When I was a boy there were two moderately sized cities of approximate distance from the small town my family lived in. Each was about equal in size and economy. They both had a movie theater and hospital, and they both had fairgrounds and attractions of about the same size- though they were in opposite directions. My parents were in their early 20s then, and had all of the energy and spontaneity that age warranted. It’s so odd to remember my parents as half my own age- mostly kids- but my mind has been drifting there often as of late.
The northern town has long since dried up, economically. The hospital shuttered. The theater shuttered. The annual fair stopped stopping by. Poverty set in. Drugs became very popular. Property values plummeted. But, long ago in the 80s, it was not so- and on a trip there for some kind of shopping, just me and my mother, we passed a place visible from the freeway called Sea Shell City and on a whim we stopped there. I don’t know why it’s such a vivid memory. I think my mother was particularly charming that day, and we were getting on especially well. I remember browsing the various shells for sale. Shell ornaments. Shell mugs. Shell lamps. Everything shell. My mother with dark red hair and huge sunglasses and a beaming smile.
She’s got a boyfriend now, and she wants us all to meet him. Our dad has been dead for two years and I think we all just assumed that pushing 70, and seemingly very sick of “men” in general, we wouldn’t have to suffer through something like this but alas. She broke the news in a group text. None of us boys have responded since, though our sister and collective wives/girlfriends all chimed in support. I support her too, of course, in being happy and moving on and experiencing novelty and wonder in life- it’s just so damn awkward, and I am over meeting new people and having to hang out with both them and my family. The new in-laws and the new friends and the random church people make her happy, but I guess I just miss my core family.
Then again, there isn’t much of a core there without my old man. Strange, as aloof and disconnected from everyone he seemed, his presence really anchored us together. I suppose families are supposed to change eventually- generations trade hands. Christmases start being hosted by the younger folks. All that good stuff. But meeting my mom’s new boyfriend when Sunday dinners with all my siblings and my parents- which my Dad started, I believe, long long ago with his signature dish of chicken canned corn and mashed potatoes- still feels so fresh in my mind, makes me want to gag. I hope I can figure out a way to get over it and be supportive before my face betrays me.