by Fielding Goodfellow
“They need to start figuring things out on their own.” my wife said. “I can’t be dealing with all of their shit, all of the time.” It had felt like that for both of us for almost six months and there didn’t seem to be any end in sight. “Why can’t they figure it out on their own? We did.” she continued. It was really starting to get to her I mean, she had been dealing the brunt of it. The only calls that came my way were the pleas for money, or the two in the morning medical emergencies. My wife dealt with the rest and it was driving her precariously close to the point of no return. I had only seen her there once before, and the carnage was indescribable. The story is legendary, recounted year after year in suburban family rooms and around campfires every summer.
As the plans for the rapidly approaching holiday family fiesta got under way, I couldn’t figure out why she bothered, I mean if history had taught us anything it was that nothing good had ever come out of having all five of our kids together at the same time. There was always an inordinate amount of crap to deal with, and we were always the ones left to clean it up when they all went home. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked.
“Not really” she said, “but they’re still our kids. We’ll just do what we have to do and have a nice evening.” I thought that she was being a bit too optimistic, but that was just the way she was.
The kids arrived with the reckless abandon usually reserved for frat parties or English football games, chanting out their resentment of the traffic snarls and parking issues they faced on their journey downtown, each one sharing their indignation with the others. “Hang up your coats.” my wife said as they began tossing them haphazardly across the furniture.
One of my daughter’s arrived with her new boyfriend, a nice enough guy I suppose, but he seemed very out of place as she dragged him around and introduced him to the family. I was informed that they were living together, and to be honest, I was a little surprised. “What happened to the little guy?” I asked my wife.
“That ended almost a year ago.” she said. “Where have you been?” More often than not I felt like I needed a scorecard to keep track of all of the comings and goings within my family, I mean I’m generally out of the loop. My wife has told me that its my own doing. She thinks that I should take more of an interest in my kids’ lives but to be honest, I’m just too busy surfing the waves of my own discontentment with humanity to pay attention to their piddly ass, little lives.
Somewhere between the soup and the brisket all hell broke loose. “I quit my job.” one of my sons said. There was a moment of silence as my wife looked at me. Her eyes were dark and she had stopped blinking. “The chef is a prick and I’m tired of him always giving me shit.”
“What are you going to do?” one of the kids asked.
“I don’t know.” My son said. “It’ll work itself out.”
“When are you going to grow up?” my wife asked. “You have bills to pay.”
“Its not a big deal.” my son said. “Worst case scenario, I’ll just move home until I sort it all out.” I swear I saw steam coming out of my wife’s ears, and I put my hand on her thigh, gently squeezing it to let her know that I was there to support her. It turned out to be just a cake burning in the oven, but the boy had certainly pissed his mother right off.
“Just so you understand” she said, “if you really need to move home, you’d better figure out how you’re going to pay for it. If you have no money, you’re going to have to pay your way by working around here. There is no free ride any longer. Not for any of you.” A hush fell over the room that seemed to last forever. No one seemed to know what to say or do next. I wanted someone to pass the eggplant, but it just didn’t seem like the right time.
“I suppose you feel the same way?” my son asked me.
“Not at all.” I said. “I think your mother and I should just move away and leave you kids to sort out your own damn lives.”
“Well that’s a little irresponsible.” one of my daughters said. “You’re our parents. If you weren’t prepared to be a parent, you shouldn’t have had kids.” I could feel the muscles in my wife’s thigh tighten and I realized that the point of no return had been crossed. I just hoped that it would be quick and merciful.
“I’m okay.” My wife said to me as she squeezed my hand that was still on her thigh. “I’m okay.” She leaned back in her chair, and took an incredibly deep breath. “You are, without a doubt, the most self-centered and ungrateful people I have ever known. We have spent our lives teaching you, taking care of you, protecting you and fighting for you even if we didn’t like the choices you made. If you don’t like how we parent, feel free to make the choice to get out of my house. All of you need to grow up and learn how to take care of yourselves and maybe spend some time in your incredibly busy unemployed days to make sure that we’re okay. I don’t remember the last time any of you has ever bothered to find out if we need anything. And now, you can sit here and finish eating or take whatever you want with you, but your father and I are going to leave. We’re going to our room now as the old man has had his hand on my thigh for the last fifteen minutes, and I think its excited the hell out him.” We stood up and headed into the bedroom, leaving the murmuring of the kids and their partners behind.
“Well that was brilliant.” I said.
“Do you think I was a too rough on them?” she asked.
“Not at all” I said, “but then I like it rough, and they’ll get over it. What about you?”
“I’m already over it.”
“So, what now?” I asked.
“Well I notice you’ve got your hand on my thigh again.” she said. “I’ve never lied to the kids, so I suppose we could get a little rough, if you’re interested.”