These are the kind of friends who let you drop the barriers a bit and we came to the part of the evening-the mango and sweet rice dessert-when you tell the truths about your families. Hugh asked me something about my parents-he wondered if my mother's Irish family thought she was going to hell for marrying a Jew. I had to tell him that it was both worse and better than that. Worse because she became Jewish herself (a Jewess, they used to say) and better because my mom's sisters loved my father. They doted on him in a way that's almost impossible to imagine these days. They even called him-their brother-in-law- "Uncle Manny". One aunt always brought him a footstool when he sat in her living room, another would fetch the ashtray.
I guess they indulged him partly because he was an unashamedly doting husband. and partly because he was generous with them in a way that they had heard about but never experienced. He did so much right by them that they thought he could do no wrong.
Anyway, somehow in the middle of telling this story, I started to cry. It's not a sad story except in the way that all our stories are sad, but I had pointed a dousing rod at some big spring of sadness and I kept on with my story, crying into some very good beer (Victory Golden Monkey in the big bottle).
So later, I found myself wondering where that rush of lugubriousness came from. I'm not especially sentimental about my father: he and I did the best we could, but we only managed moments of closeness. No blame, just different souls. As I tried to puzzle it out, it seemed to me that I wasn't remembering him so much as I was living for a minute in his time, sensing his loneliness, maybe rolling it up into mine. Maybe we just naturally travel back in time as we get older. Or maybe it's just time to say how much I miss what I missed and time to give it the crying that it's due. I guess it could be that I'm sad that I'm finishing up without having earned that sort of love or maybe it just reminded me that my kid and I may be no closer than Manny and his kid. If I didn't have this blog, I'd probably write a poem about it.
It was a good, unstoppable cry, one that may have even washed away the regret that set it off. Our hosts didn't look too embarrassed and we all pay the meat bill eventually-so why throw in a little salt?