Thursday, June 30, 2011

Family Picture

For spring break a couple of months ago, my ex-wife decided to take our two youngest children on a road trip to New Orleans. By saying “decided,” I mean to underscore that she didn’t consult me, or even tell me of her plans. She hasn’t said a word to me since Christmas. I heard of the planned trip when the kids mentioned it.

The trip took them through my hometown. Lucy asked our youngest daughter to contact my parents to ask if they could stop by for a visit. Of course, my parents agreed, and offered to arrange for other family members to visit as well. It would be the first time Lucy had seen my family since we separated eight years ago. We assumed this was a nice gesture. Presumably, Lucy had no special interest in being with my family, but she wanted to allow the children to see their Southern folks.

Afterward, Mom called to say that Lucy had been surprisingly pleasant. I was glad the trip went well. I had been a bit suspicious of it.

Last weekend, I went home for my high school reunion. I was sitting with my family when someone brought up how big my children have become since their last trip South. I said I had heard good things about the visit from the kids. I was impressed that my middle son had wanted to take so long a trip to see New Orleans as it recovers from Katrina and the Gulf oil spill.

My brother Frank looked at Mom. “Well, that’s not why they made the trip,” he said. He looked at me. “You want to know the real reason she came down here?”

“Do tell.”

“Brother, Lucy came down her to tell us about your blog.”

My jaw dropped. “You’re fucking kidding me.”

“Nope, he’s not,” Mom said. “She sat right there and told us you had a blog and were having all kinds of sex and writing about it.”

I shook my head. “Wow.”

“Yeah, she told us about the blog—what’s it called, ‘One Life, Take Two?’” Frank went on. “She said she found it and read about the things you do now. She took me over to Mom’s laptop and typed in the whatcha-ma-call-it and showed it to me.” He laughed. “You’ve got some hot pictures on there, man.”

“She typed in the URL for you? On Mom's laptop? Jesus. Well, what did you say, Mom?”

“Well, I told her I always knew you were a good writer. Your Dad said it sounds like you’re having fun.”

“That’s it?”

“Pretty much. Then I asked of they wanted to spend the night. They were planning to drive a few more hours, but I said that didn’t make any sense when we’ve got room.”

I stood up and put my hand on my brother’s shoulder. “Well, sorry you had to find out that way. Obviously, I didn’t see a reason to tell you. So know you know the dirt on why Lucy felt empowered to spend a year and two-hundred-thousand dollars chasing me through court.”

“There wasn’t any reason to tell us!” Mom said. “We don’t care what you do like that. You’re not married and you’ve been grown up for a long time.”

“Thanks.” I thought a moment. “Wait, you’re not still reading it, are you?”

“I read a little bit to see what she was talking about,” Mom said. “But honey, I don’t need to read about your sex life.”

“I mostly liked the pictures,” Frank laughed.

I can only imagine Lucy’s disappointment in my family’s reaction. Planning her drive to New Orleans, she must have rehearsed many scripts in her mind. When she outed me to her own family, Lucy found they rallied around her, severing ties to me and writing checks to her attorneys. When she outed me to our children—the youngest of whom was then eight years old—Lucy found they were frightened and confused as their mother wove dark tales about the father they adored.

My family shrugged off Lucy’s revelation and offered a place to stay for the night. Privately, they now told me, they felt pretty sorry for her. I suppose that’s how I feel about it, too.

It would be right to be angry. I began having sex at an early age, with males and females, and recognized my bisexuality at age nineteen. I went to college the following year and never returned home to live. I saw no reason to come out to my parents, particularly after I entered into monogamy and marriage with a woman. Now, as I near fifty years of age, Lucy took it onto herself to out me to my family. She did so by making it possible for them to read about my sex and sexuality in whatever ways I’ve reported it here.

It must have been a long, bitter drive back to New York.

“I still love him," Lucy told my family, “but I don’t like what he’s become.” As my Mom said in relating this to me, “I don’t know what that is, but it’s not love.”

Clearly, my family knows a few things about love.

A week before I returned home to my high school reunion, I attended the high school graduation of my eldest son. With our younger children seated behind us, Lucy kept her gaze trained to the stage, avoiding eye contact with me.

After the ceremony, everyone filed out of the auditorium to the lobby and street beyond, proud parents and family searching to congratulate the new graduates. We found Jason. Lucy pushed ahead to kiss his cheek, standing on her toes to do so. Collie shook his brother’s hand, smirking at his own staged formality. Lillie affected disinterest, saying, “Um, hello? Everyone just graduated. Why does he get all the attention?”

I laughed at her as I pulled Jason into a bear hug. “I love you, baby boy.” I pulled back and grabbed his shoulders. “And now, goodness, you’ve got two months until going off to college.”

“I know, “ he said, beaming as he does, his lips struggling to restrain a smile. “Guess I should start packing.”

“Not just yet,” I smiled, hugging him again.

We made our way to the sidewalk, which teemed with clusters of people, each centered on a graduate in a blue gown. I followed as Jason navigated through the crowd in search of his friends. Lucy and the kids trailed me. I took photos of Jason and his friends I shook hands with their parents, congratulating them as they congratulated me.

We found an empty space. Lillie goofed with her brother. I took more photos. Lucy had forgotten her camera, and I had promised to share mine.

Lucy came forward with Collie. “Let’s take a family picture,” she instructed our children. She gathered them together, wrapped an arm around Collie and looked at me expectantly. “Everybody say ‘cheese,’” she smiled.

I raised the camera to snap Lucy’s family picture.

A woman tapped my shoulder. “Would you like me to take a picture so you can all be in it?”

I smiled and handed her the camera. “Thanks, that’s very nice.” I showed her how to use the camera and took my place in the lineup. I beamed at the camera, our children arrayed between their mother and father. I thanked the woman and took back my camera. I turned to Jason. “Do you have any plans? Maybe we can all get an early dinner or something.”

“Um, no, no plans.” He paused. “Oh, I just realized I haven’t eaten today.”

“Oh, so let’s fix that.” I looked around. “Did you see where your mother went? Where’s Collie and Lillie?”

Jason peered around the families surrounding us. “Huh, I don’t see them.”

“They probably went inside to use the bathroom or something. I’ll wait by the door while you talk to your friends.”

Jason ambled over to pose in another photograph. I made my way to the door. Twenty minutes later, Jason joined me as the crowd thinned. “You see Mom?” he asked.

I shrugged. “No sign. You neither, I assume.”

“No.” He looked around.

“Why don’t you call her, then?”

He raised his gown to retrieve the phone from him pocket, pushed a few buttons and raised it to his ear. “Voice mail,” he reported. “I’ll try Collie.” Voice mail again.

“Maybe we should stand on the corner. Maybe they’re at the other exit looking for us.” We moved. They weren’t there. A few minute passed. I suggested Jason try his mother again.

“Hello?” He nodded to tell me she answered. “What did you say? . . . oh, okay . . . so what should I do? . . . okay, see you in a minute.” He hung up and look at me. “She said Lillie wanted to go home.” He began to walk down the street.

“Oh, okay. I’ll walk with you to say goodbye to them.”

“No, actually, I’m not meeting them. They’re already at home.”

“They left?” Not a word to me or our graduating son. “Okay, well, hmm . . . did you want to get a bite, or . . .”

“I’m hungry,” he said as we passed a diner. “But she said I should come home, and I can just eat there. Where are you going?”

“I guess I’m going to the subway.”

“Me too.” We walked along, talking about the graduation and fell to talking about movies. We rode the subway together until he reached his stop. I kissed him as the train door opened. “I love you, son. Congratulations.”

“Thanks, Dad.” He waved as the train pulled away.

I went home and downloaded the photographs. I sent them to Lucy’s family, my family, the kids and various friends. I posted our family picture on Facebook.

Madeline sent me a note, congratulating me on the graduation. “Nice-looking family, Jefferson. Lucy sure looks miserable, though.”

“She didn’t say a word to me, start to finish, and left without a word to Jason or me,” I replied. “She must’ve been pained to share that photograph with me.”

I may not like what’s Lucy’s become, but I do feel sorry for her.

6 comments:

e jerry said...

Ah, well. She wants to be who she wants to be. Can't do much about that. I am sorry that you're having to experience it like this.

Camille said...

How awful to go through life so full of anger and hatred. I do feel sorry for her.

Lily said...

"I thought: to be tough is to be fragile; to be tender is to be truly fierce." (Gretel Ehrlich). Resisting the urge to clock Lucy=tenderness. You are truly fierce. Congrats on the graduation!

sapphirejay said...

As I grow older, I am continually amazed afresh at how some adults do not have the propensity to act their age. I thought that once people hit 30 -- hey, fuck it, even 40 -- there was some inner voice that directed them to behave in a manner befitting their dotage. Apparently not, and it's apparently not just the adults -- and I use the term loosely -- who I know.

Congratulations on your son's graduation. What a truly wonderful milestone for you.

Much love,
Sapphire -- Elegant Slut x

Ethan Lambert said...

You have the most awesome mom ever.

AddoraLive said...

Try to live your life to the fullest. The whole situation was not good but in the end it's the happiness and freedom of both parties.