Thursday, May 01, 2008

Virtues


"I'll have the cheeseburger special, medium."
"I'll have the same but medium rare."
The waitress nodded, made a note on her pad and said, "That'll be out in a few minutes, guys."
Dad and I sat back in our booth at Phil's in Hanson. Phil's was a great, informal place for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was a diner but more so. They had cheap everything. Cheap carpeting, cheap furniture, cheap paneling, you name it. But we weren't there for the decor. No one was. We were there because what they had was excellent food. Truly yummy. And cheap. For me, Phil's was usually a place to eat with my friends. Today, sometime in the early 1990's, I was hanging with my Dad.
The noonday sun filtered in through the mostly closed blinds on my left; his right. We sat for a few moments and made conversation. "How's work?" followed by "How's things?" You know, small talk.
The waitress returned with our burgers and fries. I picked up the top of the greasy bun. Tomatoes, onions and lettuce were piled high underneath. I added mayonnaise to the roll and replaced it. I lifted it up and took a big bite. Burger juice dripped down my chin. Wiping my chin with an oversize napkin I then reached for the ketchup to put on the plate next to, but not on, the fries. Better for dipping. "They make a great lunch, don't they?" asked Dad.
"Yes they do," I said, gesturing toward him with the ketchup bottle. He accepted. Ketchup was only for his burger - not the fries. We ate in silence for a few minutes. Then, Dad started telling me how proud he was of me.
What?
The next few moments of my stunned silence were full of Dad's compliments. He told me how he could always depend on me.
What is he doing?
He told me that I was a hard worker and a kind person.
Oh my God.
He told me that he liked my friends and he could see why they liked me. He summed it all up by saying that he was proud of the person that I had become.
Dad's dying.
When he was done I noticed that half my lunch had been eaten but I don't remember anything after the first bite.
"Thank you..." I replied quietly. "What's prompted all this?"
Because you never do this...
"Nothing. I just thought it needed to be said."
So he's not dying. That's good.
"Thanks, Dad."
His plate empty, Dad sat back in the booth and sipped his coffee. Coffee with a burger and fries - only my Dad.
"But," he started to say...
Oh, I KNEW it. There's a "but".
"There is one thing that surprises me, though..."
"Really? What's that?"
"You're not very patient with people."
"You think?" I said, munching on some fries.
"I do.
"You're right," I said matter-of-factly.
This shocked him.
"I am?"
"You absolutely are."
Dad shifted a bit in his chair. "I know that your Mom and I didn't raise you to be that way and I'm just curious why that is?"
"You really wanna know?" I said, not trusting that he actually did.
"Sure."
"Okay, Dad. The reason that I'm not as patient as you and Mom raised me to be is because I'm twenty-eight years old and after all the things that we have been through in the past nine years I've learned that life is short."
"Yes, it is," he replied.
I knew that we were both thinking of my Mom; dead (at the criminally young age of 46) these past nine years.
Life is short.
Dammit.
"And in these nine years I've come to the conclusion that life is too short to put up with ignorance or assholes."
He thought for a moment. "Well, yes...but..."
"There's no "but", Dad. If I meet someone, or get into a situation where that person is ignorant, or an asshole, or God help them both, then I have no time for that person."
"I see," he said. "And this works for you?"
"It has so far."
"Okay," he replied with a tone of finality. "I just wanted to know."
"I'm glad you asked."
Dad nodded silently.
The waitress came and cleared our table of our empty plates. "How was everything, guys?"
"Great, as always," I replied.
Dad made his usual joke about it being awful and that she should take it back to the kitchen. She laughed obligingly. "Anything else, guys?"
"Just the check," I say.
When the check came Dad started for his wallet. I waved him off. "I got this, Dad". I may not have had a pot to piss in during these years, but I always bought Dad's lunch. He had less than I did.
"Okay, me boy. Thank you kindly," he replied, smiling. I've always liked when he calls me that - "me boy".
I left the tab with tip on the table. We walked through the front part of the restaurant to get to the main exit. As we got into the car I wondered what I had done that prompted his question.
I didn't ask.
I still don't know.
But some things never change.
Ignorance and assholes still bother me.
And life is still short.

4 Comments:

Blogger FoxInDetox said...

Well said. Your dad sounds like quite a guy. He must be, he raised one.

10:03 AM, May 01, 2008  
Blogger Bridget said...

Very introspective...love the inner monologue, as usual. This story must have a twin though, when your Dad finally commented to you about your writing. I miss Phil's. Thanks for taking me back there for one last meal.

11:27 AM, May 01, 2008  
Blogger Letera said...

Amen on not having time for assholes, etc. Me too, dont want to be bother w/ them. And life is too short and its nice that your dad told you that. Again love reading your blog.

12:26 PM, May 01, 2008  
Blogger Cynthia said...

The onion rings at Phil's were the best.

Just a twist on things, though...if I had behaved with you, that is, impatiently, we might not be friends today. Sometimes, life is too short not to be patient.

2:43 PM, May 01, 2008  

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