Memoirs -- fact and fiction, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

When your kids hand you a slice of home-made ‘American Pie,’ devour it with delight

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A scene from Ambergris Cay, Belize, on Easter morning, 2015. The building on stilts is called “The Wedding Shack.”  At one time, newlyweds were rowed out there and abandoned until they consummated their marriage — or ran out of champagne.

It is not every year that a man turns 70, especially in a year when a global contagion seems to be targeting his demographic with the determination of an avenging angel.

Virus or no virus, I never expected to see this day. In truth, I never expected to see 30, or 40, or … well, you get the picture. I’ve always had this premonition, like a renewable annuity, that this decade or the next could very well be my last.

Ironically, the older I get, I suppose, the more-accurate my premonitions are likely to become. It is very much like the evangelical foghorn who periodically predicts the end of the world, while encouraging his sheep to give up their earthly belongings (to him) before it is too late.

Sooner or later, he will be able to say, “I told you so!”

Ever since my early 20’s I’ve been beset by two competing premonitions —

  1.  There is some divinely inspired purpose for which I have been placed upon the earth — a purpose which has not yet been revealed to me, I should add.
  2.  That my life will be cut short in some tragic, vaguely poetic, possibly heroic, but not wasted way.

But here I am, having turned 70 sitting at the top of a house in Mexico that feels like a castle in the midst of a global-contamination, and I don’t feel at all like embracing my premonitions.

Every morning I step outside and scan the countryside from my “turret,” looking for signs of enemy forces massing in long straight rows on the hillsides, their banners and flags held high, urgently hurling inspirational slogans at each other. A final bolstering of mettle before the charge.

But, no.

There are trees, and church steeples, and grand houses across the way, and flocks of doves and egrets where, in happier times, there might also be hot air balloons.

There is an invasion underway. We all know that. You can feel it in the air which seems weighted down with our collective anxieties and boredom. You just can’t see it except in the emptiness of the streets, the furtive eyes behind face masks, and the closed-up shops.

I am beginning to suspect that my purpose has already come and gone. That I may or may not have done whatever it was I was meant to do.

When I was younger, I suspected that this mysterious purpose was connected to fame or fortune or power or hidden superpowers.  Since none of those things happened, I’m left with several conclusions.

  1. Perhaps I didn’t heed a specific sign from the gods and I took a left, rather than a right, and thus missed my destiny entirely.
  2. Perhaps I completed all the right moves on the chessboard that is my life and won the game while being oblivious to it all. (You know, like, “The best random acts of kindness are the ones in which you never know the outcome.”)
  3. Maybe we are still far from game-over.

If I were to check out now, I’d have a pretty decent answer for the guy at the gate checking passports.

“Anything to declare?”

“Yes. I raised three beautiful sons, who have became three good men. And I love my wife, Rose Alcantara. And I’ve tried not to be a pompous jerk, except on Facebook where it is very hard not to be one.”

Maybe those sons — Brendan Richard, Ryan Patrick, and Christopher Andrew — were my destiny.  They have certainly turned out far better than I did. They are now three good husbands with three sons — all so biblically symmetrical.  (A fourth grandson is on the way and breaking up the symmetry will be a cause for renewed celebration.)

Of course, they are not mine to claim alone. They are the product of a loving mother and plenty of loving aunts and uncles and grandparents and their own friends — and not least, their wives. Wives have a way of shaping good sons into better men.

I love every person in my family, just as they are — sons, wives, grandsons, step-kids, brothers and sister. I wouldn’t change a thing about any of them. They are far from perfect, just as I am, which is good enough. They are all happy in their own way, kind and thoughtful in their own way, and compassionate in their own way.

No two alike! How did I get so lucky?

My sons are still capable of surprising me, too. Which is pretty good considering what a shaggy old, cynical, world-weary fart I am.

On my birthday, Rose organized a ZOOM meet-up with my sons and their families and her daughter Caira and her partner Alex. It was a grand, technologically awkward time — I still don’t have the hang of multi-person online free-for-alls. As in real life, I tend to hang back and watch conversations fly by.

The kids had a surprise for me.

They took the music to Don McLean’s “American Pie” and wrote their own lyrics. About me! Each family sang about a third of the song. I don’t know if they all kicked in on the lyrics or not. Some

Brendan, Cami, and grandson Brody made colorful air guitars to accompany their vocals. Chris, Katie, and Tallac made a huge sign which they posted on their porch railing as a backdrop. Ryan, Larisa, and Augie showed us an ultrasound image of our newest grandson.

Ryan sent me a copy of their lyric sheet and I have to say I was impressed. Not with their songwriting abilities so much — but with how much of my life they remembered. And how poignantly dead-on some of their memories were. And some, in their poetically cryptic glory would make Bob Dylan and McLean both blush.

It’s not that my kids wrote a song about me — that was great fun — but that they remember so much about me. That moved me to tears.

At my age, you start entertaining thoughts that you may just get out of this life with nobody remembering anything special about you.  Like birthdays over age 65, silently slipping away below the radar.

Admittedly, that is just feeling sorry for myself, something my kids have never let me get away with in the past.

Not now either.

We didn’t record the birthday song, but I can show you the lyrics. I think they got my life mostly right. If I could add a verse or two, it would be about how much I love them all just as they are, and will do so until my last dying day.

I got awful lucky in my life — falling in love at least twice, the last time forever. Meeting and befriending and being befriended by wonderful people. Working at a job that I allowed myself to admit that I loved.

And now in this chapter, living in a magical city with my magical Rose and feeling good in knowing that, in spite of myself and all my missteps as a father, my kids still love me.

I can’t ask for more than that.

Oh, yes, the lyrics.

Remember how it goes … “A long long time ago / I can still remember how / That music used to make me smile / And I knew if I had my chance / That I could make those people dance / And maybe they’d be happy for a while … Bye, bye, Miss American Pie/ drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry …”

Our version:

70 Years, a WAAAY loong time ago
I can still remember how
That Bobby makes us smile
And he knew if he had a chance
He could make those readers glance
And they’d be happy for while

71 Years, a WAAAY loong time ago
I can still remember how
That Bobby makes us smile
And he knew if he had a chance
He could make those readers glance
And they’d be happy for while

72 Years, a WAAAY loong time ago
I can still remember how
That Bobby makes us smile
And he knew if he had a chance

Bob, Bob American Bob
Rode a rabbit out west for a really sweet job
Raise three fine boys, taught them to work really hard
Singing these will be the days of our lives
These were the awesome days of our lives

So tap some pepper in that beer
And cheer his 70th year
And if Bobby tell you so
Will you turn up the rock and roll?
Or his old friend Cheryl Crow
And can we Zoom some even mo? 

Well, I know you’re in love with him
All that skull cap n denim
He loves his sweet Rose
And every single yoga pose

As a wild, wild teen
He drove a hog and a Sunbeam
But in San Diego he had a spacecraft van
Until the day the Prev-ya died 
He started singing

Saab, Saab, Bobs convertible Saab
Swiss engineered to show off the bod
Each hair is blowing so you know I ain’t hot
This will be the way that I try
To meet every girl in siiiiight

Cardiff to Loma he’s out on his own
FaceBook, yoga and a darker skin tone
Convertible wheeee

When Bobby met his sweet Rose
His knees immediately bowed
And he got down on those knees and said please

Off to Baja we were all bound
Fishing and drinking on the town
The wedding was adjourned
And the madness quickly returned

And while the family was busy at work
Bob and Rose were planning to depart
All their kids were jealous at heart
The day Bobby n Rose flied
We were singing

Bob, Bob Belizian Bob
Had a garage sale sold his junk and started some blog
We’re moving to the beach to have a great time
And singing this will be the way that I write
This will be the way that i wriiiiitttteee

Helter skelter in a summer swelter
Lost the golf cart in a drunken felter
Eight miles high and falling fast

When he found it, it was out of gas, 
But the locals hooked him up with some pretty good grass
The fry jacks at Estel’s helped him look past
Now the scuba there was amazing and pretty real
Chuck and Robbies hooked us up with a hell of a deal
We all went down to dance
And were hoping for another chance

When the roads got paved the Texans all moved in
Palapa Bar and Grill was overtaken
Do you recall what was revealed
The Day San Pedro died
We started singin’

Bob, Bob Senior Mexican Bob
Packed from beaches of Ambergris Caye making the north way
San Miguel front claimed is where to stay 
And stating, this’ll be where to retire
This’ll be where to retire

Oh and there we found life in the beets
As we’re flash mob dancing in the streets
And coffee sips with abuelitas

So off to Camino then we go
With tapas served from every sto’
Between Porto and Spain and Santia-aaago

Back now watching yoga in my sweats
As effort taken looks like human wrecks
And it’s just not my style
No, I sure won’t run a mile

Coffee shops and bakeries delish
Day of the Dead costumes with margaritas
Arts and culture are all there as I awkwardly 
Stare and the photos flare 
I’m the stalking…

Bob, Bob 70-year old Bob
Living the dream with the love of his life
Virtually connected to family outa sight
Singing Bobby made it to 70, yay!
We all hope to do the same someday! 

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6 thoughts on “When your kids hand you a slice of home-made ‘American Pie,’ devour it with delight

  1. Pingback: When your kids hand you a slice of home-made ‘American Pie,’ devour it with delight « Bound for Belize

  2. Pingback: The Log: April 22, I’m back and I’ve got this headful of stuff I need to tell you … | Musings, Magic, San Miguel and More

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