American Idol returns next week, and that was a preoccupation with Dad. He loved to laugh at the bad contestants, but he thought Simon was too mean. He also thought Paula was on drugs. He was impatient for the real season to start last year, and settled in for all the shows from Los Angeles. Adam Lambert was not his cup of tea, but he felt certain that Adam would be a finalist. Dad favored girls. One of his favorite stories involved seeing a very young Barbra Streisand at a club in Detroit, where he marked her for stardom. He knew what it took. This year I will not get as hooked without my viewing partner.
Dad spruced up his place last year, aware that he was passing it on to his family, in a trust that restricts its sale. He had new windows put in; the company that did the job placed the glass panels on the grass outside his unit. Of course, the sun burned giant squares into the turf, a reality that at one time would have unhinged him. I expect that many words were devoted to the maimed lawn at happy hour. I knew Dad was reserving his energy for what counted when he just shrugged off off, saying, “it’ll grow back.” The other condo inhabitants took charge of the destruction, watering the burned spots and removing the dead blades. By the time Dad left the place to go to the hospital, the grass was regenerating. Dad, not so much.
Now Steve will be there without my Dad to anchor his sense of purpose. He will have his podcast to dissect the morning, and his ritual of beach walking and photographing unsuspecting sun worshipers. He will try to eat well, but he will not. He has threatened to start attending St. Gabriel’s parish, just to please my Dad’s spirit and to irk me. Dad loved that parish, with its Irish Pastor spinning yarns and telling jokes. I loved it too, because where can you find a choir that allows every singer to sing whatever words or notes they
wish? The “altar boys” and Eucharistic ministers are all 80 year old women, surveying the tourist men with wishful thinking. The ushers are the roosters, large and in charge. The organist is more piano bar than holy roller. It is a lovely way to spend an hour. I wish Steve well in his conversion, but I do worry about all the hearts he will break if he wears his wedding ring.
In Chicago, I will keep the dogs company, reassemble the rooms I have been working on, get my basement under control and try to eat well. I will not, either. With only my mouth to feed, baked potatoes and soup with toast are staples. Nachos are also a staple. I doubt if I will return to the daily folds of Catholicism to comfort me in my loneliness, though I do find a rosary or two is a powerful sedative.
Matt muttered that we must have a loveless marriage if we can separate so readily. Nah. He forgets that we have been together 24/7/365 since his dad’s emancipation. A little breathing room will remind us that we are yin and yang. He will miss me rather than be irritated by my phone calls, my cheery banter and my futzing. I will be free to turn off the TV, deleting about a thousand decibels of sports programming from my life. I will make the bed as I exit it, rather than come up midday to reconfigure the muss. I will read in bed with the light on. I will go out to movies with my friends, and have movie night at home. I will train myself to be self reliant, because that is an essential component of growing older. Most of all, I will miss him a few times a day. That is a luxury when coupled with the fact that he is still my partner, a time zone away…experimenting with a sunny winter. He earned his good time with 37 years of work, and I earned mine by riding in his side car- one that hit every pothole for at least two decades. I hung on long enough to get to these years, and I am willing to be flexible.
Steve and I saw UP on the plane to Hawaii, and we were both moved (and maybe embarrassed to be so moved by a cartoon) by the montage of Carl and Ellie’s married life. We all start with stars in our eyes, with our goals and dreams. Life just happens, and the trick is to keep inventing ways to make it a good one. A sturdy marriage is a tool to do that.
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