Brian is a student at Macomb, juggling school, relationships, and business ventures. His only real friend and constant companion is Stinger, the orange tabby with thumbs. The extra toes on each paw are his crowning glory, despite being at the paw end.
When Brian visits home, Stinger is with him. The cats, Toot and Stinger, have a rapport. They close ranks when Kelly visits with her little chihuahua, Trixie. I relegate all the animals to the basement. The cats, Stinger and Toot, sit on either side of the bottom step while the chihuahua paces the floor. If Trixie puts one little paw on the bottom step, the two guardians of the staircase jump into action. They snarl at her, baring fangs, and retracting their claws, poising to tear the little one into pieces. Poor little Trixie backs off fast and cowers behind the sofa, pitifully yipping to be rescued. The moment they hear clanging bowls and the sounds of kibbles being poured, all three rush up the stairs to their assigned spots.
On his trips home, Brian borrows one of our cars to take downtown Chicago for an evening of fun. Our car comes with an almost full tank of gas. Parking is always a problem downtown, especially on weekend evenings. Illegal parking is always available, so Brian isn’t too bothered. Dad or Sunita will get the phone calls on unpaid tickets long after Brian leaves for school. Apologizing readily handles Dad’s calls to Brian. Vehicle registration in Dad’s or Sunita’s name works out well.
Brian does this once too many times. On this night, he and his buddies are walking out of a bar and see a car being towed away. After a good beer-laden laugh at the poor sucker, Brian realizes it is our car. He sprints after it and chases it into the holding compound. He enters and claims it as his car. No verification can be done as the office is closed. Brian shows them his keys, gets in the car, and drives away nonchalantly. It surprises the towing guys at the audacity, but wave him on, knowing they will have the last laugh.
The next day is a Sunday. We get an early morning call that Brian has stolen a car from the tow yard. Brian is not home since he is spending the night with a friend. It is a lovely sunny fall morning, but the drive downtown is less than enjoyable, given our mission. It’s a hefty fine for illegal parking and towing, and a huge penalty for car theft, even though the car belongs to us. Who’s arguing with the authorities?
Brian starts a clothing line in gym clothes. He takes the sewing machine from home back to school and learns to put together baggy jogging pants and a few other do-dads. He offers these initial attempts to his friends for a small fee or a few beers. These attempts cannot catch on. The first bidder quickly purchases and takes the machine. His next foray is into making his brand of salsa. He receives a lot of thumbs up on taste, but the short shelf-life is its undoing.
Brian is realizing life is tough. One has to sit captive in class when one could be out experimenting and making millions. He is enthusiastic about entrepreneurship but lacks a business plan, market research, or product testing. Dismissing these essential tasks, he desires a streamlined approach without cumbersome details. Brian complains about being held hostage in the classroom. Dad asks him to pay more attention to the lectures to see the correlation between the textbook and his business ventures. But Brian knows better. So, Dad’s words are in one ear and out the other!
But he needs friends, (who doesn’t?) and girlfriends are a must. All these tales of the heart incur costs. Running short on cash, Brian approaches Millie for a loan. He dares not ask John, who has paid a lawyer a hefty fee for getting rid of his girlfriend from the previous summer. Dad is still simmering about the recent illegal parking incident.
Brian works his charm on Mildred. He walks in, flatters Millie with a big hug for his ‘sexy Grandma,’ and asks for a loan. Millie knows it is not something he plans to repay but ‘loans’ him a small bailout. Doubts abound, as history replays in her mind. Watching Brian grin and pocket the check, she does not hear his silly jokes. Standing in the kitchen, leaning on the island, she looks past him. In an enigmatic stance, she knows he is running up debts and remembers the pain and agony he put his mother through. He sold drugs to undercover cops and other shenanigans until Dad threw him out of the house. Millie hopes he stays on the right path this time. She has her doubts, though; she has seen it all happen before with Ray. After a few moments, she turns away, shaking her head, and muttering under her breath, “I won’t be around to see any of that.” She retires to her room.
In his final year at school, Monica enters the picture. Brian meets the red-haired, green-eyed beauty at school. Monica plans to finish her degree in elementary education at the same time Brian graduates. They hang out together for their final year and talk about marriage.
Brian’s clunker runs into car problems. He calls Dad and asks him how to fix it. It is an expensive repair. A small, simple fix, but it requires some dismantling around the engine. Dismantling and reassembling takes longer than fixing. Brian is coming home this weekend, and Dad suggests they work on it together. Brian has plans with his local pals and is not interested in helping his father. Dad advises it is better he learn how to repair the problem in case it happens again.
Dad had done the same with Jason when he ran into problems with his car–the beloved Ford Mustang GT. We had purchased it for him despite the high miles. Jason had been excited when he first saw it. His face fell when Dad mentioned the mileage. We bought the car, and it proved a valuable tool to teach Jason how to keep it road-worthy. Taking the car apart was time-consuming. Jason enjoyed working with Dad and learning the machine.
Brian is six months away from graduating. He isn’t interested in helping his Dad and demands he pay for the repair. Dad’s response is a blunt no. Dad would never spend big bucks on such a minor fix when he can do it himself. Once again, he offers to show Brian how to do it. An arrogant Brian delivers a rude “F…-off.” I am following the interchange and watch John’s face fall and pale as he gently hangs up the phone.
Brian graduates at the end of the semester, and he doesn’t invite us to his graduation. Jason attends and is pleased to meet Monica. The next day, Monica and Brian pack the car along with the six-toed Toot. The three of them drive halfway across the country to California.
At least Brian follows Dad’s advice in this respect. His mantra is to get a meaningful education, learn skills, choose a location, relocate, and find employment. Brian and Monica do that.
Brian and Dad go without speaking for an entire year. In the meantime, Jason has switched majors at school from engineering to accounting. He is dating Kris, an accounting major, and they are serious. A disappointed John smiles wistfully. None of his boys are following him into engineering.
Thanksgiving is around the corner. Jason invites Kris home. Everyone is relaxing at the dining table, post-dinner. Jason is idly flicking the candle flame. Tiny droplets of wax are scattering around. Kris grabs Jason’s hand with a firm “stop it.” Jason stops and John was in love with Kris. At last, a young lady after his own heart. Someone who can influence Jason and ensure he does things correctly.
Christmas is upon us, and Jason and Chris talk about getting married. Jason is nervous to broach the topic, thinking Dad would stop supporting his education, but he is mistaken. Jason graduating with an accounting degree is a top priority, and financial funding will continue. We get to meet Kris’s mom, Judy, over Christmas dinner, and champagne toasts to the new couple continue late into the evening.
Judy plans a lovely wedding shower, with announcements and buntings in the local newspaper. They set a mid-May wedding date.
Their plans include all the formalities. A church wedding will follow a rehearsal dinner in bucolic Waterman. Brian is to be Jason’s best man, leading the groomsmen and bridesmaids. The bridal party includes two charming little flower-girls with their baskets of rose petals. The wedding reception will be held at the Fishermen’s Inn in Elburn.
Brian calls Dad on the 30th of December from California with a question. If he and Monica get married the next day, would that give him some write-offs on his taxes? Dad discusses the details with Brian. The next morning, they rush to the courthouse and get married. A church wedding is to follow later in the summer. Neither one offers an apology, but they break the year-long stalemate. At Dad’s suggestion, Brian buys an enormous bouquet of red roses for his new bride.
Thus ends the year 1991 Anno Domini – almost.