April 28 by The Running Son
Base ingredients: Your Dad is terminally ill. You have Bi-polar disorder, and are off medication. He spent his fatherhood trying to perfect you. You want him to give a crap about you. You don’t talk much to him anymore because you just don’t know what to say to him.
(Enneagram: dad is a sp-1, I am sx/so-4)
Imagine: Your dad calls you on a Sunday evening. He comes up with some excuse… his phone rang and it was staticy and he wanted to make sure it wasn’t you trying to call. The conversation begins civil enough. Small talk, then into his upcoming doctor visits: the tube they must install into his stomach in preparation for radiation and chemotherapy. His first visit, Wednesday, to begin his post-operative chemo. How you can start to feel bulletproof in life when you live 8 healthy decades, “then everything happens all at once” in his words.
This is good, you think. It’s going smooth, and will continue to. Why? because you are NOT going to talk personal. That’s right. keep it all on him, and light as possible, and it will go just fine. There’s a place and a time for risky subjects, but not here, not now. You get way too worked up.
But then the conversation turns to how you are doing. (exhale slow) Oh boy.
“Good, good. Naw, I’ve been just fine”
“So hows the weather up there in the desert?”
“Wonderful. You can work outside with your shirt off. Not too hot, not too cold.”
“So what else is new?” He asks.
Then, out of nowhere, and before you can filter,
“I’ve been writing poetry again. Can you believe it?” It sounds boyish and desperate in your ears.
“Have you? So, what else have you been up to?”
And then it happens again, like a child,
“Well, I have been toying with the possibility that I may have had a mini-stroke…”
Goddamnit. That is one thing you were NOT going to say to him. Not yet at least… he’d just get upset. It wasn’t time yet.
“So, How is your roommate, Katheryn?”
“You heard what I just said, right?” Heat in your chest. Breathing loud. Seconds pass.
“Well, yeah. (pause) But how is Kathy doing?
“You didn’t hear a fucking word I said to you did you!” Daring him… just DARING him to say the wrong answer.
“Well… Yes I di—”
SLAM. Landline hurled across your room.
Then, as if there is no justice in the universe, all the rage floods away. In it’s place, pain and sadness. The kind that comes to a man in a stroke of conscience after beating a child.
25 minutes go by. You close the door to your room. Of course you have to call him back. You want scream at him, “you adopt me, and look through me my whole damn life… like at some image of the good son, the perfect suburban kid. And while you were off planning my future, I’m going south fast. I didn’t know how to be or how to belong, or what to do after that terrible thing that happened– remember that, you fucking asshole? You were clueless of what was going on right under your nose. You did nothing. In school I was depressed beyond comprehension and at the doorstep of suicide and you didn’t have a goddamn clue– and you were a teacher! You had 40 loooong years of experience to draw from in which to figure this shit out. 40 years to learn about how to be a parent. I mean, at least outsource the problems if you cant handle them. But you failed at that too you miserable sonofabitch…”
Then you remember where you are, and pick up the phone. You dial his home number. Three rings, then on the fourth, “Hello?”
Your voice is low and dry… that is, if you are faking it good enough.
“Look, I’m sorry. I– I can’t talk right now. I’m just on my way out. I’ll call you tomorrow.” nonononono
“Ok then I guess…”
Nicely done, Jim. Stellar. You’ve had 40 years too, haven’t you?
Tonight the lesson is obvious: this one is on you. You should know better.