Remember what it was like to be a teenager?
For some of you it may not be that long ago, for others – well you might have teenagers yourself. If you’re in the latter group like me, that time of your life might only be remembered vicariously through your kids.
Myself? I’ve managed to block out most of the uncomfortable memories and replace them with common pubescent stereotypes. What’s left has been revised with corrective hindsight and the type of wisdom only indicated by grey hair sprouting from my temples.
Here’s the gist: attraction to the opposite sex, mood swings, general angst, a lot of food, a lot of sleep, beer, puberty, something about High School, and attraction to the opposite sex – not necessarily in that order.
If I were to put on my Other Geoff blogger’s hat I’d rewrite that something like this:
It was a period of change – both physically and mentally. I knew being a teenager wasn’t a destination, but rather a mode of transportation from one stage of life to the next – like an uncomfortable late night train ride home when you’re drunk. I was angry and frustrated at the best of times – I wanted to be an adult already but couldn’t help but reminisce about those joyful days of childhood.
To complicate things as I entered that stage of life, my mom started seeing a new man. My dad was long gone and my mom had started dating. My mom was a strong and classy lady and I like to think she did a pretty good job of raising me. She had grace and poise – the type of lady in her 40’s that never left the house without a pair of high heels, a pencil skirt, and lipstick. She was well spoken too – and was strict in how she raised me from an educational background. She could fend for herself and had a decent job – she didn’t need a man in her life from a financial perspective.
Nevertheless, there were plenty of suitors who wanted to take her out; most never got a shot as she had a righteous streak to her. Sometimes though, one would make all the right moves and the next thing I’d know I’d be dragged along to a dinner or barbeque to meet the “new guy.”
I was 14 when I met Stan. He was a lot older than most of the guys my mom seemed to date. He was well dressed, spoke with a bit of drawl – if he spoke at all, and he looked like he had a bit of money. He was tall and slim with a pencil thin moustache and what was clearly a hairpiece. I remember his Cadillac parked in our driveway one day when I came home from school. It was a massive land yacht of a car – the red of the body sparkling in the sun stood in stark contrast to the immaculate white convertible top.
Stan wasn’t warm or fuzzy with me. Sure he wasn’t rude or mean or anything like that – but he wasn’t the type to pat me on my back and take me fishing. To be honest, I was in such a hurry to get to adulthood – complete with all the riches of a job and success that stage of life would bring – I didn’t much care. Still there were times when I wasn’t sure about his intentions with my mom. She was happy – or at least I think she was. He would take her on trips to America or wine and dine her with his business partners.
About 6 months after my mom started seeing Stan, I came home from school to find a long black limo parked curbside in front of our modest house. Since the days of Matchbox, I’ve always been a car guy and yet I’d never seen a limo like this before – a check of the badge confirmed it as a Zil.
Inside I was met by a man in his 60’s wearing a fur coat and oversized glasses, his large frame standing at the mantle in our living room. He was speaking excitedly with my mom and the small fragments that I caught before bursting in on them centred on my mom leaving Stan. This was Alisher.
If Stan represented the safe bet in terms of suitors, Alisher was an unknown quantity. He was passionate about my mom – that much was clear whenever he spoke in his thick accent. He wasn’t a looker either – but like Stan, he had money. He was the type to wear gold pinky rings and gaudy watches that you knew were worth more than a good college education. He stunk like cigar smoke whenever I went near him (not often) and from the moment we met, he put on a patronizing tone that made me queasy.
He got me a teddy bear. I’m 14 and this sweaty, overweight man is introducing himself like he was Daddy Warbucks and giving me an oversize teddy bear. I guess I should have appreciated the thought – he must have known my mom was well…erm…a mom, but this was the beginning of a pattern.
While my mom, with all her class and dignity, wouldn’t have anything to do with Alisher while she was seeing Stan, it didn’t stop Alisher from showing up in the parking lot of my school at the end of the day to offer me a ride home. He seemed nice enough, if not disingenuine, and there was always a gift that was not befitting my age: a baseball cap, a train set, a bike. My mom would often come out to the front door at drop off. She’d smile politely but she never invited him in for dinner – he never had a spot at the table.
There were also the gifts he sent my mom: flowers, chocolates, jewelry – the letters would pile up on the kitchen counter – always with a scarlet “A” on the envelope. Looking back, I have to give it to Alisher – he had a knack of knowing when mom and Stan were fighting. The day after each disagreement, a box of chocolates or diamond earrings would show up at the front door.
For years this went on – Alisher and Stan effectively became my two dads. One was cold and distant towards me – but seemed to treat my mom well. The other obnoxiously warm and sociable, if not a bit disreputable – looking in on our awkward family structure from the outside. Neither of them was a perfect fit for my mom – she deserved better.
Alisher continued picking me up at school. He’d be at all my sports activities but it was clear that he was using me to get to my mom. Once I figured that out, the limo rides and teddy bear gifts stopped. It was for the best because I was always a bit uneasy around him.
I’d see Stan but not regularly. He’d come by the house once in a while and occasionally I’d see him at my football games. He was obviously only interested in my mom and could care less that she had a kid. I put up with him, but never quite trusted him.
For me it changed when I was 17. I skipped school and came home to find Stan’s Cadillac in the driveway. I knew my mom was at work so it was a surprise he was there; even though he had a key. I snuck upstairs unnoticed to find Stan in my mom’s room – his hands in her jewelry box. He didn’t see me but as I watched in suspended belief – he pocketed some earrings and a pearl necklace.
Shocked – I hid in my room until he left. As soon as my mom came home, I confronted her with what I had seen. I was even more shocked that she didn’t seem surprised or even to care. She even went so far as to justify it with some weak excuse about work he’d done for her. As anger and frustration bubbled up from within – I realized that if my mom knew this was happening there wasn’t a whole lot I could do to get rid of Stan.
It didn’t stop me from being upset. Believe me, if I could have taken a banner to Stan’s office, I would have. But on the flip side, I didn’t want to shame my mom – to tarnish her classy reputation. It’s hard to know what I would’ve accomplished other than satisfying myself. It would be an empty victory – Stan didn’t care what some kid had to say.
And even if I managed to get Stan out of the picture, there was always Alisher lurking in the wings. I never had the feeling that we’d be better off with him. Looking back at that period, I have this mental image of my mom as one of those mob boss wives. On the surface she’d look okay, there’d be money, but underneath the proud veneer she’d cry herself to sleep knowing she’d done a deal with the devil.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but what I really wanted was to go back to those halcyon days when it was just my mom and dad and me. Those were happy days – devoid of the complications of a single mom trying to raise a teenage boy. It wasn’t until a lot later that I found out she stayed with Stan because of me. Because she thought having the security of a man in my life during my teenage years was important. What my mom didn’t realize is she could have gotten me through that period on her own – if only she’d had the confidence.
I’m still bitter that she made that decision without me but there isn’t anything I can do to change it – it’s not like I could have affected the outcome. I was just a moody kid and she; well she was a proud and honest lady. I’ll always love my mom and with the benefit of time I understand why she did it: she wanted the best for us and she did what she thought was right.
In the end I don’t think she realized that what would make me truly happy: I mean really, really happy – would be to see her win the League at White Hart Lane again.
You know it!
The Other Geoff
By ‘#ABW Chief Blogger’ The Other Geoff (@Hollefreund)
All characters in this blog are not real (except Other Geoff) and are not based on real people. Any resemblance to the primary and secondary shareholders of the Arsenal Football Club is purely coincidental.