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Saturday, Jul. 19, 2003
Continued from previous

[By the way, Clarence in the Guestbook asked a fair question. “What would you have done if a young male was sleeping under your roof with your daughter, instead of Lids?”

Shot him, and buried him out back without too much ceremony I guess. Although I don’t think it would have gotten that far. It’s one of the unbreakables so far as I’m concerned, and my daughters do seem to respect that rule. So am I two-faced about the whole thing? Read on, maybe I’ll stumble across the answer myself. Thanks Clarence, for asking.]

Turns out, after a few days of having Lids around the house, that there were some alter-issues swirling in the mist. There was talk about some trouble with her mother, there were quiet little back room conversations with Ally. Most of what I got out of it led to the point that Lids needed a place to stay as much as anything. For the summer.

She started taking night classes a couple of weeks ago at the community college. Masters degree. A fine thing.

But she needed work too. There’s something about the sudden lack of cash, and the overpowering need for it that college students have that makes them into veritable working machines. I asked her what her experience was, and wasn’t too surprised to hear that she had some mechanical ability, a little touch of the familiarity with a hammer. Those forearms betrayed her, they were way too big to have just swung a softball bat.

So I packed her off to Camp Outfoxed and the City by the Bay.

Working on a small crew in the midst of a hundred acres of mayhem, I kinda did the same thing I do with all new hires. I sat back and just observed while I was working. Some people work construction (or just about anything else that is manual in nature) very well, they pick up things quickly, they stay busy throughout the day, you don’t have to be chasing them around or wonder whether they’re sleeping on the third floor while you slave on the first.

Lids was such a person. I solemnly handed her a broom first thing in the morning and pointed towards a house. And she was off. Just like that. And there was no end of the stir she caused. Women on a jobsite are still a rare thing, and a woman who heaves boxloads of stuff into the air like they were basketballs is rarer still.

There’s a little tractor-like machine on the job called a “Bobcat”. You’ve all seen them, little bucket in the front, little cab to sit in, stands about five feet high, scoops dirt for a living.

Somewhere around the middle of the day I came out of the house and found Stu, watching with a bemused expression as Lids drove the ‘Cat back and forth in the sideyard, scooping up trash and making a run for the common dump site. “Hey Stu, she drives that thing pretty good!”

He spit a miniscule cigar seed and chuckled. “Yep. Says she learned how to do it in the shipyard one summer. Figured I’d call her bluff. Damned if I’m gonna do that in this heat.”

It was, without question, hot out there. The kind of unwavering sun that turns skin one shade browner and squeezes sweat from foreheads in a steady stream. You drink water all day, you sweat all day. It is the steady compliment of summer on a construction site. And Lids looked much as she did on a softball field, white T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the shoulders, shorts, sneakers. If she’d had on a batting helmet I’d swear she was on her way to the plate for another towering blast.

We headed back to the neighborhood at the end of the day, and of course the truck seemed to find its way to the Watering Hole (as it does with daily, and unerring efficiency). Lids didn’t seem to be too surprised, almost as if she expected a cold one at the end of a hot day. (And I’ll interject here that yes, she is over 21.)

She looked a little sad, of course. “Pops, I don’t have any money.” Which, having three children was the very first time I’d ever heard that. Uh huh.

I granted her a waiver. Or a free one, as the case may be. Denying a cold beer to someone who worked hard all day is just not in my nature. And I guess it was my unabashed way of saying “It’s all right, you’re part of a crew here” without actually having to come out and say it. As a matter of fact, that was probably part of the thing that was beginning to fascinate me about the whole Lids personna. I knew she was becoming attached to Beth, was trying very hard to please and not cause trouble, was probably just a little bit worried about what I thought about her. Yet we were both skirting that issue, walking around it and drinking a beer and not looking it in the eye.

But she called me “Pops”, which is not an unusual thing. Maggie’s friends do it as well, I seem to attract the sort of “Pops” tagging that only a brigade of teenaged girls can muster. Pops is relaxed, Pops can be hit up for a couple of bucks, Pops will let us use the car.

But Pops was, and still is, a father and a husband. In the cool air of the Watering Hole, with a little Toby Keith on the jukebox and a cold one at my elbow, the little rational part of my brain was still on alert. The old school alert – the “Lesbians at Large” alert. And I didn’t particularly care for that. Lids was just another person, you know? Yeah, a person infatuated with one of my own. A person older and hopefully wiser than one of my own. A person with troubles not of my making, but I didn’t know quite what the end of all this was going to be.

Ally, who is much more direct and up-front than I am, wasn’t one to mince words about the whole thing. “Lids, I love you honey, but pick up your damn shoes from the living room!” Or, as Beth and Lids were stepping out for a night on the town, “Going to meet up with the League of Lesbians tonight?” A now classic line which had me writhing on the floor in a trice, and has since been repeated often to Stu with similar mirthful results.

It does seem that each generation has its own problems to solve. And I don’t know why, but this whole thing had me seeing my mother leaning into a live viewing of the “Sound of Music” some 400 years ago, rapt with the presentation of solving a Problem like Maria and then fast forwarding to the here and now and solving a problem like Lids. If it is a problem at all. You can take the whole lesbian issue and shove it in the oven and bake for an hour and it doesn’t go away, it doesn’t make bread that is more palatable and it surely doesn’t do much for a parent wondering if or why they have gone horribly wrong.

Because. These are people. They wander around just as you or I and make the mistakes that wandering people are prone to do. They have the moments, the bliss of knowing that the day they live in is the most perfect of days and that the one they love is the finest of loves, the very picture of rapture as they cradle a chin in hand and whisper sweet things said by millions. Millions throughout the millennia, the cusp of love made whole by words.

I could listen to the old order and the new, I could make war on the idea that this is a behavior that you are born with versus one that is learned. I could rant and wail with my daughter for days without end, weeping with the futility of it all or I could just love her, and love her friend with the same protective fierceness that I have for my other two children. The three that I have helped birth and feed and clean for what seems like a lifetime but is, in fact, just a smattering of years so far.

I could listen, for perhaps the thousandth time, the sage that is my father when he was lucid and of a non-dementia laden mind. When he beheld my infant third child in his arms and gave a rare personal review. “You know, about all you can do is feed them, put a roof over their head and love them. Love them with all your heart. Stand up for them and ask that they do the same for you. The rest is up to them and any amount of verbiage on your part isn’t going to amount to much anyway.” This was a man who had raised the four of us with a curious grin and an air of non-expectation, and saw goodness in what he beheld, and love in his own handiwork.

Did I spoil my daughter? The very one who has her own mind and runs free in the world, lush with toys and clothes and money and having a doting parent who grants her every whim? Hardly. I couldn’t tell you the amount of times that I mentally reared back in my proverbial chair and frowned and said “This is up to you. You screw it up and it’s your baby. And by the way, I don’t have the cash to bail you out if you do it wrong.” I don’t think it’s harsh to approach the kids in that way. It’s honest, at worst. It’s making life an issue of clarity, a thing of staring lesbianism in the face and walking towards it or away. And if they’re that determined to embrace it they know where to find me, because I’m not going anywhere just yet.

Our Summer with Lids isn’t even half over. I look at her and see the person who is struggling with herself and her new found love and find nothing particularly wrong. She has a silver stud stuck in her eyebrow, a forearm that suggests Popeye with longish hair. She can whip my ass in billiards on any given day. She is, in fact, just Lids, and wants nothing more that to be embraced by the people she has moved in with and whose refrigerator she raids at odd hours of the night.

Lids played a softball tournament the other day, played with the very League of Lesbians that Ally had muttered about. She came back looking like she had gone 15 rounds with a grizzly bear and lost. Cut up, bruised, a series of deep bleeding slices on tanned legs. She had played shortstop and nothing, nothing at all was going to get past her. She had gone into battle and made a bouncing ball and a dirt field her enemy.

I took a look at her and didn’t know whether to laugh or what. There was blood, there was a near nausea appearance from her that parodied a war-horse panting foam after an especially hard day. “Lids, for God’s sake what happened?”

“We lost. But they didn’t get it past me.” No indeed. Nothing much got past Lids.

So I did what I would have done with any 4 year old who had skinned knees on a summer day. I hugged her and made clucking sounds and fussed over her like the sympathetic sot I am. And Ally did the same. It’s hard to do this with a 21 year old. It’s particularly hard to do so with a 21 year old who isn’t used to it, who has had a hard time of it with her own family. Who is living on her last moment, every moment of the day, because she has chosen to love women more than men. Who looks at you with questioning amazement for an expression of concern.

I suppose it was at that point I chose to stop thinking about lesbians and start thinking about the wonder, the absolute astonishing wonder that is a human being and how they choose their path. Old school be damned, I was in for the duration here.

Beth and Lids took us to dinner the other night. Just Ally and I, and the two of them. Ally and I sat close in the backseat and tried not to fool around too much. You know, so as not to embarrass them.

There was a feeling of expectation. Like an announcement was coming of some sort. There was beer and some truly wonderful fish and I was feeling expansive, the sort of happy feeling that comes with fine food and eating it with people you cherish. I looked to Beth and Lids with a sort of cocked eyebrow and a half smile, waiting for it. And sure enough, Lids didn’t disappoint me.

“Hey Pops, you know I really love your daughter, right?”

She said it with not a trace of nervousness. Like she’d practiced it for a while. Practiced it in a way deemed right for the construction guy, the Pops who swilled beer with her and shot pool with her and generally wised-ass around. But I knew. I knew where she was with this.

I just grabbed her by the neck and squeezed.

Someday Lids might move on. It may come to pass that Beth rides off on the white horse with some lanky youth who has just gotten over the acne stage and is ready to start learning what I’ve learned to this point. And we’ll start this thing all over again.

But when I see the fire shining in eyes, the truth of loving another soul in a complete and utter dispatchment of reason, then I’ll think of Lids, and the summer she had. And it will be all right. I pray that she will be all right too. It seems that it’s the least I can hope for.

Or the least that any of us could yearn for.

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