Saturday, October 9, 2010

Middle Ages

Warning: this post risks becoming sentimental.

I woke up middle-aged this morning.

I don’t mean I feel older (I don’t), or look older (I do.) I don’t even mean I am older (I am. See my last post.) However, I feel like I’m turning a bend in the circle of life.

Yesterday my mother got married. Well, re-married. In the office of a town clerk down the block from my sister’s house, on the rainiest day we’ve had in months (not an omen) with my nieces and nephews screaming in the background (also, not an omen), my mother became someone’s wife – or ex-wife – other than my dad’s.

The truth is, my sister and I couldn’t be happier. As of yesterday morning, my mother had been separated from my father for 24½ years – seven years longer than they were married. Divorced, in the mold of second-wave feminism, not necessarily militaristically, but defiantly, she lived as if there was nothing an unmarried woman couldn’t do.

And she was right. She raised two kids, and sent both to college and grad school. She survived cancer, a brain tumor, and a hip replacement. She taught for more than thirty years, got an advanced degree, and became a principal. So who would have guessed, in her retirement, co-habitating with her boyfriend of three years wouldn’t be enough. That she still wanted the brass ring (ahem, diamond wedding band) – marriage.

Perhaps this is another hallmark of second-wave feminism – that the generation from which it spawned still has a vestigial attachment to marriage as an institution. Or maybe it’s the same as the argument I make about my own right to a same-sex marriage: that there is something just different about marriage. Anyway, this isn’t that kind of column. Moving on.

We really like our new step-dad by the way. It’s weird calling him that, though. It’s not like we’re the Brady Bunch.

It is nice that they share so much in common. Like travelling, sitting around, and listening to my mother talk. Plus, now that she has a new last name, I can always deny we’re related.

After the wedding, we went for lunch at the Jolly Fisherman – an old school seafood restaurant. You know the kind of place: the bread basket is a trough filled with breadsticks, saltines and oyster crackers; everything smells like chowder and Lemon Pledge, and the dinner rush is from 4 to 6pm.

I needn’t describe the food, most of you have been somewhere like this on a three-day summer weekend, with a client, or while visiting your grandparents in Florida. However, I do need to mention that, towards the end of the meal, my uncle went sheet-white (almost blue, actually) and rigid (note: this is not the place to make a joke about the ability of an 82 year-old man to go rigid.)

Did you know it can take 15 rings for 911 to answer the phone? I called from my cell, to near disbelief, while the restaurant had the same experience from a standard land line. Note to self: never require medical attention at the Jolly Fisherman.) When they finally answered, and agreed to send an ambulance, more than five minutes passed before I had to call again (better response time) and within two minutes nearly a dozen fire and EMT workers converged on The Jolly Fisherman.

We directed them to my uncle (which, to be honest was pretty necessary. With the lunch crowd that was present, it really could have been anyone. Not surprisingly, the restaurant staff greeted the EMTs like old friends. I think they left with half a dozen friend shrimp each.)

Anyway, he was conscious, but they gave him oxygen, took his vitals, and whisked him off to the hospital where he spent five hours in a hallway before finally getting a room. It was a horrible way to end a beautiful day, but you never know what the experience will do for him. When he had his heart condition 20 years ago, my uncle – a life-long racist – got a black roommate with whom he got along famously. They got on so well, I think he may have voted for Obama (but, probably not.) Maybe this time he’ll get to know a Latino other than those who’ve married into the family.

By the way, I’m sure I’m totally going to piss off at least half the family by writing this (the other half are seriously cracking up.) I got pretty well shunned after the Bar Mitzvah post. Still, as much as some of my relatives would probably wish I’d stop writing about them, they may not realize we’re wishing they’d stop departing our joyous family events ambulances.

Anyway, when the crisis had passed, we headed out to Sag Harbor to finally occupy the house we bought several months ago, but which had been rented until Sept 30. We unloaded a truck full of Costco supplies, as well as the contents of our storage unit, and worked well into the night. And, this morning, Neil and I woke up to a sunny October day.

We walked in to the village and got coffee, strolling past old whaling houses and churches and beautiful homes. After breakfast, I headed out for a run – passing a neighbor walking her dogs as the sun streamed through the trees.

And in those first few minutes of my run, I finally “got” the suburbs. I finally understood why people moved there. It wasn’t just about kids, or schools, or safety. As I ran, I passed porches and lawns and cyclists and kids. The local high school had its Homecoming Parade. I loved the peace and quiet; I loved the feeling of community – even though we’ve lived here all of eight hours. When I came home my husband was walking around the pool picking up leaves, and when he saw me he looked up and told me how happy he was, and how much he loved me.

For the past five or six years, I’ve felt – sometimes keenly – that I was aging. But it was a restlessness – a feeling of loss or regret – that “never-being-nineteen-again-ness” that makes you realize that you’ll never look a certain way again, or have the luxury of turning your life completely upside down and starting a new direction without significant consequences. But just as the desire and recklessness of my twenties passed into the ambition and restlessness of my thirties, something is coming with the approach of my forties. Some sense of achievement and contentedness – it hasn’t settled in yet, it’s just starting – and there’s still plenty of fight and desire and ambition left in me, but something’s coming.


1 comment:

  1. Although you are nowhere near as old as you seem to be allowing yourself to feel, this was a lovely post.
    Congratulations, Buona Fortuna e Auguri, and Mazel Tov to your Mom!
    - Anne
    PS - Thanks for the bonus Lemon Pledge reference. Did you know I haven't had a Diet Coke with Lemon (or Lime) flavoring since the day you pointed out that similarity to me? ;)