A Phone Call from My Father

Phone calls when I am catering a dinner are normally ignored, but when the caller ID said Refugee, Sr. I decided to answer.

“Hey, I was just watching the Final Four and thought about you.  We still have to go one of these years.”  My father’s deep even for a bass voice is unmistakable, even as he offers another hallow promise.

During my vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers fourth Super Bowl Refugee Sr. promised my 8 year old self that he and I would one day watch the Super Bowl, the Final Four, and the World Series together.  Since I had not yet discovered my father to be a fallible man I believed with the unbreakable veracity of a son trusting his father’s promise.

“It’s good to talk to you, Pop” I replied.  It took me years to say that statement truthfully.  The dagger of timing was sharpened because it was basketball we discussed.

My father was a three sport star in High School but only had the time to teach me two of them before he and my mother split.  I waited for him to teach me basketball.  I waited for the weekends when he would come home and take me to the basketball court – weekends which never came.  It was an early harbinger or future behavior.

“Pop, I can’t really talk at the moment – I’m doing a dinner for twenty people by myself.  I just answered in case it was an emergency or you needed something important.”

By the shift in his tone, I knew that he got the slightly passive-aggressive note I used and for which I was only mildly sorry. 

“No, Refugee, I don’t need anything.  I was just watching basketball and thinking about my son, so I thought I would call.  Is that all right with you?”

As I grew, so too did the promises (implied and explicit) and the accompanying disappointments.  As my mind matured, I began to question the logic of fatherly wisdom.  I no longer got excited about a new business venture.  I no longer cared to meet a new friend.

“Of course, Pop. It’s just that I have a million things on the stove – this was a last minute client and I am working solo.  Can I ring you later or is there something else on your mind?”

“Well… I did want to talk to you about my chess set.  I have to get rid of a few things for my new place, and wanted to know if you want my chess set?”

I love my father.  I love all of the things that he taught me, most of which I learned in those first eight years.  Among the more important lessons: Always give more weight to people’s actions over their words.  I learned that lesson too well and our relationship has suffered as a result.  His greatest lesson is still in progress and unintentionally taught – don’t become him.

“I’d love the chess set, Pop.  I’ll come up for a couple of days soon.  l love  you, but I gotta go.  Bye, Pop.” 

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7 Responses to A Phone Call from My Father

  1. LiLu says:

    Our parents teach us everything… including the art of passive-aggression.

    At least they balance it out with things like chess…

  2. I hate that moment when a child realizes the sun doesn’t in fact rise and set by a parents command.

  3. Fearless says:

    It’s fascinating (and often frustrating) that no matter how old I get, no matter how much our relationship changes, sometimes my mother can bring out those unresolved issues of childhood. And I clearly bring out her unresolved issues of parenthood.

  4. lacochran says:

    The thing about parents is that they were once children, too, to parents who were once children, too. We are all flawed and it’s good you can appreciate what he is and isn’t.

  5. Lisa says:

    Reading this post just made me ache. I get where you are and why you’re there – and it makes so much sense. And it makes me sad.

  6. J says:

    And sometimes it is the parent who is there constantly, waiting, and reaching out in any way they can, and the child abandons them for no other reason other then that they can.
    It is a hard lesson at any age.

  7. f.B says:

    There are some very important things I’ve learned from my father. Some of them I carry proudly. But ours was the 8 year mark as well. And for the things I’ve learned after that mark, I wish I hadn’t grown up so fast.

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