*When Franklin meets Geoff and myself in front of the water fountain at the Grove just after noon, he appears shaken.
“I actually think she’s seeing somebody,” he mumbles, his body giving us a brotherly hug but his mind elsewhere.
“Jennifer’s tippin’ on you?” asks Geoff, his face exuding sincere concern.
“Not Jen. My mother–I think she got a boyfriend.”
Geoff: “Dammnnn. Your father know about it?”
“Franklin’s folks been divorced for years,” I answer as we begin a stroll under a cloudless Los Angeles sky among the Grove’s Sunday retail and restaurant patrons. “Frank, if your mother is dating, that’s great. She’s been alone for years. But did she say she’s got a boyfriend?”
“Mom ain’t said boo about no dude. But on the phone I mentioned meeting you guys for a movie, and she started telling me about something with Morgan Freeman in it. Now, mom ain’t been to a theater since ‘Gone With The Wind,’ and she’d never go alone. Suddenly she’s seeing first-run movies, man.”
“Maybe she goes with a lady friend.”
“Nah. Lacey [Franklin’s brother] thinks he actually met this cat the other day. Went by the house. Said mom was
actin’ funny, like she didn’t wanna let Lace in.”
“Who is he? What did he look like?”
“You remember Cosby’s father on Cosby’s old TV show? Lace said he looked kinda like that.”
Geoff: “That’s not bad.”
“Dr. Huxtable’s daddy,” Franklin huffs. “in a leisure suit.”
“Beige. With beige patent leather loafers. Can you believe it?”
Geoff: “Heh, heh–Jim Dandy to the rescue.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“What’s WRONG? Man, my daddy wasn’t ’bout no leisure suits.”
“This isn’t your daddy–he’s your mother’s boyfriend.”
“Do you know how it feels to find out your mom has a leisure-suit-man mentality? Lace said she introduced him as ‘Mr. James.'”
Geoff: “Uh, oh. They ARE datin’, then, brother. Why do mothers who start datin’ again call their boyfriends ‘mister?’….”
“It’s just strange thinking of mother being with someone else after all this time,” says Franklin. “I mean (his eyes squinting), what are they DOING when they get together?”
Geoff: “Mannnn, you don’t wanna know what they doin.’ They….”
“No, Geoff–what I don’t wanna know is what YOU think they’re doing….”
“Frank, people obviously don’t stop having sex just because they’re older.”
“But, it’s been so long….”
Geoff: “So? Sex is like ridin’ a bike. You can be away for years. But once you climb back up on that bad boy….”
“It’s remarkable, Geoff, hearing you BEG for an ass-kickin’ in public….”
“What? I’m talkin’ about your mother ridin’ a BIKE….
“Don’t talk about my mother ridin’ NOTHIN,’ okay?”
While Franklin and Geoff bicker, I’m thinking to myself, conceding that If there’s any consolation to my mother’s sudden passing when I was just a kid, it’s that I had to endure her dating only once. For years after she and Daddy divorced, mama did nothing. Then, one day, when I was 14, there’s a man calling the house. I don’t know how or where she met him. Don’t remember much–he came around but two or three times–only that he was a man.
He’d call, and without a word I’d rudely plop the receiver on the table: “Mama, a man is on the phone!” Not even offer the dignity of Mr. whatever.
Fact is, a tuxedoed Sidney Poitier could have come calling, still clutching the “Lillies of the Field” Best Actor Oscar he won nine years earlier in ’63 and I’d have sent him away. After five kids and in her forties, what in the world, went my immature, selfish notion, did my mother need with a man?
Mama apparently understood my jealousy, but never acknowledged it. Instead, she tiptoed about the brooding envy of her protective middle child with demure placidity.
I share my story with the fellas. We’re mulling rather uncomfortably the philosophy that a boy’s mother is also his very first girlfriend, when we run into a couple I know, at the time recently back from France.
After introductions, the pair excitedly launch into a story about having the opportunity to stand near the finish line of the Tour de France, and witnessing first hand the velocity of those bicycles. Franklin grimaces and abruptly excuses himself to check theater showtimes.
“I say something wrong?” asks the husband.
“Not really,” answers an earnest Geoff. “It’s just that Frankie’s mother is riding a bike again and he’s a little sensitive about it.”
Steven Ivory, journalist and author of the essay collection Fool In Love (Simon & Schuster), has covered popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio and TV for more than 30 years. Respond to him via [email protected]