“That was the thing about the world: it wasn’t that things were harder than you thought they were going to be, it was that they were hard in ways that you didn’t expect.” ― Lev Grossman,
Last November he called and invited me to lunch and I accepted. The meeting was awkward and heavy and he was nervous and I felt the need to put him at ease. I don’t think it was intentional on his part and it was certainly understandable— but it still wasn’t the best of feelings on my end. But he made an effort.
We followed up with another lunch after Christmas at which point I gave him a calendar my Mother-In-Law makes every New Year with photos of my children, everyone’s birthday’s, and anniversary’s. Around my wedding anniversary, in February, he called and invited my husband and I to dinner, explaining that he understood that he’d need his “buy in” if he wanted to be a part of our lives. While this wasn’t completely true— it was true enough. I thought it over and declined… feeling that the timing wasn’t right. Instead, I invited him to our son’s birthday party (which was held away from our home) and he stopped by briefly. He made an effort.
Last week, he called and invited me to lunch again. I accepted and this time I decided to bring my younger three children along because:
- A) They are home with me for the summer so it made sense.
- B) I felt the timing was a little better.
- C) He made an effort.
Bringing them along was a big step for me, as I knew that it would open up a lot of questions and I wasn’t sure that I was ready to explain it all. The truth of the matter is I’ve spent a long time feeling ashamed of my upbringing, or lack there of, in regard to my parents. As a kid, I was always different. The odd one out. Other kids wanted to know why I lived with my Grandma, and where my parents were, and… well, it was hard to be different.
The truth would have been even harder to explain. So to try and explain this truth to my own kids… it was an interesting moment, that is for sure.
The thing is, I don’t care who you are— as a child it says something when not one but both of your parents skip out on you. Even though I am an adult now (and more importantly a parent) and I have a better understanding of how the world works and why people make the choices they do… I realize that my children do not have the same understanding— and I was worried about opening that door for them.
However, after mulling it over— I realized— ready or not… I could do hard things and in the process I could show them as much. And, so, I said yes. We would meet him for lunch. Same time. Same place.
He showed up in new clothes and shoes. He made an effort. Still, it felt like a very awkward first date.
Over the course of the meal he asked if I knew anything about blogging. A thing, or two, I told him. He said he’d seen something about it on the news and explained the story to me which had to do with writers who blog anonymously and folks who post hate under the guise of remaining anonymous. If you were going to write something wouldn’t you want your name attached to it, he asked? I would I told him. It hit a bit of nerve. A familiar one. But he couldn’t have known that.
It was interesting to see my children interact with him and vice versa. He isn’t used to being around kids— but he made an effort. The eldest of my younger three children is very intelligent— but to his detriment has not yet learned the art of small talk. He wanted no part in the awkward interaction and it showed. Tolerance and kindness toward those who are different is another lesson I am hopeful this experience will have taught that child of mine. To break the ice, my father asked him about computers and technology and stuff he figured my son would be interested in but that he himself knew little about. Then he pulled out his non-smart phone cell phone and told him it came over on the Mayflower. He asked my son if he knew the year the ship came over. Of course, he did. And just like that they were having small talk. He made an effort.
My youngest took to him right away while my daughter mostly sat back and observed the situation— as she does. He asked the twins which cartoons they watched and when they told him their mother doesn’t let them watch cartoons (which isn’t exactly the whole truth) you should have seen his expression. My own expression dared him to judge my parenting. He took the smarter path and didn’t. I appreciated the effort.
Mostly though, he spoke of his dog and I could tell that he feels that she is the only thing he has in the world and I felt sorry for him. Sorry, is a very hard thing to feel.
Then just as that conversation winded down a man crossed the restaurant and moseyed up to our table. He addressed my father, asking him if “these were his people?” When he said yes, the man told him he was lucky. After he walked away my dad looked at me and asked if I knew the guy. I told him I’d never seen him in my life— but that I thought he must have known him. He did not. It was an odd exchange.
It’s funny how the universe works that way.
After lunch, I waited for questions from my kids that were sure to arise. I let them come. Without prodding.
My little guy only said he really liked my father.
While his older brother asked if the man who stopped by our table thought my father was my husband.
“God, I hope not,” I said. He’s thirty years older than me.
And that was that.