Monday, July 05, 2010

A Different Kind Of Freedom (Part 2 of 2)

The family that hangs-over together, hangs-in together
This was one for the books. This was one that we as a family will laugh about for years, but one that will forever live in a much softer place in my heart as well.

It’s surreal, drinking with your kids; truly acknowledging them as adults; as equals.

On the flipside, while it wasn’t the first time either of them have been tipsy in our presence, it was definitely the first time my son had been shitfaced in all his unabashed glory, in front of me.

Kinda made me feel special, it did. To know that after all the years of ‘shields up,’ he now feels comfortable enough to just let it all hang out.

Here’s how it happened:

Amy was coming home from the ATL for the 4th, and we had decided that we would treat ourselves as a family to everyone’s favorite Mexican Restaurant, Poncho’s Place in Franklin.

Amy arrived at our house at about 4:30pm Friday afternoon, and we’d made prior plans to meet Shawn at Pancho’s at around 5:30. He beat us there by fifteen minutes or so.

When Michelle, Amy and I arrived at the restaurant, Son #1 was already there waiting, seated in a booth. However we could barely see him for the GIANT 40 OZ. MARGARITA on the table that was nearly blocking his head from view.

¡Ay, caramba!

I had never seen a cocktail that size in my LIFE! I knew that Pancho’s featured huge, 36oz beers, but this had to be BIGGER than that!

We all got a pretty big kick out of the frosty lime green spectacle, and Shawn admitted that he had no idea what he was ordering when he asked for the ‘jumbo’ frozen margarita.

Considering that he also volunteered that he’d been drinking beer by a friend’s pool since midday, and already conspicuously bore the heavy eyelids of inebriation-in-process; we knew that this was gonna be an interesting evening.

But lest you think my son a lush, please believe that he was not yet in lah-lah-land. However, by the time he’d gotten through about a quarter of that margarita, he was just outside the city limits.

We always have a good time at Panchos, but this evening was really something. The kids just seemed so a ease, and Shawn, he was a talkin’ foo.

One of the things he’s been wrestling with is his desire to be married and have a family, versus remaining unattached and just enjoying being a single guy. He has a long history of exclusive, monogamous relationships with girlfriends that typically last 2-3 years; it’s been that way since he was in high school
Now, he’s lookin’ at the big 3-Oh in a couple years and thinking, what am I doing here? Do I want to be like my folks, get hitched and have my family while I’m young, or do I want to continue to enjoy my new-found freedom as an unattached bachelor, and continue to play the field?

Well, you can probably guess what his mother and my opinion was.

To complicate matters even further, his chief on-again-off-again, long-standing girlfriend is kinda back in his life...again. This is a potential daughter in-law whom we have already given our stamp of approval. We love this girl! She comes from a great family, with parents who are our age and social strata; she’s gorgeous, and together she and our son would produce the most beautiful grandbabies known to mankind.

The problem is, they’re both waiting for the other to make the first (serious) move. Obviously, we told Shawn to go for it. We know he wants to. He knows he wants to. And I think she knows he wants to. She’s just waiting to be pursued by the man she loves.

But see, not half of this information would we likely have gotten out of Shawn had it not been for the alky-hall.

Hey, what kind of drunk are you, anyway?
People seem to possess a varied range of personality traits revealed under the influence of alcoholic excess. Some people are ‘mean’ drunks; others are ‘quiet’ drunks; Me? I guess I’m pretty much a happy drunk, although I do tend to get quiet when my happiness becomes AJ making an ass out of himself in front of all the sober people in the room.

I’ve really never been shitfaced, save for a couple of times in my life; and that was more than enough to learn my limits with alcohol. I rarely drink to beyond a medium buzz. I simply don’t like being out of control. Besides, I think it’s a heck of a lot more fun to watch a drunk than to be one.

Truer words could not have been spoken with regards to my son the other night. I discovered that Shawn is much like his old man when he goes over the edge. He’s a happy, gregarious drunk. He loves to talk, and in this case, he loved to talk, LOUDLY. IN PUBLIC.

But seriously, he was hilarious. We kept shooshing him to keep his voice down, but it would always creep back up. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we were in a bar instead of a family restaurant. But when it reached a point that she knew he might regret later, Shawn’s sister deftly grabbed her brother’s jumbo margarita and began redistributing the balance of it into the rest of our empty glasses. Shawn had had enough.

But the party was just getting started.

Family Night at AJ’s Pool Hall
We were stuffed, buzzed and happy, but Shawn was really in no condition to drive, so little sis took the wheel of his truck and Michelle and I took my car as we met the kids back at the house.

We reconvened downstairs in the man-cave, where Shawn, Amy and myself engaged in a pool tournament, one in which I quickly fell prey to both my pool-shark children.

My son gives me credit for making him this way, but his love for eclectic rock, electronica, and jam-blues music is always in evidence when he’s at home. He hooks his iPod up to my stereo system and we crank up the sound.

As they played pool together, Michelle sat in my recliner and just soaked it all in. I was at my computer typing some notes up for a hockey blog I was trying to spit out and I’d steal a glance at her from time to time throughout her children’s battle for cueball supremacy; her eyes were always smiling.

Given all the typical brother/sister strife between Shawn and Amy over the years, as adults they now have of late become very close, and incredibly tolerant of the things about each other that they once simply could not stand.

Michelle and I absolutely love the way they both seem to have arrived at a common place in their maturity, having at last discovered how truly lucky they are to have each other.

I was smiling too.

Beautiful Boy, Boston, and Bruce
At one point later on, while her brother was taking his shot at the table, Amy drifted over my way where I was again seated at my computer desk. She began looking through my stereo rack, where my CDs and LP collection are located just to the right of my desk.

“Maaan Dad, I am so jealous of all these old records. I wish I had a turntable.”

Then she spotted an album that grabbed her attention.

“BOSTON!?” she gasped. “I’ve heard of THEM! Can you put this on?”

Pfffft. Heard of them, she says…don’t kids these days know anything?

I announced to her that this was THE classic ‘Boston’ album, one of the quintessential American Classic Rock albums of all time, and yes, I would most certainly put it on.

The sound, even 35 years later, was like buttah. My kids were amazed. It was a moment not to be missed. It was more than a feelin’, if you will.

Soon both Shawn and Amy were over there perusing my LPs.

Then Amy discovers Double Fantasy, the great John Lennon’s swan song from 1980, an album I purchased just a week prior to his death. My kids were as fascinated by the cover photography as they were the details surrounding that horrible time as I tried to explain what an important work that album was to me and the millions of other Beatles fans who mourned the loss of one of our most beloved heroes.

But there was something else about that album that I wanted to point out to Shawn. I didn’t know whether or not I had ever mentioned to him.

I asked him if the song title, Beautiful Boy meant anything to him.

He wasn’t sure. He said the name sounded familiar, he just couldn’t place where he knew it from.

I pointed to the title listing on the album cover and told him that when he was little I used to sing him that song as a lullaby. It was Lennon’s love song to his son, Sean and it so touched me when I heard it that I wanted to share it with my own son when he came into the world just a few years later.

I put on the vinyl and cued the needle to the final track of Side 1.

Close your eyes
Have no fear
The Monster’s gone
He’s on the run and your daddy’s here
Beautiful beautiful
Beautiful Boy…

My son’s face lit up with a broad smile and a giddy, breathy, ohmygawd…I remember now kind of laugh. It was so innocent and full of joy. It was a side of my son I hadn’t seen in I don't know how long.

Out on the ocean
Sailing away
I can hardly wait
To see you come of age
But I guess we’ll both
Just have to be patient
Cuz’ it’s a long way to go
A long road to hoe
Yes it’s a long way to go
But in the meantime…

Before you cross the street
Take my hand
Life is what happens to you
While you’re busy making other plans
Beautiful beautiful
Beautiful Boy…
Darling Sean

He was still smiling and chuckling to himself when the song was over, and then I told him that it was largely due to that song that I had given him the name of Shawn (although it has a different spelling than Sean Lennon), here on my blog, because I have always associated that song with him.

And of course, for an old softie like me, that was a pretty special and unexpected way for me to tell my boy how much I loved him. But the moment served its purpose, and we moved on.

Amy grabbed Bruce Springsteen’s classic Born To Run LP and Shawn yelled, “Yeah! Put on some Bruce!”

I spun the platter and cranked up the volume.

Then I Tweeted to warn the neighbors.

All in all, it was a fabulous night, filled with:

• Great food — I’m tellin’ ya folks, if you’re ever in Nashville, you have to check out Pancho’s. Try the Quesadilla Relenna.
• Potent Potables — In addition to mas margaritas, did I mention that there at the house, as if they hadn’t had enough already, my son and daughter engaged in a straight Jack Daniels swilling contest? She won.
• TMI — One of the major issues with my son’s high-volume conversation at the restaurant was when he began giving us unsolicited details of some things that shouldn’t be uttered outside of a confessional. DOH!
• Togetherness — In recent years it has been a rare occasion when it’s just the four of us together for an evening, without other friends or extended family members to have to worry about offending; just us being ourselves, showing our warts to each other, and having fun being a family.

This is great stuff, folks. True freedom; the freedom to be yourself without fear of reprisal; the ability to love and be loved without conditional attachments. I reckon that’s what family should be all about.

But don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we’re any kind of perfect family. All you have to do is look at me to know that. But what I have in my wife Michelle, my children, and this great nation in which we live, is all I could ever want or need. Of that I am certain.

It could be better, but at this point in my life I am truly satisfied that it doesn’t have to be. And that’s a pretty cool thing indeed.

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