For the first time EVER, I had lunch with my father and my mother, just the three of us. READ what happened when my stepmom came home early.
I’m living in Vancouver for a year with my wife and three kids. We decided to pick up and temporarily move from Toronto to be close to our family and friends on the West Coast, where I grew up. Central to the decision, for me, was to spend some quality time with my father, after being away for 30 years. We’re 10 months into the adventure, and a couple of weeks ago, my mom, who moved to Toronto a few years before I did in the 80’s, was here for a visit. We’ve missed her while being away from Toronto, so we were glad she came to see us. That’s when the invitation was extended from my father and the historical lunch date went down.
In the six years prior to their separation, I guess there’s a remote possibility that I dined with my dad and mom without my older sister being present. But, I highly doubt it; and I wasn’t breastfed, so we didn’t unknowingly sleep through a meal together. We certainly had no occasion to break bread, just us three, in the 42 years since their divorce. They haven’t been uncivil with one another in that time, but I wouldn’t describe Mom and Dad as “chummy” either. So, while I wasn’t worried when my father suggested we get together for a little sesh, I was curious.
They’re too old to be patient while I tried to figure out how to get the Snapchat filter to add dog ears to all three of our faces. I’m too old to know that it only works on two people at a time.
As I sat there in the house I left after graduating high school, looking across the dining room table at the lovely menu of fish, breads, veggies and fruits that my father had prepared, I found myself surprised to be thinking: these two people made me!
It wasn’t like the “EEEEEEWWWWWWW!” my kids say aloud when my wife and I display even the most innocent of public affections. It was more of an “in the moment” contemplation.
What do you talk about when you’re alone for the first time with the two people who created your life?
When the time comes, my mom is determined to expedite her imminent mortality. To ensure I am clear about her wishes, she’s even tested me by having me answer an “End-Of-Life Questionnaire”; which I failed.
My father’s position on this subject is “inconclusive”. He is, admittedly, conflicted by his religious beliefs and what he witnessed in his life and career as a medical doctor.
As we discussed the current sociopolitical controversies relevant to the burgeoning field of Thanatology, I was eying the last piece of smoked tuna; Dad snapped it up, conclusively.
My mother has only played it a few times, and never took interest.
My father has been playing as many as four or five times a week for years, and waxed philosophically about how there may not be any more Bridge players alive in 10-20 years. He tried to teach me how to play once.
I can’t even remember how to play Euchre. When I joked, “For me, Bridge was a wash out”, neither one of them blinked an eye. But, both quipped about not being able to say, “Trump”, in public any longer.
Our banter included other topics, such as: movies; blogs; James Joyce’s Ulysses; the Holocaust; Book Clubs; and…
At some point, my dad remarked, “I may, yet, celebrate a 50th Wedding Anniversary!”.
My dad and mom were married for less than 10 years.
Mom never re-married.
Just last week, Dad celebrated his 39th Anniversary with his second wife.
Moments later, my stepmom came home earlier than I expected.
I didn’t start to clear the table because I was worried things were going to get awkward or uneasy. The luncheon was wrapping up. My mom was actually pleased to see my stepmom, as she was hoping to get a tour of her art studio next door. My stepmom was happy to oblige, and the two of them sauntered off to look at some of her latest work.
In the time it took for me to help my father tidy up in the kitchen, they had returned with a framed photograph. It was a piece of my stepmom’s art that caught my mom’s eye on the studio tour and, without hesitation, my stepmom wanted her to have it as a gift. The irony was not lost on me that, of all of the pieces that my stepmom had hanging, or leaning up against the walls in her workspace, the one that caught my mom’s eye is called, “Shy Bride”.
(The photo attached above does not do “Shy Bride” justice).
The last thing on the luncheon agenda was that my father wanted to show off his new gardens.
As my birth parents strolled through the backyard and then around the side of the house to meet me at the front, I had a moment alone with my stepmom. She expressed to me how pleased she was to see my mother so very happy. She went on to describe how for the first time, after giving her the photograph as a gift in the studio, she felt a special connection to my mom. As tears welled up in my stepmom’s eyes, she said, “I cry very easily at moments like this.” I responded, “I must get that from you.”
It’s Father’s Day today. I’m so very grateful to have this year to be close to my father. Seeing how my three kids have thrived and matured during this time at our home-away-from-home gives me immense pride and happiness as a father. This blog, however, is not about fatherhood.
It’s about the realization that even when you create experiences in your life and have every reason to expect they will bring you joy, with so many variables influencing their outcome, there’s still a lot of luck involved in how well they turn out. So, when you find yourself immersed in an experience that has brought you more than you had hoped for, it truly must be cherished.
Moving my family across the country for a year is an experience I feel fortunate to have been able to create. A pleasant, easy-going lunch alone with my mom and dad for the first time ever, and sharing gentle tears with my stepmom in the front hall of my childhood home, epitomize how this adventure has brought me joy in ways that I could not possibly have imagined.
If you are in the luxurious position to be able to create such life experiences for yourself and your family, I wish for you all the luck in the world in finding their most joyous outcomes.
But, Happy Father’s Day just the same.