That reminds me of the time my daughter Hypatia sent her son to stay with me during Jazz Fest; his name is Boomer. She named him Boomer, short for Boomerang, because she swore that as he was being born, he actually tried to do a 180 to get back inside her womb. He was 11 when he showed up on my doorstep; well, showed up isn’t the exact word for it. There was a series of miscommunications, ignored phone calls, emails and texts gone wild, and wide, overlooked, and consequently missed payments of attention that I alone was guilty of. In short, I had taken myself “off-grid” for my sanity and well-being and hadn’t clue one regarding his impending arrival.
One afternoon I received a call from my neighbor: “There’s a kid sitting on your porch and I don’t recognize him/her. You ‘specting somebody?” In New Orleans, ‘specting can be either suspecting or expecting (or a combination); so, I was a little apprehensive when I pulled into my parking space.
“Yo, G-Pops!” and I knew who it was. A rangy kid who was generally up to no good, blue eyes looking over Ray Bans, a fauxhawk mullet haircut, an oversized plaid wool shirt over a Grateful Dead tee, faded jeans, and CT high-tops. He was slouched in an unnatural position in a wicker chair, laptop computer in the crook of his leg—the very image of me at that age, only this one was stealing my Wi-Fi.
“Fine, thanks. How’re you?” I said sarcastically, “and what in Sam Hill are you doin’ here?”
“Well, oh grand poobah of mine, it seems that I’ve been given a hiatus from boarding school. Mother dear is off on a water aerobic yoga meditation macramé bikini retreat located inside an Indian casino and nobody home but the goldfish and the Ficus benjamina; so, not wanting me to pull a Macaulay Culkin, she put me on the dog [Greyhound bus] and sent me down. Don’t you ever answer your phone, email, OR texts? I could eat a cow; let’s get some chow and chew the fat.”
Remember when you were that age? Hormones are starting to wake up, voice changing, hairs starting to sprout in peculiar places, face erupting (or threatening to), feet growing (along with your nose); too old for kid stuff and too young for adult pastimes. For the entire stay, I would be peppered with questions, opinions, wishes, and rejections of anything thought to be below the dignity of this little ruffian idiot savant man-child with a mind full of whys and why-nots. And, he was all of that.
His life was full of new tastes and newer situations; there were no bases for preconceived notions of experiences, and he wasn’t taking answers like “because I said so/know so,” because … they were not answers at all. He was more feral than housebroken, more curious than educated, and more insecure than proud of who he was; and, where he was going was a mysterious adventure place because he had no conception of where the road ahead could lead. Just like me.
Off to the fest we went. “Why are there such long lines? Why do they have to search my bag? Why can’t I have a beer? Why are there so many old people on stage and that port-o-let smells like three-day-old skunk road kill? You’re not really gonna eat that, are you?”
At a certain age, I believe a person can lose the talent to willingly give up an inclusive world and spend waking hours exclusively focusing on the needs of another person. I ran the gamut of emotions from insult to impatience, petulance to selfishness, arrogance to martyrdom. Being on call (or AWOL) to/from a person who occupies a position of being more important in my life than I am is not my cup of tea; I took that on begrudgingly because there was no one else around to foist that responsibility onto.
I have friends in nursing homes who need visiting, neighbors who can always use a helping hand, and projects that I have left half-finished or neglected up the wazoo; but, I can still, even at my age, turn my back on f**k all, get a cold one at Liuzza’s By The Track, and watch Jeopardy in the early evening, and to hell with accountability. Not so when you have a full-time whatsis that you’re learning to accept as part of your 24-hour day. I feel great empathy for all motherhood.
The first day at the fest, I handed him a Jackson ($20.00 bill) and told him to get lost, and spent the rest of the day looking for him. The next day, we walked around together, and he explained his life and times as we ate all the kid-friendly food that we could find. Day three, we sat on the bleacher steps powering down every sweet available and made fun of the people passing by.
Dinner was pizza or tacos, breakfast was at Betsy’s; he got used to me insisting that he brush his teeth, put sunblock on, and stop saying “F**KING HOT!” whenever he saw a female that he found attractive. We ate junk food for two weeks until his mother called him home.
Waiting for the “dog” to board, I admitted to him that I had had a great time. “So I can come back, eh?” he said.
“Sure,” I replied.
As he was boarding the bus, he turned to me and yelled, “Hey! Your fly’s open!” I looked down, covered my crotch, and found that he was lying. I looked up and saw that he was laughing his ass off at my expense. I shook my head, smiled, and walked back to my car, knowing that I would miss him.