Thursday, June 17, 2004

The picture the babysitter took. . .

The first picture of my parents that I really remember seeing caught the two of them, dressed up to go to a Halloween party. Mom is dressed as an Old West dance-hall girl. Dad is dressed as a gambler.

It must have been taken in the mid-to-late 60's, because Mom told me I was still an infant, and my little sister wasn’t born yet. Mom has a beehive hairdo, and cat’s-eye glasses. Dad has a blond crew cut–looking very incongruous with his sleeve-garter and embroidered vest. They’re both trying not to laugh. The baby-sitter took the picture.

Ah, but I’m in a fey mood, tonight. I am older now than they were then. And together they sleep, only a few hundred feet from where I sit. In a monstrosity of an RV they bought to roam the country together after they both retired.

They still hold hands. And my mother shouts at my father, because he is more than a little deaf, and his hearing aid is always in his left-hand shirt pocket–where he used to carry his tobacco-pouch. He refuses to wear it, because he says Mom shouts at him, whether he wears it or not. But she is kinder to him than I ever remember her being before. They spent the day driving around while I was at work–getting to know the area where I live, they said. They seem a bit uncertain what to do with me. They keep trying to give me money, even though I make more than they ever did. But they won’t take money from me, any more than I would take it from them.

So my father spent the last week fixing everything he can find to fix. The garden tiller that hasn’t run for a year. The lawnmower that I abandoned in the yard in the rain when it ran out of gas. The toilet that has run constantly since I moved here, a year ago. The kitchen faucet that used to be confused about which side was hot and which side cold. My mother spent the last week making sure I eat. Sandwiches. Snacks. Full multi-course meals. She plans the menu for tomorrow while we prepare tonight’s dinner. She wanted to pack me a lunch to take to work, and looked appalled when I told her I’d just grab something from the street vendor across from the building where I work.

My mother told me tonight their worst fear is that I will grow old alone.

Funny. Their worst fear used to be that I would find a long-term partner and all their friends would find out I’m a queer. At least, that’s what I always IMAGINED their worst fear to be.

They want me to be the executor of their will.

And I can’t even think about a world without them. They are so beautiful, and noble, and strong. And they’ve worked so goddamned hard all of their lives.

And I should have gracefully let my mom pack me a lunch.

I wonder what ever happened to that picture, taken in a house we left when I was four, with a really ugly couch in the background. The picture the baby-sitter took.

Today is their thirty-eighth anniversay.


Anonymous said...

I don't have an account here (yet) but that's really lovely, what you just wrote. My parents divorced when I was 10, my partner's parents just celebrated their ruby wedding anniversary. It's lovely to read things like this. Let your mother pack you a lunch - it's in her job description. (Whenever my mother comes to visit, she cleans things. One day I came home from work and found her cleaning the bathroom grout with an old toothbrush....)
(Linked here from Absolute Write....)

Mac said...

funny--I didn't exactly have a great childhood, by whatever the fashionable ideal seems to be. But I also never doubted my parent's love for me. That seems a pretty amazing gift, in retrospect.

Kay L. Schlagel said...

I'm very proud of my family after 16 years of marriage (10 of it wonderful) my husband and I broke up when he brought up in conversation that he was gay. Don't think that didn't rattle the glass panes a bit. The boys accepted their dad's decision but where very hurt when I moved out. We've been lucky and with time things have smoothed over for all of us. Jim found a long term lover and I became engaged to a wonderful man that the kids love and Jim and I chose to treat each other with as much respect and try and keep the friendship we had always treasured in our marriage (don't think there weren't some out and out fights at the beginning but time does heal especially if you don't go off half cocked and hurt you ex-partner in ways that can't be fixed later. I filed for divorced and then found out Jim was diagnosed with terminal bladder cancer. I pulled the papers and our family drew together as much as possible to support him in as many ways as we could without causing more difficulties for all of us (I didn't move back in). Our divorce will go to court in June (over 3 years after we seperated) and somehow we have all come through it older and wiser but more tolerant of one another. Yes, I wish it hadn't have happened (any of it) but we still feel we are all better people by learning to cooperate and tolerate each others decisions and not lose the love we had nutured for so many years. I hope my sons think of us as proudly as you obviously do your parents. Jim is still with us and 2 years past surgery, chemo, and radiation. He isn't the same man he was but he isn't to bad either. On the youngest son's graduation Jim and I sat and taped a conversation for the kids about when they were young and how we loved them both and were so very proud of them. If by some miracle we don't lose Jim it will be something for the kids to cherish after we get old and die and show to their own children. If Jim's time comes sooner than we want then they will have a taped conversation with there dad that will be invaluable to them.