drivers are crazy. Thats why I stay off
freeways. Damn fools cutting in and out.
Lucky I didnt 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, Id 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. Hed
arrived late and had been complaining about the other drivers since
arriving. I realized that perhaps I shouldnt have
chosen a place where he had to go on the freeway. After all,
he was getting pretty old.
was your meeting? he asked.
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.
laughed. Yeah, I remember those
meetings. F---ing waste of time.
seen my father for a few months. Hed 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
didnt recall him ever using four-letter words when I was a kid or until
Hows Ruth? he asked.
Ruth was my
wife, who worked for a non-profit in San Francisco.
making the world safe for illegal immigrants?
tries. Hows mother?
volunteering. She had some kind of do-gooder lunch
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
menu, I see, he said. Wheres our
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, thats not
as bad as trying to see a doctor. Had an appointment at 10
oclock yesterday. Had to wait an hour to get called,
then they make you wait another half hour in that damned waiting room before he
An alarm bell
rang in me. What were you seeing a doctor
just the usual aches and pains. Dont worry, Im
not about to kick off yet.
brought us our steak sandwiches. Not as good as they
used to be, pronounced my father.
tastes pretty good.
werent 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.
you were a Democrat.
be. But, as Reagan said, I didnt leave the party, it
left me. If youre black or brown, or a woman, or a gay
or a lesbian or a transgender, thats the latest, the Democrats are for
you. If youre an old white guy like me, forget
it. Not that the Republicans are any
better. The stupid party.
you think of Donald Trump?
snorted. That idiot? The only reason
hes ahead in the polls is because the countrys in a mess and people
are fed up with everything. Any other time, hed be
laughed off the stage. Wheres that damned
waiter? Ive lost my damned napkin.
these aches and pains youre having.
usual, arthritis in all my joints. Im like the Tin Man;
I have to be oiled up.
Youre sure thats all it is?
Yeah. Your mother is worried about me,
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 youre mad at
laughed. Your mothers
something. Yeah, I guess I havent been very nice to
her, or to anyone else. Its nothing in particular;
its just Ive gotten so damned old. Thats
what Im mad about. And you know the worst thing about
it, its only going to get worse. When youre
young, even when youre forty or fifty, and you have some pain somewhere,
like tennis elbow, you know itll go away. Not when
youre old. Youre 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. Id been having some tennis aches and
pains myself. I wondered if the time would come when they
wouldnt go away and Id have to quit playing. My
father, whod 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, Id like to but my hip wont let
me. Thats another thing Im mad
wont take it out on Mother?
try not to. You know, her birthdays next
know. Ruth and I will come up and take her out to a birthday
dinner. Youre invited, too.
Thatll be good. Ill let her
brought our check. Ive got it, I
dont have to.
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 Id feel the same way when I was old,
if Id be mad at what time had done to me. Maybe; I was
my fathers son.
Outside, I saw
that hed parked in a handicapped space.
Yeah, he said. After my surgery, I got one
of those placards. Its good for a
year. Comes in handy sometimes, like now.
Okay. Ill 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