“You look like the Unabomber.”
My son, the one my husband brought back from Nicaragua twenty-six years ago, the one who was all head and bloated stomach, with toothpick legs and arms, and a cry that was soft and mewing like a sleeping kitten dreaming, looked at me sideways from behind his blue hoodie, his untrimmed beard the only part of his head truly visible, and smiled at me.
“Good grief! What’s with the hoodie?”
He pulled it back and flashed me an even bigger smile.
“Now you look like Don King. What’s with all the hair?”
His thick black hair, now streaked prematurely with the tiniest strands of grey, stood straight up on his head, a mad shock of three inches of wild, insane hair. It screamed unintentional. This wasn’t style. This was simply hair.
“Ok, that’s fine. Put the hoodie back up.”
We were driving to the grocery store, the aging mother in her business suit and heels and the son in his low-down jeans and blue hoodie, 3-inch do and a wild beard. He’d had a beseeching look the day before as we finished dinner in my kitchen. He could always play Sad Sack better than anyone. You know, rent, bills, child support, no food, Ramen gone. It’s a winning strategy. I can have my kids looking like one of the Ten Most Wanted but I can’t stand the idea of them being hungry.
“So what’s with buying groceries? I thought you were like an anaconda, you know, not eating for 24 hours and then going to McDonald’s and eating six #8’s.”
He grinned at me, again from behind the hoodie. I could see the grin in how his chin crinkled, his beard moved. “I’m trying to change.”
There is something so organic about this, so primal. There is a tiny morsel of DNA in every man that makes him adorable to his mother. I call it the Bamboozle Marker.
Oh, I think, he’s trying to change! Does that mean he’s going to start cooking food in a pan and putting it on a plate? Will he have to use a fork now to eat?
We go up and down the aisles of the central city grocery near his house. I try to remind him about the names of fruits and vegetables. Remember carrots? Broccoli? Grapes? People eat these things. You used to eat them (before you became a feral single man addicted to Mickey D’s).
He starts talking about Chef Ramsey just when we get to the Hamburger Helper. In my cracked mother’s mind, I see him chopping vegetables and making soup. I watch him contemplate which HH to buy. He chooses two very carefully. He always was a very deliberative guy.
When we get to frozen foods, he zeroes in on the Banquet frozen dinners – 10 for $10. The ‘good grief’ rolls up my tongue and hits my closed mouth. He works five days a week, sometimes six, at a job that is hard and exacting. He’s on his feet for eight hours running a machine where an error can cost his company a bunch of money and get his crew in trouble. He wants to come home at midnight and eat a Banquet dinner. He thinks it’s deluxe, I can tell. And who am I to say it’s not?
The boneless pork riblet with mashed potatoes and corn looked kind of nice. It really did.