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  • Writer's pictureLaurie Granieri

Learning To Ride

Sometimes I think I am afraid of my stepson—not really, of course, but I am often at a loss, not sure what to say or do. He meets most conversation with silence or a word or two at most. He and his father are in the kitchen, eating dinner (at 10 p.m.), and I am here, down the hall, typing, listening to the Phillies-Rockies broadcast chatter and cheers.

We were very close when he was young, all hugs and giggles and games, walks together, so much tenderness. Now, he's 15 and quiet, all shut up within himself. I know he's right on time, that most teenagers are like this and that his behavior is not something to worry about, and yet, I miss him. He's right here, and I miss him. I guess I miss 8-year-old him. And yet, I want so dearly to appreciate 15-year-old him, because he's kind and a person I'd like to know. But he's remote, with all of us. He really doesn't break character, not with us. And that worries me, because cis men in this culture seem to veer this way sooner or later, stuffing emotion somewhere other than here, and it's a dirty trick. I don't want to distrust emotion, although I do want to understand that emotions are changeable, temporary states, that the emotions are not me.

I feel depressed/anxious/happy, not I am depressed/anxious/happy.

I heard Ethan Hawke, a child of divorce, mentioning that he was one person with his mother, here in the Northeast, and another person with his father, with whom he spent summers in Texas. I imagine that's the same for D., positioning himself, emphasizing different aspects of his personality for different audiences. And I do not see this as disingenuous, because we all do it. It's a social lubricant.

I guess it's official: I am a parent, step parent, bonus parent, because I just want him to be happy. Kim says she doesn't wish that for her children anymore, because she doesn't want them to be complacent. I get that. But I do want him to find joy in his own company, a certain measure of contentedness.

I suppose my parents wished that for me. Overall, am I happy? Yes. I suppose so. In the every day, in the details, in the muck of it all, I am maybe not happy-—not happy with my commute, my job—but I was happy when I saw the moon high above the bare trees this morning, I was happy in the wind that blew cold and shining yesterday afternoon, I am happy when my husband flirts with me.

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