Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Every trail ends at Wal-Mart doesn't it?
Like other storybook children, my father can usually be found by following a trail he’s left behind. While Hansel and Gretel dropped breadcrumbs to ensure they would not be lost, my father’s trail is both colorful, due to the bits of thread from his crochet projects, and inadvertent due to his seeming disinterest in picking up his feet as he walks. I think it’s because he just likes to shuffle about. Maybe the clip-clopping of his rubber-soled house shoes reminds him of the horses of his youth, I don’t know.
At first I thought it was because he was getting older and was losing his ability to walk with a steady gait. However, one mention of going for ice cream or a steak dinner and the spring in his step magically re-appears leaving a swirl of colored bits of yarn in his wake, like a ticker tape parade sponsored by Joann’s Fabrics. It’s become a part of my daily routine, running across a veritable rainbow in the oddest of places throughout the house.
Now I understand in order for the yarn to find its way to the nether regions of my home, The Dad's feet have to be the vehicle by which they travel, but how on earth did he get variegated thread behind the toilet in my (not his) bathroom or inside my messenger bag in the hall closet by the back door? What exactly is he doing while I am at work? Seriously, this man can’t even put on his socks without my help but he can perform some sort of interpretive dance to the classic country he blasts throughout the day? I’m unsure how one combines interpretive dance and Johnny Paycheck.
As I mentioned in the last post, he had been left unchaperoned due to my travel for work and he was living the life of a wild and crazy bachelor. Well, as wild and crazy as you can be with $20, a Jitterbug phone and a scooter with a basket too small to carry your dog.
Typically on these trips I will call him when I arrive at the hotel to let him know I was not killed in some grisly airline crash. However, we don’t check in every day, so it was odd he would call while I was having dinner with some colleagues at Romano’s Macaroni Grill. There is some deep emotional connection between government workers and chain restaurants that I truly do not understand. Utilizing the lessons learned in our Negotiations class, ½ price wine with mediocre Italian food won out due to my withdrawal and surrender. Hell hath no fury like a federal employee who has exceeded their allotted per diem, y’all. Per diem is Latin for “you better eat cheap”.
Since I feel talking on the phone at dinner and in the presence of others is rude, I decided I would call him when I got back to my hotel room. When he answered, he seemed very excited. He said, “You’re gonna be happy. I did something you’ve been after me to do since I got here.”
“Really?” I said, wondering which suggestion he had taken. Had he cut his toenails, using clippers and a trash can and not wire cutters and the floor? Had he voluntarily sprayed his own recliner to combat the “old man smell”? Had he finally thrown away that horrifyingly ugly brown striped shirt? Had he actually used a paper towel to cover his food in the microwave so it didn’t look like a crime scene? Had he started wringing the water from the sponge before placing it in its cozy? Had he finally given up sardines and pork skins for Lent? It’s not that I’m overbearing, it’s just that I’m…aggressively concerned about his welfare. Yes, that’s how I’m going to phrase it.
He answered my silent query saying, “I rode over to the nursing home today.” This was as unexpected as if he had declared his love for Carmelita, the omelet chef at the hospital cafeteria. Seriously, I have been trying to figure out ways to get him out of the house during the day since he moved in last September. I told him that he is simply existing and not really living and he needed to go interact with the veterans in the nursing home on the same campus where we live. I thought he’d enjoy it. It’d give him something to do, get him out of the house where he overeats from boredom and he’d have somebody to swap lies with as, in my experience, it's what old men do.
“Yep,” he said. “I went to the nursing home and took them some of the afghans I made and asked them if I could give them to the people who lived there.”
“Well, whodathought,” I said, so surprised I started talking like my grandmother.
“Yep, they were amazed that I crocheted them.”
“Great! What made you finally decide to go?”
“I thought it’d be good to see who was there and give me something to do. I do listen to what you say, even if you think I don’t.”
“Well, look at you.” I wanted to say I was proud of him but can you say something like that to your Dad?
“Yep. The nurses thought it was pretty cool and asked me if I’d make some shawls and scarves for the lady vets. Did you know there were lady vets there?”
“I assumed there were.” The VA has greatly expanded its services for female veterans in the last few years.
“And they want me to come teach a crochet class.”
“Aren’t you something, professor? I am very proud of you.” I had decided that it didn’t matter I was proud and wanted to say it.
“I know,” he laughed. “I’m gonna have to get myself a yellow bow tie. Ain’t that what professors wear?”
“It's awfully specific. A yellow bow tie. I’m not sure society is quite ready for that.”
He was not to be deterred. “They laughed when I told ‘em I learned how to crochet in jail.”
“I would imagine. I feel quite sure a felonious redneck wearing a bowler riding on a scooter was not what they had in mind when they imagined the answer to their need for an arts and crafts instructor.”
“With a yellow bow tie,” he laughed. I hadn’t seen him this excited in, well, ever, I don’t think.
I hope these nurses realize what they’ve done. He is intense under normal circumstances. Now he has a purpose, he will become a crocheting fiend. He will produce these items at a rate that can only be equated with Toyota. It’s impressive to say the least.
And knowing him as I do, I predicted the ensuing request for a thread run to the Wal-Mart, once we had declared détente from the public urination debate. We piled in this truck and headed toward discount utopia, hoping against hope Esmerelda was on her day off. I didn’t need her to ask about Kinley and I couldn’t admit my fabricated child; I have my pride, y’all. I didn’t want this innocent, sweet cashier to know I had lied. The last thing any American needs is another white guy in a suit telling lies in the presence of off-brand cigarettes and clearance priced undergarments.
Plus, I didn’t need my The Dad thinking he had a grandchild he couldn’t remember. We already joke about his memory. When he asked if I was going to hide eggs for him to hunt at Easter, I said I hadn’t planned on it. I did casually mention that maybe I would just wait until the Monday after and tell him he hunted eggs. He did not find any humor in my remark.
In the spirit of the occasion, I decided I needed to be more involved in his projects. I even offered to help him choose the colors of his thread. I mean, if it’s going to be strewn around my home, I at least want it to color coordinate with the décor. We are not savages, people.