I grew up in the East 50s near Sutton Place. DOB still lives there. Most times, he likes to come see us on the Upper West Side — “The travel gives me a way to pass a few extra hours,” DOB says.
Nevertheless, every now and again we take out our passports and travel to the East Side for lunch. DOB has started to favor a coffee shop closer to the house. I think because the old coffee shop is three blocks away and down a hill.
When we were seated, an old man next to us asked if we were new to the neighborhood. “Our family has lived here for over 50 years!” I replied jovially (at least I thought so). The old man said, “I was just going to tell you what’s good,” and then he sighed in that loud annoying way to show he was exasperated and feeling under-appreciated even though his help was unsolicited. Or, maybe I yelled at him, “What’s it to you, bud?” Of course, I didn’t but you would think so based on the tone of his response.
Wow, I thought, the old neighborhood has gotten cranky with age. Maybe because all of my parents’ contemporaries (who are still alive) have grown old and cranky in the old neighborhood.
Shortly after we shut down that random act of neighborliness gone horribly wrong, I saw an old (old) friend of my parents walk in the door. He was with his female companion of 30 years or so. Our families had gone to the same synagogue and we kids went to Hebrew School with his daughter.
I immediately got up and went over to greet them. They thought I was SOB because they said that they see her on the street when she visits Dad, implying that I am never around. I paused, counted backwards from 10 and determined that they didn’t mean it the way it sounded. Except, they certainly did mean it the way it sounded.
Sidebar: As nice as this man is — he really is — he took me aside at a gathering shortly before my mother died and after having met POB, “make your father happy; find a man.” But back to the situation at hand.
There were so many ways to handle this affront to my being a good and attentive daughter:
- I could dredge up ancient gossip and unpleasant truths about his long ago divorce. Nah, that is too aggressive.
- I could just smile. Nah, too passive.
- I could be could let slip that Dad usually comes over on Sunday nights for a home-cooked dinner. Ahhhh, passive yet aggressive. Perfect.
Sidebar: Don’t you love when being passive-aggressive is the reflection of your best impulses? So, so, rewarding.
I did let that fact slip using a tone that suggested that his daughter never cooked for him.
“You must be a good cook!”
Really, that’s your response? That’s all you got for me after my exhaustive mental gymnastics to figure out how to preserve my dignity and protect my mother’s pride in her children? Really?
There were two other people whom Mom knew who walked in during the course of our lunch. But I was too exhausted to go over and say hi.