Beyond the Pale - part 1
I noticed my bridge partner, Diana, looked rather fraught when she arrived for our game today.
“I've just done something, and maybe it was a stupid thing, and I just don't know.”
“What are you on about? Slow down. Just what is it that you did?”
The others at the bridge table, Glenys and Frank, were just as interested as I was. Diana is the epitome of organisation and calmness. She is the one with the Red Cross training that we depend on it anybody looks ill or upset. She is the one I ask to take over control of the group when I'm away, and I know things will go like clockwork.
“Well, you know my grandson James is at University in America,” she started.
“He's some place near where you come from, isn't he Jean? asked Glenys, who had a good memory for these little details we share at the bridge table.
“Yes, he's at Jamestown University (pictured above) , and Jamestown College as it was, is where my dad went, and also Jamestown is where he and my mother lived when they were first married,” I put in.
“So, what is it that your grandson did?” asked Frank. “Did he get kicked out or something?”
No, nothing like that, said Diana. “He send me an email last night and asked me if I would lend him the money to come home in March for his mother's birthday.”
“That will have set you back about £1000 I expect. That's a lot of money, but I suppose cheaper than in the summer,” I put in.
“And he will pay me back. I'll make good sure of that. He might only be able to afford a little bit at a time, but he will pay it all back.”
“Why you? Why not ask his mother for the money?” said Frank.
“He wants to surprise her. He didn't come back at Christmas, and although he was intending to come back in the summer, he has now been asked if he wants to play soccer for a team, and he will be paid well for doing it, so he would be a fool to refuse.”
“I don't understand this,” said Frank. “Why would he get invited to play soccer there?”
“He's on a soccer scholarship, and he's the best player on the Jamestown U team, and their team is the best in their conference,” said proud grandmother Diana.
“Okay, I get that now. And I can understand why he would want to come home, but why not come at Easter? Surely, his college must be having a break at that time, and in March they will still be having classes.”
“Oh, he asked persmission of all his teachers, and explained the circumstances, and they all agreed he could go. I don't think they get a huge break over Easter – maybe just a few days, because they are on semesters, and they will be finishing for the year at the end of May.”
“So why again did you pay for this trip? I know I wouldn't do it for my grandkids,” put in Frank.
“He doesn't want his mother to know – he wants it to be a surprise. And the other bit of the surprise is that he's bringing his girlfriend Trent with him.”
“That's a silly name,” said Glenys. “Typical American nonsense.”
“Oh,” I said, “Maybe they want to get married and he needs to introduce her to his parents to soften the blow. Maybe she's pregnant.”
“No, I don't think so.”
“No probably not, kids are too savvy these days to get into trouble. He long has he been going out with her?”
“Since last summer, and he's gone to her parents' houses (they are divorced and both remarried) so she thought it was time she met his parents.”
“Are they engaged? He still has more than two years of college left doesnt he?”
“Oh, no. But I think they're quite committed. He went to New York with her over the Christmas holidays when she was going for a job interview. She's into designing and hopes for a job there next year?”
“He wouldn't want to transfer there to be with her would he?”
“Oh, no I'm sure not.”
“Anyway, what will your daughter think about having a potential daughter-in-law coming to see her uninvited?” asked Glenys.
“I think that's a dangerous idea,” I put in. “She won't be organised – she won't have the food and drink in that she might want to do specially. She might not have the house ready. She works doesn't she?”
“Yes, but Grace is very organised, so her house will be clean and well stocked with food.”
“Just like you.”
“When one of his students organised a surprised birthday party for my husband's 60th birthday, he had an absolute fit when he found out. We sure learned our lesson to not do anything like that again. He went to the party, where there were 50 of his old grad students – many of them coming a long distance to see him – but only under very great protest, and then he was very rude to most of the people there. He would hardly speak to me, and I hadn't done the organising – only kept the secret, until in the end I did tell him a day or so before the event,” I said.
“I don't think Grace will react like that. But she might be angry with me for keeping a secret. Do you think I should tell her?”
“Well, I think you should get your grandson to tell her. Explain that it is unfair to deny her the fun of anticipation and getting ready for the event.”
“We'd better get on with the cards now, but we'll look forward to an update next week,” said Glenys.
“Good luck,” said Frank.
When she arrived at bridge the next week, Diana said to me, “I'll have you know I couldn't sleep last week, after talking to you, getting me all worried about my grandson's girlfriend might be pregnant.”
“Sorry, but have you told him he has to tell his mother?”
“Well, not quite like that. I said to him that I felt that he was putting me into an awkward situation in expecting me to lie to his mother and I needed reassurance that he had planned it all properly.”
“So had he?”
“Yes, surprisingly well so. James had contacted his father, and told him about it, but asked him to keep it a secret from Grace. And he asked his father to meet them at the airport and put them up the first night and take them to his mother's house on the next day, which was her birthday.”
“Well, that's better, if he thought that out properly.”
“Not only that, but he contacted his step father, so he knows about it too, and asked him to make sure that Grace would be home that day – and not have anything big planned for the fortnight that they would be there, and asked for him to arrange with her boss, that she could have a few days off work that first week.”
“Boy that's a big ask. What if she wants to take time off before that, will the boss have to say no and add to the lie?”
“Interestingly enough, Grace was saying to her husband that she wanted to go off on holiday the week before and suggested they might like to come up to see us. We normally see them every few months, but we felt we want to save our visit to see them for when James is there, and we can see him too. “
“So did she ask you if she could come up?”
“Yes, and I made some feeble excuse about John needing to see the doctor about his hip – and put her off. I think she was a bit surprised, as normally that sort of thing wouldn't put us off inviting them up.”
“So the plan is as it stand then. They are coming for a fortnight, and will go to see your daughter on her birthday, for the big surprise, and then what? Will you be able to see him then?”
“We'll go down for the second week they're there. I'll leave the first week for them to get used to the new girlfriend, and then when Grace goes back to work, I can be useful with making meals and taking them out for trips and so on.”
“What do you know about his girlfriend? Did you say she was called Trent? Any idea about the sorts of things she'll want to do?”
“When James had his friend Mike over last summer, he wanted to see as much of England as he could – and go to a pub, and to sporting things, and to see old buildings and just about anything that would be common in England, but unusual in the States.”
“So what about the sleeping arrangements? Does your daughter have space for all of you?”
“John and I can stay at the house across the road – as we have done before. My daughter has only three bedrooms in her house, and Alan, who is the younger brother, moved into the second best bedroom when James moved, so there is only the smaller bedroom. But I expect that if her husband realises the situation, he will have an extra bed available somehow for when the time comes.”
“Would it worry your daughter that they are sleeping together when they aren't married?”
“Oh no, she's very broad minded and all the kids do that these days.”
“My sister wouldn't let her 30 year old children sleep in the same room as the partners they'd been with for 10 years, since they weren't married . She said that to do so, would be to condone what they were doing, even though she knew perfectly well that they slept together at their home.”
“So did they accept that?”
“They said they did, but sneaked into each other's beds after she had gone to sleep. I think they thought it was quite an exciting game. I expect you are much happier and reassured about the whole visit thing now.”
“Yes, but I don't like lying about it to Grace, and I sure hope she won't blame me for it – because I am in the end who financed the whole thing, so as to make it happen.”
“She will be thrilled to see her son. No matter what happens. And his girlfriend will be so excited to be coming to England. I remember how thrilled I was planning my first trip here.”
“Keep us updated,” said Glenys as they, as losers, moved on to the next table.