Suggested pairing: The Last Word
¾ ounce gin
¾ ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
¾ ounce maraschino liqueur
¾ ounce green Chartreuse
Combine ingredients over ice. Shake until chilled and mixed thoroughly. Strain into a martini glass. Cheers.
Nobody likes to fail, or to fuck-up or to be forgotten. But it happens. It happens to the best of us, and it happens to the worst of us. It happens all the time and when we least expect it. Sometimes it happens by accident but often it happens because we fucking deserve it. Either way, when it happens, it sucks.
I find myself employing the wisdom of laugh now, cry later ever more frequently because I have the unique pleasure of simultaneously dealing with adolescents professionally, and alcoholics personally. Educating teenagers is equal parts heartwarming fulfillment and bad acid trip. Some days there are lightbulb moments and random acts of kindness abound, while others are spent essentially talking to myself, repeating the same instructions over and over and over to no avail, wherein each repetition, a small part of my inner educator dies a slow, painful death.
Luckily for teenagers, they know everything and are invincible. They choose to live in the now because the future seems like a distant, ridiculous notion where they are bound for perfection sans perseverance and triumph minus tenacity. When you are destined to be a famous You-tuber or professional athlete, little things like respect, responsibility and realism seem silly. One need not complete homework or report to detention when one is going to be a billionaire rapper. It is insignificant to appreciate the value of hard work, kindness and gratitude when iPhones and Air Jordans are doled out like candy, and your value as a human being is determined by the number of strangers who follow you on Instagram. Had my awkward years, and there were more than I’d like to admit, been laced with promises of prosperity and delusions of grandeur, I wouldn’t have looked ahead either. Why look to the future when the here and now is so ridiculously fucking awesome?
Which brings us to the laugh now, cry later principle.
It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye. Or a scholarship. Or a license. Or a loved one.
Usually, when somebody loses an eye it’s an accident. At least I’d like to think so. I can’t imagine anyone desires an eyepatch and a purposeful loss of peripheral vision, but I could be wrong.
In the case of those graduating seniors who had their acceptances to Harvard rescinded following the discovery of some unsavory social media posts, they are idiots and they deserve it, and ultimately proved they probably shouldn’t be going to Harvard in the first place.
Anyone who has lost their license knows they deserved it, and hopefully learned their lesson the first time.
The loss of a loved one, however, can stem from any number of devastating circumstances. Distance, desertion, divorce, disease and death can all result in unforeseen losses of individuals we love; some accidental, some outside of our control, and some because we’re assholes and we deserve it.
It’s been two months since my son has seen or spoken to his father. On April 30th, I took him to his uncle’s house, at my ex-in-laws’ request, so that he could spend time with the much less excellent half of his genetic contributors. He wore the roller blades that his better, maternal uncles had given him for his birthday, nearly the entire afternoon that he was there. They bought shit for a chicken coop, or something ridiculous like that. And, par for the course, they never fed him anything.
Sounds fun, right?
Oh, and his dad was there but he was “really sick”, so he didn’t spend much time with them at all.
Sick is an interesting descriptor for what was going on that particular day, but I’ll explain that later.
The week prior, I brought my son to that same uncle’s house to visit with his dad for the first time in quite a while, per his father’s request. He “really wanted to spend quality time with his son around his birthday”. Or, so he said. About an hour in, and a week past due on sending a birthday card or gift, I got a call from the uncle’s house phone.
It was a sad whisper.
“What’s the matter?” I asked, panicked.
“Nothing, mom. I just thought I’d call you because my dad fell asleep.”
He had been there just shy of an hour and a half. What a complete asshole.
“Do you want me to pick you up?” I already had my keys in hand.
“No, that’s ok. Well, yeah, maybe.”
And off I went.
So, this was the quality father-son time my ex had been seeking. For the two hours they would spend together that month, rather than playing catch or doing a puzzle or taking a walk, he flipped on the television and took a nap.
Needless to say, my son lost whatever little interest he had left in seeing his father, as well as whatever microscopic amount of respect for him he had clung to.
That was April. Two months have gone by with my boy refusing any type of communication from his father. He doesn’t want to see him. Ever. And, quite frankly, I don’t blame him because I don’t have any interest in seeing his pathetic ass either.
But, oh joy, I got to see him last week in court.
My first morning of summer vacation was spent in court for child support enforcement which, if you have any experience in this arena, and I hope you don’t, is an oxymoron, because nothing is actually ever enforced. It’s pretty much a big fucking joke. But I go anyways because you just never know what kind of fun is in store when my son’s father is involved.
Somewhere in the midst of his pity party and lies about filing motions for a reduction in payments, he was asked when the last time was that he’d been incarcerated for failure to pay. The answer, in case you’re wondering, was December 23rd. The judge, on that day and every other, was “not inclined” to hold him despite his historically consistent lack of compliance, and released him with the promise of a payment the following week, a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
The next question the hearing officer asked him if he had been incarcerated for any other reasons recently and his answer was a hard no. What was harder than his no, however, was the way in which the probation supervisor’s head whipped around, simultaneously giving him a death-stare and me the high sign that something was fishy up in this bitch.
With an indignant chuckle, he promptly changed his answer to yes. This is a prime example of the laugh now, cry later scenario. Shit’s funny right up until it comes back around to bite you in the ass.
Remember when I said that he was “too sick” to hang out with his family that Sunday in April? Evidently, sick translates to hungover and recently released from the slammer.
Since I get by with a little help from my friends, we were able to sleuth around until we discovered the reason for his recent captivity. He had been arrested, tried and convicted of criminal trespassing on his most recent ex-girlfriend’s property. Now, this brings me back. Back to the days of my own final restraining order, and back to the day when he shit on another ex-girlfriend’s driveway while honing his harassment repertoire. I nearly shit. Figuratively, and not on anyone’s driveway, of course.
I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t have a bit of a laugh at this juncture. I mean, seriously, it’s just such a state of ridiculousness that I have to find humor in it. Conversely, I know it’s sad. His life is empty and pathetic and chaotic and, as a human being, I empathize with his plight. But it ends there.
I can’t care about a person’s life when they don’t care much about it themselves, and I certainly can’t be bothered feeling bad for someone who wreaked havoc and destruction on an innocent child’s emotional well-being.
As such, when he made yet another request to see our son yesterday, I informed him that his son does not wish to see him. I also informed him that, if and when he were to get his life back on track, I would strongly encourage my son to be open to a relationship with him. I reminded him that he done messed up, A-A-Ron, and the only person that can change it is him. Not that he will. And my son knows that all too well.
You see, my resilient rugrat has been handed so much disappointment by his father that he has given up on him. Years of forgotten birthdays, cancelled plans, lack of involvement and intermittent trauma have added up. They have added up to a pathetic, devastating, insurmountable nothing. And that’s what he’s giving back to his father now. The big, fat fucking nothing he deserves, in the form of silence and persona non grata. And he isn’t giving in.
Having the last word is a curious thing. It’s a boundary and sometimes an end, but it’s a show of power and authority. My son, at ten, has taken back that power. He has outlined the terms of his relationship, or lack thereof, with his dad, and that has afforded him some level of solace at the center of this shitstorm.
Having the Last Word, at least as far as the cocktail is concerned, is also a fascinating concept. This particular Prohibition-Era beverage was a popular and expensive bevvie in its hey-day, but fell into relative obscurity for many years thereafter. Its appeal never completely died, rather it became a sort of Zombie elixir, wandering in oblivion from the end of WWII until it was revived in 2004 by a funky bartender at the Zig Zag Club in Seattle. It was forgotten, but not gone, much like my ex is becoming to our son.
It’s awful and tragic and certainly no laughing matter but, as I told him when he asked to see our son, I’ve seen it coming for a long time, and he was just too blind or too self-absorbed to ever think it would happen. He’s fucked up and he’s eventually going to be forgotten, but it’s no accident. He deserves it.
There is a scene in The Blind Side where Leigh Ann Tuohy schools the football coach on how to effectively deal with Michael Oher during practice. When the coach approaches her, dumbfounded as to her wisdom, she reminds him that she’d said he could thank her later.
“It’s later.” She says.
It’s been said that he who laughs last, laughs best and, while that may be true, what’s truer is that he who laughs now, cries later. So here are my last words of wisdom. He should have planned accordingly, because, guess what?