shit my dad says

My wife and I are going vegan. My dad wants to invite us over for a meal. Always trying to come up with something we can eat that he can make. For a long time it was chicken. He thought chicken was different. Because my brother’s wife will eat chicken but is supposedly a vegetarian. Then it was fish. Now it is still fish. Always fish. Farmed salmon. Surely we veg*n girls can eat some farmed salmon, as long as it’s fresh, right?

So I try to explain to him that actually, maybe we could just bring over the meal, simultaneously feeding ourselves to code, and introducing the world of delicious vegan eats to a man approaching the apex of his ability to accommodate new ideas. I ask him if there is something inherently important about the making of the meal over which we have conversation and catch up.

It would make me feel a lot more significant – as a father, and as a host – if i could provide the meal.

He then waxes philosophical about the human need to feel significant. I redirect back to the meal, because I really think it’s important to all of us to get together. It’s been so long. He tells me more about my sister-in-law, compares me to her, tells me it’s frustrating to try and accommodate all of our dietary particularities. I get it, I really do. He is clearly frustrated and even somewhat offended.

I should just move to New Zealand.

It takes a solid minute for me to extract from my father the precise relevance of this statement, of this reference.

… then i would be too far away to visit.

I don’t let him get away with this “joke” of his. He quickly admits there is truth behind it. A true desire to escape the complications, frustrations, and increasing loneliness of his aging alone. His connections are fewer and farther between. His relatives are dying off. He’s losing his ambition, his passion, his focus, his feeling of meaning in his life. He has even once referred to his only grandchild as a good reason to get out of bed in the morning.

I just spent 1 hour and 17 minutes on the phone with my dad. He’s getting increasingly heavy, though he’s always been introspective. He’s getting increasingly critical and judgmental, or as he calls it, “old and grumpy”. He’s getting increasingly harder to talk to, I would say. At least when he gets “emotional” about things (his word). Doesn’t listen. Doesn’t really mean to when he’s on a tangent (of which there are plenty). Just talks over me. I try not to interrupt. I really do. Then eventually, I drift off (somewhere around the 1 hour mark) or the dogs start getting active again, requiring that I get off the phone.

Okay well at least one phone call a month is good, he spits out as fast as he can before he loses my attention. I search for the irony in his tone. I know he’s sad. I know he wants more from me. I know he feels like he shouldn’t want it, that he shouldn’t need it, that he should be super duper positive all the time and never express deeper feelings of anger or hurt. I tell him it’s okay to feel his anger. It’s okay to feel any and all of his feelings. He needs to feel them, to be with them, to grieve. He needs to allow himself that, or his positive talk is really just denial. He sounds intrigued. He sounds delighted that I am taking an interest in his feelings.

But like I said, I have to get off the phone now. And who knows when we will talk again. It’s a rare day I can afford an hour and 17 minutes on the phone.

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