Some people say that being a "real" adult is signified by buying your first couch, thus no longer being able to easily stuff all your belongings into the back of your car to move on to the next adventure. While there's no doubt that was a defining moment for me, seeing my parents as fellow human beings was my entry ticket into the adult world. No longer were they all-knowing. Neither were they completely clueless. They were just two people shaped by their own experiences, hopes and fears.
Mardi Link, writing My Parents are Golden (My Brother and I Are More Like Recycled Tin Foil. And That’s On a Good Day), takes a hard, often hilarious, look at her own parents (and parenting). Read on to see if it strikes a chord with you. Molly
Recently, my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. To mark the day, they invited a hundred friends and family members to cruise Michigan’s Saginaw Bay in an open-air tour boat, and then head over to their church for a chicken dinner. The event was fitting for two active people in their seventies who have an ideal marriage, are ideal parents, and who have achieved their vision of the American Dream. Together, they have good health, financial security, a propensity toward good deeds, and, no kidding, good looks.
While I watched the two of them stand united on the gangplank and greet the odd assortment of guests – their sailing friends, our frail Aunt Eunice, their Lutheran pastor and his wife, the cousin with the leftist political T-shirt – I wondered what happened to my brother and me. With parents like these, how could we have gone so wrong? Between us we have three marriages (one common-law), two divorces, two DUIs, five kids, a propensity toward beer and/or vodka and/or marijuana, two bad credit ratings, and a history of disconnected telephones. What the hell?
I asked my brother about this when I went to the tiny old trailer park where he lives with his guns and his new girlfriend. I was there to pick them up – he and his girlfriend, not the guns – and give them a ride to the anniversary party because neither has a valid driver’s license. In a random attack of bad luck, within the past week each of them had been stopped by a small town cop, each had been ticketed for driving with an expired license, and each had their expired license re-taken away. Under the threat of jail now, they weren’t driving. When I got out of my mini-van at the trailer park, an old man without shoes or a shirt pointed at me and yelled, “Hey! She ain’t from in here!” Must have been the new skirt from Talbots that alarmed him. Black, with little pink flowers. I flip him off. “Just because I don’t live here, buddy, doesn’t mean I don’t belong.” He sat back down in his broken lawn chair, appeased.
“Not everyone can be like them,” my brother tells me, once I’m safely inside the bosom of his doublewide. “Not everyone wants to be.” For the first time, it occurs to me that he’s okay with this. He’s okay with the continental drift of difference between our parents’ lifestyle and his own. I, on the other hand, am not.