Friday, September 18, 2009

Todd: Family Values

A lot of time has passed since I found out Deb, in my body, had impregnated a girl named Erica (previously a totally platonic friend I would never have had sex with. Probably.)

I guess I had a few expectations getting my life back. I wanted it to be exactly as I had left it, but the truth is, that was not going to be possible anyway. Before I even left for the States, I quit my job and broke up with my girlfriend, who, before we could reconcile, went and got herself transformed. No matter how I spin it, this wasn't going to be the life I wanted to get back to, so sure, why not toss in a bastard lovechild for good measure?

It is entirely likely I overreacted in my description but the truth is, I felt pretty betrayed by what Deb had done. It's not so bad that she went ahead and had sex with Erica. Yes it complicated a relatively simple, innocent acquaintanceship needlessly, but I'm used to it. I could've moved past the awkwardness like it never happened. But now there's evidence. Now it's a thing. And I guess I'm mad that Deb would've been so careless. Or that Erica would be so careless. Someone was careless and it wasn't me.

After writing that last post, I felt the urge to go see my mom. She lives in Etobicoke, far from the hustle-and-bustle of downtown life and really not that hard to get to, but for some reason I had been putting it off since getting home. I guess I was too wrapped up in my own life to think about her.

So I went out to see her without any clear decision as to whether I'd be telling her about my situation. When I got there, I had no idea what to say.

She told me, "I can tell you've got something on your mind" as she poured me an Irish coffee (we do love to drink in our family.) I was wringing my hands and drumming my fingers. Nervous habits. I wondered to myself if she'd noticed my "nervous habits" had changed over the last year. I wondered if Deb ever actually came out to visit her. "So what brings you out here?"

I wanted to tell her. I felt it all welling up in my throat as I thought back to the morning I was transformed into Anne-Marie, and after realizing I would not be going right back to Toronto, she was the second person I thought of (after Alia of course.) I wanted to tell her how I had spent a year living in a house ten times nicer than any place we'd ever lived and how it gave me an appreciation of everything she did to provide for me while Dad was in and out of the marriage (the situation between my parents was... confusing, maybe I'll explain it someday.) About how I had tried my hand at parenthood - motherhood to be exact - and occasionally found it enjoyable. When I think back on it now, more than anything about Anne-Marie's life, I miss Hayley and Connor.

I stammered, "It's been a while. I don't come around as often as I should."

She laughed. "I suppose not. I only raised you, after all."

"It's been a very... strange year."

"Are you ready to talk about it, then?"

"Talk about what?"

"Your mental breakdown."

I did a double-take. "My what?"

"Well, what would you call it? Your girlfriend broke up with you, you quit your job..."

"I wouldn't call it a mental breakdown." Well, maybe I would have.

"I didn't mind when you said you had the flu at Christmas. You didn't call me on my birthday. You didn't come to your cousin Terri's engagement party." My cousin Terri got engaged? "I don't blame you, you never were the most organized, but I want you to know I've noticed. A mother notices these things and I want you to tell me if there's something wrong."

"I didn't mean to worry you, mom--"

"Oh, you want to talk about worried? How abut disappearing to the States for months on end with hardly a postcard or e-mail?"

I sat thinking about it for a moment, my mind running over the effect my absence had had on my mother. I had been very involved with Anne-Marie's family, but Deb hadn't gone out of her way to be part of mine. And as much as I wanted to be mad at her for that, the fact is it wasn't that far off from the way I had been before. I'd come to family gatherings and act aloof from everyone, snipe and start arguments with distant relatives if it suited me, because I didn't like being made to interact with them. Shit, more than one Thanksgiving/Christmas/Birthday/Reunion I came stoned and/or drunk just to deal with it, when I wasn't outright skipping them. The behaviour my mom was chiding me for was my own, not just Deb's.

"I needed to grow up," I told her.

"Well I'm glad you said it." She smiled a warm, motherly grin, "But what are you going to do about it?"

I took a long, thoughtful sip and decided to tell her.

"Something's happened. Someone's pregnant."

"Someone?" She asked. I nodded. "Not Alia?"

"No."

"Are you seeing this girl?"

"No. Someone else is."

She heaved a deep, disappointed sigh. I was sure to add, "He wasn't seeing her at the time. I think they were, you know, broken up, or on a break or whatever, and I didn't think it was going to-- well, it doesn't matter. I made a mistake." The weird thing is, I have made mistakes, and it would do me well to admit them, even if this isn't one of them.

"And what happens now?" she asked. "Is she keeping it?"

"To my knowledge."

"And you're, what, going to help raise it? Support the kid? Play dad? Or just sign the kid away to his other daddy?"

"I... I haven't figured it out yet."

"Well," she finished her coffee, and I'd finished mine, so she cleared the cups away. "When you do, let me know. Because I want to help you, but you've got to decide these things for yourself. I want you to do whatever you feel is right, Todd."

"Thanks, mom," I stood to leave. I gave her a big, warm hug and a kiss. It felt good to reconnect with her... we hadn't talked that seriously since way, way before I left. I forgot how much of a straight-talker she can be when the situation calls for it. She can be a tough lady, my mom, and I admire her for it.

I left still not knowing what to do, but feeling I was on the right track to properly addressing the situation.

-Todd

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