Peter’s Dad, Ron, arrived on Saturday afternoon, and we’ve had many hours to get caught up with (believe it) the last 41 years.
For both of us, it’s been an express trip through a time warp, where 1969 and 2010 have become consecutive. If it weren’t for stiff old joints, it’s like being 22 again.
We are not a couple (Ron bristled when the front desk referred to us as “Mr. and Mrs. McLean”), but even so, I’ve understood for the first time how older couples can continue to feel affection, even passion, for one another. I’d assumed, incorrectly, that this was just a side effect of familiarity, but it’s not; it’s somatic memory, the kind that sets in our nerves.
The first night, Peter treated us to a spectacular dinner at Wicked, one of the few restaurants in Mashpee that are having a successful run in spite of hard times.
We spent almost 24 hours with Ron’s surrogate parents. I wonder if my Marjorie was at all like his Gloria: beautiful, articulate, gracious in the old school way, warm, fearless, direct. It was good for me to hear about Ron’s childhood and his parents and stepmother from a concerned and loving witness.
We got back to the Cape around 3:30 on Monday and got Ron settled at Sea Mist. Peter, Bonnie and the grands came over for supper. We had lunch here yesterday, and Ron put the a/c back in for me, thus proving that it’s nice to have a man around the house.
Afterwards, Ron got a dose of entertaining the grandkids and their friends when James, Emme and the younger Robbinses went swimming with us at Sea Mist and then stayed for pizza. He did extremely well; I would call him a naturally good grandfather.
Ron has spoken at lot about his SO of 23 years. As far as I can, having never had a relationship with a non-relative that lasted that long, I’m sympathetic with what seems to be his struggles to process those years. Sympathetic, but only to a point.
He’s had what sounds like a lot of affairs, some short, some longer term. He was busy for 17 or 18 of the 41 years we were out of touch. I speculate about what he learned in that time, and interpret that as you will.
Adoptees are masters of repression – we’ve had to be – so I’m just surfacing how I feel about that. If I were a lesser person, I could look at it this way: while I was toiling as a damned fool wage slave, maintaining a household and, as Ed Cohen put it, parenting a precocious son, Ron was rolling in the hay with a succession of women, then servicing a somewhat self-indulgent rich girl for enough years to have allowed him to have built a business or raised a child; in other words, to have laid the foundation for his own future.
That would be unreasonably harsh, though, and I know it. During a good part of that period, Ron struggled with overcoming alcoholism and guilt. He also has worked very hard his whole life, doing intense physical labor for a good part of it, but he hasn’t accumulated anywhere near the same fruits of that labor as many blue collar workers have: no house, no swimming pool, no big bank account, no collection of expensive toys.
I wondered why Ron never tried to find us. He said he was scared of paternity suits and the like for the first 18 years. I’m fuzzy about the remaining 23.
Listening to Ron and Peter now, I realize how much alike they are, and how much Peter missed not having his father available while he was growing up.
I’ve considered myself a pretty good “father” as far as being a provider, but until this week, I didn’t understand how much Peter was shortchanged. I couldn’t relate to my son from a foundation of shared male experience. He was as deprived as perhaps I was from the female perspective, my role models having been a ghost on the one hand and a manipulative, nasty, hateful twit on the other.
Ron has a good way with people, easy going and chatty, far superior to my interpersonals, and I don’t mean to damn with faint praise. I always thought James, the social butterfly, was Ed, Junior, but I was wrong: James and Ron are a lot alike.
Ron’s a terrific guy: bright, funny, kind, sweet. He’s easy to talk with, and I haven’t noticed the aphasia he feared I would find unsettling; far from it.
We have some big differences: I wilt when the temperature gets over about 62 and I can’t tolerate spicy food. We do seem to enjoy the same music, though, and we share a lot of common ground politically.
We love our son, our grands and our friends. We work well together on tasks, as if we have a good handle on each other’s proxemics. For me, so hypersensitive to intrusion on my personal space, that’s important.
He is now part of my world, and I will likely miss him when he leaves. I hope he misses us, too.