Finding balance in the second half of life

Dating, Tamed

In Romance on March 20, 2010 at 6:59 pm

In a few minutes, she will come again, my son’s first girlfriend, she of the long, blonde locks and plate-sized china blue eyes. She will ferry my son away from us, not across the River Styx but on a crossing at least as treacherous–teen dating. When she arrives, he doesn’t rush to leave, but he is eager to be off.  He never looks back.

I’m ill prepared for this. It feels like an embolism in my chest that will surely burst when he leaves for good.

But. Her arm encircles his waist and her hand rests on his belt. But. He smiles in such a way that I know the rest of the world–his dog at his feet, the hockey playoffs on TV, his father at the door, me on the stair–are in soft focus for him. And I remember.

I remember Robert, who parked his car at our house and rode to work every day one summer with my father. He was tall and dark with a slow, winning smile. I started showering in the afternoon. I set my hair in pink sponge rollers.  And I made sure I just happened to be outside at the very moment he and my father came home. I was smitten. I was ten years old.

My affection was not returned. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t even noticed. I was devastated to learn, upon snooping through his glove compartment and finding his cigarettes and  love letters, that he loved some girl named Nancy. Misery loves company and I had plenty: my four older sisters were all in love with him, too. It’s because of Robert that to this day, I find the hint of smoke on a man sexy.

It took me a few years to recover from that loss and start dating Paul, my first real boyfriend. I remember Paul. He was shorter than I by about three inches, but what he lacked in height he more than made up for in what he taught me. (No, I’m not going there.) Before Paul, I thought studying for a test meant looking at the material for a few minutes. But Paul, who was a socio-economic class or two above my farm family, was a serious student who eventually graduated at the top of his class. Paul studied five or six hours every day, and it was by watching him that I learned how to be a good student.

Then came Greg. I remember Greg. He smoked pot. I didn’t. We stayed together for longer than we should have. I don’t know why. Oh, wait. Maybe I do. He was good looking. Remember Robert? Yeah, he looked like a younger Robert. I was going to say that I learned nothing from that relationship, but then I realized that Greg taught me to play tennis, and tennis has been a hobby of mine ever since.

And I remember Keith, who was waiting for me when Greg and I broke up. Funny, athletic, and personable, he liked to lift weights–and use me as the weight. We laughed a lot. From him I learned that dating could be fun. He was the quintessential nice guy and I broke up with him in a hallway conversation between classes–an approach that strikes me as a precursor to the text break-up. I was a jerk. I regretted breaking up with him later, when I realized that nice, funny, personable, athletic guys who are fun on a date are pretty hard to come by.

I remember the things I learned in those early dating relationships that helped make me who I am and shaped my preferences. I remember that all those relationships prepared me to see that the right man who finally came along was the right man, and to treat him right.

Now when I see my boy-man son and his girlfriend together, I try to think of all he’s learning (no, not that,  although that occurs to me, since she’s older than he is and has had other boyfriends). She’s a good student and she has some ambitions; I wouldn’t mind if some of that rubbed off on him.

And she plays on the tennis team, which is why twice last week he asked me to go hit some balls with him–my son who has stonewalled me whenever I’ve asked him to play over the past five years.  Until now. In that way, she has not only given him back to me, but given us a new common interest that might connect us even as he pulls away, even as the embolism throbs near my heart.

She’s breezing in the door now, smelling of roses and french fries. She can ferry him across that passage and I will be waiting, racquet in hand, on the other side.–Christine MacLean

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  1. This gives me a pang, too… is that the embolism? I’m not sure if I’m yearning for my own youth or for a return of my children’s. So many things they didn’t warn us about in parenting class. Wait! There *wasn’t* any parenting class!

  2. having boyfriends and girlfriends is good if you listen to your parents and friends opinions.Right?coz they know what is the best for you.

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