Yesterday was "take your father to work" day. Mom said he needed to get out more. He has been driving to the town dump 4 times a week, making small deliveries of discarded household items. Nothing stays on the floor very long in my father's house.
Dad is a 79 year-old retired Junior High Phys-Ed teacher, and an avid Philadelphia Phillies and Eagles fan. Mom is younger, not retired, and was recently appointed Dean of a local college. She works and, more often than not, he is home alone. When your father decides the town dump is the best place to keep returning to, it is time to give him some serious attention.
Men of my father's generation don't talk much. They say what needs saying and not much more. But I was excited about helping dad. We were going to bond, he was going to see his son at work, it was going to be something special. I picked him up at his house at precisely 830 a.m. and our day of conversation began...
Son: "Are you guys going to come to our house for Thanksgiving?"
Dad: "Don't know. Your mother hasn't told me what we are doing yet."
Son: " I'm reading Flags of our Fathers. Did you see the movie or read the book?"
Dad: " No"
Son: " You were stationed in the Pacific during the war. You might enjoy it"
Dad: "Been there, done that."
*Yessir, I hear crickets*
Son: "Everything OK with you at home? You feeling OK?"
Dad: "I'm fine"
*Many fine crickets indeed, Sir*
Son: "I'm going to stop for coffee. Do you want anything?"
*More crickets than I ever thought possible*
Son: "That guy up ahead keeps breaking on every curve."
Dad: "Know what is wrong with people? They're afraid to die."
Son: "I'm afraid to die. I have issues with that."
*Crickets, lots of them, just about everywhere*
Son: "I can't believe how much the price of gas is now. It's getting ridiculous"
Dad: "That Bush is an idiot."
*Millions of crickets chirping in a lovely chorus*
Son: "I'm stopping for lunch. Would you like a hamburger?"
Dad: "I usually eat half a peanut butter sandwich"
Son: "Do you cut it in half or fold it?
Dad: "I fold it."
Son: "How about a Chicken Salad sandwich?"
Dad: "I don't eat chicken. I'll have a hamburger."
*Deafening cricket infestation*
Dad: "Don't turn here."
Son: "But it's faster."
Dad: "No it's not."
*Can't you hear the crickets now too?*
Son: "There is Twin Willows where you like to go for dinner!"
Dad: "I eat there every Monday night....alone."
Son: " Why?"
Dad: "Your mother goes to Weight Watchers and doesn't get home until 8. So I go to Twin Willows every Monday night...alone. It's OK tho, I talk to the bartender. He's a Mets fan. He's also a Giants fan."
*chirp chirp chirp chirp........*
Dad: "Thanks for the hamburger."
Son: "Thanks for helping me."
Dad: "I didn't really help you."
And with that he gets out of the truck, grabs his mail from the mailbox, and waves without ever looking back as he walks up the driveway to his home. And I'm driving through a sea of silence, lost in my thoughts, the crickets chirping quietly from somewhere deep inside me, in the field of my youth, long ago.
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