“Tradition! Everything’s a goddamn tradition with you!”

“Not everything, Fili, but it’s good to know how much you hate traditions. I’ll remember that the next time your mother ruins Thanksgiving with her gluten-free stuffing. Tastes like cardboard, Doc, it’s really quite something…”

“You leave my mother out of this, Bill!”

“Mrs. Roberts, can you expand on your last thought? About Bill’s traditions?”

“It’s Filippa, Dr. Gilmer. My mother-in-law is ‘Mrs. Roberts,’ and God knows I’ve had my fill of her! She’s always hovering around, judging everything I do. I’m done sharing a name with her.”

“Now who’s bringing whose mother into it?”

“And another thing. My husband insists on calling me ‘Fili,’ makes me sound like a damned cheese sandwich or something.”

“I’ve been calling you ‘Fili’ since our first date! I always thought you liked it? It’s my special name for you…”

“Yeah, well, it may have been cute when I was 24, but now it annoys the living shit out of me. It’s called growth, Bill. People change. At least some people do!”

“What are you talking about? Why didn’t you say something? We’ve been married over 22 years, for Chrissakes!”

“I shouldn’t have to, Bill. That’s the point…”

“Is there a fucking point to this conversation, Fili, ‘cause I sure as hell can’t find one!”

“Mr. Roberts, I’m sensing some hostility from you…”

“No offense, Doc, but that’s the understatement of the year. And it’s Bill. Please.”

“Okay, Bill. Let’s circle back to Filippa’s earlier statement, about traditions?”

“Dr. Gilmer, I get that this whole…navel gazing, touchy-feely thing is your rice bowl. A man’s gotta make a living and all that. Certainly my wife believes in all of it. I’m only here ‘cause the mediator suggested we try a last-ditch round of counseling before she makes things official. Although, how in the hell we ended up here, well...shit.”

“This is why we’re here, Bill! What you just said! Your stubborn, willful blindness. The last election…”

“Would you please, for the love of sweet, merciful Christ, get the fuck over it already!”

“How could you vote for that blowhard?”

“How could you vote for that criminal? You’re just mad ’cause my vote cancels yours out every four years!”

“Oh, that’s it! The absolute fucking end!”

“Let’s pause for just a moment…no, both of you…no, I mean it. Stop! Please…Mrs. Robe…wait. Let’s have a brief moment of silence. Breathe with me, in and out, in and out…okay, Bill, please finish your previous thought. I mean before that last exchange. And let’s try to keep things positive.”

“I’m a simple man, Doc. I tried college, made it through the first year before dropping out; ran out of money. I did two tours overseas in the Army, was proud to serve. I may not have a degree like Fili…Filippa, but we’ve managed pretty well over the years.”

“He’s being modest, Dr. Gilmer. Bill’s been a huge success in the landscaping business. He’s done all the yards and open spaces in the new Parkville district. They even wrote an article about him in the Times, a big write-up!”

“Yeah, that’s right, ha! Phone didn’t stop ringing for a month, remember, Fili? It was right before Bobby’s first communion…”

“Ah, yes! He was so handsome in his new suit. Except for the big, red scratch and purple bruise on his face from falling off his bike on the day of the ceremony; that boy!”

“You were madder than a wet hen, honey, but I could tell you were laughing inside. We both were. Our Bobby is a one-man wrecking crew, Doc. He’s one helluva kid, clumsy like his old man. Thank God he got his mother’s good looks!”

“Hush, Billy! You’re not so bad yourself…”

“First Communion. Is that what you meant by traditions, Filippa?”

“No, Dr. Gilmer. We were both raised Catholic, that’s a normal family tradition. I just mean that Bill is very set in his ways. He never evolves or changes, and one of the absolute worst examples is Taco Night!”

“You’ve got to be kidding! Are you actually serious right now?”

“It’s true, Dr. Gilmer. His parents made him eat tacos, on the floor, every single week on some godawful green shag 1970’s carpeting…”

“It was blue carpet, Fili! If you’re going to insult my family, at least get your facts straight!”

“Whatever. So they sat on the dirty floor every flipping Tuesday and grabbed the ingredients with their bare hands while Bill fed the dog off of his own plate! And he thinks this is how a family should interact. Now, he makes us do the same thing every week, no matter how busy we all are. If I never smell overcooked, over-seasoned ground beef again, it will be a goddamned miracle!”

“Oh, please! Like your zucchini pasta with sugar-free sauce is anything to brag about! Bobby always tries to feed it to the dog. Sparky won’t even eat it!”

“You rotten son of a bitch…”

“Okay, Mr. and Mrs. Roberts, please. Let’s take another pause. Join me now in a deep breathing exercise. Close your eyes. Both of you. Mr. Roberts; yes, you as well, thank you. Okay, focus only on my voice. Breathe in, one-two-three-four-five and out, one-two-three-four-five. Whew…okay, let’s start again. Bill, how does it make you feel to hear Filippa talk about Taco Night?

“Pretty damned lousy, Doc. It’s not the stupid tacos, I don’t care about that. It was the one night in my family where we pushed all the other stuff aside. I’m an only child. It was my folks and me against the world. My mom made sure that every Tuesday, come hell or high water, we’d have that one meal. Together. As a family. They’d both laugh and joke as they cooked, and my Dad would always make his special taco sauce from scratch. Life was hectic then, maybe not as much as it is now, but I had Scouts and baseball and Dad worked late all the time. Mom just got her real estate license back in those days and she was always off showing houses somewhere. But Tuesday nights, no matter what, we we’d sit on the floor, pass taco ingredients around, and talk about what was happening in our lives. The night before Dad died was Taco Night. It was our very last meal together. He dropped dead at 59 right there in the kitchen. Aneurysm, they said.”

“Billy, I never knew that. You never talked about how it happened…”

“You know me, hon. I’m not a big talker. The details aren’t the important part. What matters is the last meaningful conversation I ever had with my father was over Taco Night. It always brings him to mind.”

“Have you considered, Bill, that Bobby is also an only child? That maybe the dinner is more about that father-son connection in addition to your own memories?”

“Sure, Doc. Truth is, I turn 55 this year. It strikes me that I’m only four years younger than Dad was then. The men in my family don’t have a long track record. So yeah, Taco Night is my chance to be with the people I love. I don’t give a good goddamn, Filippa, if it’s tacos or tofu or your awful sushi rolls. You ever had raw octopus, Dr. Gilmer? I wouldn’t recommend it…”

“Stay on track, Bill. Finish your thought.”

“I may not even be here in a few years. Hell, no one really knows how long they have. What if Taco Night is ultimately how Bobby remembers me? And you, Fili…Filippa. I just want to be with you as long as I possibly can, spend time with you. And I’m sorry about the name, honey. I’ll try, I really will. If it means I can come home to you and Bobby, I promise we’ll never have tacos again!”

“Mrs. Roberts? Filippa? Are you alright?”

“Um, yes, fine. Would you please pass me a Kleenex?”

“Could we perhaps find a compromise? Here you go, Mrs. Roberts.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Now, Bill said he’d be willing to change the meal. Would that work for you?”

“No. No it wouldn’t.”

“C’mon, honey. Just let me stop by then, visit with him before he goes to bed…”

“No. Taco Night stays just as it is. It’s non-negotiable. Today’s Tuesday. What do you say, Bill? Bobby will be so excited. Just promise me one thing?”

“Name it, Filippa.”

“You can call me Fili, but only in private, okay? And no politics. That’s one discussion that will stay permanently off-limits. Well, I’ll try, anyway. Oh, and no feeding that damned dog off my good plates!”

“Brilliant. You’ve got a deal!”

“It’s just the one night, Bill. I can’t promise any more. That’s all I can do for now.”

“I’ll take it.”

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress today. What do you say Mr. and Mrs. Roberts? Next week, same time?”

“Perfect, Doc. Thanks.”

“You know our Bill, Doctor. A real creature of habit, God only knows!”

“Don’t start, Fili. You know I really hate it when you…”

“Until next week, then. Please. Allow me to show you both out.”


“Hello, Gloria? It’s me. Yeah, just got done with my last session. It’s been a long day, you have no idea. Would you put the wine on ice? No, not that one. The Pinot, 1998. No, the one in the very back, bottom rack. Yes, that one. I told you: it’s been a real bitch of a day! What’s that? Oh, I don’t know, anything sounds good. I’ve got an idea? How about ordering from La Hacienda tonight? I have a sudden hankering for tacos. Oh, and Gloria? I love you. No, no, nothing serious. I just don’t tell you often enough, that’s all. I’d say about a half-hour, 45 minutes depending on traffic. Okay, see you soon, babe. Bye.”