PORTRAIT OF MY FATHER
A short piece that illustrates my father perfectly
Walking into the Family Room, I hear my Dad on the phone.
“Chuck, hello. We need a fourth for tennis tomorrow, 8:30. Great, see you then.”
I smile to myself as he glances at his phone book and begins dialing. I know what’s coming.
“Don, we need a fourth for doubles tomorrow at 8:30. You in? See you then.”
Most people would say, “Pretending he’s already got the other players? Man, the balls on that guy!” But the players in his tennis circle are either too lazy or apathetic to ever set up any matches, so if my father wants to play (which he does every weekend), he’s the one enticing others to join him.
My father puts away his phonebook and concentrates on the soccer game playing on the television. I snuggle on the couch to read a magazine and listen to the TV commentary. It’s in Italian so I understand nothing. But it doesn’t matter. The language is so beautiful that even when the commentators say something horrible like, “Lucchino is down, Alberti kicked him in the balls,” it sounds lilting and romantic.
After a while, my dad says to me, “Thea, what should we do about dinner tonight?”
The fall weather has me feeling sleepy. I don’t want to cook or get dressed up and eat in a restaurant, so I reply, “Let’s order something.”
I think a moment. “We could have pizza. Or Chinese.”
“Okay. Which do you want?”
“Oh, I don’t care. You pick,” I reply.
He turns toward me, the game forgotten. “No, tell me what you want.”
“I really don’t care.”
My father says, “Come on. You don’t have a preference?”
“Nope.” And I don’t. I love both.
He shakes his head. “You must have one.”
“No, I don’t, dad. Like I said, you can choose.”
His voice becomes firmer from annoyance. “No. I want you to pick.”
“But I really don’t care,” I reply, feeling annoyed as well. “Ask Mom.”
“No, I’m asking you. That’s your problem, Thea. You never give your opinion, say what you want.”
I wonder if he realizes that with him, it’s just simpler that way.
He continues. “You are always too ambivalent or are too easy, deferring to others, letting them have their own way. Everyone has their preferences. Go on, choose.”
“Fine then! Chinese!”
Dad is quiet for a moment before speaking.
“You sure you don’t want pizza?”
He eyes me with a puzzled expression, wondering why I’m laughing so hard.