Sunday, February 10, 2013
Today would have been my dad's eighty-first birthday. Back in the old days when my kids were young and my dad was alive and well and retired with lots of time on his hands, he often used to call in the middle of the day. I'd be in the midst of washing the dishes or playing with the kids or unloading groceries or doing any one of the many other activities that competed for my time and attention during those busy days of parenting, and the phone would ring. I'd drop what I was doing and hurry to answer it. "Hi, Babe," he'd say, "I didn't really want anything." I'd try to keep the impatience out of my voice, but I'd think to myself, If you didn't really want anything, then why are you calling? We'd chat for a few minutes while I'd make use of the long phone cord to finish folding the laundry or to make lunch, only half paying attention to the conversation, knowing he'd be calling again in a day or two, or even later that night. I acted like I had all the time in the world left. It's been more than ten years since I talked to my dad on the phone, and now that my own kids are grown and gone, I understand exactly why he called even when he didn't really want anything: he called because he missed me, because his house was empty and quiet, because he was lonely. And I know exactly how comforting it is to hear your child's voice on the other end of the phone. Talking to our kids reminds us who we are and who we were. I wish I had understood that back in the old days. I would have called my dad more often, and when he called me, even when he didn't really want anything, I would have stopped what I was doing and really listened to him. I have no idea what heaven will be like, but I'm hoping for an eternity of golden afternoons to spend with my dad, talking about everything and nothing.