He had no one to confide in. Marion was the the keeper of his secrets. He couldn’t very well tell her, about her, and how worried he was. Elliot and Addison were too far away and he didn’t want to trouble them. They decided long ago that their children would not be privy to the adult matters in the lives of their parents. As the boys got older they maintained that boundary. Elliot’s 21st birthday party was held at the shore camp, a little place they bought in the woods, on the ocean, when the boys were young. Marion had prepared salads and a huge cake, she’d strung Japanese lanterns from the trees and floated helium balloons from the porch. They’d welcomed guests and enjoyed the celebratory cacophony of the birthday cookout then after the gifts and the first toast they’d slipped away. It was the official end of Elliot’s childhood and the beginning of their passage to the last phase.
If he’d had to choose the happiest days of his life, he would have chosen the years when they lived as a family under one roof. Marion stayed home with the boys until they went to school. Once they were in school she volunteered in every capacity, in the library, the cafeteria, on the playground after school, and as a driver for the various games and recitals the boys were involved in. The doors were always opening and slamming shut with kids of all ages coming and going at all hours of the day and night. She inadvertently taught them to be involved citizens. She had passion. He never knew what she was going to do. When Tom Briggs’ contract was not renewed, the high school kids were outraged. He’d been an engaging principal and he hadn’t buckled to the politics in education. The kids loved him. They walked out and marched to city hall where they held a press conference. When he flipped on the evening news there was Marion at the top of the granite steps speaking in defense of Tom, in solidarity with the teenagers.
They’d had some challenging years once the testosterone began to surge. They’d spent nights, lying in bed, staring at the ceiling waiting for the boys to return home. They’d cruised the parking lot, looking for them, when they were not where they were supposed to be. She’d rubbed his back while she whispered that it was okay that neither of them wanted to join the business, congratulating him on the fine job he’d done raising independent, confident, sons. She’d done the heavy lifting on that job.
Elliot loved the outdoors as much as they did. He got a degree in recreation at Western Washington University and built a career with the National Park Service. There had been a small hiccough when he told them he’d fallen in love with David. Hank didn’t know how to process that. Elliot brought him home to meet them. David fit right into the family, sharing common interests with everyone. Addison was the only one who “knew”. Even Marion had been unaware.
Addison’s choices had presented more of a dilemma. He was a talented blues and jazz musician. He was very good with his saxophone, though severely lacking in financial pragmatism. He was perpetually broke everywhere, all over the country and in Europe. His education was a patchwork of stops and starts. Marion was enthusiastic when he’d called with the news that he’d married a German girl, Katherine. Both of them were crestfallen when he brought her home. She wasn’t at all what they’d hoped for. Hank referred to her as “that gold-digging strumpet” to Marion after that first visit. Who wore black fishnet stockings with a skirt so short that almost nothing was left to the imagination to their in-laws’? Marion told him how it was going to be. “Addison chose her. He loves her. We will not be carrying Mimi’s tradition forward. We’re going to concentrate on the positive and, unless she does something absolutely heinous, we will say only kind things about her. We may have to close our eyes but we’ll leave our hearts open.”