Countdown (Part 2 of 2)

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A195 countdown

I’ve known the deal with his father all along, and I even knew how he felt about the whole thing from the beginning, because Dassie would confide in me.

In a way, it’s the same old midlife crisis story. Joe Landau reached the end of his forties and realized this wasn’t what he wanted in life. It wasn’t impressionable secretaries or fancy sports cars in this case; it was travel. It started with business trips and ended in single-parent custody. He’s been living in a different major international city every year since, working “on location” at the various offices of the company he works for. Joe saves up all his vacation time for August and tries to cram in a year’s worth of fathering into three weeks of camping or surfing or Paris.

As far as I know, he’s never missed a child support payment, never showed up late for a visit. In some ways, I think that makes it worse for his kids – he’s not a deadbeat, he just doesn’t want to stay.

Dassie forgave him unbelievably quickly, or at least she did on the outside. “It’s just his nature,” she would say. “He’s not cut out to be a full-time father. He was miserable stuck in one place all these years. Do I want him to be miserable? Should I resent him for being who he is, the way Effi does?”

And Effi does, there’s no doubt about that.

Effi boycotted the summer vacations the first two years. The third year, he grudgingly went along, and since then, his relationship with his father has been absent of any major blowups, but the few times I’ve seen them together, they were so tense around each other. It’s obvious that Effi hasn’t forgiven his father, and just as obvious that his father has no desire to change his lifestyle, so they’re at a stalemate. At this point, only Noam still lives at home, and he doesn’t seem to mind, but Effi is plenty angry on his little brother’s behalf.

* * *

“He knows how I feel about him,” Effi explains. “So why is he doing this? Why force this extra time together?”

I understand his feelings here, the betrayal and the hurt, but as an outsider, my objective point of view is closer to Dassie’s.”I think it’s as simple as he loves you and wants to spend time with you.”

Effi snorts, looking down. “Yeah, I really feel bad about all the time he doesn’t get to spend with me.”

I don’t know what to say to that, so I just watch him.

“I shouldn’t have said that,” he says. “Come on, tell me I shouldn’t have said that. Tell me I have some kind of complex, that I need to let bygones be bygones – but they’re not really, are they? Noam is seventeen years old, and he doesn’t see his father eleven months out of the year. What kind of example does that set?”

“Hopefully, he’ll take your mother’s example, instead.”

“It’s not that – trust me, I know how competent my mother is – but… it’s the principle of the matter,” he tells his feet. I can see the tips of his eyebrows, the top of his head, the knitted kippa held in place by two bobby pins, but his face is hidden. “He’s wrong. He’s wrong. If he didn’t want children, he shouldn’t have had them. You can’t father children and decide fourteen years later that you’d rather be their cool uncle. You can’t divorce your kids!”

“Effi,” I say.

He looks up at me, lost, begging me to understand.

“He’s wrong,” I agree. “We all agree with you.”

“Dassie –”

“Dassie understands him,” I say, “but that doesn’t mean she thinks he’s right.”

“Do you know what Dassie said to me? She said that I shouldn’t take it personally.”

Do you take it personally?”

The answer, is, of course, “How could I not?” But he doesn’t say it.

“You want my advice?” I say.

He nods.

“My advice is this: If he wants to be your cool uncle, let him be your cool uncle. What do you lose? You have no shortage of people who love you. Noam has no shortage of role models.”

“And Dassie?”

“Oh, Dassie is irreparably screwed up.”

He snorts again. Then he smiles. “Hey, Shev?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m really glad that roommate of yours wasn’t into me.”

“Ha!”

Silence, but it’s a comfortable one. A comfortable one that I don’t want to break, but I have to get this out:

“Hey, Effi?”

“Yeah?”

“If… ” I swallow. “If things don’t work out with us, you wouldn’t need to stay with me for the sake of the kids, you know that, right? Being a divorced parent wouldn’t make you like him.”

He blinks, and a slow grin spreads over his face. “What was that you said? I didn’t hear anything after ‘the kids.'”

Oy.”

His expression is dream-like as he continues, “We’re going to have kids together. Me and you.”

“You were actually listening to me, right?”

“Of course.” He puts his hand down on the grass a few inches away from mine, the ‘shomer‘ version of putting it on top of mine. “And I know. If chas v’shalom it doesn’t work out, we’ll do joint custody like responsible adults.”

Planning our hypothetical divorce a week before our wedding. Weird, yes. But oh so very Jewish.

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Noa believes in romance, friendship and justice. She doesn't, however, believe in the Oxford comma.
  • Ayo Oppenheimer

    So if this is the prequel to all the other pieces, do we get a pre-prequel of Shev’s life as a teenager? 🙂

    • Noa

      Wouldn’t you like to know!

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