It'd been days since I've spoken to either of my parents. Not because we're fighting or because I didn't want to talk to them, just because I hadn't been thoughtful enough to call. My mom usually calls or emails every day, and since we'd gone a few days without words, I figured I'd better get to callin' before she got mad. My dad, however, is different; he's not the type to call for no reason, just to catch up. Daddy and I are a lot alike. Neither of us has much need for the telephone, and calling, for us, is limited to necessity: You need to make a plan or share news, you call. To talk about nothing? Nah. I'd rather read a book.
I was surprised when he answered because normally, when the phone rings, he looks up from his book or the TV or his dinner, and at the phone invariably placed right next to him with unmasked indifference. He smiles, and says "Phone's ringin'." Mom, Chase or I would scramble to answer before the jingling stopped, usually uttering something playful along the lines of "God forbid you answer it," or "You just know it's not for you," as we hit the talk button. He chuckles to himself, his mustache curling with the corners of his mouth.
But, on this call, he picks up. His deep voice issues a sunny hello.
"Hey Daddy," I say, my is voice tired from the gym, but happy to hear him.
"Well hello there," he replies, his words strong and southern. "What are you doing?"
"Nothing," I tell him. I sit on the bed, holding the phone with one hand, scrunching my wet, fresh-from-the-shower hair with the other.
"You eating dinner?"
"I ate already. I was at the gym. I just ate a sandwich. What are you doing?"
"Well, nothing, really. We just got home."
"Where'd you go?"
"Oh, we had to go up to West Point to get your mom's ID card renewed. Then we went to Perkins for some supper. Then we got home and took Sammy outside." The way he says Sammy's name tells me that the Golden Retriever is somewhere nearby. "So we ran around for a little bit out there, and then we came inside." When Daddy takes Sam outside, he throws old, chewed up tennis balls into the trees surrounding our house so that the reddish-gold Sam can bound through the yard to pick them up. They play every day, until it gets dark or one of them gets tired. It's their little ritual.
"Well that's nice."
"Yeah," he says. I can hear his standard half-smile in his voice. "What about you?"
"Oh, same as always: I went to work. I went to the gym tonight, did some kickboxing, then I came home, showered, ate my Subway from last night, and now I'm talking to you."
I hear the TV in the background instead of him.
"Huh? Yeah. Hold on..." His voice trails off. He's distracted, watching TV. I cradle my little silver cell-phone between my shoulder and my ear, start picking on my nails, and wait for him to return. "Well, Iiii'll be," comes his southern colloquialism of surprise. He sounds more and more like my grandfather, his father, every day. "Clive Cussler has a new book out." He's watching a commercial for it on the TV. "I guess I'll have to remember that. I only have two un-read books in my little library, so I can't start them until I have a new one to read."
"Huh? Daddy, that doesn't even make sense," I joke.
"Well, you know, it's so I have another book there for when I finish one. I like to have a couple lined up. Because, you ever read a book, and you like it and the characters so much, that you're almost sad when it's over?"
I smile. I know exactly. I'm the same way. "Yeah."
"Well, that's how I am. So I need something else to go to next." I make a mental note of the book.
He goes on to tell me about the main character, and how all of the books are set in present day, so the hero's got to be "gettin' up there" in age. He tells me about the story lines, the characters. I sit on the other end of the line, just listening to him. So unusual for him to just want to talk.
He tells me about his meetings at work, his schedule, the pile of mail I have waiting for me there. "I'll come pick it up," I say begrudgingly. The standing joke is that I never take my junk mail. Only the important envelopes: The bills and the correspondence.
"Well, I think I put in a bill in there, but it's hard to tell, because your little basket is so full of mail."
I sigh dramatically. "I'll come pick it all up," I huff with a smile.
His response is a good natured, half-believing "Okay then."
"So, is my mother around?" I ask.
"Maybe. What's it worth to you?"
"Uuuhhh...A visit?" I grin, even though he can't see me. I always feel like a little girl around him.
"Hmm. A visit...And maybe a hug?" he suggests.
"Yeah, I could do that." I laugh.
"Well, that sounds like a good deal to me." His smile is audible.
Much like we don't care for the telephone, and feel sad when we finish good books, my father and I are both not much for affection. My mom jokes that she used to suffocate my dad when they first married, her desire for touch was so great. And my dad? Not so much. Typically German, he's all about less being more in terms of endearment. So his insistence that a hug be included in my deal touched me for some reason.
A few nights ago, I was at a friend's house when her sister stopped by. It was Halloween, and my friend's sister had brought her daughter along, in costume. We exchanged "hello"s and "good to see you"s while the young daughter ran around the house chasing my friend's cat. My father works with my friend's sister, so we talked a little bit about what's going on work-wise.
"Watch this," the sister said to me conspiratorially. She called to her daughter. "You know Mike, at my work?" she said to her daughter. "That's Laurie's dad." I couldn't see her daughter's reaction, but the sister turned to me with a smile on her face. "She just loves your father. Talks his ear off every time I bring her into the office."
The daughter rounded the corner hesitantly, sizing me up. I smiled at her. "You like my dad, huh?" I said sweetly. She kicked at the floor in response; shy. "Yeah, I like him, too."
People love my father. At every turn, I run into people who tell me what a good man he is. He's so tall, and can be so imposing, but he's just so sweet. With his southern drawl, his mane of salt and pepper hair, his ever-present thick gray mustache, and the wrinkles from a million smiles around his big blue eyes, he's every bit the gentleman. And he's all mine.
"Well then, it's a deal," I reply to my father, getting a little teary for some reason. It's odd how appreciating what you have escapes you so easily. I have possibly the two cutest and greatest parents on the earth.
"Well, alright, sweetie. Here's your mom. Love you."
"I love you, too, Daddy."