Wednesday, May 09, 2007
A Surreal Conversation
The one with the ex-husband. That’s the thing when you share children though, there is never too much ex about it. They are always there, this former co-parent. The evidence of our one-time passion being now a grandchild we both adore.
He’s picking up stuff out of my garage for our adult daughter. I’ve just finishing taking a call from my best friend in Dublin, the one who was bridesmaid at our wedding. The one who is my friend for nearly sixty years. The one who was with me on the night he fell in love with me.
‘Helen says hi,’ I say.
‘Next time you talk to her say I said hi back’.
‘How are you,’ I say.
I don’t see him too often, just around our daughter's and granddaughter’s events and his wife is invariably with him. Like now. She is always friendly but a little wary of me. He has obviously shared the blow by blows of the latter acrimonious half of our marriage with her. Many years ago now. The water so far under the bridge it is unmuddied again.
He launches into his latest doctor/hospital/drugs/potential operations saga. I plaster on some polite attention to my face flickering a side-glance of gratitude to his wife. I had forgotten his family legacy of obsessive hypochondria. He will never finish, he will want a cup of tea and tell me more.
We are down to this, I speculate. Every time I see him. I know enough not to wind him up when I ask him how he is, but I forget. Now I have ignited his compulsive need to tell me his medical troubles and never ask one question of me. Never speak of our other estranged daughter in Ireland who has detached like a free-floating balloon from us. Who loved him more than she loved me. How his heart must be breaking more than mine. This child that carried a tool belt just like his and followed him around like a shadow. That took him to her kindergarten for ‘show and tell’ and announced proudly, ‘this is my daddy’.
He talks on and on of maybe they will have to break his breastbone to get this peculiar growth off his thyroid and my mind drifts off to our brave emigration on one of the last liners out of Ireland. How he never tired of my guitar playing or my singing. How I never tired of his story telling to put me to sleep when I was lonely for my family. How he never tired of holding me or stroking my back. How he dried my hair like a mother just about every morning of our marriage. How I went to every single one of his rugby games when he was a huge strapping footballer. How he went to every single stage show I was in, no matter how small the part.
How we wept together over the first pregnancy that ended in a horrible miscarriage. How we stared for hours, through our tears, at a picture of an unborn foetus and named our unborn child.
How sometimes, after a night out, we didn’t want to go home and deal with baby sitters and domestic matters and would pull over to the side of the road and make love like teenagers.
And I finally say, gently: ‘I hate to cut this short, but I have work to do.’
And I smile at him and tell him good luck with his surgery and I thank his wife. And mean it.
And I carefully roll my memories up the wood steps and back into my office.