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He was John, never Johnny

John was indecisive but very sure of himself

He was John, never Johnny, from the first. Not because his parents were formal. They had tested all the variations on him—Jack, Johnnie—and none seemed to stick. For some men the diminutive follows them into maturity. With John maturity struck  early.

Even as a child he was articulate and forceful without being the least bit sure of himself.  Some men develop a sense of humor about the world and themselves as they mature. For John, humor was not an option. There was little whimsy in him as a boy and less and less of it in him as a man. 

John grew up or at least older knowing he could command. He just never figured out why or what really gave him the right to make demands on other men, to tell them what to do, what he wanted done. He never really knew what gave him the say-so, and yet on his say-so, his house was cleaned, his car washed, his clothes pressed, deliveries made. He had enjoyed most of these rights all his life.

 

As a child, he had directed his nanny to a seat on the bus, engaged the attention of the other passengers, determined where and when he would have lunch, and what he would eat. At the end of his day—his days were long even when he was 5 or 6—he would let his parents know what he had done, where he had been. As he matured, and now, looking back, he didn’t remember the nanny’s name or much about her event though he had spent those many long days in her company.  His nanny was no more a companion to him than the vague shadow of his first wife.

 

She, his first wife, had accompanied him to dinners, parties, even to Paris once or twice. He remembered her name because it appeared on all those monthly   checks he signed for her. Her face and figure were gray to him.

John was on his second marriage, as he liked  to put it, although mostly to himself. He never understood why Melody (that was the name of his present wife,  and she was always a  vivid image to him) –he did not understand why Melody found the expression, “on his second marriage”,  so objectionable. She’d been married before, brought two children into this marriage, for god’s sake.

 

Melody, despite the fanciful name, was a stolid woman. True, her voice was melodious, no lie to the name there. But she had little lilt and cadence to her, none in the way she conducted her life, their life together. She was serious and steady., forthright with John, direct with her children.

John thought her involvement with her children exceeded the norm. She was certainly more involved in the minutiae of their education, upbringing, socialization than had his experience growing up. He wondered, though seldom aloud, if she shouldn’t back off, let them ride the bus with the nanny, let the nanny take them to school and to lunch, to the circus or the ballet. 

Instead, he found himself either dragged to another Nutcracker or school play, or alone while Melody tended to these parental duties. Well, she called them parental duties; he could very well have done less of them. True, the children’s other parent, a studious fellow named Dale, often was seen at these events as well. John would go along just to catch a glimpse at his predecessor and see how he related to his children. “Relating” was not really an activity that John had much taste for. He wondered, again, not aloud, just what had drawn Melody to Dale, and then from Dale to him. What did they have in common? What did he have in common with the other man, other than his wife?

 

Could she have been drawn to John for his conviction, his authority? Dale always seemed to see the other side of everything. (On the few  occasions they had actually spoken, he would say absurd things like “let me play the devil’s advocate here.” What the hell did that mean? John was not given to walking a mile or even a few feet in anyone else’s shoes.

What purpose did it serve? John honestly could never hold more than one point of view, his own. He thought that perhaps he could be seen as self centered, but it gave him a clarity he felt types like Dale would never have.

Melody must have needed that. After all, she was a simple woman. She didn’t shop as much as the first Mrs. Weynemouth. Not even for the children. He admired that although much of the expense for the children was borne by their father.  Dale would faithfully tender a check for tuition or clothing every quarter,  and always without complaint.

John felt this lack of complaining was a symptom  of being able to see both sides of every situation. You can’t complain about child support, it’s for the children. Well, John could complain. If he were in Dale’s shoes, and it was hard for him to picture the possibility of being in Dale’s shoes, he would complain. John had plenty of money and was married to the children’s mother, why shouldn’t John  pay their tuition or buy their clothes? Certainly, John was able to complain about the alimony he paid to his first wife. He bemoaned the alimony checks though he never really missed the cash.

There was always plenty of cash. John was used to that as he was to being able to order the cook to fix supper early so he could get back to work in his study. Melody complained that he had early suppers served to him more and more frequently and  then disappeared into his study. John wondered if she was right.

Truth be told, lately John had begun to feel that his command was slipping in various small ways. It worried him that he could not make easy decisions about which suit to wear. He wondered if he should wear the navy suit or the gray today—a decision that had never before caused him any concern. He consulted Melody about it now, which seemed to please her, but baffled him. It baffled him that he could not make the decision on his own, and it baffled him even more that Melody was so pleased to be consulted.

 

He had always been decisive, even when he was not the least bit sure of himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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