’, as his father did.
“All boys need to strike out one way or another to try and land on their own feet, and to see something of what’s out there. I did.
“I always knew my family was there for me, and that’s all that’s needed. Your boys know that too. I think they’re waiting for you to suggest something to them that they can buy into, to bring them home. That’s what my father did with me. I needed to feel useful in some way, so he made sure I got involved in the business as I wanted to be involved. He let me decide what that role would be. I also do a lot of work outside of the family too.”
His father was a wise man.
“Thanks son. Nice of you to say that.” He looked gratefully at Steve.
“It was just as painful with my daughter. She and her mother are the loves of my life, but I can’t seem to do anything right by my daughter.”
He was talking of Babs. Steve waited to see what he would say.
“That was a successful marriage, but with a difficult daughter. I had a great marriage, but my daughter hates me, despite everything I did for her. She had the best of everything. At least I tried to be an effective father but what did I know about girls. She turned against me so suddenly."
He shook his head. “Boys and girls are so very different.”
He was still learning that.
He’d loved her unreservedly, but it always seemed to backfire on him.
He mentioned how she’d come home for the first time in ten years just a few days earlier, and the old arguments had kicked in again.
Steve had frozen.
Babs was back? She was here, after all of this time? Where?