Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Strangeness of Estrangement

I have two sons and two stepdaughters. I am close with both girls and my younger adopted son. I am estranged from my older son, the only offspring who carries my genes.

I don't know why, exactly.   He refused to visit on the weekends I was supposed to have the boys.  That carried all through his middle and high school years.  When he was out of school and working,  however, we visited each other occasionally, usually around some project one of us was engaged in, or a car to show off.

One day, ten, maybe twelve years ago, he came over to show me a Ford Mustang he and his best friend had set up to race in the infamous Cannonball Run (I think it was renamed, Rally Across America and legalized by then.) He mention that he was getting married.  Carol and I knew the girl, having lunched with them a few times, and we liked her.

"Great," I said. "When?"
"October 11th," he answered. "It's going to be a small wedding."

We said our goodbyes and he left. What I didn't know until later was that I was not invited. Those were his last words to me until his brother's fortieth birthday celebration in Louisiana this March. My attempts to communicate with him through the years yielded nothing. His wife sent notes apologizing, saying she couldn't understand why. She finally divorced him.

The strangeness, the curiosity question of this estrangement in my mind is, "Why then?" It would have been logical, though no less painful, for him to have done it immediately and totally when I left. Logical - funny how that word came up. The whole estrangement issue rose while watching a Star Trek Next Generation episode where Spock talked of being estranged from his father.

The reason we both ended up in Louisiana together was my younger son's gift from his wife, race car driving lessons. His best friend and my older son were also invited. At the end of the day, I photographed the three together. I took several shots, but he didn't look at me in any of them. The enclosed shot is as close as he got. It should be obvious that he's the one on the left.

While we were there I discovered that, in many ways I was proud of the man he'd become. Even though it hurt being so close to him physically and so terribly far away at the same time, I could see that he'd crafted a life that worked for him.   I wish it had included me.

I thought about just dumping this after I wrote it. Maybe I should have.

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