Val rockets his tricycle across the living room, slamming it against the front door. I have watched him do it time and again, a 3-year-old on a mission. Heaven forbid the front door of the Buhne Street house be left open. It happened years ago in King City, when my brother, Peter, climbed aboard his tricycle and found an open door. They caught him riding north on the center line of Highway 101, destination unknown. We relive those days on our nightly calls from Peter’s prison.
Truth be told, I prefer the jarring confinement of the closed front door. I can’t handle freedom, the only old man I know who needs parental supervision. That’s why I prefer to be married and every period of my singlehood has been a search for that security. Oddly enough, it’s not easy. I have yet to meet the expectations of the other partner as hard as I have tried. My ex-wife in Maine tells me she let me go because she “had trouble with men.” On the other hand, she wrote in her diary that I was a good kisser. If so, why did she kiss me goodbye?
Now, in one of life’s great ironies, my Dominican wife says she loves the idea of family but marriage may be too much. In her view, I have been a generous man, a great provider and father. It is just that I haven’t lived up to her fantasy. I am sure it didn’t help that I almost left this world last summer, gasping on an oxygen machine and stumbling forward with a walker. It could be that life in these prosperous United States is too overwhelming or just too darned cold. I may never know. I am sure that in time, I will figure things out. In the meantime, I put private thoughts to paper because it helps me to give the beast a name.
I have learned something from every relationship in which I have been, even from the woman whose father sold machine guns from the trunk of his car. During a visit from my mother, my girlfriend mandated a choice: spend free time with her or my mother. That was an easy one. From my ex-spouse, Catherine, I learned I could be a father, adopting her child. Now our daughter is a career U.S. Foreign Service officer. And besides, I learned how to be a good kisser.
Now, I can look back at my Dominican experiment with similar pride. I speak adequate Spanish and know the ins and outs of immigration. I also embrace my second daughter, Leticia, who has become my rock star. Sometimes, as they say, a child leads us. I have shown her life’s adventure from Hollywood to Bethlehem and places in between. We have also tossed water balloons in the barren flower fields of Lompoc, where I grew up. Best of all, she picked me up when I fell so often this summer, the hard landing of a man with life-threatening coronary issues.
So, heading into the holidays, I am not sure how to act. I had always enjoyed buying a family tree and window shopping on those chilly December nights. I will this year, too, but it won’t be the same.
It is good that I am finishing my book, the one I wrote this summer when the doctor said my cognition was impaired. It is also a relief that I will be working again, assuming I pass the drug test. If they are testing for diuretics or heart pills, I have a problem.
It could be that I, too, am victim of a fantasy. If traditional weddings were so commonplace, why do we watch the Hallmark Channel? Isn’t that just the same old thing?
So, I am thinking of an old-fashioned Dave-style Christmas. My dear friend, Charlie, and I want to take a parolee to Disneyland to see Mickey Mouse in his holiday glory. Planning has been going well, except that our parolee has been arrested again. There is always something, isn’t there?
No, I have not given up on white lace and promises or on the concept of home for the holidays. Sometimes, you have to improvise. So, climb back on that tricycle and hope for the best.
Dave Silverbrand’s columns and other writings are available on his website, www.davespeople.com.