Today’s post is an excerpt from the memoir I wrote last year, the one I used as a tool to work through both my relationship with, and the loss of my father. Which is an ongoing process, at best. As is this memoir. This is still in first and rough draft form.
This particular story comes from the middle of the work, rather than in linear order and I hope you enjoy it. My dad loved humor and attention more than anything, so I can’t help but think, if Bill could read this, he’d laugh. He’d pretend it wasn’t him, and he’d laugh. That’s what I do most of the time, too. This is a true story, not invented with authors license. So please pour yourself a cup of coffee, or maybe a vodka neat and feel free to laugh too.
**Breakfast, volume 3, winners and losers**
A catalog *thwaps* loudly to the table in front of me.
I don’t even jump. Having things *thwaped* in front of me is a regular occurrence with my father. The alarming part is generally less the *how* it gets there and more the *what* it is.
But the catalog seems fairly innocent. “What’s this?” I ask, knowing he’ll sit silently until I give him his cue. I’m not sure why I didn’t use that to my advantage more often, on mornings when I was just *tired*
“I figured it would be fun to do some pre-shopping” he says. He is giddy and unbound.
I immediately try to anticipate whether this is going to be a singing contest million dollar idea or a by signing up only six people. million dollar idea. I evaluate his luggage for clues, but his peddler’s medley, loosely piled in wal-mart bags, could’ve been anything, as usual.
“So!” he says
“So.” I say.
“Grapefeeti” He says.
“Ah” I say.
What else can I say?
We stare at each other. He wears a grin so practiced it seems plastic. I am tired, so I am not quick to quit the silence. I count in my head, to see how many seconds of calm I can buy.
Dad would have told you that an old sales rule says; "whoever speaks first loses". It follows then; who ever doesn’t speak first wins.
That my father was so excited he broke his usual protocol of insisting with silence that you inquire after an explanation should, logically, have qualified asa win for me.
When he continued with the words;
“It’ll be like a subway for wine lovers!” I admit, winner is not how I would have described myself.
He hurried to lay out the plan, in all it’s splendor.
“Picture it.” he begins. He spreads his hands in front of him, as if parting a curtain.
“Storefronts all over the country, like subway only purple, and people come and stomp grapes and make their own wine and then drink it right there, fresh stomped, and you know what we’ll call it?”
It’s all coming in a great rush now, no pause before he says;
His tone indicates that this is the pièce de résistance, the capstone denoting his marketing genius. He basks in his own brilliance for a moment, smiling as he stares off in the distance. Just in case I want to stare at him with awe and wonder; he wouldn’t want me to be uncomfortable. But then he goes on.
“We’re going to be millllllionaires” He drags the word out and I’m a little worried that he’s prepared a song to follow, but thankfully he goes on in a speaking voice
“And there will be graffiti all over the walls. Isn’t it fabulous?” Despite the phrasing, this is not a question, and I don't get to offer a response before he continues, beaming at me like a runner crossing the finish line; exhausted, exultant.
“I just knew you’d get it. I knew you'd love it.”
I tick off "Assuming The Sale" from my internal CWAS (Conversations With A Salesman) list, marking all the sales techniques used on me in conversation with dad. To this day, I haven't quite figured out if they had just become so much a part of how he learned to communicate that it was unintentional, or if it was pre-meditated and he actually thought he was fooling us. The fact that we couldn't figure it out was how he got away with it, which either made him a genius or a remarkable child.
As normal as these kinds of conversations were with my father, you’d think after thirty years I’d be unfazed. You’d think I wouldn’t scramble to make sense of things and most of all, you’d think I wouldn’t still try to offer logic in response.
But I struggle to wrap my head around the idea that my father has the emotional acuity and self-awareness of a 10 year old boy and I wonder if it was always this way.
Surely not, I think, lesson still not learned, as I say
“Dad, you know it takes months…years even, to make wine? People couldn’t drink what they’d just stomped…”
I don’t get the “for starters” that I was working on, out of my mouth before he interrupts dismissively, waving a hand at me. That's when I realize that we haven't gotten to his ultimate punchline yet. Inside, I tick off "but wait, there's more." from the CWAS list.
“Minor detail." A pause, and then he says
"Isn’t it grape?” He says *grape* with all the dramatic flair of Tony the Tiger and the elocution of Edward R. Murrow, grinding the G and punching the P with a popping sound, to make sure I don’t accidentally think he’s said the... wrong? Right?...thing...
He laughs, wild, manic laughter. His whole body heaves like a convulsion. Then he looks directly into my eyes, the camera of his life, and whispers coyly “I mean *great!*”
If he’d had a mic, he would’ve dropped it, struggled out of the booth, gathered up his bags, picked up his last piece of toast, downed the last of his coffee for emphasis...and walker-ed out.