August 10th, 2004

Sea cow

Meeting the 'Rents, Part I

"Jane said she's going to give you the 3rd degree," Laura told me. "My dad's pretty laid-back, but Jane will make you sweat."

And indeed, what Laura has told me about her step-mom has already led me to think of her as a formidable woman. A child-psychologist by training, Laura's stories and my own telephonic encounters, had me expecting a a tough, world-wise woman who would see through bullshit like a bat flits through fog.

For once, I wouldn't hold her profession against her.

And so it was that, following a glorious afternoon with my Sweet Laura, we set out for the greeny glades of Mel Lastman's urban paradise - not quite so far north as Sheppard, quite a few blocks east of Yonge, Parkdale's concrete pads a long-lost myth of urban paradise past.

And in that subburban lair the dragon awaited my arrival.

But it really wasn't that bad (of course, Gentle Readers, you know that, don't you? After all, you are reading my words).

Jane is a formidable woman, no matter that she is over 70 and doesn't quite dance like Ali in his prime any more..

Happily for me, she seemed to like me. At least, she found me personable and showed no sign that she disliked me, no matter that I am fucking her step-daughter.

At any rate, the worst came after dinner.

We - Laura and I seated amidships, Dick and Jane (no jokes, please; they've heard them) seated at head and foot - took our places on the deck, our table overlooking what even I, at my anti-bourgeois best must admit was a gorgeous back yard, that would put to shame many downtown-Toronto "parkettes".

And I digress.

Where was I?

Ah yes. Dinner.

They'd asked about my background (Dick proved himself more interested than I'd been led to suspect, when he boldly demanded the reasons for my parents' divorce), my education, my work ...

But finally, as dusk bled to dark, Jane asked the question for which I had been waiting - and to which I had not been able to prepare a response.

"How old are you?" she started, with the stealth of the aged. "You seem to have a certain ... maturity."

"Well," I said slowly, playing for time, as if I imagined I would come up with the "right" answer in 30 seconds, when 30 hours had not previously sufficed. "Well, I fear you have been misinformed, first of all ..."

(Yes, more playing for time; but also, I wanted to establish that I was not going to bullshit them, even if Laura had.)

"I am 39," I said, knowing Dick and Jane had been told I was 33 (why Laura thought that 6 years made a difference only she can tell - though I have my theories).

Jane took my revelation in stride; had I not already known that she had been (er) misinformed, I would have thought she'd known the truth all along.

She nooded. "Yes, 39.

"And what then, are you doing with her? What is it, exactly, that a man of your age, sees in her?"

I acknowledged the legitimacy of her question with great imagination. "That's a legitimate question," I said.

Jane was not impressed.

"She's smart as hell," I said.

"It's true," he dad acknowledged, and I blessed him for it, "Her IQ is 150."

Jane was losing control, as Laura muttered (just loud enough to add to the interrogation's recess), "Actually, it was 142."

"She's smart," I repeated, pleased at the reinforcements. "And she's funny; she's witty; and she's observant. And she keeps me on my toes."

"And ...?"

" ... And?" Jane asked again, with a hint of impatience.

(Well, a "hint" is putting it mildly. Picture Margeret Thatcher entertaining the Argintine ambassador following the former's invasion of the Falkland Islands: imagine the Iron Maiden "hinting" that it might be in the best interests of General Galtieri to admit he made a mistake, and so withdraw his soldiers from the line of Maggie's onrushing handbag.

But I digress.

Jane wanted to know what it was that I, so much older than Laura, saw in her. "And?" she asked again, still quiet but clearly a woman who would get an answer.

I laughed - busted.

"It'd be a lot easier to answer if I didn't like Laura so much. I mean, what can I say?

"I know it will sound ludicrous to you - it even does to me - seeing as how there are 22 years between us. But ...

"But, she makes me think; she makes me laugh; she shows me the world anew ...

"... and, she makes me happy. I enjoy her company like few people I've known in my entire life ..."

I shook my head and looked Jane in the eye, then shrugged.

And, I guess, I passed the test. The rest of the over-hyped inquisition had more to do with pragmatic concerns about camping techniques than it did with philosophical or parental worries that Laura has enmeshed herself with a psychopath.

Her folks are now worrying only about bugs and bears and whether I can cook, rather than the metaphysics of love and responsibility.

Which is just as well, for Young Geoffrey will now face another test, this one with several barrels, and all coming from much closer to home.

His niece will likely be in Sudbury when he arrives - her only comment about Laura came when she saw my wallpaper (as you, my regular Gentle Readers know, it consists of Laura) was to wonder, "Have you actually met her?"; his mother, he fears, is embarassed to have to admit that her 39 year-old son's girlfriend is 17; and who the hell knows what his Marxist, superb-musician younger brother will think?

So, that's right folks.

Next stop Sudbury! The Wild North! And my mom (who, not too many years ago, chased a bear out of her living room, armed with nought but her voice and hard-flapping limbs).

And also, Laura and Geoff will spend4 days in one another's face, perhaps the most serious test of them all.