A few hours from now, the motorhome will jolt slightly, as if hit by a sudden small rogue gust, and the royal curtain will pull back, and my son will appear, hairy legs first. I’ll get him some juice and fruit and coffee cake, and his allergy pill and a vitamin, just like I always do at home, and he’ll take up his position at the larger dinette in the kitchen (which also becomes a bed). Looking out his own window, he’ll fire up his computer and the extra speaker he brought along and turn on Pandora. Then he’ll proceed to download from his camera some more of the footage he’s taken for the documentary we’re here to make. In the fall, he’s going away to college to study film. When I mentioned the trip, it was the first thing out of his mouth. Like me, he seems happiest when engaged in a project; this is ours together.
I don’t know yet what he’s going to call his piece—it’s to be about a boy and his dad on a little road trip before college. Last night, after I’d grilled us a couple of rib-eye steaks—the salad mixed and dressed in a one-gallon Ziploc baggie—we were sitting at the picnic table under the stars, staring out quietly into the dark and limitless sky, watching all the helicopters and small planes flying by, hurrying important people to important places. The crash of the waves down below seemed louder and very close; the mighty river of rushing cars had slowed at last to a trickle.
We both had spoons; we were eating from a container of ice cream I’d left out for a while to make mushy—the way we both like it. I remember when I was small, and my father used to come home late from work, I used to ask him to mush my ice cream for me, and he would do so with the spoon inside the little glass cup. Later, as a teen, I’d come home from partying and I’d always find him in the kitchen, having a modest scoop. I can see him even now, gathering together a little ice cream with a little Hershey’s syrup and some nuts and offering his long-haired and glassy-eyed son a spoonful of the delicious goo. He’s gone now, Marvin Miles Sager. I miss him every day.
Miles handed me the carton of ice cream. Inside was a perfect concoction of coffee and chocolate and Heath bar. When Miles was young, he had to have ice cream every night. I used the microwave to make his mush. Sometimes I added syrup on top. Now, as the cool melted stuff puddled on my tongue, I thought about how lucky it felt to be here—doing a thing I’d always wanted to do in the company of the person I cherish more than anyone else in the world. I was thinking: Maybe if you’re really fortunate, you get to help produce someone who you kind of understand and who kind of understands you. I’m not saying we’re all the way there. He’s still young; you can’t lean on a kid or they grow up crooked. But I know how he thinks, and how he thinks of me. We’ve been through some tough years together since his mother and I got divorced. Our synergy is evident. Hopefully it will continue to grow, even when we’re apart.
Taking back the carton, Miles helped himself to another spoonful. “From now on,” he said reflectively, “I’ll only be coming home on vacations.”
If this is how it goes, I think I’ll be okay.