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My dinner with the past

One of my concerns with us moving back to Connecticut was the family situation. For the last ten years, Janet and I have lived far away from our parents. It was a 6-10 hour haul to see us in Pennsylvania or West Virginia, and Boston was a long enough drive away to deter our parents from making any surprise visits. Oh, and nobody was coming out to San Francisco without at least a 14 day advanced purchase… so we never got a knock at the door from a blood relative that we weren't expecting ahead of time.

But now that we live in Hartford, both my mother, Janet's mother and Janet's sister all live within a 10 mile radius. Heck, we probably all use the same grocery store, which means that the chance that we'll bump into them without warning is very likely.

Now, I don't want this to come off like I don't like being this close to relatives. It's just that now that we have less privacy than ever before since we've been married. It's not like we do anything illegal or anything (and even if we did, I wouldn't admit it on this public website&#41… but do you really want to bump into your mother-in-law on the way back from the package store or for your anti-smoking mother to see you puffing on a cigar while you walk around the neighborhood? The privacy that we took for granted is now gone.

This brings up another major issue for me. My parents have been divorced for the past 22 years or so, but there is still a tension between them that will probably never go away. I'm not sure what the cause of the divorce was, but it seems that twenty-two years of guilt, anger and hostility has created a situation where neither of my parents seem to care to be in the same world as each other, let alone be in the same room with each other. Living away from Hartford made it easy to keep my relationship with my mother completely separate from my relationship with my father.

But now that has changed.

My father has been making an effort to see me as much as possible. For the last three years, he has come to San Francisco twice a year for a week-long business conference, and Janet and I have flown down to his national futon marketing trade show for the last few years as well. Ok, we went to the show not just to visit, but because the last show was in Las Vegas and the show before that was in New Orleans, but now that we live $125 dollars away from him (Southwest Airlines&#41, he is probably going to come to Hartford more frequently. This increases the chances that my father's and my mother's lives are going to cross again in the near future exponentially… and if they don't bump into each other by chance this year, they'll certainly be in the same room on our 10th wedding anniversary next June.

The indirect contact between my father and mother has already started. At the futon trade shows, Janet and I made friends with Bruce, one of my father's long time friends. He's known my father for 25 years, and used to move in the same social circle as my then-married parents.

Bruce is close friends with Lillian, who is a also one of my mother's good friends.

Since we now live in Hartford, Bruce now lives 10 minutes away and Lillian lives across the street. The four of us went out for pizza last week, and Bruce and I are making a concerted effort to hang out together. For someone who old enough to be my father, we have many things in common: we both like beer and cigars, and he's one of the best read people that I know. Bruce is our personal friend, as well a friend of the family.

See the dilemma now? Lillian is probably going to tell my mother that we went out to dinner, she'll mention that Bruce was there, and suddenly my mother's life is intertwined ever so slightly with my father's… and I have a sinking feeling that this is somehow going to cause bad blood between my mother and me.

Before we got here, my mother and I had a long discussion about expectations on our time and schedules. I mentioned my concerns about her and my father, and she acknowledged that she would try to make things as comfortable as possible. I'm afraid that this sort of relationship with a close friend of my father is going to poison the well, so to speak.

My mother is a trooper, and she'll take my friendship with Bruce in stride… but I just can't bring myself to tell her about it. I'm not ashamed or anything… but the last thing I want to do is hurt her after all the help that she has given us on our relocation. Still, I'm not going to abandon a friendship just because she might be sensitive about it. I mean, we're all adults now. Right?

It's funny, no matter how grown up you are, you always feel ten years younger when you're around your mother.

Posted in Observations.

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