I was bopping along with the music for 9 seconds before I realized I was enjoying my cell’s ringtone instead of answering it. Not what its designers had in mind.
Swiping the little green handset icon, I stepped into futurama, gloating that the tech world still hasn’t come up with a better symbol than a Bakelite or Western Electric handset. Mentally I pumped my fist and yelled, “YEAaaah!” I didn’t actually do that because I had in my left hand a steaming cup of pinon brew with just the right dab of cream and sugar. Forgetting that just once provided an enduring and painfully messy lesson.
“This is Granger.”
“Hey.” I set the cup on my desk next to my moni– Ah-HAH. My finely-honed intuitive mind just figured out the coffee rings. I’d just visited with Arlough a few days ago and was surprised to hear from him this quick. His customary staccato delivery was supplanted right now with silence, indicating he was in no mood for our usual banter.
I waited. My friend was deciding how to say what was bugging him. Sometimes offering a friend a wide margin of silence is, in a world obsessed with aural and visual din, the finest of gifts.
“I’m beginning to think holidays aren’t what they were and are no longer worth the effort.”
“Father’s Day. The kids were all there but they weren’t all there. We had polite conversation. A few memories and some laughter. But like everywhere you go any more, their cell phones were hanging right on the edge of everyone’s consciousness. The least excuse would bring one or more out. Checking messages, scoping out Facebook. I’m guessing they were taking pictures, too.
Sometimes offering a friend a wide margin of silence is, in a world obsessed with aural and visual din, the finest of gifts.
“There were none from Father’s Day. No memories to share. None; not one. Every person there had a cell phone with a camera, but nobody thought it worth taking any pictures. No biggie. It’s just Dad. No personal I-love -you-Dads. It was more like they were going through the motions expected of them.”
My heart felt like it had some fishing weights hanging from it. “I’m sure sorry, Arlough. I know some of the challenges you’ve faced, and you’ve done an incredible job of Dadding your three. I know your kids love and respect you.”
“Yeah. I guess. It’s just that I had the unsettling thought I could quietly get up and leave and they’d be so wrapped up in their own worlds it’d take them awhile to know I wasn’t there any more.”
Once again I waited, sensing he was circling his thoughts to land.
“Some. I use it to publicize and publish my blog. Can you help me understand why you’re asking?” I thought I might have it figured out, but know better than to get in a hurry where others’ feelings are concerned.
“I went on there to find some funny stuff, a few lighthearted videos, something. I found one or two. But there was a ton of everybody else with their dads, some with several generations. There were lots of compliments and tributes to their dads. There were pictures of the meals they were eating—I mean, you know how that goes, right?”
I nodded even though he couldn’t see it. I thought I knew what was coming. I wish I’d been wrong.
“There was nothing from my kids about their dad, good bad or, or–rotten. I’m kind of empty, tell ya the truth. Don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about that . . .”
“Arlough, I don’t know what to say.”
He gave an indelicate half-chuckle, half-snort. “Oh, I know. I wasn’t expecting you to ride to my rescue. I guess this wasn’t something I wanted to be alone with. Now that they’re all adulting, I don’t think I rate much in their circles. You know, anybody who has to ask for ‘tech’ help (here I could almost see him gesturing, curling the first two fingers of each hand) with their phone is pretty pathetic. I mean, come on, we trained them to use the toilet!”
Trying my best to give his thoughts the sobering response they deserved, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at his badinage.
“That we did, my friend. That we did.” I waited a couple of ticks, sensing his morose funk had slightly lifted.
“Anything I can do for you?”
“You just did. Granger, nobody can slap a listen on another person like you can. Later.”
My friend with the mega-octane mind was gone as quickly as he’d rang. I knew Arlough was tough and would work through this thing. I knew his family would eventually catch on. I knew I had to stop setting my coffee cup on my desk without something under it.
Either that or make coffee rings part of my logo.
© D. Dean Boone, June 2015