My dad is coming to town tomorrow to introduce me to his fiancé. For eight months he’s been dating an executive named Ellen, whose fifteen years his junior. Last month they decided to get married. I always thought I’d be bothered if my dad found somebody else, but I’m actually happy for him. However, I am a bit apprehensive about meeting her.
I glance at my brother’s number in my cell phone, and I am tempted to call him. I haven’t seen or spoken to Mark since my mom’s funeral, nearly two years ago. The only reason his number remains in my phone is because it seems unnatural to delete a blood relative’s phone number. All the information I know about him comes from my dad. For instance, I know he’s met Ellen at least three times. I wish I could put aside my resentments for one night, and call him to discuss our future step mom. I wonder if he feels the same way.
I enjoy Ellen’s company. She is one of those workaholic woman who’ve never married because they were to busy having a career. She’s outspoken, and she spins tales from her life like an experienced weaver. I find it surprising that she is the antithesis of my mom.
My dad, Ellen, Charlie, and I are sitting on the couch, chatting pleasantly. “The strangest manager I had was this guy in 95, his name was Charlie too”, Ellen tells us.
“He did not understand office etiquette, and kept asking me out, despite my refusal. Now normally I would never date my boss, but he was a looker, so eventually I relented and said yes. Well we went out for dinner which would be followed by a movie, and on the way from the restaurant to the theater, he informs me that he needs to stop and pick something up from his mom’s place. I find this rather strange, but I don’t say anything. When we get there, he asks me to come up with them. ‘I’d rather wait in the car’ I tell him, but he insists that I come up. Well we’re in his mom’s apartment for about ten minutes, and she is this frail woman, the phrase disappearing into thin air comes to mind. She just stares at me the whole time, doesn’t say a word. Anyway the next day at work, Charlie informs me that his mom didn’t like me, and although we can sleep together if I want, I can never be his significant other. Of course I refuse, but the strangest part is what I found out later. Don’t ask me how I know this, but apparently Charlie took every date on a ten minute excursion to meet his mom. Than he would tell them that he can’t date them because the mom didn’t approve. He figured that was a more formidable, than telling the woman he was only interested in sex, and not in a relationship.”
“I feel sorry for the mother”, Charlie says. “That’s probably why she was so frail, all those visits sucked the energy out of her.”
“If that was my son, I’d dead bolt the door and would not let him in”, I say. What I wanted to say was that my mom would do that to Mark, but I did not know if it was polite to discuss my mom in front of Ellen. My dad must have read my mind because he says “your mom would never have allowed Mark to act that way.” I give my dad a smile of gratitude.
Since college my relationship with my dad has changed. Although we haven’t grown closer, since graduation he has begun to treat me as an equal He no longer talks to me in an imperious tone, but instead addresses me with the same respect he would address a colleague. Now when I spend time with my dad, just like with any adult he respects, my dad is always polite and makes sure that I am comfortable.
The next morning, while Charlie showered and Ellen packed, my dad and I had a private conversation in the kitchen. “So, what do you think of Ellen”, my dad asks me. “I like her, she seems nice”, I reply. “Listen dad, do you remember mom’s photo album, the one that had all those photos and no captions, I was wondering if I could have it.”
“I don’t know what album you’re talking about, but next time you visit, you’re welcome to any photo album you find in the house. I’m glad you like Ellen, because I got the distinct feeling that Mark couldn’t stand her.”
“He probably feels you’re replacing mom. I don’t feel that way though, Ellen has nothing in common with mom.”
My dad smiles. “No, she does not.” His smile irritates me.
Charlie and I are lying in bed discussing Ellen. “She’s this ball of merriment”, Charlie says. “I liked her, she actually reminds me of you, except you’re less chatty.
“I spent my whole life making sure I would not become like my mom. According to you, I’m similar to a woman who has nothing in common with my mom. I guess I don’t have to worry anymore.”
“You are soooooo cliché. Every woman I know, real or fictional, worries about turning into her mother.”
“You’re the exact same way. You worry that you’ll turn into your dad.”
“False. I have no problem becoming like my dad, I just worry that if a tragedy occurs, I’ll have the same reaction as he did.”
“Well you don’t have to worry about that. I think it’s scientifically impossible for you to be silent.”
“Just for that, I’m going to be silent all day tomorrow.”
I laugh. “I would never allow you to suffer that much.”
“Yes, you would”, Charlie replies smiling. He kisses me goodnight, and turns off the light.
I lie in the dark, my eyes trying to adjust to the lack of light. I ponder over Charlie’s comment about women not wanting to be like their mothers. He’s right, I’m not original in my thoughts, but few women actually sought out to be different.
When I was a child, every time I noticed I was copying a mannerism of my mom, I would force myself to stop. At twelve I began to condition myself against my mom’s traits. I wore a rubber band on my wrist, and when I caught myself saying a similar expression, or doing a similar walk, I would snap the rubber band against my wrist. If my mother told me that she enjoyed a certain movie, I would convince myself that the movie had detestable dialogue, or atrocious acting, or a stodgy storyline filled with many plot holes. I even decided to go to school in Boston because my mom, after a short vacation in Boston, said she found the east coast people dreadful, and would hate to live in any New England State.
I have achieved my goal of becoming a completely different person than my mom, but I don’t feel happy about it.