Present or not, mothers keep it all together

I was telling a customer the other day that a bartender’s view of the bar is like looking at Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting “The Last Supper.” Everyone is gathered on one side. And everyone has a story unto themselves, they just might not know it in that moment. But it’s there for the observant.

The two people sitting in front of me had a story yet to be told. The man in his 50s sat with a woman in her late 20s, perhaps early 30s. It wasn’t romantic. If it wasn’t their body language that gave this away, it was their family resemblance. My initial guess was father and daughter.

“I’ll have a Gin Mary,” she said.

“That’s a Red Snapper,” he said.

“No, it’s not.”

“Yes, it is.”

“You don’t know.”

Yep, definitely father and daughter.

In the complicated world of human relationships, the relationship between a parent and a child can be the most complex. In many ways, the complications in these relationships extend onto every relationship that the child has in the future — but ironically, not so much for the parent. Almost the entire study of psychoanalysis is based on this fact — just ask Freud (both Sigmund and Anna),  Carol Jung, Joseph Sandler or Charles Brenner.

It didn’t help that the man was wearing a faded Doors T-shirt. Jim Morrison’s Oedipal complex made him a millionaire before two untimely deaths — his and his girlfriend’s — turned most of his assets over to his parents. The universe certainly has its sense of irony. But I think this particular guy just liked the shirt. Sometimes a cigar is simply what it is, and sometimes so is a shirt.

They looked as if they were waiting for someone. There are plenty of relationships built on a triangle, the proverbial three-legged stool. Lose one part of that shape and the other parts slowly drift away. The universe might be ironic, but geometry and physics are not.

They sat there nursing their drinks and staring straight forward, he with his hands clasped in his lap and she with hers clasped around her Gin Mary/Red Snapper.

“How have you been?” was answered with “Fine” before the “been” part was even uttered.

“You look good” was greeted with a grunt.

If we were looking at da Vinci’s “The Last Supper,” they would be the two in the middle, the ones with the most space between them.

Except it wasn’t suppertime, it was dinnertime, if one subscribes to the old East Coast etiquette that dinner is the largest meal of the day. And it’s not in the evening. That’s supper.

But we were beyond etiquette with these two. Family often has a way of dispensing with that. I once had my wife’s family member tell me, “I don’t have to be nice to you anymore, because now you’re family.” Not exactly what one expects to hear at one’s wedding. But weddings, like holidays, bring out the good and the bad. However, we did return her gift at some point. Just saying.

With my erstwhile father-daughter combo, I expected the tension to be sliced through at any moment with the arrival of mother. He wore a wedding ring and something told me intuitively that it wasn’t a remarried situation.

Every time someone entered the bar, I looked up expectantly. And so did they. Since it was Mother’s Day, one of the busiest days in the bar brunch business, that happened quite a lot.

It wasn’t until the hostess came to collect them for a table in the dining room that I guessed the truth.

A table for two. Mother wasn’t going to be joining them — not this year or ever again.

Leaving me with these thoughts:

• We always think there will be plenty of time, right up until there’s no time left.

• I did not like the story of Bambi as a child. I have grown to dislike it even more as an adult.

• The crowd at da Vinci’s table is two deep, because one of those people is actually standing. But you have to be able to first look before you can see.

• “Mothers are like glue. Even when you can’t see them, they’re still holding the family together,” wrote author Susan Gale.

• Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there. You deserve it.