There was quite a furor in my house. The kids were upset, my wife was uncharacteristically quiet, and once again I found myself in the role of therapist for this band of brooding, yet quite lovable barbarians. As innocent as it appeared to me, there was much anxiety over the news that my 80 year old mother-in-law had a boyfriend.
“Who is this man?”, one of my daughters asked.
“What does Bubbie need a boyfriend for?”, another one shouted out.
“We need to check this guy out.”, a son chimed in. “What if he’s after her money or something?” I sat listening to this diatribe, wondering what he hell had happened to what I thought was a reasonably sensible family.
“I don’t know who he is.”, my wife said. “Except that he’s younger than her, and he’s French.”
“He’s a gigolo.”, another son entered the fray.
“Are they, like dating?”, a daughter asked.
“It appears that way.”, my wife responded. “He just moved into her building.”
“Oh my God!”, a daughter quipped. “Are they living together?”
“No.”, my wife said. “He has his own apartment. A few floors above hers.”
“Well, that’s convenient.”, I said. Its probably not even furnished..”
“What is that supposed to mean?”, my wife asked, with arms folded.
“It means they are probably living together.”, a son replied. “He just rented his own apartment to make it look good.”
“They are not living together.”, my wife stated. “And please”, she added as she looked directly at me, “If you’re not going to help, then just say nothing.”
“I just don’t think there’s anything to get so upset about.”, I said. “The woman has been a widow for almost 40 years. She spent all of that time alone. I think its good for her to meet someone and try to be happy.”
“Well, it’s not your mother, is it?”, my wife reminded me. And true enough, it wasn’t.
“We need to meet this guy.”, a son said. “We need to check him out and make sure he’s okay for Bubbie.”
“We should just put him in the trunk of his car and leave him in the parking lot at the Airport.”, someone said.
“This isn’t a Mafia hit.”, I interjected.
“What if they’re having sex?”, a daughter asked.
“They’re not having sex.”, my wife answered.
“How do you know?”, I asked.
“Because they’re not.”, she said. “You’re still not helping.”, she said to me.
“Well”, I offered.”Why don’t we ask your mother and her friend to join us for lunch. We’ll all go. We can meet him, and see what’s going on. Maybe then you can all stop talking about it.” There are times when I have wonderfully brilliant solutions to all of my families troubles, but not one of them will ever let me know. This was one of those times.
“Okay.”, my wife said. “I call my mother and make arrangements for this weekend.”
“I’m going to grill him.”, a daughter said. “No one messes with my Bubbie.”
“We could take him outside and threaten him.”, a son said. “You know, scare the crap out of him.”
“Who are you?”, I asked him. “We’re not the Sopranos!”
“We will all behave.”, my wife said. “It will be a nice getting to know you, and welcome to the family lunch.”
“He’s not in my family.”, a daughter said.
“Does he even speak English?”, a daughter asked.
“He speaks English.”, I assured her. “But like a Frenchman. Just mumble, close your eyes and move your head around a bit when you speak to him. He’ll understand perfectly.”
As the day of the luncheon rolled around, everyone was working on their own agendas. There were those who had plans to batter the man with incessant questioning, while others were planning on intimidating and threatening. My wife wasn’t sure how she would react. She hoped that she would like him, for her mother’s sake, but she already had issue with him. Me, well, it made no difference to me whatsoever. I was pretty far removed from the emotional turbulence that had overwhelmed my family. If he was alright, then I was alright. All of the kids and their significant others met at the restaurant about 20 minutes before we arranged for them to come. We were an intimidating site for a newcomer, all 10 of us, seated at the table, some with a scornful demeanor, and visible uneasiness. “Please make sure your children behave.”, my wife whispered to me.
“Why are they suddenly mine?”, I asked.
“Because you taught them to be rude and disrespectful.”, she said.
“Okay.”, I said to my kids. “You really need to tone it down, and behave yourselves. Be nice. Be polite. We’re hear for your grandmother. Let’s try to make her happy.”
When they arrived, we all sat there talking, introducing ourselves, and trying to get to know the Frenchman. I’m sure he knew the scrutiny he was under. I’m sure my mother-in-law warned him about our family. But he was alright. He held his own. One of my daughters kept giving him the ‘stink eye’, and I had to glare at her to get her to stop. It turned out that the Frenchman had a crap load of money, owned several properties across Canada, including a beach house in Nova Scotia, and a Condo in Vancouver. I could see my daughter’s eyes light up, with dollar signs floating around her face. My mother-in-law seemed happy, the happiest I had seen her in many, many years. My wife, struggling a little to let go of the ghost of her father, also saw her mother’s happiness. We finished lunch, and said our goodbyes, as they had a long drive back to Windsor. As the rest of us walked towards our cars, there was much chatter about the Frenchman.
“He seems okay.”, a son said.
“I still don’t like him.”, a daughter said.
“Do you think I could get him to pay off my student loan?”, another daughter asked.
“I hate the French.”, someone stated.
In the car, heading home, my wife asked me what I thought of him. “I don’t know.”, I told her. “He seems nice enough, and your mother is very happy.”
“I don’t want her to get hurt.”, she said.
“Ah, honey.”, I said. “They’re 80 years old. He can’t get her money because we have signing authority. What’s left for him to take? Her virtue? That ship sailed a long, long time ago. Let her have fun. We will take care of her, but she needs to live.”
“I know.”, she said. “I just worry that he’ll leave or something, and then she’ll have nothing.”
“She’ll have us.”, I reminded her.
“Thank you for looking out for my mother.”, she told me.
“And besides”, I stated. “If he hurts her, we can always have him stuffed into the trunk of a car parked at the airport. Your gangster son would gladly do the job.”
“Oh, so now he’s my son.”, she exclaimed.
“Yes.”, I explained. “The crazy shit they get from you. The kids and I refer to it as ‘getting Moroccan’.”
“Well”, she said, “We have some time without any kids. Interested in some crazy Moroccan sex?”
“It so happens that’s my favorite kind.”, I told her. Man, I love this woman..