Chapter Forty-six

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Early for a Sunday I woke up and immediately felt the need of some designer coffee. Twenty minutes later it was 10 a.m. and I had a double-shot mocha in one hand and a six-pack of muffins in the other. Both thanks to Mary's Market Edgebrook.

It was early. I was in a good mood. Somehow it seemed logical to visit my mother's house and help her cook the Sunday meal—or, if possible, sit on the sidelines, drink coffee, and kibitz while she did all the work.

I arrived before 10:30 to find my mother and the Swede ensconced on either end of the sofa, with Otto the wonder dog between them. They were sharing the Sunday edition of the Rockford Register Star and drinking home-brewed coffee.

My muffins were welcomed, and I grabbed a hunk of the paper for myself. My section included the personals ads, which seemed an interesting portent for the day ahead. Since the sofa was taken, I opted for the comfy, name-brand lounge chair that leaned all the way back. Soon I was angled back in the chair, feet up, sipping coffee, and munching on a carrot muffin.

For once, I felt peaceful and rested. I gazed around the room to discover that my mother knew a thing or two about decorating. The walls were a warm beige; the carpet was chocolate; and most of the furniture was one shade of brown or another. Oddly enough, the place didn't seem boring despite all the heavy browns.

Here and there, my mother had added bursts of color that made the room feel inviting: a vivid turquoise glass ball on the coffee table, a purple velvet pillow on the rocking chair, and gold tassels tying back the heavy taupe drapes. Mom's style wasn't my style at all, but the room felt comforting as my own apartment did not.

I glanced up to see my mother slipping a bite of muffin to the dog under the watchful eyes of the Swede. Then, because he didn't know I was watching, the Swede blew my mother a kiss. I'd never even seen them hold hands in my presence let alone get intimate. Sure, I suspected that they had sex occasionally, but mostly I didn't want to think about parental copulation.

Here in front of me was proof that the Swede loved my mother, though I'd never really doubted it. Everyone loved her. Yet, five years after the fact, I seemed to be the only one who disapproved of their mating. One kind gesture didn't change my mind, however. Mom was smart, and she could have done better. End of story.

As if to exorcise that tender moment, I unfolded the personals ads and began to read. I read ten ads, by then they became pretty much the same. "Single white male, 45, 6'1" and stocky, seeks single white female, 20-30, thin, with long hair for sexual relationship."

My coffee cup was empty.

While the women were universally seeking "soul mates" for long walks and romantic dinners, the men were more pragmatic. The Y-chromosomes were quite specific about age ranges (10 to 20 years younger than themselves), about physical type (willowy, athletic, and shapely standing in as euphemisms for thin), and about hair length (long winning over short by a mile). One fellow even stated explicitly what was implicitly understood. His ad read: NO FAT CHICKS in all caps. I wondered if a personals ad calling for "no fat heads" would get any takers. None of this improved my mood a whit.

I lowered my section of the paper and glared at my mother. "So when do we start cooking?"

My mother looked up from her section of the paper, glanced at the Swede, and smiled. "Shortly," she said.

The Swede got up from the couch. To my mother he said, "I think Otto needs a walk, Caroline."

At the W word, Otto perked up considerably.

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