"There's not much doubt in any of our minds that no complete idea springs fully formed from our brow,
needing only a handshake and a signature on the contract to send it off into the world to make twenty-five billion dollars.
The germ of the idea grows slowly..." - Walt Kelly

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I am who I am

"We've been talking, your dad and I."

Never a good way to start off lunch with your mother. I stopped mid-chew and stared at her, deer-in-the-headlights look in full effect.


"He told me he feels badly that he couldn't always make it to things for you and your brother when you two were younger."

I swallowed my forkful of chicken parm and squinted.

"Never bothered me - I mean, last I checked, I'm not a spoiled rich kid with daddy issues."

"That's not what I'm trying to say," she said, reaching for her water in what I took to be a reflexive response to my too-dry humor. "He just wishes he could have been at more soccer games and that kind of thing."

"Well I never held it against him. Still don't. I know he had to work - somebody has to keep a young family afloat."

She smiled, and I tensed for the "I'm so proud you're so grown up I guess we did an okay job after all" line I was sure would follow, but it never came.

"Someday you'll have to tell him that," she said. "I think it would mean a lot to him."

She put down her drink and returned her focus to the roasted red pepper sandwich in front of her.

There's more, Mom, I wanted to say. I am who I am because of him. You too, of course, but as far as I'm concerned, a boy doesn't grow up well without a father figure who does his job. So if you're ever proud of me, be proud of him, because he's a big reason why.

But I kept my mouth shut - it'd be better for him to hear, I decided. I took a sip of my iced tea, my focus split between the straw and the how. How would I relay such a message to a man who I figured was harder to read than a quantum physics textbook? Another sip of tea brought no answers.

"You know Father's Day is coming up, right?" she asked, yanking me back into the here-and-now. "Have you talked to your brother about getting a gift?"

"No, Mom," I groaned. "I'll handle it though, I've been thinking of ideas."

"Do you need help? I could probably think of a few good things."

"I've got it, thanks though. I think I'm going to go pick something up later today."

"Oh okay. Just thought I'd ask."

We finished lunch, and I walked with her back to the train home. She chatted away, as usual, me only half-listening as I ran through my options. How would I convey feelings I couldn't even bring myself to say out loud?

I scratched my chin stubble as we waited at the next crosswalk. I'm a college-educated 24-year-old, I thought to myself. I'm sure I'll manage to think of a way.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Eagles, Learn to Be Still

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