My son and I have a lot in common, once you get past genetic makeup, skin color, gender, sporting prowess, and taste in music. Like me, he is not entirely honest with himself or others; is not inclined to stick around and sort things out when he has messed up; and can be stubborn and imperious when shamed. Trust is not our strong suit. We are both funny and charming and risk-taking and gregarious. We often go too far with fun, hurting ourselves and others in the process. I am good with children, and he is even better. This is helpful as he is now a single father with a 10 month old daughter.
I haven’t seen much of my son in the last two years–his choice, not mine. In the past couple of weeks we have met a couple of times and it is good to be back in touch. He is clever with words and, like me, enjoys picking just the right one. His ability is impressive because he relies on context and deduction to work out the meaning of unfamiliar words–his uncertain spelling makes dictionary diving very difficult. He stores new finds in his memory and relishes the chance to deploy them. Someone was correctly described as nonchalant this week. I know I have written the word before, but I am not sure I have ever said it out loud.
On the face of it, the middle-aged, overweight, white woman (dressed in office clothes) and the young black man (wife-beater, torn jeans, giant tennis shoes, and ever-visible boxers) eating french fries together outside an urban Checkers look like a mismatch, but our lives have turned in surprisingly similar circles. Hansel is now raising his daughter alone. I was raised by my father alone. We both lost our mothers when we were children and have found it too hard to leave that pain behind. My dearest wish for him is that he gets to raise his child to adulthood, something our own mothers were denied.
Sitting at a hot concrete table outside a strip mall burger bar we sucked down exhaust fumes with our milkshakes. “Where are the big words coming from? ” I said. “I am reading a bit” said Hansel “and trying to write some stories. Just my thoughts about things”.
“Keep at it” I said, just as my father always said to me. “It’s comforting isn’t it? It keeps you company”
He nodded and picked up the baby’s carrier seat, hoisting her into the back of my car
“We should write a book” I said. “I can write about my father and you can write about your daughter”.
“That would be a hell of a story” he said. We both know we don’t have the staying power.