The title says it all!
Stephanie held her breath and input the number her mother had given her. She wasn’t scared of her Uncle Adam, just a little shy. Their families had become distant over the years, as his family had grown increasingly upward-mobile, and hers was trapped in the rut of squandered wealth and overspending on nonessentials. In short, even though Uncle Adam still seemed to care for his sister, his sister’s family was an embarrassment.
Her aunt Judy answered the phone.
“Aunt Judy? It’s Stephanie Gonzalez.”
“Stephanie, sweetie, how are you?”
“I’m doing well. Is Uncle Adam available to talk?”
“Hold on. He was cleaning the filter on the swimming pool. Let me go see if he’s in a spot where he can talk to you.”
A few moments later, the deep jovial voice of her Uncle Adam greeted her. The sound brought tears to her eyes. She’d always liked her uncle.
“What do I owe this pleasure?” he asked.
What was so peculiar about his voice was its innate ability to sound genuine. Her phone call did bring him pleasure. That was what the tone said. “You know I’m a journalist for the Albuquerque Daily.”
“Yes, ma’am. I hear from your mom you’re doing very well for yourself.”
“Granddad asked me to write his story for him. As it is, I’ve been interviewing both him and Uncle Gilly. I thought you might want to have a say about the story, as you lived it, too. You lived with a workaholic father who became famous.”
“You want to interview me?”
“Have at. I’m a busy man, and I doubt you’re going to fly across the country to conduct this interview. Get your questions out while the getting’s good.”
She should’ve known this would be her uncle’s response. She wasn’t prepared. She had hoped to make an appointment or several appointments. But she was a journalist. She was always prepared, right?
“In our interview sessions, Granddad has touched on when he became the full custodial parent. Do you have any comments on that?”
“You mean, how do I feel about my mother abandoning me?”
“That’s a good place to start.”
“To be honest, Stephie, I don’t remember it much. I never saw my mom again until I was an adult. Your Grandma Bernadette became my mom. She was a good mom to me. I don’t think I suffered.”
“What was it like growing up with Granddad for a dad?”
“It was all I knew. Your mom and I used to fight like cats and dogs. Dad wasn’t always a workaholic. During the summers, Tom, Janie, and Steven would visit us, and we were a full house. We used to stay in a cabin in the mountains. Dad always took off a couple of weeks to have a vacation with us.”
Tom, Janie, and Steven were Stephanie’s even more distant two uncles and aunt. “But what about your day-to-day life? What was that like?”
“You could ask your mom.”
“I already have asked my mom. She’s noncommittal. She doesn’t want to contribute to the project because she’s still mad at Granddad for the last time he made my dad look like a fool. Are you going to be noncommittal, too?”
“That’s a sizable word right there—noncommittal. Stephie, I have happy memories from my childhood. I doubt that would’ve been the case if I’d grown up with my mom. Dad made us go to church after he had his epiphany. I grew up Catholic in a loving household, and then I raised my family in the same way.”
“You made contact with your mom later, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, when I was younger and doing my soul-searching, I looked her up.”
“We had lunch. It was fine. She was an unhappy woman with a stiff face. Botox, I guess. She was married to a lawyer. I didn’t pursue the relationship after that.”
“We didn’t have anything in common. There wasn’t much to go off of except that she was my biological mom. We were both wealthy, but that was it. We could both afford to pay for a high-class lunch. Our lives were so different. My life was family-oriented. We went to mass on Sundays. We went hiking on Saturdays and camping in the summers. My dad and Bernadette loved each other. There was nothing artificial in our lives, no Botox, in other words.”
“You lived a no-Botox life, then? That would sum it up?”
“Yes, that sums it up.”
“Thanks, Uncle Adam. Can I call you if I have any more questions?”
“Sure, of course you can, Stephie. That’s what family’s for. I know your dad has problems with your mom’s family, but it’s nothing. Really. It doesn’t come between us. Got that, girl?”
“And what about you?”
“What about me?”
“Yes, one. He’s the sports editor at my paper.”
“Great. Make sure to invite me to your commitment ceremony.”
Stephanie laughed. “If there’s ever a commitment ceremony, you’ll be invited. Granddad won’t be very happy about it, though.”
“Why not? He doesn’t like your sports editor?”
“No, Granddad’s practically in love with my sports editor. He disapproves of commitment ceremonies. He thinks marriage is a better term.”
Uncle Adam laughed, deeply, jovially, and Stephanie suddenly recognized that her mom’s carried the same tonal quality. She liked that. “He thinks that because it’s true.”
“How? How can it be true? Commitment ceremonies were your generation’s reaction to their own inability to commit to anything due to their parents’ generation’s inability to keep commitments and stay married.”
“Well, it’s just obvious which is better, isn’t it? I got married, and here I am, happy as a lark twenty-five years later.”
“Really? You’re happy as a lark? How happy are larks?”
“Yes. And very.”
Stephanie’s only response was that her elders didn’t make any sense, although she decided not to say it. Why destroy her uncle’s nonsensical ideals of happy larks? Larks were songbirds. Stephanie couldn’t carry a tune to save her life.