It took me fifty one years to really get Jane Austen.
The girl could write the snow off the top of Mt Kilimanjaro with the kind of fiery passion that a thousand year love affair couldn’t match. Her demurely driven portrayal of female equanimity belied the wicked apple martini that a sensuous purr can serve up, after which booty calls become wedding vows. Jane knew that a momentary lapse of reason was all it took.
And I finally get her because she knew the secret to which any successful dealer in addictions must abide: Don’t get high on your own supply. See, Jane painted great big pictures of love and romance from the catbird seat of a single woman’s vantage point. Marriage was the kind of thing to write on, if not invest in. So she never did, like ever.
Now, I happen to be a single fella who admires the verve to that kind of swerve. And even though I did tie the knot once upon a time- back in that glorious age otherwise known as the Clintonian Era- I have now been divorced for a longer time than I was married. It’s not something I celebrate, mind you. I’m jaded as fuck, but I’m not a dick.
Nah, I simply discovered my simpatico with the iconic author was something I could book passage on for the sake of this post on love and marriage. Because I have also come to believe that pretty words do not a lifetime make. And you know what? That’s okay.
I have no beef with matrimony. In fact, I love the idea, in the same way I love Europe and Vegas and the West Coast. I might never visit again, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have great memories.
And so it was that I went to dinner last night at my soon to be fellow in-laws house. They’re good people, and their daughter is the very best thing that ever happened to my son. The wedding is in July and so we went over the plans and discussed the logistics. Me, the in-laws, my son and his fiancee. And oh yeah . . my ex-wife.
It was a really good night, filled with lots of laughing and wisecracks, good food and even better company. I showed off my pet whisperer skills over the course of the evening- first by convincing the finicky and rather aptly named “Gray Kitty” to cuddle with me for a spell. Later, I hypnotized their chocolate lab-Drake- into giving me his favorite rubber ball without a single growl.
I was having such a good time that it took me a solid hour to pick up on a pattern that was busy stitching its way through the conversations. I first noticed it when my son stopped me almost dead in my tracks when I had gone off topic on what I felt was a pretty innocuous story about our old house. And then later on, I noticed it again when his fiancee clipped her father’s wings before he could ask a question she didn’t want him asking. These were subtle incidences, made plain by the fact that I picked up on the avoidance strategy the kids were utilizing.
I’m not being cryptic, it’s just that, my kids share a tenuous relationship with their mother. There are reasons for this, to be certain. And just so that we can all be clear on one thing, she is a good person. She simply made the fatal error of getting remarried, moving away and having another child. Mind you, I had absolutely no problem with this. In fact, I celebrated that first event, raucously.
But I’m not my kids. And while it’s not fair that they feel the way they do, it’s understandable. They get to feel the way they want to feel. I never provoked a single ill gotten sentiment, never placed a single mean spirited verb. I was too busy playing peacemaker and dad.
Still, it was a great evening as far as I was concerned. I laughed a lot, told some funny stories and made a few more four legged friends for life. And the conversations with the ex weren’t bad either. And in spite of all the differences, in spite of all the shit that went down inside our previous lives, there is no animus between us; only two amazing kids. So I’m calling our time together a win.
I drove the kids back to Target after we left because his fiancee had left her car there earlier while shopping with my ex wife. I asked them if they wanted to stop off for some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Hot Chocolates and they whined about how it was past nine o’clock and thus, too late for that. I swear, they’re a couple of old people dressed in twenty something clothing.
They kept me company when I decided to grab a few things for the breakfast I was going to make them this morning. And then the conversation opened up, and all the things that had been left unsaid? Got said. Some of it was enlightening, but most of it was just old news. And then I told my son the whats what.
The gist of it was that his Mom and Dad are different but the same. And no matter what didn’t work, two things did. Spectacularly so. And Mom doesn’t love them less because she is living somewhere else, and Dad doesn’t love them more because he never re-married. That’s not how this works.
The advice was simple, really. Never wish for that which isn’t, just be thankful for that which is. Because let’s face it, if Jane Austen had fallen in love and gotten married, she might’ve given up her writing gig for all we know. And if Mom and me had never gotten married, we would have missed out on our two favorite people in the whole world.
All I know is that these two crazy kids finish each other’s sentences, make each other laugh, like . . all the time, and make a fine art of their respective quirks and oddities.
That’s called blue skies, baby.