"Parents Just Don't Understand"
You know parents are the same, no matter time nor place. They don't understand that us kids, are going to make some mistakes.
California has the most gorgeous ocean views I have ever seen. Santa Barbara’s coasts just may be the most gorgeous of the gorgeous. It was very windy that morning, and the waves seemed to be having fun rolling in like thunder upon the smooth, sandy beach. The sun glistened so golden atop those huge white, green, and dark blue waves. The ocean breeze is a scent I could never get enough of. The place wasn’t empty as I expected it to be. Dozens of locals and visitors must have already strolled the wooden pier a few times that morning before my mother and I got there. A fisherman, leaning over the railing, whistled a familiar song and the tune continued in my head but the lyrics never came to mind. My mother began whistling it too and the fisherman looked over and winked at her.
“Good tune,” he called out.
“A classic,” she responded. She put her arm around my shoulders and directed me to a bench near the old fisherman. We sat there quietly, listening to the wind and sticking out our faces, looking for some sun rays to warm us up.
“And you wanted to stay home and read,” she finally said.
“I’ll probably have to stay up all night and do that now.”
“Ahh, don’t complain. You know you like doing that stuff.”
She began whistling the song again. The fisherman, standing against the railing, looking down at the water whistled along, filling in the parts my mother forgot.
“What song is that again?” I asked.
“Dock of the Bay,” she said. “Otis Redding.”
“Oh, ok. I don’t think I knew that.”
“He wrote it in Marin,” she added. “You don’t remember your dad singing it to you and Ben when you were little, when we’d go on the fishing boats.”
“Maybe, I know the tune, not the words.”
“Yeah, he used to sing it to you guys.”
“Otis wrote it on a houseboat, in Sausilito,” the fisherman said and picked up one of his rods.
“That’s right,” my mother agreed.
“Never got to perform it live. It was the last song he did,” the fisherman continued. “He died right after recording it.”
“How was it that he died?” my mother asked. The fisherman started reeling in his line. He looked up to the sky, searching for the answer. “It was a plane crash. Poor guy.”
We all got quiet again. My mother watched the fisherman pull his line in and hook some fresh bait to it. I watched the water and one lone surfer out on the waves.
“What bait you using there?” my mother asked.
“I’ve got squid here.”
“You catch the squid yourself?”
“Nope, I bought it off another fisherman this morning.”
“Good business on the pier then for selling squid,” my mother said and stood up. She walked to the fisherman’s side and peeked into the white bucket where he kept his catch.
“Oh I’ve see you’ve got a few in there.”
“Yeah, they were swimming earlier today. Not so much now. Maybe it’s the wind.”
I left my mother with the fisherman and stood up for a walk down the pier. She didn’t even notice I had left. It was predictable that she would befriend some stranger within the first fifteen minutes of our arrival. It was something she always did. She could make friends with anyone in minutes. That was something I could never get myself to do. I didn’t want to think about that though. I quieted my mind and walked away.
I was not too far down the pier when my brother called.
“Charlie, where are you?”
“Not even a ‘hello,’” I said. I was happy to hear his voice. “I haven’t seen you all weekend. How’d you even know I was in Santa Barbara?”
“Hello, Charlie,” he said, sounding annoyed. “I saw your stuff on the couch. Is Mom with you?”
“You were home? When? Yeah, she’s here.”
“I’m here right now. I need to talk to her but she won’t tell me where you’re at. She hung up on me.”
“Why? What’d you do?”
“Nothing, but she won’t tell me where you’re at?”
“We’re at the pier. Are you in trouble or something? What’d you do?”
“Nothing. I’ll be there in a while.”
He hung up on me and suddenly I was excited, and I was curious about what my brother did and what he had to tell my mother. When my mother was upset with us, she liked to play games. She liked to confuse us. She liked to torture us in this way. Ben had not been home for days, and now that he needed to speak with her, she wasn’t listening. “I don’t work or play on your time or with your rules, my boy,” I could hear her telling him right before she hung up. “You could have found me in my house all weekend if you needed to speak with me.”
I walked swiftly back to the bench where my mother and the fisherman were now discussing the variety of juices at the grocery stores.
“Ma, Ben called,” I yelled out.
“I know,” she said. “He called me too.”
“He said he’ll be here in a while.”
“Excuse me, sir,” she told the fisherman.
“You go on and take care of your family matters. I have two sons myself,” the fisherman said.
“Aren’t they a pain?”
“Why do you think I fish? It gets me away from them.” The two shared a laugh. Then my mother turned to me.
“You told him we were here?”
“Let’s go then.”
“What? No, he said he’d be here in five minutes.”
“Then we better get moving before he gets here.”
“I’m not going,” I said. “I haven’t seen my brother all weekend. I wanna see him.” In fact, I did not care to see my brother. A little brother could not ask for anything more than to watch his older brother get scolded. That’s what I was hoping to see in the next few minutes, if I stalled my mother long enough for Ben to get there.
My mother sighed. “You’re right. I’ll let you see your brother and then we’ll go.”
“That’s all I ask.”
“Ben’s your oldest son?” the fisherman butted in.
“Yes, my oldest, ill-advised son.”
“Good luck with him.”
“Thank you, sir.”
My mother leaned against the pier and looked out at the horizon. I stood beside her.
“You shouldn’t have told him we were here.”
“Sorry I didn’t know you didn’t want him to know.” I knew.
“It’s hard to raise you boys, don’t you know that?”
“Well, you’ve done a good job so far I think.”
“You’re the good son.”
“That’s all I wanted to hear.” I smiled. She looked exhausted leaning over the railing.
“Ma, Charlie, there you are,” I heard Ben’s voice.
“You got here quick,” I said and walked towards him for a hug. The fisherman turned around and watched us. Ben walked to my mother who hadn’t moved, still hung over the railing.
“Mom,” Ben said.
“Benjamin.” She looked up at him.
“I’m sorry,” he said. I stood back and watched along with the fisherman.
“Don’t tell me sorry,” she said. “I’d prefer you show me.”
“Ma, I’ll call next time. I’m sorry.”
“Bring Marie. Come in woman’s clothing. I don’t care. When I have something planned with you in it, I expect you to take it seriously. I don’t like being embarrassed.”
“Ma, I’m sorry. I can’t say it enough. But I’m here to tell you something more important,” he said, with a huge smile. My mother stood up straight and started walking towards me.
“Well you can save that for another time because Charlie and me are leaving.”
“What? I just got here,” he said.
“Let’s go, Charlie,” she said, and started walking towards the parking lot. “It was nice meeting you, Harry. Hope to see you again.”
“A pleasure, professor!” the fisherman yelled back. Ben and I followed our mother, trying to keep up with her fast pace.
“Ma, please listen,” Ben begged. It was not uncommon to see him beg.
“I’ll listen later. I have to go. Charlie, you got the keys?”
“Yes,” I said, and I rushed passed her to the truck. It was a little blue truck that my father gave her a few years ago.
“Ma,” Ben said, and attempted to block my mother from entering the car. “Listen, just for a minute, please.”
“Get out of my way, boy. You’ve had all weekend to tell me whatever it is,” she said, as I predicted. “Let me enjoy sometime with Charlie, he’s only here until tomorrow.”
“Mom, I’m getting married,” Ben said, standing aside, allowing my mother to pass into her truck. I froze, not shocked from what he said, but from not being able to predict my mother’s response to this one. I watched my mother but all she did was open the car door. Ben said it again. “Did you hear me, Ma? I’m getting married.”
“I’m listening,” she said and she got in the car. I still stood frozen on the other side of the vehicle. She had no expression on her face.
“What do you think then?” he asked her. He seemed relieved and happy to have let that out.
“I think not,” she said, and slammed the door closed. She started the engine.
“Mom, you’re not listening,” Ben yelled, and she drove away.