Our family celebrated my cousin Lindy’s engagement today with a wedding shower/fiesta/eat-a-thon. Lynnette was in charge of the games and one of the contests she selected was the Newlywed Game. Lindy and her fiance Lars were obligated to play, as were Lindy’s parents. The final couple ended up being my mom and dad. Man, they struggled.My dad had to answer the first five questions, the first of which was in regards to my mom’s favorite color. Now, my brothers, Tanya, Lynnette, and Madison all know the answer is “barley”. My dad wrote brown – which is close, and considering my dad is an pack-of-8-crayons kind of guy, probably should have earned a point – but impossibly, my mom said “black”. My dad was flummoxed when asked about mom’s favorite restaurant. My mom sat in front of him, facing away. Her face contorted constantly. “How I am supposed to know her favorite restaurant if she doesn’t even know what it is?” my dad argued. My mom laughed and nodded. So did every other male in the room except for Cole and Declan.
My parents had a hard time remembering their first date, and the first time they kissed. When my mom and dad drew a blank on the latter question, my aunt Jess blurted out “Longs Drugs parking lot!” “Eww!” I said as I pretended to walk out of the room. “Coulda been,” my mom said. I don’t know if she was joking. But, I mean, it doesn’t matter, does it? After a rough opening round, my mom said “What matters is that the three of you are here now,” while gesturing to Matty, Paul, and me. It was a really poor justification, but she’s right.I wonder what my parents see when they look at their three sons and their four grandchildren. I think about how the time in my life has flown by and wonder if they don’t feel that strain exponentially.
As they tried to recall the answers to Lynnette’s questions, a cool thing started to happen. My mom and dad began to walk each other through their memories. They rattled off names and places at the same time. They smiled and laughed. “Oh, yeah, yeah,” my dad said. “That’s right!” my mom said. Obviously, I can’t remember what my parents were like before they had children and my mom developed undiagnosed OCD, and my dad became a full-time, year-round baseball coach. I don’t get to seem them do this very often. It’s so cool. There’s pettiness, inside jokes, and inequality baked in to the way they communicate. Of course, they remind me of Lynnette and me.
After those first few questions, my mom seemed embarrassed and sad that she couldn’t remember the answers. I felt bad for her but I didn’t blame her. I know I’m going to forget, too. There are many things I already have. Twenty years or so ago, I had a really good memory. I memorized entire dialogues from movies. I had committed to memory bands’ discography and the tracklisting for each album. I knew every starter at every position, the starting pitchers, and the closer for every single Major League Baseball team. In college, I often used this information to test my own sobriety. I would ask a friend to name a team and a position, then I would respond with the player’s name. When I stopped being able to do this, I would admit that perhaps I was drunk. Then immediately ask for another team and another position. I can no longer do any of these things. I want to say that’s because I don’t need to – but I didn’t need to then, either.
My mom and dad are clowns. Either they hid it from us while we lived under their roof, or it is a recent development that began after we moved out. I love them more now than ever. A lot of that is because I’m a parent, but a lot of it is also that they aren’t trying to tell me how to live me life. I see them as people, as Al and Karen, two crazy-ass kids who had a kid in their teens, decided to triple down with two more, and lived to tell the tale. Well, the parts they remember, anyway. One day, I hope I have what they do.