"I don't know how to thank you," I told Ken, my yardman, as we stood on my front porch. "I'm truly grateful."
"I'm glad I was here to help."
My elderly father had tried to boost himself out of his wheelchair—he'd had a stroke a year ago—and had fallen this morning. I couldn't lift him by myself, so I ran out to the front yard where Ken was cutting grass and asked for his help.
"Dad wanted a box of cereal from the cupboard," I explained to Ken now. "I was in the den on the phone. Dad thought he could stand and reach the cereal himself."
Ken smiled a wonderful smile that's like sunshine. "I don't think he hurt himself."
"He didn't, but I scolded him."
Another smile from Ken. "I'm sure you did." He glanced out over the lawn. "Well, I better get back to work."
Ken Roberts had been my yardman for over a month. A widow and a widower, both of us in our forties, we taught in the same school system but at different buildings. Ken taught P.E. I taught music. He liked physical activity and keeping busy. That's why he started his lawn care service several summers ago. With my dad living with me now, I found yard work too much to handle, so I hired him.
Dad lounged in his room enjoying his morning TV programs. I hurried to the kitchen to do the breakfast dishes. I looked out the window over the sink and watched Ken clipping the bushes along my property line. Since the first day he arrived, I found him appealing and had to admit that visiting with him was always the best part of my day.
But I squelched the romantic thoughts that rumbled through my mind. I mean, why on earth would such a handsome man be interested in a widow whose father lived with her?
Finished with dishes, I made fresh lemonade. Later, while Ken was loading his gear into his pickup, I called from the porch, "Want a cold drink?"
He ambled over to the porch and up the steps. I handed him a glass of iced lemonade. "Thanks," he said.
I sat on the porch glider, wondering if I should invite him to sit with me. The thought made me tingly, and I couldn't bring myself to open my mouth.
He gulped half the lemonade down, smacked his lips, smiled, and said. "Thanks again. I needed that. How's your dad doing?"
"Fine. He's napping now."
Ken's soft blue eyes captured mine. "Taking care of him isn't easy for you, is it?" he asked solemnly.
"No, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I don't want him to go to a nursing home."
"I know," he said. "You simply open your heart and do what you have to do."
"The worst part is his lack of mobility. He loves to go places, and I can wheel him out of the kitchen door easily enough—no steps—but getting him in and out of the car is difficult."
"My wife was wheelchair-bound, too. Stroke. Same as your dad."
I blinked in surprise. "Oh, I didn't know that. I mean, I know you're a widower..." I didn't know what else to say.
Ken finished his lemonade, then came over and handed me the empty glass. "Look," he said, rocking back on his heels a bit, "could I come by later in the day, after I'm finished with mowing and trimming and can get home and cleaned up. Don't eat any supper."
My heart leaped into my throat. Was he asking me out on a date? That tingly feeling raced through me. But I couldn't go on a date. Like dinner and a movie. I couldn't leave Dad home alone that long.
Sensing my hesitation, Ken said, "Please say yes, Amanda. You wont' be disappointed, I promise. Neither will your dad. I think I can give us all a lift."
His words confused me, but I said, "All right."
"I'll be here at six, sharp."
At six, Ken pulled into my drive with a full-sized van. When he jumped out and slid the side door open, I nearly fainted. The van was equipped with a hydraulic lift, which made it wheelchair accessible. He must have had it outfitted for his wife.
Smiling that huge, wonderful smile, he took my hand and pressed it into his, the electricity between us startling me. "Where would you and your dad like to dine to night?" he said.
I was nearly breathless. "Anywhere."
His smile grew wider, warmer. "Let's ask your dad."
"Wonderful," I said, leading Ken into house. My heart thumping like mad, I called from the kitchen, "Hey, Dad! Ken's here. Let's go out to eat!"
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