like father..
Home sweet home Latest site info Poetic stuff Serious stuff Funny stuff Topical stuff Alternative stuff Shakespearian stuff Musical stuff
  click here for a "printer friendly" version

Lunch with My Father
by Martin Green




     “Those drivers are crazy.   That’s why I stay off freeways.    Damn fools cutting in and out.    Lucky I didn’t get killed.”


     We were in a downtown Sacramento restaurant, my 80-year old father and I.    I live in San Francisco and he lives in a retirement community in Roseville, just outside of Sacramento.    Like him, I’d become a State employee and had come to the capital for a meeting, which had given me the opportunity of asking him to meet me for lunch.    He’d arrived late and had been complaining about the other drivers since arriving.    I realized that perhaps I shouldn’t have chosen a place where he had to go on the freeway.    After all, he was getting pretty old.


     “So, how was your meeting?” he asked.


     “The usual State stuff.    We could have settled everything by phone or memo, but it gave me a chance to get out of the office.    And to see you.”


     He laughed.    “Yeah, I remember those meetings.    F---ing waste of time.”


     I hadn’t seen my father for a few months.    He’d had hip surgery the year before and when he entered the restaurant it seemed to me he walked with a lurch.    He also seemed to have aged since his surgery.    The obscenity surprised me.    I didn’t recall him ever using four-letter words when I was a kid or until now.  


     “How’s Ruth?” he asked.


     Ruth was my wife, who worked for a non-profit in San Francisco.    “She’s fine.”


     “Still making the world safe for illegal immigrants?’


     “She tries.    How’s mother?”


     “Still volunteering.    She had some kind of do-gooder lunch today.”


     I knew that.    It was actually my father I wanted to see.    My mother had called and said that he was becoming more and more irascible, acting as if he was mad at everything and everyone, even her.  


     “Same old menu, I see,” he said.    “Where’s our waiter?”


     I motioned and the waiter came over.    We both ordered the steak sandwich, their specialty.    “Hard to get decent service anywhere today,” my father said.    “Of course, that’s not as bad as trying to see a doctor.    Had an appointment at 10 o’clock yesterday.    Had to wait an hour to get called, then they make you wait another half hour in that damned waiting room before he comes in.”


     An alarm bell rang in me.    “What were you seeing a doctor about?”


     “Nothing, just the usual aches and pains.    Don’t worry, I’m not about to kick off yet.”


     The waiter brought us our steak sandwiches.    “Not as good as they used to be,” pronounced my father.


     “Mine tastes pretty good.”


     “You weren’t here way back when.    Hell, nothing is as good as it used to be.    The whole f---ing country is falling apart.    Look at the president we have.”


     “I thought you were a Democrat.”


     “Used to be.    But, as Reagan said, I didn’t leave the party, it left me.    If you’re black or brown, or a woman, or a gay or a lesbian or a transgender, that’s the latest, the Democrats are for you.    If you’re an old white guy like me, forget it.    Not that the Republicans are any better.    The stupid party.”


     “What do you think of Donald Trump?”


     He snorted.    “That idiot?    The only reason he’s ahead in the polls is because the country’s in a mess and people are fed up with everything.    Any other time, he’d be laughed off the stage.    Where’s that damned waiter?    I’ve lost my damned napkin.”


     “What are these aches and pains you’re having.”


     “The usual, arthritis in all my joints.    I’m like the Tin Man; I have to be oiled up.”


     “You’re sure that’s all it is?”


     “Yeah.    Your mother is worried about me, huh?”


     My father might be pretty old, but nothing much got past him.     “Well, she did say something about you being mad about something.    She even thought you’re mad at her.”


     He laughed.    “Your mother’s something.    Yeah, I guess I haven’t been very nice to her, or to anyone else.    It’s nothing in particular; it’s just I’ve gotten so damned old.    That’s what I’m mad about.    And you know the worst thing about it, it’s only going to get worse.    When you’re young, even when you’re forty or fifty, and you have some pain somewhere, like tennis elbow, you know it’ll go away.    Not when you’re old.    You’re stuck with it” 


     The waiter came by and asked how we were doing.    My father asked for some napkins.    I noticed he was making short work of his sandwich.     I’d been having some tennis aches and pains myself.    I wondered if the time would come when they wouldn’t go away and I’d have to quit playing.    My father, who’d taught me how to play, had played until his hip surgery.      “Are you going to try playing tennis again?” I asked.


     He shook his head.    “No, I’d like to but my hip won’t let me.    That’s another thing I’m mad about.”


     “But you won’t take it out on Mother?”


     “I’ll try not to.    You know, her birthday’s next month.”


     “I know.    Ruth and I will come up and take her out to a birthday dinner.    You’re invited, too.”


     “That’ll be good.    I’ll let her know.”


     The waiter brought our check.    “I’ve got it,” I said.


     “You don’t have to.”


     “No, I asked you.”


     “Okay.    I have to use the facility before we go.    Another thing about old age.”


     I watched as he made his way through the tables.   He went slowly and it seemed to me he leaned to one side.    He walked like an old man.    I wondered if I’d feel the same way when I was old, if I’d be mad at what time had done to me.    Maybe; I was my father’s son.


     Outside, I saw that he’d parked in a handicapped space.    “Yeah,” he said.    “After my surgery, I got one of those placards.    It’s good for a year.    Comes in handy sometimes, like now.”


    “Okay.    I’ll see you next month.”


    “It was good to see you.    Drive safe.”    I started to give him a hug but he stepped back and shook my hand.   Then he gripped my arm and said, “Drive safe, too.    Try not to get old.”




Rate this story.

Copyright is reserved by the author. Please do not reproduce any part of this article without consent.


© Winamop 2015