It was his first full day with me in over a year. My dad sat across from me, grey in his hair and beard, but not a moment under young. Fifty-one, three kids all now of legal age, a long marriage and a job that calls him up even when he’s helping his son, he was still smiling. I wasn’t. I was tired. The day after he flew in to calm down the overwhelming mess the move and pack was becoming. The small bedroom room was full her shit. Everything strewn on the floor. It looked impossible. That’s why my father came down. “The hardest part is always starting,” he told me. By the end of that first night he was there, the day of my final shift, we had all of it packed and most of it stored. I had run on short naps and caffeine. That night I collapsed into sleep.
We were at IHOP. The good one south of where I lived. I got coffee, him just water. He had lost a about three toddlers in weight and kept it off for years. He wasn’t going to change just because we were going out to eat while he helped. Fresh eggs, no cheese, avocado, fruit. I had the full omelette with bacon, cheese and the works. I still ran on anything. I wouldn’t be able to do it for much longer.
Our waitress, Alexis, was a looker. Blonde, skinny, cute face. Very friendly. She woke me up a little before the coffee came. I could feel the urges begin. I wanted to game. I had comments and smiles and moves ready. I looked for rings on her fingers. None. I watched her as she walked away. Yes, this would be a good one to work with. Then, the genetic gift, the man I had doubted in previous manifestations of myself, came to the front. Years of being away. Years of indoctrination and bias and hurt and angst burned away like mist over Los Angeles in the morning sun. My dad spoke to her, naturally, in a way I’ve tried to do for years. Socially extroverted. Assertive, but so subtle the ticks in her brain were unnoticeable. I’d think of something to say when she came over and it was already out of his mouth with his smile bookending the neg or the compliment or the simple observation. My dad is happily married to the woman of his dreams. My dad isn’t doing this because he read it in a book or, like myself, trying to improve his pick-up. This is my father. This is who I can be.
During that breakfast of insight, he asked me about what I’ll do in television when I get back to Canada. Immediately out of my mouth is a lack of ambition. “I can just be a runner,” I say. He shakes his head with a stern “No.” As he’s about to speak, the man underneath years of middle ground pipes up and mentions writing. “I can write,” I say with a stronger voice. His nods says that’s a better answer. We talk more. He talks about the current show he’s working on and the wannabes who are screwing it up. He reminds me that I have a complex of hating my bosses, calling them all idiots. I acknowledge this. I tell him it was never my job to question or hate them. In the last day I’ve realized I don’t need to try to change anything. I just make the money. Do what I’m told and tell others. Things are changing fast, but they are changing correctly.
The next day, he’s dealing with problems with the crew while we drive around. He gets a call and his voice changes from father to boss in a split-second. I listen in. I used to listen for amusement. This time I listened for lessons. Subtle, unspoken lessons I ignored before because I rode the wave of mediocrity. As he chewed out a inept man, a man who’s nose is browner than the dirt, my brain caught fire. I could feel it burst with electricity as I took it all in. I sat quietly and listened. I heard tone. I heard words. I re-programmed myself with his movements of the air. Things get done his way because he does his job. Things get done because he sees the big picture. Things get done because he says so. He’s hired to make people money. These replaceable people are put in their place. This isn’t important work to the rights of man or the environment or politics. Its television. They get their perspective readjusted.
Beaten and broken for months by a woman, he’s rebuilt me in days. He put the focus in. He returned his legacy to the man he saw once in a while. I’m sorry I ever doubted him and his personality. I blamed everyone for what was happening to me, while in the end, it was me. My weakness and my biases and my outlook. Even while figuring out what needs paying off, and she left a lot to pay off, he tells me point blank that it isn’t fair. It isn’t right. She needs to pay off. I still try to explain it away. That she locks up and gets stubborn. He reminds me I have the code for the lock on the storage shed we rented. I smile, the manifestation of him in my soul laughing the loud chuckle of my father.
We’re allowed our weak moments. I’ve had my quota.
Thank you, Dad.