Who I Read
February 18th, 2003
Geeky Peas and High Drama
This ought to be a relief to write about, seeing as I've been keeping it (barely) under wraps, as far as this website is concerned, for weeks now. But now that I have the green light go-ahead, I'm finding that I don't quite know where to start.
Well, the beginning is as good a place as any. Herein lies the long version of the story that the Notify List got a couple of days ago:
So. You all will remember me mentioning that Michael has been rather incommunicative over the past couple of months. He was calling and asking for Marie, and basically avoiding having much conversation with his dad and I. I also mentioned that Marie "wouldn't fess" to the big secret she was carrying for Michael. That, actually, was an eeny weeny baby mistruth. See, I couldn't divulge all the details here because a) the family reads, and the message needed to come from Michael himself; and b) Michael reads, and his sister had promised to keep her mouth shut.
You will understand why she didn't, or couldn't, in a minute.
So, for the two or three days after Michael's most mysterious phone call, Marie was acting pretty out of sorts. She's usually very talkative and open with us, hanging out with us most evenings after school/work, and gabbing about everything under the sun. Most days will see the conversation started as soon as Calvin gets home from work, hanging out in the kitchen while Marie does her chores. Then I come home, and the conversation continues while I'm cooking dinner. Then watching TV, we're barely able to make it to the next commercial before we're muting the TV and talking some more. And if it's particularly good, we sit there with the TV muted for sit-com after sit-com, talking while we're all sprawled out on the couches.
Like I told Calvin yesterday, our whole family life is just one long conversation. We just take breaks to eat and sleep and go to work. It's pretty damn cool.
But for those few days, she was hiding out in her room, or looking startled whenever we asked her a question, and actually acted like she was in pain whenever Calvin and I discussed Michael in her presence. Given the way she absolutely clams up and shuts down, it's easy for Calvin and I to figure out when something is bothering her. So, we conferred, and after the third day of this behavior I went up to her room (in case the subject was actually, you know, girl stuff) and flopped down on the floor next to her (her computer was on the floor while we were rearranging her room).
"Out with it. What's Michael up to that's bothering you so much?"
She looked startled, in that "Jeez, are you psychic?" kind of way. Then went back to her IM-ing. Oh-so-casually. "What do you mean?"
"Oh, come on now. He's calling and asking for you, hinting at this big secret that's a "brother-sister thing", not talking to us at all, and you're moping around here like you lost your best friend. So 'fess up."
She looked almost relieved, but still worried. "You've got to PROMISE not to tell Dad. Michael said he'd kill me if I told you guys."
Now, normally I don't make promises like this at all. Keeping secrets between Calvin and the kids is NOT the role I wish to play as a step-mom. So I told her, "If the big secret isn't something that's going to hurt him, or you, and if he's not in some sort of trouble that his dad REALLY needs to know about, then okay. But you understand that I have to do what's right. You guys are his kids, after all, as much as I feel like your Mom in every way that really counts."
She digested this for a minute, then figured it was an acceptable deal. "Michael said he was getting married - making it "official" now, then having a ceremony for the family later."
"Getting married? To who??"
"Remember the girl he mentioned while he was home, that he met in South Carolina? The girl that called a couple of times and asked for him?"
"Sure, I remember her. She e-mailed a couple of times."
"Well, it's her."
"Didn't he, like, just meet her?" I asked, surprised. To say the least.
"Uh-huh. Now, don't tell Dad! Michael will kill me!" I pressed her a bit for more details, but she claimed she didn't have any.
Hmm. A conundrum. Definitely news that Dad needs to know, but Marie's trust in me is of extreme importance. So I made a deal with her. "If you can get Michael to talk to your dad about it the next time he calls, then I won't say anything. Otherwise, he really does need to know. This is a big deal, and it wasn't fair of Michael to put it on your shoulders and make you keep it a secret from us."
"I know, I wanted to tell you guys. But I want Michael to trust me, too, and not keep things from me."
"Yeah, I know the feeling."
As it turned out, though, Calvin didn't have to talk to Michael, and Marie didn't have to say anything to Calvin. He guessed it. The next evening, while sitting in front of the TV, the subject came up again. Calvin said that there were only two things he could think of that were a big enough deal that Michael would keep them a secret. One, that he's married, and/or two, the girl's pregnant.
Marie burst out, "What are you guys, mind-readers? How do you *know* this stuff??"
"So which one is it?" Calvin asked. Marie squirmed, then said, "Michael's getting married."
"Getting, or is?" he asked.
"I don't know," she replied. And squirmed.
This, of course, prompted a GREAT BIG LONG discussion. Calvin pacing around the kitchen, Marie and I sitting on the floor up against the wall, watching him. The discussion ran the gambit of "He can't even make his car payment on time," to "How are they going to support themselves if she gets pregnant," to "He screwed up and didn't make it to our wedding, and we weren't even invited to his." Mostly we were hurt by his secrecy, and worried that he was making irrevocable decisions in his life that would negatively effect his future.
Hence, this entry.
The conversation went back to the possibility of children. Marie squirmed hardest at this, until we finally said, "Now look, tell us the truth. Is she already pregnant?"
A long pause. Then, "Five weeks," and Marie burst into tears.
Holy mother of...
"Son of a bitch," Calvin muttered. And then another GREAT BIG LONG discussion. Which doesn't really bear repeating. Just put yourselves in our shoes, think about what *you* would say in this circumstance, and you can pretty much bet that's what we said. Poor Marie was so stressed out, though. "I feel like I'm going to have to go through my entire life worrying about him."
We talked to her about the "right" (and really, what's "right", anyway?) order to do things. She told us how some day she sees herself introducing us to her boyfriend, how she'd date a few years, then take us out to dinner and announce that they're engaged. How they'd have a big wedding and how I would help her pick out her dress. Then a few years later they'd take us out to dinner again, and announce that she and her husband were going to "try" for a baby, then how we would all be excited when she actually got pregnant, and then...
"God, it scares me to death to think of growing up. I don't ever want to leave home." The poor kiddo, she takes on so much worry.
The fun part of the evening was when Calvin got to break the news to his ex, Michael's mother. Marie protested him calling her, but as Michael's mother she had a right to know what was going on. The conversation was brief, and punctuated by a lot of "What??'s", audible from the receiver to Marie and I, still sitting on the floor in the kitchen. Grinning, Calvin ended the conversation with, "Just thought you should know, Grandma." To which she reportedly responded, "Fuck you, Grandpa."
Marie was shocked, they were actually conversing in a civil manner.
Throughout the next couple of weeks, Michael's actions were the main topic of conversation. Rather circular conversation, since Michael was still not being truthful and we were getting no new information. The few conversations we actually managed to have with him skimmed the surface of any topic and focussed mainly on a mix-up with his car payment. Calvin gave him ample opportunity to tell the truth, and Michael simply avoided the questions or changed the subject. Which frustrated and hurt us all the more.
At this point I have to take a break in the chronological flow of this entry to say that now that I've met Michael's wife, I find her sweet and delightful, level headed, and I took her into my heart right away. I just needed to throw that in there, because I know she's reading, and hearing the truth of our feelings during those first few days might be a scary thing. That's the blessing and curse of keeping an on-line journal - people know what you *really* think, to the detail that might not come up in conversation (especially conversations in our household, where everyone is talking all over everyone else). But I'm not pulling any punches, here. It was a fucked up way to handle things, and we've told them that - this stuff shouldn't be anything new, and I think our responses were perfectly reasonable, given the circumstances. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
At the beginning of last week, Michael called to tell us that he was planning on coming home. He and his girlfriend (as far as we were supposed to know at the time) had moved in together and they wanted the furniture from his room. A few e-mails were exchanged with Michael's "girlfriend" during the week, and in one I asked her right out if they were married. She said that Michael would kill her if she said anything, he made her promise to "keep her mouth shut".
And then another e-mail, imploring me, "Don't be mad!" Which I thought was cute. Because by that time, really, we weren't mad. I don't think we were mad at all, really, even when we first heard. But I will say that Michael is DAMNED lucky that Marie gave us a head's up about the bombs he was planning on dropping in our laps when he got home. Otherwise the reception and introduction wouldn't have gone as smoothly, and the lectures they received would have been rather less well thought out.
Besides which, the hints and information had been dropping at an astonishing rate. Even if Marie hadn't 'fessed up, we'd have to be completely obtuse not to figure things out on our own. Some other signs of the news they wouldn't share:
2:30 rolls around, and we heard the dogs start creating, and the front door slam. I came out of the bedroom ahead of Calvin (who was getting dressed). Michael spotted me and came over to give me a hug, and pulled his companion forward by the wrist.
"Laura, I want you to meet Lilly."
I gave her a hug, and said it was very nice to finally meet her. She hugged me back, and said it was nice to meet me, too. She had a "please don't be mad" look on her face. I felt immediate sympathy for her. What a circumstance to be in, the first time you meet your in-laws! I kind of wanted to let her, and them, off the hook and tell them that we already knew. But hey, they didn't make it easy on us the past few weeks...
Then Michael again grabs her left hand, and pulls it forward, holding it next to his own. "Look what we got!" he said. So I exclaimed over their rings, wishing that Calvin would get his ass out of the bedroom.
Calvin finally comes out, and Michael does the same with him. A hug, a "This is Lilly", and "Lookit our rings!"
Calvin says, "And this means...?"
"Does this mean you're married?" Calvin asked.
Lilly shifted her feet, looking uncomfortable. I don't think she raised her eyes to either Calvin or I once during that meeting.
"Oh boy," I said. Calvin and I exchanged looks. He sighed, explosively.
"We were waiting to tell you in person," Michael explained.
Beyond that, to be honest, I don't remember much of the conversation. Michael and Lilly got settled in their room, Michael went into Marie's room to pester her, and we all ended up meeting in the kitchen about ten minutes later. Marie, Marie's friend, and I were sitting on the kitchen table while Calvin addressed Michael and Lilly. I think Calvin mostly got on Michael for being inconsiderate and keeping us out of the loop - especially considering it seems he told the ENTIRE REST OF THE WORLD before he said anything to us. Lilly's parents included. To her credit, she tried to get him to tell us - constantly, it seems, since they got married. She told her family right away.
We also weren't exactly impressed with the rather cavalier way that Lilly was introduced to us - not, "This is my wife, Lilly," or "I'd like to introduce you to your new daughter-in-law." No, it was "Lookit our rings!" The way she was introduced to Marie was rather abrupt, too - just pretty much an "Oh, that's my sister and her friend" in passing as the conversation ended and we were all headed for bed. Such a significant introduction demands a bit more thought and attention, I think.
Really, though, that's something that I hope Michael doesn't gain much practice in.
At any rate, the whole conversation lasted for only about twenty minutes, before we decided that anything else that needed to be said would have to wait for the morning. Calvin and I stayed up for another hour or so, talking. We'd consumed so much coffee and taken so much No-Doz in an effort to stay up until they arrived, now we were mentally tired but physically wired. We rehashed everything that had happened, that we had spoken of, what we thought of everything. In the end, it all came down to one thing:
"When do you think they're planning on telling us about the baby?"
Even though we didn't get to sleep until after 4:00, I was up at 9:00, still full of nervous energy. Calvin got up soon after I did, and started making his breakfast skillet while I made an attempt at working out. My lungs weren't cooperating, so I kept going back and forth between the elliptical and the kitchen before giving up the workout as a bad idea.
The kids all came stumbling down the stairs when breakfast was ready - and yes, I herein do and henceforth shall always refer to them all as "the kids", even when they're fifty. Some more exchanged hugs with Lilly and Michael, and then everyone seemed grateful to be chewing instead of talking - a legitimate reason to delay conversation.
Bugs Bunny was duly giggled over, and then Marie and her friend went back up to Marie's room while Michael, Lilly, Calvin and I settled on the couches in the living room. We didn't get too heavy into conversation, just chatted about the arrangements they've made with their new apartment, and how things on base are going. We talked about their relationship a bit, and the ways they compliment each other. Michael compared their relationship to the one Calvin and I have - that can't be a bad thing, now can it? (Readers: "Do you really want us to answer that?" Laura: "Hush, you.")
After about 45 minutes, Michael insisted that he and Calvin go for a ride on the motorcycle. This gave Lilly and I a chance to get to know one another better. I'd noticed that Michael does to her what Calvin does to me - talks right over us when we're trying to say something. So I wanted to give her the chance to tell me a bit about herself.
She has a fairly large family (she's the oldest of four) who currently lives in Texas. We talked about them at length. To hear her describe them, they all sound like they're very close with one another. Her parents made a lot of sacrifices in order to provide a good life for their children, and Lilly is obviously very grateful to them. Her heritage is rather complicated, so I'm cutting and pasting from an e-mail she sent:
"I was born in the Philippines to an Air Force dad and a native mother. My descendants are Spaniards on my mother's side... and she's Filipine, and my father's grandfather was full Seminole Native American and his grandmother was Irish and English." Whatever the genealogy, it turned out a pretty little girl. She's eighteen years old and in her first year of the Corps. She has ambitions to go into law enforcement, or forensics, or be a track teacher (she was in athletics programs in high school), when her time of service is up. Most of all, though, she likes to sing. Michael praised her voice up and down, but we have yet to hear it.
Yet another reason to buy a karaoke machine, I guess.
What I saw myself was a soft spoken girl, who still doesn't take any of Michael's crap. She's bright, has a good sense of humor, and has strong family values. She also seems to be self-deprecating, though she has every reason to be confident in herself and her abilities. I also found out (later) that she likes to read, and I was all, "Hooray! It's about damn time someone else in the family knows how to read!" She's very cute, being a little bit of a thing with dark hair and dark eyes. She's strong, though - a must, given her occupation.
And given the fact that she needs to kick Michael's ass, every now and then.
So anyway, we conversed. There was still no mention of the baby, from either one of them. Our conversation touched on children, but more the concept of them than specifics. I could tell she wanted to say something, but was again held back by Michael's edict. And what the hell he was waiting for was beyond Calvin and I.
I did ask her what compelled them to get married right now, as opposed to just living together and waiting until later to get married. She told me that couples aren't allowed to live together on base, and if they live off base as single people, they don't get a housing allowance. The only time a housing allowance is offered is to married couples who have to live off base because all of the on-base homes for married couples are occupied. So. That solves that mystery, at least.
Calvin and Michael returned, then Michael and Lilly went to Calvin's mom's restaurant for lunch. Calvin and I soaked in the hot tub and puttered around. Somehow the sequence of events are escaping me (did we actually talk after they got back from lunch? I forget), but at some point Michael and Lilly returned, went upstairs to take a nap, and Calvin's mother called us. While Calvin was pacing back and forth on the phone, I looked outside into the backyard to see Marie sitting rather morosely on the steps leading up to the hot tub. So I went out to sit with her.
She was having a very hard time absorbing everything that was going on. Marie has a tendency to think about very, very heavy things for a fourteen-year-old. So we ended up having a real "life, the universe, and everything" conversation. She liked Lilly, but was worried about what their marriage would really be like - they're so young, and really only just met. She was confused about why they hadn't said anything about the baby, and that prompted a whole conversation of what it entails to really take care of an infant.
Here I'll mention that this topic is of particular interest to Marie right now. She's taking a Child Development class in school, and in a few weeks will be bringing home a baby prototype doll - the thing has programming and sensors, and is set to require all the same attentions as a baby. It will cry until you figure out what it needs - feeding, burping, changing, rocking. Its sensors register when you've performed these tasks, and the "baby" will stop crying once whichever problem is resolved. It registers if the child has been "neglected" (not responded to when it cries), or "abused" (shaken or dropped), and once all the sensor information is downloaded from the doll, the teacher gives the student a grade based on the results. Parents have been known to request a particularly "bad" baby, one that cries at all hours and is particularly hard to manage, just so the students are guaranteed a negative experience. Marie even has to go as far as to find a babysitter if she needs one, or else take it everywhere with her - the mall, school, wherever she goes. We had to sign a permission slip giving our consent, and were informed that our student might be "particularly fatigued" during this time, but that we weren't to offer "any outside or untoward help" in the process. Sounds good to me. I told Marie, "I hope you have a miserable week."
Heavens, I have to put in another "aside". I just got an e-mail from Lilly, in which she addressed me as "Mom". I kinda like it, even though it seems strange to be called Mom by someone who is only ten years younger than I am. ~sigh~ You do all realize how LONG this entry is going to be, don't you? Go get some coffee, why dontcha... "Mom". Heh.
Back to Marie. We also talked about how life can go in directions that no one plans for or anticipates. We talked about the connections that we have with our loved ones, and the ways that their actions can effect us, negatively or positively. We talked about the spiritual connections we have with one another, and I spoke about how I really thought that Grandma waited for me to get to her bedside, to say goodbye to her before she passed away. Marie turned to me and said, "Laura, don't die, okay? I don't think I could stand it if anything ever happened to you, or Daddy, or Michael."
Like I said, we were talking about heavy stuff.
On a somewhat less profound (and more joking) note, she was also mock-irritated that her birthdays keep getting upstaged by Michael. Last year he was home for a visit, and her "birthday" party ended up more like an "opportunity to visit Michael" party. The year before that he was home, fresh out of boot camp, and it was like The Prodigal Son Returneth - really, Calvin's family treats him quite like The Golden Boy. This year, it looks like Lilly and Michael's baby is due right around her birthday.
Poor Marie. She's not really seriously put out, though. Which makes her a bigger person than I would be, given the same circumstances! Heh.
So. All this time Marie and I were talking, Calvin was on the phone with his mom. He finished up, and caught the tail end of our conversation. Then he informed us that his mom told him that Michael had confessed he and Lilly's marriage and impending baby to her, while at the restaurant.
Yet another person he told before telling us. I swear, the kid is bass-ackwards.
She was pretty shocked, though she'd gleaned what the big secret probably was from my entries - it wasn't too hard to figure out, if you know Michael. She was also surprised that Michael and Lilly hadn't told us yet - she was afraid she'd let the cat out of the bag, before Calvin told her we already knew and were just waiting for Michael to say something. She reminded Calvin of when he was a nineteen-year-old soon-to-be-father, telling him that he really didn't have things much more together than Michael does, now.
Calvin chooses to believe otherwise. Heh.
At that point, Calvin was ready to confront Michael and Lilly on the subject. But they were upstairs taking a nap, and the timing was such that Calvin and I had to get ready for our party, and wouldn't have a chance to really have a discussion until after it was over. So we resigned ourselves to that fact, got ready to go, and ordered pizza for the kids.
Now. Some information. There's a guy I work with at AcronymCo, that's been there for about sixteen years. He's the only other person I know in Arizona who is from Maine, so our friendship started based on that. Beyond that, though, he's a really good guy and almost a paternal figure in my work life. It was a hard thing to know that he was leaving. So, along with a bunch of friends from work (including the gang I regularly have lunch with), we all planned some going-away celebrations for him, which included a four-course meal at his favorite restaurant, followed by a casual party at our house.
Thing of it is, I'd told the lunch gang all about Michael's escapades, and it made for some HUGE opportunities for teasing on their part. I never thought they'd ever get the opportunity to meet him.
You see where this is going, don't you.
Michael and Lilly were coming home on the same weekend as the party. I realized that we knew about Michael's marriage and upcoming baby, and the lunch gang knew, but Michael and Lilly didn't know that anybody knew. So once I'd mentioned to the gang that Michael was going to be home during the party, they were threatening to say something to Michael, if he hadn't told us himself before the party started. Such as, "Hey, I heard you got married!" Or, "Congratulations, Daddy!"
Oi. I was doomed.
They were just joking around though, and they reassured me that they wouldn't say anything unless I gave them the go ahead. We all met at an Italian restaurant and was subject to a four course meal including pasta with meatballs, lasagna, chicken marsala, and orange roughy. And salad, and wine. And bread, and wine. And wine, and wine.
Calvin and I left a little bit ahead of everyone else, and folks started arriving at the house at a little after ten. Before long, there were a good thirty people enjoying themselves with the libations, pool table, and music. We watched a video that we all made, little snippets from each of us making fun of our departing friend and telling stories about him, plus footage of the rather rockin' happy hour we'd had on Thursday night. The dude got wasted and was kissing everybody. Man or woman, didn't matter. It was hysterical stuff.
Michael and Lilly were mingling among the guests - well, Michael more so than Lilly. She confessed later that she's not all that fond of crowds, and that's most certainly what we had. Hysterically, Lilly also told me the next day that sometime during the party, Calvin pulled her aside and said something along the lines of, "So when is Michael going to have the balls to tell us you're pregnant?"
The poor baby. She was getting Calvin full-throttle this weekend. She went immediately to Michael, who was talking to some of the guests (I think), grabbed his arm, and muttered, "You've got to tell them, now." Later, she said he just looked at her like she'd cracked.
The guests started leaving, and by 12:30 the last of them said their goodbyes (we'd only had one mishap, in the form of a dropped wine glass, and you wouldn't believe how quickly people cleared out after that). Michael had made it clear earlier in the evening that he wanted a confab in the kitchen when the guests were gone. Actually, he'd asked me in a moment when he and I were alone, all casual-like, "So, how many people actually know?" I just raised my eyebrows at him, and said that we all definitely needed to talk.
Again, I wasn't going to make an easy out for his little confession. Yep, I can be mean when the occasion calls for it. But there's a right way to do things, and a wrong way to do things. "He needs to LEARN." (inside joke)
So once again, Marie and I were sitting on the floor of the kitchen (do you see a recurring theme, here?), while Lilly and Michael occupied the bar stools at the counter, and Calvin leaned against the sink. Michael began,
"Now, I know you guys aren't stupid."
"Um, excuse me?" Calvin countered. Not a good beginning. Michael started again, and got somewhat further. He told us that he and Lilly were expecting, and that he didn't know how to tell us because he knew that we'd be disappointed in him, and he felt like he was always disappointing us. He wanted to tell us something this big in person, but he knew he made a mistake in leaving it as long as he did.
If memory serves, that's about as far as he got before Calvin took over.
Marie and I just sat there in awe of this guy. I swear, he's really really good at being a dad. I leaned up against her and put my hand on her knee, and whispered, "This is good stuff. He's really good at this, isn't he?" She nodded in agreement.
The salient points included instruction on how Michael needs to put aside his immature ways and really start shouldering his responsibilities. He has a responsibility to Lilly, and now to this little baby, to be the best person he can be. Their relationship as a family has no room for a short fuse or displays of temper. They were going to be so tired at some points that they'll want to cry, or rage, and yet they just have to keep going. But they can never lose control, and they always have to be respectful of one another.
Calvin talked about the bond that we have as a family, and asked Michael to please tell him if there was anything about their relationship that he wanted to change. We're so used to being caught up in each other's lives, that these past couple of months of being shut out have really made us question what role Michael wants us to play in his life. But he assured us that he was counting on the strength of our family bond now more than ever. And that went a long way toward making us feel a great deal better.
At one point I thought to ask them if they'd actually planned on having the baby, or if it was unplanned. They both immediately said that the pregnancy was planned, which bewildered us. I believe the word "dumbass" was used. There is so much time to plan something like that, and we couldn't understand why they'd want to have a child - such a life-altering event! - so early in life.
Michael actually had an interesting reason. He said that Calvin had been a young dad when Michael was a baby, and Michael had such a positive experience by being brought up by a "young, fun dad", that that's the relationship he wanted to have with his child. Calvin was quite astonished - that an event he considered to come with quite a bit of negativity (teen pregnancy, young fatherhood, a "dad" before he was even really an adult), could be seen in such a different perspective as to put a positive spin on it.
The next day while soaking in the hot tub, we were talking about how amazing it is that the repercussions of a decision (or lack thereof) that Calvin made twenty years ago, are still echoing and rippling down until this very day. And the differing perspective - something that Calvin always taught Michael not to do, that Michael actually viewed as a desirable outcome - never occurred to us at all.
You know, we never thought to ask Lilly what her reason was for wanting to have a baby so young. To be sure, several times she tried to interject comments into the conversation, and subsided when she got talked over by either Calvin or Michael. She'll learn to just keep talking, but louder - I did. (I did tell Michael and Calvin to shut up a couple of times so she could be heard - she'll learn to do that, too. There are no such things as conversational manners in our family.)
At one point Lilly climbed down off the bar stool and came to sit next to Marie and I on the floor. I grabbed her hand while Calvin was lecturing Michael (it was a lecture, though a positive one, and that word doesn't immediately bring "happy" to mind). Calvin was laying his expectations on the line for Michael. That he needs to be a stand-up individual, take good care of "my grandchild", and that Michael would have Calvin to answer to if he didn't take very good care of Lilly and the baby.
Not that we're particularly concerned that Michael won't make a good husband and father, but Calvin remembers how impatient he sometimes felt as a young parent. He even acknowledges that he really expected Michael to be "a little adult" when he was a baby, and that he'd learned more patience and tolerance by the time Marie came along. So he explained to Michael that for a very long period of time, this little being would look to him and Lilly for everything. It wouldn't understand how to behave perfectly, it would just respond to its needs. So Michael and Lilly need to understand that and be patient, with the baby and each other, always.
Calvin was addressing Michael for the majority of the time, though Lilly was listening attentively. As Calvin put it to her, "You both have a great responsibility, but I'm putting most of this on Michael because, bottom line, he's the man." Calvin has very traditional views on fatherly and husbandly roles in a family.
By that time my butt had grown tired on the floor, so I moved to sit up on the kitchen counter. Marie grabbed the big tub of chocolate ice cream and two spoons, and she and Lilly sat on the floor and shared it. Marie said later that she was curious to see how Lilly would respond to that. Would she just grab the spoon and dig in (she did), or would she be reticent in sharing with Marie? An odd little "test", but the outcome seemed to satisfy Marie. "She's comfortable sharing food with me, so she's comfortable with me," is basically how I think she equated it. Marie saw it as Lilly taking our family for what it is (yes, we drink from the same glasses, eat from the same forks, and spoon from the same ice cream), and wanting to be a part of it.
Me, I just thought it was cute. Michael and Calvin grinned, watching them, too.
(Really, Lilly, we don't normally read any kind of significance into such little things. This weekend just wasn't "normal".)
Calvin then turned the topic of conversation from parenthood, to Michael and Lilly's relationship. He stressed the importance of Compatibility (Marie: "Oh God, not the C-word again!"). He said, "You're never going to change each other, so don't go into a relationship thinking that's what you're going to do. (To Michael) Lilly is who she is; she's her own person now, and will be essentially the same person five, ten, twenty years from now. So if you don't like her for who she is NOW, that's not going to change. (To Lilly) The same goes for Michael. His base personality won't change - he'll just gain a bit in wisdom and maturity (we hope). I can tell you right now that I don't feel much different in my head now than I did when I was twenty - just more fatigued. And I'll bet Michael feels the same in his head as he did five years ago." Michael nodded.
Something we don't believe in, but that might find some controversy, is the concept of "staying together for the kids". We don't happen to believe it's the right thing to do. So when Calvin stressed that they need to like each other for who they are, he also told them not to stay together if they don't like each other. Child or no child, everyone deserves a chance to find true happiness. And a child deserves a happy home, not one that is strained, with parents arguing all the time. So if the child has the opportunity for a life with parents who are together but miserable, or separated but happy, it would be better off with two happy parents that it spends individual time with.
People will argue this point differently, I know. And I'm not sure what Lilly's opinion of this issue is. I know that Michael agrees with it, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's absolutely the right viewpoint. Every circumstance, and every person, is different.
I think I've summarized the conversation fairly accurately. It was a very LONG one, but very positive. I continue to marvel at the quality of our family's relationship. These kitchen conversations are the stuff of legends, and they happen on practically a daily basis. I just can't imagine being part of a family that doesn't talk like this. And I know they're more common than not. We're really lucky, and blessed, and we know it.
It was after 2:00 in the morning by the time we figured everything had been said, but still none of us were willing to go to bed. I found some munchies, and Calvin and Michael played DJ with the stereo. Michael was looking for Journey's version of "Open Arms" to play for Lilly, but he stopped on "Separate Ways". Immediately he cranked it up, and he and Calvin both started playing air instruments - switching from drums to guitar to keyboards - and singing at Lilly, Marie, and me. We were absolutely cracking up; they put on a full-blown concert for us, singing in unison, jumping around, and doing that "wah-wah" thing with their mouths that boys do when they're playing air guitar. Lilly hollered to me, "I see where Michael gets it, now!"
Yeah. Like two geeky peas in a pod. But they're our geeky peas.
Once again we went to bed around 4:00, but this time we managed to sleep until after 10:00. The morning was spent lolling around on the couches, reading the paper (Calvin) and clipping coupons (me). Michael and Lilly got up close to twelve, but since they were leaving at 12:30, we didn't have a whole lot of time to visit.
As they were preparing to leave, Lilly sat down next to me on the couch and put her head on my shoulder. I put my arm around her and gave her a squeeze. "I don't want to leave," she said. "And I don't want you to go," I replied. We saw them out to their car, gave hugs all around (well, more than one), and then Calvin, Marie and I stood in the driveway and waved as they drove away.
It was a real Home Sweet Home moment.
Goodbyes suck. I took Lilly into my heart right away, and Michael was much more his old self after everything was out in the open. I'm really looking forward to their next visit. They want to move to Arizona when they're done with the military, and that would suit me just fine.
In the meantime I'm satisfying my thwarted maternal instinct by sending them pregnancy books (have I mentioned that I heart Amazon? The pregnancy and baby books on my wish list are for Lilly, not me) and e-mailing with Lilly constantly throughout the day. We talked a couple of times on Monday, and we'll be talking to them tonight to find out how Lilly's first prenatal appointment went. We're already trying to make plans for long visits for this summer, and for after the baby is born.
Outwardly, things in our lives aren't all that different. Calvin, Marie and I are going about our routines like we always do. But, as Calvin put it, "The Feng Shui in my brain is all messed up and moved around." Tell me about it. In the space of 48 hours, I "officially" learned that I am a mother-in-law, and I'm going to be a Grandma at 29!!! That's gotta be some kind of record.
Plus, well, I went through a little identity crisis and minor meltdown soon after Lilly and Michael left, but that's another entry for another day. This is already the longest damn entry I've ever written. Suffice to say, I've re-gained my balance (although the feelings are still there), and all is pretty much right with my world.
Plus, I have exactly 100 days to go until my Sabbatical. Hot damn, do I need it!!!