Saturday, March 25, 2006

Mixed messages

A couple of days ago I happened to find myself engaged in a conversation with a man I did not know, but who seemed to know me. “Are you N’s grandparents?” he wanted to know (R had wandered off). "Oh no," I laughed (ha ha as I gritted my mental teeth, do I look THAT old?) “we are his parents.” “Well” he said, “you know I used to work with him at the plant. He seemed like a really nice kid.” So I smiled and nodded and thanked him.

Yes, N did indeed work at the company, which rebuilt engines, about 10 years ago. It was a good job for him, it suited his personality very well, and it was really too bad that he got laid off (the company later went out of business). I think his job was loading a certain engine part into a wire basket to be put in a cleaning machine. Somehow, he got lots of little magnet cubes, which he brought home, and I have a magnet sculpture made out of them on one of my metal kitchen cabinets.

But what was really interesting about this was that earlier that morning, I went to the library to return a cookbook and donate a new book I picked up cheap at a bookstore. I got to talking with the librarian about a rather strange-looking man that can be seen walking around town and who also spends a lot of time at the library. They had a picture of him holding a plaque of some sort. “He’s really sweet and he’s harmless, he’s just not socially adept,” she says. I remarked that I could relate to that, that my son wasn’t very socially adept either. “Well,” she says, “your son really gives me the creeps.” (He goes into the library a lot to use the computers.) Then of course, she realized that was a really awful thing to say to a mother about her kid, so she began to back peddle. "Well," she says, " I'm used to him know and I just take everything he says with a grain of salt."

It was OK though. I understood perfectly well why she said it. When I related the conversation to R, he sort of laughed and said, “sometimes he creeps me out too...” I wonder where that “nice kid” went? Well, actually, the nice kid is still there. N has good qualities and a kind heart, which in fact has landed him in the mess he is in now.

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