September 29, 2016 scottcjones 6Comments

I didn’t go home last Christmas. Stayed here by myself. First time I’d ever done that. That’s crazy, I know, but true. As a mea culpa, I promised to visit in January in Florida.

I didn’t. Some work obligations came up. I rescheduled. I rescheduled again. The more I rescheduled, the more days I kept adding to the trip. “I can’t come now,” I’d say. Then I’d use my game show host voice to say the rest: “But I can come in X months. And when I do come in X months, I’ll stay for X amount of days. Also, YOU’VE WON A BRAND NEW 2016 FORD FIESTA CONVERTIBLE.”

In the end, after months of delays and promises, I agreed to a grand total of 12 days with my parents at the end of July. Which, for a middle aged man like me, is a completely absurd amount of time to spend with one’s parents.

I stayed with them in their RV on the eastern shore of Oneida Lake. The weather was absurdly nice that week—not too humid. A steady breeze blew off the lake and rattled the nearby trees. I wore camp shorts. Took the kayak out a couple times.

One afternoon I had a conversation with my father. He’s 72. Into self-preservation. His get-well tip for the summer: If anyone had trouble sleeping, my father would instruct them to eat 10 walnuts and drink 6-ounces of cherry juice just before going to bed. “Trust me, you’ll sleep like a baby,” he’d say.

I heard him share this advice with at least four other campers. Three of the four campers rolled their eyes at him as he told them this.

I was hoping to use our conversation as a pitch to a media outlet. The way my father positions himself as the informal medicine man in his community is strange and interesting to me.

But our conversation took some darker, more opinionated turns that disqualified it from pitch material.

He’s moody, like lots of fathers. He thinks he’s always right. You’ll hear all of that.

My father and I both looked out over the lake as we talked….

[Also: Special thanks to Steven Nikolic. He mixed the audio and wrote most of the the music.]

6 thoughts on “A Summer Conversation with My Father Ep.4

  1. Listening to this reminds me a lot of my dad. I remember as a kid we’d watch TV in the living room and he’d be doing exercises beside us. He had these dumbbells that were covered in blue plastic. I thought they were absurdly heavy. They were probably about 10 pounds each.

    To my inexperienced eyes he was like a greek god, stoically lifting those weights and crushing those stupid hand grip things that went out of fashion in the 80’s.

    One thing I notice is he and I never progressed much past that early father/son dynamic. I somehow regress in my speech when talking to him even now as an adult. I find myself unconsciously patronizing him (without him knowing) and hoping he’d be nice in return. Instead, he always seems to inch towards asserting superiority “well… you don’t really know about WWII, you’re too young so I’ll tell you…” (even though by now I’ve read stacks of books on history and he was a baby by the end of WWII.)

    Like your dad he’s a working-class guy and all about the health tips. He talks a lot about how fat people are fat and why they’re so fat. He’ll pepper in some talk about sports and politics. He’s also 72 and in very good shape.

    But some relatively minor memory issues are creeping in. We’ve been playing tennis for a while and this summer I’d been getting less and less accommodating to his lapses. One time, we were playing a match and stuck on a single point for an absurd amount of time. In reality the point was won and lost several times but he kept forgetting the score so it kept on going. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and went through the math with him… it was irrefutable logic. He refuted it anyways. I tried again. This time he launched into a “who are you to tell me” diatribe. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was.

    He rammed his finger into my chest and got ridiculously upset. I walked home. I realized that it was too much for him to take that his intellectual and physical superiority both became firmly and demonstrably false on that tennis court.

    Until then I didn’t fully realize he had been competing with me the whole time we were playing tennis (I was just doing it for the exercise).

    That was in July and I’ve only seen him once and we didn’t talk. I’m sure there’ll be some kind of truce on Thanksgiving and we’ll go back to how it’s always been.

    It was quite bitter-sweet but I really enjoyed listening to this one as well as reading about your interaction with your parents in general.

  2. Scott, your father reminds me of my Grandpa. He instills instant calm over you when he begins to speak 🙂

    I’m glad you no longer live off of beers and Chinese food. Is Chinese food even food? I always wondered what that rubbery white stuff was…

    Great podcast!

  3. This was great! I love hearing your voice and your dad sounds like a real hoot to be around.

    12 days huh? Wow.

    Can’t wait to hear more of these!

  4. Really enjoyed this story. As always. I miss listening to you on a more regular basis, so being able to come here and read your thoughts and opinions is insightful and satisfying.

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