I didn’t have to fix your lunch today.
That had been the daily routine since you started that overnight job.
But I thought about it yesterday when I was fixing your dinner for the last time: Steak, onions, mushrooms and those cool little potatoes in a brown gravy. It was a little odd to be preparing everyone’s evening meal at noon, but that was essentially what I was doing; wasn’t really keen on cooking two complete meals in a day.
Can’ t say it would be last time ever, because no one can predict the future.
But it probably will be.
You moved out last weekend, nearby, but, yes out; you and she, a matched pair if ever there was one with time and space for your sweet son. The event had a certain finality of celebration and newness since you enlisted a hearty group of friends to help, so many in fact I had little to do except shift small items and get the pizza and beer.
Your move was more final than that of your sister. She has been home weekends since her spring move, but that will change in the fall when her on-campus job and more intense class work kicks in.
The house will be a little vacant, but your echoes, and a lot of your stuff, is still here. Maybe I should charge you both rent for the amount of stuff that will be stored in the cellar.
Where was I at your age, 23?
Sitting on Route 20 in Worcester, Mass with the drive shaft of my 1963 $200 Ford Fairlane convertible in pieces in the roadway. I had left Binghamton with about $15 and the need to drive back to Boston without paying any tolls. I was lucky, it seems, to get out of the Catskills alive.
That, I suppose, it the difference in our lives. I was a nomad, a habit ingrained when the family moved every few years; you and your sister have lived your entire lives up to now in one state.
When you moved out, first to that aborted year in college, and now, to an apartment of your own, you moved with the full family in tow.
When I went to college, my father drove me grudgingly from Syracuse to Binghamton, silently enduring the forced closeness, and then waited at the curb while I carried my drum kit, suitcase and three boxes into the dorm. He refused to come in, then shook my hand and drove back to Syracuse, duty done.
In some ways, the three of us are a lot a like: Independent outsiders.
My father’s independence was more it seems, an effort to escape something: East Texas poverty, and then later when he returned to Texas as an older man, clearly his family, but in some quest for what we all presumed was spiritual peace. He grew up hard – photos of him as a kid show a fear in his eyes, one that was there in the last pictures he posed for – his father was a tough old bastard.
In the end, if it had not been for the intercession of my older brother, my father would have died alone, a sad and confused old man. He had not even told his new Texas friends that he had kids.
My independence comes from survival: I have been making my own decisions since I was about 15. It is not a path I entirely recommend.
You? Your independence came from the base of your family. We let you learn on your own, mistakes and all, and then helped you pick up the pieces. We are fortunate enough to provide the financial base needed to support your experimentation with life.
I think my father’s disappointment in me was that I was not him.
I don’t want you to be me.
You are who you are, and I’m proud that you are.
That was why when you left the house for the last time – well, it wasn’t the last time: you were here yesterday to get your last overnight meal, and to make a turkey sandwich for the road – there was silence.
I’m not dying, and neither are you. You live a mile away. There was no need for grand, life-affirming statements.
They had already been delivered over the years, by actions, non-actions, and mere presence. This is an evolution. This is how families grow and change; add the experiences to those that came before, the horizon expanding. Love, learn, then teach.
What did we share: “Make sure you get your car inspected this month.”
Advise for the ages.
It’s hard to be antiestablishment if they can track you down.
It’s always about the paperwork.