Lunch With my Father
by Martin Green
Those 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.
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 hadnt 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 now.
Hows Ruth? he asked.
Ruth was my wife, who worked for a non-profit in San Francisco. Shes fine.
Still making the world safe for illegal immigrants?
She tries. Hows 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. Wheres 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, 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 comes in.
An alarm bell rang in me. What were you seeing a doctor about?
Nothing, just the usual aches and pains. Dont worry, Im 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 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.
I thought you were a Democrat.
Used to 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.
What do you think of Donald Trump?
He 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.
What are these aches and pains youre having.
The 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, 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 youre mad at her.
He 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 about.
But you wont take it out on Mother?
Ill try not to. You know, her birthdays next month.
I know. Ruth and I will come up and take her out to a birthday dinner. Youre invited, too.
Thatll be good. Ill let her know.
The waiter brought our check. Ive got it, I said.
You dont 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 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 get old.
More stories from Winamop
Copyright reserved. Please do not reproduce without consent.