Making the Grandparents Proud



I have made the arduous journey from my bedroom to the kitchen, and I’m having lunch with the in-laws, Tony and Carol.

Tony is an MD/PhD who has had a very distinguished career in international health. He’s British, but he loves American politics — in particular Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He shares my loathing for the Tea Party.

Carol is a powerhouse/whirlwind/force of nature from Nova Scotia. She knows how to fix things, she’s practical and, even in this New Gilded Age, she doesn’t countenance waste. She has an American passport now, but she hails from a family of Empire Loyalists. Yes, that means they supported the crown during the American Revolution. Her 101-year-old mom reads something called Royalist magazine and they all follow the doings of the Windsors with keen interest.

Tony and Carol have very proper manners and a keen sense of right and wrong.

In my family, we swore at the dinner table, raised our voices and stuck our fingers in the salad bowl.

My head is still pounding. I’ve got vertigo. It’s a challenge for me to stand up. It’s a challenge for me to do anything but sleep. I still can’t even watch the TV or use my computer or read a book. All of this makes me nauseous.

I’m doing my best to maintain a simple conversation with the in-laws when the phone rings.

“Dad, is mom home?”

“No, she’s at work.”

“Ummm. Dad, I have to tell you something. Try not to get mad.”

“Ok, what is it?”

“I stole a slice of pizza at Whole Foods and I got caught. You have to come get me.”

“You stole a slice of pizza? Are you kidding?”

“No, I’m not. I need you to come sign some papers so I can get out of here.”

“OK, I’ll be there in five minutes.”

Tony and Carol are looking alarmed and confused.

“Was that Sam? Did he really steal a slice of pizza?” Tony asks.

“I’m afraid he did. I need you to drive me to Whole Foods so I can get him.”

We’re all shocked. Sam has never stolen anything before. We speculate about his motives. Did he lose his school lunch money? Did some other kids pressure him into it?

Then the biggest, darkest question of them all: Is he about to embark on a life of crime?

With Tony’s assistance, I shuffle out to the car and hoist myself into the passenger seat.  Within minutes, we’re in the Whole Foods parking lot. I’m not sure I have the strength to walk into the store and deal with this situation, but it’s got to be done.

I go to the Customer Service desk.

“Excuse me, my son was caught stealing a slice of pizza from your store. I’m here to pick him up.”

“Just a moment, sir. I’ll call the manager.”

The manager arrives. He flashes me a look of pity even before I tell him about my brain surgery.

“You know kids,” he says. “They’re always doing crazy stuff. I got caught shoplifting when I was a teenager too.”

I share my criminal credentials: I stole a piece of Bazooka bubble gum when I was three. And I swiped a Flair pen when I was about 10.

The manager leads me into a warehouse at the back of the store, and then into a little interrogation room where the in-house undercover cop is sitting at a table with Sam, who flashes a very awkward grin when I walk in.

I quickly tell the cop, who is disguised to blend with all the other affluent, anti-gluten health-food aficionados, about my surgery.

He has no mercy.

“I caught your son and a couple of other kids stealing a slice of pizza,” he informs me. “The other two got away.”

He hands me a document and tells me to sign it. It’s full of legalese, but the message is simple: Sam is not allowed to set foot in any Whole Foods franchise for one year. If he is caught shoplifting again, he will be prosecuted as a felon. Fortunately, the slice of pizza was worth less than $5, so this incident will be overlooked for now.

I sign the document, and we walk to the car. I know Sam is feeling utterly humiliated, so I remain silent. No need to pile on.

“Dad, are Grandpa and Grandma here?”

“I’m afraid they are.”

Sam winces.

We get in the car. Sam and Tony exchange pleasantries. We drive home.

Sam heads to his man cave in the basement. I head to bed and take another painkiller.

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