Friday, December 27, 2013

The Corporeal Fallacy

Joe College is accepted for a creative writing program in Salzberg Austria. He receives a well meaning note from my stepmother reminding him the Hitler was Austrian and admonishing him not to wear the Star of David medal that he inherited from his grandpa. Even if the Nuremberg laws were still in force, there would be little cause for concern. The piece of jewelry is huge and gaudy and I presume the boy would rather appear in a bustier and feather boa. The Mogen David would probably be worth a few shekels melted down but Cash for Gold would likely present an ethical conundrum for the boy. Perhaps a solution more passive in origin may have come to fruition.  I suspect the medal has long been lost.

More and more though, Joe College has defied maternal expectations. A passport is required for his journey. I print out the renewal forms, a copy of his baby passport and instructions on getting passport photos and a passport appointment in Redlands. He procrastinates for several months and arrives home for winter break and schedules the process at our local post office. My children have picked up where their summer sleep schedule left off. They are shuffling around, eating and playing video games when I get up at 5:30 in the morning and waking up and making coffee when I return from work in the afternoon. I am not working on the day of the passport appointment. It's in the morning and I inform him that he'll have to wake himself up. “Of course,” he snaps. “I'm twenty one years old!” There is no stirring on the morning of his appointment. Even though I promised myself I wouldn't, I yell down to the basement to make sure he's in motion. Then, it occurs to me, there's no way he would have remembered to get the photos. I work myself into a genuine froth about this and go round and round about how to play it. Should I send him to the appointment anyway, and let him suffer the consequences of not following my meticulously rendered instructions? I decide to spare the wear and tear on his old car. “Do you have the passport pictures?” “Yeah,” he responds. He is bearded in the photos. And handsome. And a man. A man who has it together enough to have gotten the photos.

I feel like an asshole. When I was the boy's age I'd graduated from college and lived relatively independently. The world however was less complicated to navigate then so I really have to be pushed to the boiling point to throw this in his face. We're going to live longer than our parents did so maybe our kids staying young longer is just natural evolution. Plus, the younger the kids seem, the younger I feel. I guess the boy can't win. I want him to be an actualized independent adult as much as I want him to always be the first baby I ever loved.

The boy asks if he needs his birth certificate and I confidently tell him that the copy of his old passport should suffice. I wouldn't want to trust him with the original passport and birth certificate anyway. For all of meticulous adult-ness I can be remarkably stupid, and inexplicably stubborn about it. Anyway, the passport appointment is indeed rescheduled. I will however make it a point to retrieve his old passport and birth certificate from him the instant he gets home so I can return them to my orderly files. You never know.

When we are in England, we are asked at every museum we enter, “Are you over 60?” My response is likely more indignant than warranted. I'm not sure if it's the gray hair of if they just ask this of everyone who doesn't have acne. When we return to the U.S. there is a miserable customs line. It is finally our turn and the agent looks at our declaration and passports and then at us. “Honeymooners?” he quips. If he wasn't a federal agent, I would lose it completely. The “tee hee hee Granny and Gramps making whoopie” subtext is so obnoxious I want to throttle him.

Little Penny, born almost a year ago on her great great grandpa's birthday visits with her parents. She is an incredibly cheerful soul, the least angst-y baby I have ever seen. She is walking now. The family resemblance is by now is pretty watered down but I can still see it. Penny toddles through the house remarkably agilely. My sister Sheri, gone now for over a decade, had just a brief glance at her daughter and barely knew her granddaughter. Sheri will never know her great granddaughter Penny at all. How sad this loss or actually, and perhaps even sadder, the never having had. But I am grateful for the worthwhile-ness Penny, her mother, and grandmother confer upon my sister's sad sad life.

This is my last entry of the year, another year of change.  My company is celebrating its 50th year in 2014.  I have relocated and now it feels like my own.  There are floral curtains and a pink paisley chair.  The last of my dad's practical (ugly) furnishings are hauled to the junk yard.  His copious hand written notes are being transcribed and shredded.  I'd stored some of my mom's belongings at the old office but there is less space at the new place and another couple boxes of my mother's life are relegated to the dumpster.  A floor lamp I've always loved becomes the focal point of our redesigned bedroom.  My dad's collection of celebrity stills and 1950s animation cels decorate the new office.    As I purge myself of their possessions perhaps my parents die a bit more. I remember both of them now by those objects I love best. When I look at their grandchildren, great grandchild and great great grandchild I sense their life eternal and so my own.

1 comment:

John L. Murphy / "FionnchĂș" said...

I wonder what we will leave to them that they keep or display? I have only a tin cup from my namesake as a toddler, now nine decades old I reckon; a prismatic doodad from my dad's work; a book of tricky spelling words from my mom signed on the inner leaf from when she was a secretary. All we amass, yet it all goes away to the thrift stores, yard sales, and inevitably dumpsters (recycle my beloved books if anyone still reads that format by the time of my estimated demise). Lessons to be learned, each generation, as this year ends. xxx me and happy new whatever '14.