It wasn't just a good night last night. It was a great night. Keaton managed to pull off a fantastic birthday dinner. A five course, chef served tasting at a table sitting right outside the open kitchen. That was the good part.
The great part was the company, which included yours truly. of course the delightful Keaton, my pseudo step daughter, Alix, her boyfriend of many years, Ed (my nickname, which is short for Eating Disorder), my son, and the part that made it great, his girlfriend, Miss X.
Why, you might ask.
Well, I'm gonna tell ya.
You see, I've always imagined myself as a terrific "meet the father" type. The sort that makes that awkward first meeting fun and enjoyable and a happy time for fond memories. It's in the genes. My dad was (and remains) a notorious, jolly fatherly type to every girl a Crane Boy dragged in, and among the four of us, we've brought home some real beauts, let me tell you. But Poppy, as he is now lovingly called, was always a pleasant, engaging sort, even when he was in his late thirties and still virulent and still having sex, with mom, which I really don't like to talk about much but must to make this point, which is that even then he was the sort of dad the girls just loved to pat on the head, like a well trained lab.
I am such a sort, although I don't sit on command as much as I used to.
However, I am also another sort. What you might call a late bloomer. I've written about the condition ad nauseum, so I'll leave it at that, other than to say I was so late blooming that ma was starting to worry there might not be a bloom at all, which was better than any other alternative she could have imagined. As it turned out, with a little maternal patience and the much needed impatience of my first few girlfriends, I blossomed like a cactus rose.
Not to be outdone, like the Poppy Head Patting gene handed down to me, I handed down the Late Bloomer gene to my son. Except he has taken it to a whole other level. Let's just say I'm within earshot of sixty, this one last night remaining, and I still have not had my head patted. Well, that's not completely true, but Keaton doesn't count. I was certain it would be years before I'd meet Miss X. Possibly the christening of their third child, should it all work out that way. I was positive about this.
Then came last night.
Keaton pulled off a small miracle. And when my son came prancing towards the table with a little pronounced bounce in his step and Miss X pulled up to his side as he introduced her to the gang, I nearly broke out in song, like Richard Simmons might, when Keaton gave me that wink she gives, bright and comforting. So I took a breath and smiled. Inside and out.
Some meal it was, although I thought we were going to lose Miss X with the first appetizer of raw East Coast oyster in a curdy tapioca, shallot, caviar sauce. Tenaciously, she managed her way through. But even more impressive, Miss X had turned my son from Dr. No to Mister Yes, as he tried everything on the menu, except the oyster, something no one has ever been able to accomplish. And in such short time! Miracle of miracles!
We talked and laughed our way through nearly two and a half hours of fantastic food and ample wine. In hindsight, I think I did a noble job of carrying on the Poppy Head Patting gene for the first time. Maybe a little tuning is required. For instance, I don't think my joking that to be Republican you pretty much had to be a demented lunatic went down all that well, given that she had just told me her parents backed Gingrich. It was probably the conversation equivalent of a raw oyster. But I'll tone that down somewhat and adjust the delivery.
Finally, at the end, I gave her a hug. Not too long or too close, but a hug nonetheless. And that was maybe one of the best birthday presents I ever had.
God, I'm such a lame pushover. Just like the old man.
And just in time.