Two weeks is too long to have a houseguest. He is fussy. I am decidedly not fussy. Every project became monumental. Chop an onion for a broccoli salad? Oh, let him do that. But then we'd have a long discussion on how the onion should be chopped. The merits of black pepper vs. tinned ground pepper was debated. Our paprika was not Hungarian. Our video store inadequate, since his genre is older movies. All remakes are dismissed with a sniff. The cheerful little wine that I buy is not the sort of wine that he would drink. His opinions are the only sensible opinions in the world, God help you if you see it differently. The beekeeping cousin who does not give her children processed sugar is soundly ridiculed, as is the hapless driver in front of us who does a stupid thing. He has no patience with the person who is hard of hearing, although I've repeated things to him a great many times. He is impatient with the 'internuts'. He thinks it's ridiculous that Tim, having a German name, prefers ketchup to mustard. He shouts in German at the pot rack above my sink, an affectation, since he does not, except for a handful of swear words, speak German at all.
This man is the grandfather of my children, the father of their father. He has suffered great loss, and I cannot bear the thought of him being alone, drowning in drink, grieving, and I welcome him to my home because I think it will be good for him to spend time with the kids. But the longer that he is here, the more I realize that, really, he and my ex are very much alike. I hate it. The intellectual snobbery, the dismissive contemptuousness, the barely suppressed impatience and temper. This all begins to grate after awhile. Just as I did not meet the standards of my ex-husband, I know that we (Tim and I) do not meet the standards of my ex-husband's father. The final days of my marriage, well, I was ashamed a lot. Today? Not ashamed at all. I venture a few thoughts to him, pointing out that 'everyone has a right to think in their own way...' but I can see that he doesn't understand this. He looks at the world that I move in and sees it as lacking. He thinks that I am a brilliant person who has not had the opportunities to succeed in life. He tries to enrich my life while he is here: good wine, good cuts of meat, good music, good movies, literature. He tells me that I deserve these things, and he bemoans the son that threw me away, depriving me of this life. I thank him, but I realize that the limitations of my life are not nearly as restrictive as the limitations of his mind. The world is open to me in a way that he cannot even begin to understand.
Saturday night, I cooked venison steaks, rich with peppers and onions, tender, seasoned with nothing more than freshly ground black pepper and salt and the slightest bit of mesquite. He was astounded that he could not tell it from beef. That is my life, I guess. I take what is available and I make something great out of it. The thing that he probably does not understand is this: I am content in my life. Perfectly content. I do not long for what I do not have, because everything that I need is right here.