It was an interesting day today. I went down town to meet a friend for breakfast and coffee. I've been looking very forward to this. She's got such a calm way about her that it is soothing and comfortable to sit at a table and talk with her. She has had her own bout with breast cancer, and we spoke of a mutual acquaintance who died of it. I was able to say, "You know, I think that I may be depressed right now..." She felt that it was probably a natural consequence. It was a relief to say the words out loud. It was a relief to hear her calm response. We talked about cancer and family, and books, and traveling, and when we went our separate ways, I felt better for our time together. I think she did too. We made plans to meet next month.
(late edit: No. I don't have cancer. It was being discussed in the context of 'post treatment' and life after cancer, and does it ever stop being an issue in your head?)
I walked back to my car afterwards, and discovered that it would not start. I got picked up by a fellow about my age, Richard, from Clarendon. He's newly retired from the phone company, and hasn't quite figured out what to do with his free time yet, because he assured me that helping me was not a problem at all, that he had nothing planned and could use the excitement. He cheerfully gave me a ride to a car part place. We talked about all manner of stuff while listening to his new Satellite radio, tuned to a station that played Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkle in the background. I couldn't get the car started, even with his help. A nice state trooper brought me home. We talked a lot too. About small town life, about coming back from the big city to small town life. I mentioned that I had moved back after years away, because it just seemed to me that it would be easier to raise my kids in a small town. He was an 'Army brat', and agreed with my assessment. Both of us had plenty of differences, I imagine, but both of us found plenty of commonalities too. We both are contented where we are. I love 'discovering' people. And I'm sure the neighbors were plenty surprised to see me stepping out of the back of a trooper car. *sigh* The fun never ends, people. The fun never ends.
I walked into the house and much to my surprise there was a message on my answering machine, from someone who has behaved badly. She left a cell number, and asked me to call her, that she wanted to make things right. I stood there thinking after I played the message. Should I call? Should I not? What was the motivation here? This woman is someone who thinks herself very clever, smarter than most anyone. She is also a pretty angry person, very judgemental. Most importantly, she is my children's stepmother. It took an hour, but I finally decided to call. She feels that God has convicted her of a need to make amends. This sounded very familiar, having heard her pieties before. She talks the talk, but she doesn't walk the walk. At least she hasn't up to now. So I listened as she cried. I said, "Well, I guess that I'm kind of at a loss, here. I mean, I'm not sure what you want. I'm not angry at you. I don't understand you, but I am not angry." Truth be told, I just kind of let it go a long time ago. I'm not trying to be cruel here, but really, this woman did not have the impact on my life that she apparently thought she did. I didn't know how to phrase that, without sounding mean. We spoke for a while. She wanted a relationship. What does that mean? I don't know. Cautiously, I said, "I can't say. I'm open to it, I suppose, but we've had similar conversations, and the moment I let down my guard, you're angry about something, and you say horrible, horrible things, and I never see it coming. I'm always surprised by it. I don't know what you want to hear right this moment, but I really can't assure you our relationship is restored. I can tell you that I harbor no ill will. What happens next will happen next. It will unfold as it is meant to." She then indicated that she wished to have a relationship with the children. I said, "Well, they're not children any more. That's between you and them." We discussed that. I hesitate to give a lot of detail on the kids. They're their own story, and they've a right to tell that story in their own words. As she builds a relationship with them, IF she builds a relationship with them, she will hear their stories in their words from their mouths. She commented on Brianna's wedding. I commented that she had been invited, but that she'd made the decision not to come. "I had a job interview," she said, defensively. "On a Saturday," I said. It was not a question. And she said, "As a matter of fact, it WAS." I said, "You know, you want me to speak with you mother to mother, but, I'm going to be very plain spoken here. A mother's first priority is her children. I could have found any number of things to do that day, but the fact of it is that this was Brianna's special day, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. You had a choice. You chose not to come, and you said that you weren't coming weeks in advance of the wedding. A mother would have been there." Long pause. "You are right," she said. She wanted advice on her marriage, and I think that what she wanted was 'dirt' on her husband. I told her that I was not comfortable discussing her relationship with her husband. Long pause. She saw a lot of similarities between him and his father, she commented. She also commented that he was dishonest. I said, "Listen. I don't think either one of you are really honest with each other. You try to deny your anger at him. At the same time, he's trying not to provoke that same anger." The conversation kind of ended on this note: that what happens next is on her. The relationship with the kids is between her and them. I in no way oppose it, but it's not my business anymore. They are grown people. I did suggest that perhaps it would mean a great deal to her husband to be able to have a relationship with his children. The conversation ended.
I've talked to a whole bunch of people today. A whole heaping helping of people. I think of Susan and our pleasant talk, and of my new friend Richard and our blabbing as the music of our youth played in the background, and the nice state trooper, peppering each other with questions. I think of Catherine, and the careful way I speak to her, weighing every word, trying to anticipate how the words will be used. It's not the same. It's just not the same. In a relationship, even a casual one, or a very new one, conversation flows. The words move back and forth between the parties, a give and take. This is not like that. This is not a relationship. Will it be? Dunno. Should it be? Dunno.