Before the winter weather gets too bad to travel, I went and spent some time with some old friends. I hadn’t met their youngest kid yet and it was a good excuse to sit on the couch and drink Bloody Mary’s all day! Of course, I had to give them plenty of grief; “You know, I’m sure they thought, twenty years ago, that IUD’s would last forever but as you learned about things like ‘metal deterioration’ and other, fascinating, scientific facts… why were you so surprised?”
My father’s oldest and dearest friends had their oldest son’s and daughter’s one foot out the door. She had an acceptance to a local college and he was gearing up for his senior year of high school, already with multiple jobs lined up. The last time I saw these “children,” they were crawlers and toddlers. Then, here came “Little Gary!” Oops!
“It isn’t like we were upset, he just wasn’t planned.” my girlfriend plopped her ample ass across from me on the couch, sipping her drink and not protesting a bit when I started helping her fold the laundry. How many clothes can one family wear?
“Doesn’t this… “interfere” with Gary’s retirement plans?” My old friend rolled her eyes and gave me a “you know better than that” look.
“Of COURSE it does! He was talking about retiring in a couple of years.” I made a mental note NOT to bring this subject up with Gary when he got home. A wave of sadness came over me. Retirement. My father did the ultimate ‘retirement;’ he retired from the world of the living.
“Do you care if the baby’s clothes are stained with Bloody Mary?” I was trying to dab a couple of drips I left on some white T-shirts, regretting I had said anything. Who’s going to notice if the kid’s shirt was dirty before he was dressed versus five minutes later when he was dirty from head-to-toe?”
“Give me that!” She snatched the clothes from my hands. “If you’re going to make MORE work for me, then don’t do ANYthing!” My friend looked older than her years. I could only compare her to our yesteryears and I’m sure I looked just as bad in her mind but the draws in her face, every line, the dark circles, the splotches, they all told stories. Hard life stories of a woman who just never had things very easy. Now, getting pregnant so late in life, I thought that I had not wait another 17 years before visiting her again. She ignored my staring for a while, then shot a look over at me. To diffuse the situation I just starting laughing at her permission for me to stop helping with the laundry and got up to fetch the pitcher.
“Hey now! This is pretty, big shit, me doing your laundry. I don’t even do my OWN laundry!” No, I had no regrets at all about not having children. This was the saddest house I think I had ever visited. But girl talk was over, my friend’s husband’s truck could be heard pulling into the driveway. I was excited to see my father’s oldest and best friend and meet the newest “Sunspot” of the family! Marie kept her eyes closed with her arm resting on the basket of perfectly, folded laundry. She really did look like she stood in the shadow of… something not pleasant at all. I was impressed that her and Gary had stayed married all of these years but at what price? I didn’t understand why they went ahead and had this last kid.
“There goes my quiet house.” She muttered, possibly forgetting that I was standing right there. Sure enough, that front door came crashing open and it was like a wall of sound just invaded the mobile home! Wow! I quickly sat my drink down in a safe, high location. I ran over to give the old man a long hug. He was more fragile and a lot skinnier than I remembered but he looked a hell of a lot better than his wife!
“Hey!” He pushes me away but doesn’t let go of my shoulders, “why did my son draw this today in school?” I looked down and this ugly, toe-headed kid was holding up the big picture of a person on crutches. It was quite good, actually and I didn’t know if I should greet the kid first or acknowledge his prize drawing. Getting down on my knees, I decided to generously accept the drawing.
“Because he’s the smartest boy in school, that’s why! Look at you, little Gary! You did just like aunt Judith asked you to!” His face was nothing but a big, ugly smile. What few teeth he had looked like a deck of cards somebody threw into his mouth. This poor, poor kid; I could only envision a grown up version of him as a greeter at Walmart. I finally tore my gaze away and back up to his toothless father. Well, I guess the apple really didn’t fall far from the tree…
Gary was giggling his head off, staring at me, “He said you told him to draw that.”
“No sir,” my vodka-induced state was making my tongue lazy. “I told him to draw me a picture of the last time he saw Uncle Jim. Munchkin here said he remembered my dad and could do that.” I got up. I needed to finish my drink. Gary was home now, time to drink beer and do whiskey shots. Besides, my head burned with thoughts full of my father and the latest “Harley incident” that left him in a hard cast for some, odd weeks. “I was actually expecting to see Jim’s Harley in your picture, there, Poopy-Pants.” I looked down at the little morph. He craned his neck and shook it. His father felt that this needed interpretation.
“Jim couldn’t ride his bike with the cast, don’t think he didn’t try! Then it was winter….. that was the last time….” Even I could feel the vibes Marie and I were sending out to this man to stop talking.
The rest of the evening, to this day is a blur. Old friends, old memories, too much booze and no regrets in my life. I thought it was pretty cool how this little, baby dork remembered my father. I imagine they had some fun times together. Sadness was making me heavy, and I had a long, drive home. Maybe it was too soon for me to come out, maybe I left just in time. In a fog of drunken state I asked my friends “So, has the kid made you age faster or did he revive your youth?” Marie laughed and went to the bathroom. Gary’s smile disappeared from his mouth but not from his eyes.
“Being a father has always brought out the kid in me. It’s the thought of being a grandparent that’s killing me.” I froze, unable to move or blink. I didn’t want him to say it, I didn’t want to hear it. “She’s not going to college. Her boyfriend is moving in here and in 5 months I’ll be a grandfather. I watched my tired, thin friend turn that bottle upside down to his lips and I felt relieved.
Relieved that I did not ever procreate. It was right knew then that I knew I would never visit this family again. I was never going to see these people again in my life. Obviously, they had something very bad in their water and I wanted no part of it!
good time of year to get into this “habit”
the only part about being a Catholic is that everyone thinks “we’re all the same.” just as many different colours of skin, so have i noticed there are “Catholics.” yes, we all believe the same, core belief otherwise we’d be, what? Jewish? i’ve yet to find 2 Catholics who have identical beliefs ~