If the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, how come I ended up an orange?
I look at my parents and wonder how it is that my life is the opposite of theirs. Now in their mid 80’s, they’ve been married over 60 years and are still happy and in love. They travel more than almost anyone else I know. Their social calendar is way more filled than mine. They even see my friends more often than I do, some of whom think of them as “surrogate” parents.
And I’m not the only sibling who has, apparently, not followed their sage advice on relationships. My older sister never quite got around to marriage. Her and her partner seem to be good friends, but nothing like my parents. My middle sister thought she had a great marriage, 20+ years worth in fact, until she discovered she didn’t. The revelation came somewhere around the time she realized her husband was starting a new family with a new woman.
Then, of course there’s me, the worst offender. Three women, three children, and not a good relationship with any of the mothers. How badly has it gone?
Years ago, my eldest son’s mother brought me to court on several serious charges. There was the honey bear in Guatemala who nipped his leg: endangerment. The monkey in Belize that scratched his face when reaching for his glasses: gross negligence. And then of course, the meal of armadillo I ordered for him in a Honduran restaurant that, as I found out in court, contains bacteria that can cause leprosy. The charge something short of attempted murder but not good.
And these weren’t even the most serious charges. Nope, the coup de grace was her accusation that I had provided my son cocaine, a particularly serious accusation given that in New York a person convicted of distributing cocaine to a minor faces a life sentence.
Fortunately for me, the judge had enough experience with contentious parental disputes to dig a little deeper before taking the case to full trial. In looking over the charges he told me, “Belize, Peru, Guatemala, Honduras, either you’re a real menace to society or one hell of a dad.” Upon asking what possible excuse I could give for such a heinous deed, I shared that while with my son in Peru we had walked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Along the way, we drank plenty of Mate de coca, a hot drink made with coca leaves that helps with altitude sickness. I testified that mate coca is to cocaine what a poppy seed bagel is to opium.
The judge dismissed all charges and more importantly, my son never got leprosy.
My mother often says, “You make your life so difficult, why didn’t you just follow my advice!” That, along with her other favorite rejoinder, “everything in moderation,” are two bits of guidance I’ve never found appealing. No, I’ve preferred doing things my way no matter how stupid. And definitely never in moderation. I liken myself to a person in front of a brick wall trying to knock it down with my head. Doesn’t seem to work? Hit harder. And the result of this not too subtle approach to life? Some pretty cool accomplishments and a lot of”‘concussions.”
On the other hand, my father didn’t give me a lot of advice growing up or at least I don’t remember much, so when I sat my parents down and told them that I had gotten a woman pregnant for the first time, I didn’t know what to expect. Then my dad, having listened carefully, said, “Jonathan you should have used a condom.” “Thanks Dad,” I answered sarcastically, “I’m 30 now, you should have told me that when I was 15.”
And while it might be true that he would have done well to share that advice when I was younger, to be honest, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have listened. The truth is he offered his advice as he offers everything in life; with love and generosity.
So in this week’s webisode, I go back for more advice from my parents, this time to help guide me on the path to a vasectomy. And as you’ll see, they are there to welcome me and anyone fortunate enough to knock at their door with a warm smile, lots of advice from my mom, and a damn good ginger martini from my dad (see recipe below).
And even more important, I’ve been with a great woman for the past four years and I’ve learned that although relationships are not always easy, life in partnership is wonderful, and love is a beautiful thing. So I guess at the end of the day, I am an apple, not an orange although in my case it would appear that the tree I dropped from was on the side of a very steep mountain.
Ginger Martini recipe by Bob Stack
1 oz Triple Sec
1 oz Lemon or Lime Juice
6 oz Vodka
Fresh Ginger finely ground
Add 2oz of basic mix to 5 or 6 oz of white cranberry juice (or white grape juice if not available). Store in freezer or serve with ice.