I have a haircut scheduled for tomorrow. Today I just came back from a massage and a brow wax.
What I really need though is a drink.
But I have to take my kid to driver ed this afternoon and it’s generally frowned upon to drink before driver ed.
And I don’t really drink anyway.
This weekend I’m flying to Buffalo for my stepmother’s 75th birthday. I am genuinely pleased to go - she’s a kind woman who has accomplished a lot in her life in the face of adversity and I greatly admire her. I made her a quilt that I think she’ll love and I’m really excited to give it to her and see her face when she opens the box.
That’s not the cause of my primping, or my stress for that matter.
My mom and her new boyfriend are picking me up from the airport.
GULP, you might think, your mom’s new boyfriend? How old is your mom anyway, you might ask? (she’s 70). Holy Moly.
But you don’t know the half of it.
See, this new boyfriend is actually a very old boyfriend. My mom’s first boyfriend. Her high school sweetheart, in fact.
How adorable, you’re probably thinking. Your mom is 70 years old and she’s got a boyfriend? And this boyfriend is her high school sweetheart? Go Mom, I hear you saying.
Yeah, go Mom! I’m saying that too.
But you see, there’s a twist, and that’s what’s stressing me out.
They were in love way back in the early 1960’s and dated from eighth grade on. He, being a few years older than her, finished high school first and joined the Navy.
One day while on leave from the military, he dropped into her all-girls Catholic high school and showed up to her chorus rehearsal. She saw him and blanched, knowing his appearance at the school was forbidden, and feared the reaction of the Sister conducting the performance.
The Sister turned her attention to him and he politely introduced himself to her, saying he was my mom’s older brother on leave from the Navy, and could she possibly please be excused for the afternoon so they could spend some time together before he returned to his ship?
Dude had some big cojones, I’ll give him that.
They continued to date over the years until my mom met my dad.
You knew the story had to go south at some point, right?
Apparently it was an unceremonious ending to their romance, with my dad throwing him into the hood of a car as they fought for my mother’s love. I’m told he has a scar on his face, still visible over his right eye.
I guess I’ll get to see it for myself this weekend. The scar my father left on my mother’s boyfriend’s face.
Back in December when my mom told me about them crossing paths at a party after not seeing each other for nearly 50 years, she was uncertain about what to do. Should she go out with him? Should she demure? Should she keep the past squarely in the past?
“What’s to decide?” I asked her. “You loved him, right?” I said.
Yes, she said.
Knowing my mom is a take control and live your life to the fullest kind of gal, I instantly knew the next question I should ask.
“Is he your life’s biggest regret?” I asked, knowing full well that my mother does not believe in regret.
Yes, she said.
When they caught up at the party back in December, she showed him my picture. “She’s beautiful,” he commented, “But she should be ours.”
Holy mother of god, now there’s a loaded statement if I’ve ever heard one.
And I have to wonder, should I have been theirs? They were deeply in love, something my mother can not claim to have been with my father. Their marriage should never have taken place, by all accounts. This I’ve known since I was old enough to understand.
And that feeling cuts through me like a knife. My mother never really loved my father (he did not make it easy to love him, I’ll say in her defense) though my father deeply loved my mother. I’m not quite sure why, given that it was unrequited. He has never told me why.
Regardless of who loved who, I was born after a couple of rocky years of marriage and I am most definitely my father’s daughter. I have his quiet introversion, his fiercely creative streak, his strong, muscular calves. And for better or worse (totally worse) I have his broody and sometimes brusque nature too.
I was born in 1968, a time when women spent a week or more in the hospital after childbirth. One night when my mother craved pizza, he (not my father) brought it to her at the hospital, telling the nursing staff that he was her husband so he could get in.
I’m told he gazed at me that night, tucked into my nursery bassinette and said “She’s beautiful, but she should have been ours.”
So last December was not the first time he uttered those words. He’s been holding those thoughts for nearly 47 years now.
On Saturday I’ll go to lunch with my mom and her boyfriend. I wonder what I will see in him, other than the scar that my father put above his eye. I wonder if I’ll see a glimpse of my mom, naive and in love, foolish and fickle in her youth? Will I see in him what my mom did, over 50 years ago, and still sees today?
And what will he see in me, when we meet as adults? Will he see images of my mom, the woman he has silently loved all these years? Will he look at me with thoughts of what could have been? Or will he see my dad, the one who took her away from him, and feel resentment? Disappointment? Old wounds?
And will I wish that he had been my father after all?
I have no idea.
I guess we’ll both see.
(This is the first part of a two-part blog post. You can find the follow-up post here.)