stories about his childhood. He listens patiently until he can stand
no more and tells her gently that it didn't happen the way she
remembers. And when her continued denial makes it clear what an
enormous stake she has in these fantasies, he finally gives up trying
to communicate and simply allows them to his mother.
As parents, we can't go back and undo past mistakes. We can only
acknowledge them, correct what we can, claim high motivation and move
on. The sooner we do that, the sooner we can reach across generations
and talk to our adult children where they are instead of always
expecting them to come to where we are. Debby has had a year of
adjustment. The youngest of her two sons has not only fled to a
distant university but is spending his junior year in Brazil.
His older brother is tied to a job in San Francisco. Debby is
still dealing with the emotional residue of the empty nest and a
divorce three years ago. And shortly before Thanksgiving, she was
laid off her job because of diminishing business and low seniority.
This is where Sherry and I found her when we arrived in Boulder.
She has turned living alone into an opportunity for
self-expression. Her home is full of music and art that speak to a
sense of well-being. She has acknowledged, finally, that she was
underpaid and underused in her old job and that losing it is a
blessing that will force her to look for work worthy of her
intelligence and skills. So she is preparing to market herself and in
this process has reached out for encouragement from a strong group of
close friends and a kind and gentle man who is enriching her life.
She managed our visit -- the first time Sherry has made this
Christmas journey with me -- with relaxed efficiency that removed any
possible atmosphere of stress. Her shortcut to the airport was
somehow symbolic of a sense of self-confidence she hasn't always
allowed. We had a delightful time in Boulder, and much of that
delight came from seeing who my youngest daughter has become -- an
emotionally self-reliant woman who is enjoying life and being enjoyed
while she addresses her problems head-on.
Such discoveries have come more quickly with my older daughter,
Patt, who lives only a few minutes away and is very much a fulfilling
and satisfying part of my life. Patt and I have built traditions that
feed on both honesty and close companionship and have transcended
personal obstacles that could only be overcome with these qualities
-- and the perseverance of love. It's especially rewarding -- and
also easier -- to get reacquainted on a regular basis with your
offspring in the seventh inning of an Angel game or the sixth race at
I don't know if this works in reverse. I do know they watch me
rather carefully, but I suspect it is for signs that the old boy is
slipping here and there. Maybe it's more than that. Maybe they want
to get reacquainted with me. They might still find a few surprises.
* JOSEPH N. BELL is a resident of Santa Ana Heights. His column