We had a small dinner party for Ralph’s birthday last week. His favorite roast chicken and the above birthday cake, which made him laugh. As long as his sense of humor holds I figure we are doing ok.
As we stood around waiting for the chicken to come out of the over (a slight mechanical failure in pushing buttons having caused the cooking time to stretch longer than expected), conversation turned mildly political. No one was disagreeing but people were analyzing causes and results.
Ralph suddenly became very heated, in a way he never gets these days, and accused a friend of talking down to him. Shortly afterwards he headed out to the porch, to smoke I assumed. A few minutes later he was back, relaxed and charming.
The same friend who’d just upset Ralph began discussing how his poor hearing has created problems for him when he has conversations. I could see Ralph was listening carefully and that the two men were bonding in a new way. Without any overt statement they were acknowledging and empathizing.
I was so enjoying this pleasant moment after the earlier upset that I almost didn’t bother to check my phone when it beeped that I had a tex. I’m glad I did.
The text was from my son
“Don’t tell him I told you but dad just told me he couldn’t keep up with ur convo and felt like he was ‘slipping’. Maybe make sure he’s being included. I think he stepped away from table to call me or something.”
“I told him ‘who cares’ just do your own thing blah blah.”
I texted back about the little almost argument and how much better Ralph seemed.
“Oh good. I mean honestly was really weird cause he sounded really really down when he called. And then I kinda said that he like did sound a lot better, like a switch flipped. Was actually eager to get off phone and get back.”
I texted back that I found it “interesting” that Ralph trusted our son enough to call him under these circumstances. They have never had an easygoing relationship. Not understanding and even a little intimidated by his bookishness, Ralph recognizes he was too hard on our son as a kid and now is almost shy around him.
“Yeah, I was surprised, it was sweet.”
The rest of the evening was a rousing success, Ralph more involved and emotionally present than he’s been for some time, and more openly affectionate with our friends than I have ever seen him.
But for me, the moment of pure between father and son (and mother and son) is the birthday gift that keeps on giving.
P.S. Speaking of gifts, after one more crisis concerning a flat tire, the tractor finally seems to be working!