The Parental Summit Report

Well, in the spirit of considering parents and their children everywhere, I want to start with an announcement that my blog-rating has changed since I last checked. This Blog is Now Rated:

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

* dyke (20x) * pissed (7x)
* fucking (16x) * death (5x)
* shit (13x) * dead (4x)
* suicide (11x) * hell (2x)
* fuck (9x) * mother-fucker (1x)
* kill (8x)

So, don't say I didn't warn you.

Not that there will be a lot of dirty words in this post. After all, I'm talking about my Mom and Dad.

All in all, I had a very nice time with them. I will highlight some particularly "parental" moments, to give you an idea of the visit.

Saddest moment (already recounted): Mom saying "Oh, I wouldn't write my stories down. I've never done anything exciting". I did follow through with frequent nudgings and encouragement to her to tell her tales, and I think that it might have gotten through. I'm going to keep on her about it, though, until she flat out says: "No. I don't want to."

Most Surprising Moment: My parents really loved one of my friends who I wasn't sure they would get on with. In fact, my mom even commented that "she has kind of an edge, doesn't she?", but also said to her as she left after a day on the whale watching boat: "I don't always like all of my daughter's friends, but I like you."

Best moment: My dad is really great at telling awful jokes. My mom only laughs at a few jokes at all, but those which she enjoys, she does make the attempt to re-tell occasionally. The moment of the visit that is most imprinted in my memory is my 80-year-old mother, attempting the tell the joke about the condoms and the Dramamine, but cracking up so badly that she was weak with laughter, and literally could not get the punch-line out. (The punch-line is "Son, if it makes you so sick, maybe you should consider giving it up.")

My mom is a bit of a mystery to me. She is incredibly self-contained -- a classic stoic midwestern Swede -- but she pops up with stuff like this every once in a while (she told me one of the funniest penis jokes I've ever heard -- I'd recount it here, but it's a visual joke), and even though she will seemingly walk a million miles to avoid an "uncomfortable" situation, she can also be suddenly and brashly honest (a couple of glasses of wine helps).

We went to a casino and played blackjack together (my parents, retired school teachers, only discovered that they enjoyed gambling after they had been retired for a number of years). My mom is incredibly lucky, and a really sharp blackjack player. She looks like a nice old lady, and dealers seem a bit surprised when she starts playing, and winning. We didn't win any money, but we didn't lose much, either, and we had a lot of fun.

On our way home from the casino, we stopped at a cafe that touts one of the nation's best hamburgers -- Fat Smitty's, on Route 101. I hadn't been to Smitty's since before 9/11, and the place has . . . . well, undergone a bit of a transformation. Smitty is an ex-Marine, and the cafe has always sported various Semper Fi stuff, but this time, the table-cloths were plasticized red, white, and blues, "patriotic" stuff was all over, and there was a framed picture of Preznut over the cash register (which, if my parents had seen it BEFORE we ordered, probably would have nixed this restaurant for them, as they are lonely democrats in a very red state).

We took an all day excursion on a whale-watching boat and saw stellar sea-lions, a mincke whale, porpoises, the beautiful San Juan islands, and lots of fog. The Orcas were hiding out, apparently. My parents have become avid travelers since their retirement, so they enjoyed themselves but did not seem over-awed by the magnificence of where I live, except in that way that I still am, after nearly 30 years in the Northwest.

I ate more meat this last week than I usually consume in a month, beat my Mom at Scrabble three times,
learned how to play rummi-cube, and hung out, hung out, hung out.

We had some political conversation, and this part was interesting -- I was always the "radical" in the family. As we were visiting, and Bush was doing his speech on Thursday night (in the background), I made the comment that I sometimes felt a real human compassion for him from this perspective: That I don't think it's possible for a human to practice these deep levels of inauthenticity without suffering deep, soul-searing damage, and that, in that sense, I felt sad for him.

My mom said: "Are you kidding? He doesn't have a conscience. He's an idiot." It was kind of strange -- in some ways, my statement was still kind of "radical" -- this time because of my spiritual approach, rather than a political stance -- still, it was the first time that I had the sense of me being the "moderating" voice in the conversation.

I've had a rather strange life, from my parent's perspective -- I've had a million different jobs (they worked in the same field until they retired), a large number of relationships (they've been married to one person for nearly 60 years), and it's never been a big goal of mine to get rich. I live in intentional community, which is how I intend to live for the rest of my life, and this, I think, is kind of mysterious to them.

Sometimes I suspect that they come out to visit me just to make sure I'm "doing OK". Unfortunately, their perspective on what "doing OK" means has a lot to do with whether you own a certain type and amount of property, how much money you have in savings, and whether you have a "solid" job. My perspective on what "doing OK" means . . . . . no, wait -- I don't even WANT to just "do OK" -- I want to thrive and grow and flourish -- so my definition of a "good" life has to do with whether I love my work (which I do), whether I am involved in a vibrant, deliriously loving relationship (which I am), and whether I have real, thriving relationships with my friends and my community (which I also do).

I think of myself as incredibly successful, and very rich. Most people who would look at my bank balance (and thank god my parents' middle-class, midwest sensibilities are such that they would never, ever ask me what my bank balance was, because I think it would freak them out) would not think of me as "rich". However, a lot of people who look at my life tell me that they wish they had a life like mine.

My dad did (delicately) ask if I had a "401-K or anything like that" one day. I said "No". He then asked if I had kept up on my social security (self-employed for nearly 20 years). I said "Yes, of course." I could see them visibly relax. "Oh good," they said in unison. I think their concern is truly just a basic human desire to make sure their kids are going to be okay -- however, what would be "OK" for them is very different than what would be "OK" for me, in terms of a fulfilling life, so it's sometimes hard to bridge that cultural divide.

Still, it felt good to have my parents in for a close-up look at my world, and it seems to comfort them. Last year, when I went back to Kansas to visit for Dad's 80th birthday, as we were leaving, he said to my spouse: "Thank you for taking such good care of our daughter." Sweet, but the Beloved and I kind of rolled our eyes at one another as we drove away -- our relationship is based profoundly on each of us taking good care of ourselves, and supporting one another to take care of ourselves, and then sharing the wonderful riches that result from that self-care.

This year, as we were bidding the 'rents fare-thee-well, Dad said to spouse: "Thank you for loving our daughter so well."

"Ah!" I thought, "I think they may be getting it."

Posted byPortlyDyke at 10:13 AM  


Anonymous said... September 15, 2007 at 6:41 PM  

Sounds like you had a great week with the parental units.
I've really enjoyed the posts about your visit with them as my visit with Dad comes ever closer.

Jennifer said... September 16, 2007 at 6:15 AM  

What beautiful stories, Portly. Thanks for sharing them.

Emily said... September 16, 2007 at 2:47 PM  

I do hope that you will be able to convince your mother to tell her stories ...

The week sounds good. Bradley and I don't see our families all that often (we live in south FL, and everyone lives everywhere else). We do get to see his entire immediate family at Thanksgiving. But I bet there won't be good penis jokes.

We're a trivial pursuit kind of family, though. That's the only game I can win, so that's fine with me.

Oh ... and what part of Kansas (can I ask?)? Just curious.

PortlyDyke said... September 16, 2007 at 6:53 PM  

Emporia, Kansas (where I spent years 14 - 22). Prior to that, Marion Kansas, a teeny-tiny town.

Emily said... September 18, 2007 at 4:07 PM  

My grandparents went to college in Emporia in the 1930s. In fact, a good part of my family lived in that area about that time (we think some of the great-grandparental types are buried there ... no one really seems to know ... we should check into that).

Crazy small world it is sometimes.

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