This is the second part of a two-part blog post. You can find the initial post – the beginning of the story of meeting my mom’s boyfriend for the first time - here.
We laughed. We hugged. And we danced. Oh boy oh boy did we ever dance!
My nerves were pretty well-settled during the flight to Buffalo though I was glad to have my book with me. I got Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” from the library because Woolf is known for her poetic prose (something I’m working toward myself) and I wanted a book that would really engage my mind and keep me from wondering (stressing?) about what awaited once the plane landed.
During a break from my book on the flight, I took a few minutes to perform a mini self-analysis, because honestly, who doesn’t do the same when they’re in the confined company of strangers?
I thought long and hard about the parts of me I’m proud of.
Check. That’s from my dad.
Check. That’s also from my dad.
Check. Yep, that’s my dad again.
Check. Thanks Dad.
Ummm… I definitely got that one from my mom.
After giving it some thought, I found it hard to complain about the results of the genetic mash-up between my mom and my dad despite their lack of a solid marriage. She’s always said that I was the best thing to come from their few years together and I know she means it sincerely.
In that moment on the plane I gifted myself psychological gold in the form of a crystal clear image of myself as a successful product of my mother and my father. My mother, and the man she was with at the time, even if she didn’t love him. The man she chose over another, for whatever reason.
I am because of that reason.
And that made me feel content and self-confident, at least while I was still on the plane.
Once I got off, though, the nerves set in as I acknowledged the inevitability of meeting my mother’s boyfriend and the enormous backstory that accompanies them. There was only one trip to baggage claim that stood between us.
I made my way to the restroom to check my makeup, to check my hair, to check my clothes.
Will he think I look old? I asked myself.
Why do I care so much? I wondered, angry at myself for having those doubts.
As I moved across the airport my cross-body bag kept awkwardly dragging down the scoop neck of my dress, leaving me feeling uncomfortably exposed. There was only a hint of cleavage showing, but even a hint was far too much for me today.
I berated myself again for being so self-conscious. Why do I care? Why am I letting this stress me out so much?
Because, I said to myself. Because, and just because, and that would have to be reason enough this time. Nothing more, nothing less. Just because.
My bag was the first to come off the carousel. As I made my way to the pickup lane outside I realized that I didn’t know what my mother’s boyfriend’s car looks like. I panicked a little and scrutinized the people in each car as they rolled by.
And then I saw the familiar red Toyota coming toward me, with my mom behind the wheel.
As she pulled over toward me, I saw that the passenger seat was empty.
And so was the back seat.
Her boyfriend was not in the car.
I opened the back door, plopped my bag on the floor, climbed into the front seat, and greeted my mom.
“He couldn’t come today, he had a diving class, “ she immediately offered.
“I didn’t even think to ask him beforehand if he was free for lunch today,” she added nonchalantly.
I exhaled slowly and quietly, sinking back into the seat as I released my pent up anxiety while thinking that this whole past several hours worth of nerves could have easily been avoided.
“Are you relieved?” she asked.
I didn’t answer.
We went back to my mom’s house and had lunch there, just she and I, sitting on her back patio. We talked a lot about him – his many careers, his hobbies, his marriages, his children and his grandchildren.
He reminds me an awful lot of my dad.
Which should not surprise me, and yet it does. I wonder, even still, what makes these particular men attractive to my mom. Based on our conversation that afternoon, I wonder if she might even wonder the same.
Later that afternoon I arrived at my stepmother’s birthday party right on time. My stepsisters greeted me, all three of them, with warm and welcoming hugs. We chatted and we giggled and we got caught up on our kids and on life in general.
We are not close, and yet we are. I live 400 miles away and rarely return; it’s much easier for my mom to come to me. My dad does not travel much.
But we are that funny kind of close, perhaps that can only come of a blended family. The feeling is magnified now that we’re all adults, all of us mothers ourselves. We not only have a shared history, we have social currency between us.
I sat next to my dad at dinner and we caught up a bit on each of our lives. He told me about his new computer and how much he loves it – he got a Mac for the very first time. He left shortly after dinner was over; he is not well.
There was cake and ice cream and singing and dancing. Oh, was there dancing! We danced to old hits like “Locomotion” and “The Twist” and to disco hits like “It’s Raining Men.” Nothing makes you glad you flew home for a party than seeing a 75-year-old woman singing and dancing to “It’s Raining Men” like it’s her business.
When not dancing I caught up with the others in the room, most of whom I knew but some who didn’t remember me since it had been 10 or even 20 years since we’d last met. To those who didn’t recall me, I introduced myself as my father’s daughter. They smiled and nodded as their eyes flickered with recognition.
And I smiled, because I am my father’s daughter indeed. That’s why I was there.
At the end of the night we danced the final dance to the obvious choice, “We Are Family,” and my stepsisters pulled me in close as we danced hand in hand. "I've got all my sisters in me," we sang out loud. My heart swelled.
It is not easy for me to feel that I belong, that is a curse I inherited from my father. But these women did their best to erase those feelings of self-doubt, and for that I am forever grateful.
I do belong, because my mother married my father instead of her first love. That man is part of her story, but not mine. And that’s fine with me.
I will meet her boyfriend next month when we vacation with my mom at the beach. And truth be told, I’m relieved. I’ll be tan and relaxed and my hair will look good from the humid lake breezes. My husband and kids will be by my side and I’ll feel my most authentic self with them surrounding me.
It will not be about my mother or my father or him or me, but about them - my mother and her first love - and about me and my own family, descended from my father.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.