Wednesday, May 13, 2020


I never think about my dad.

Well, almost never. Maybe once a year? For some reason, while I was writing this morning, he suddenly showed up in my thoughts. I don't know why, but I felt compelled to write down everything I ever remembered him saying to me.

It's not a long list.

The first thing I remember is him telling me a joke about how Southern people speak (he was from Mississippi). The punch line was how "emergency" was pronounced, with "emer" sounding like "Emerson."

I think I was about seven at the time. I remember it not being a funny joke.

I stayed with him for a few weeks one summer (my sister and I actually demanded to go back home to our Mom, and we did), when I was nine. I loved M*A*S*H--it was my favorite television show--and he said he couldn't stand it (he was racist and ultra-conservative). I made him watch an episode with me, and I could feel his resentment coming off him like heat waves.

And he was right--sort of. When he was watching with me, M*A*S*H wasn't funny.

That summer, he drove me around in his Honda Civic (the first model, I think). This ultra-American said "These little Hondas are better than anything we make."

In retrospect, it was the smartest thing he ever said to me.

Also that summer, we would wake up in the morning at 5 and get ready to go fishing (bass fishing, not the salt water bay fishing that I loved so much). He would take out huge plastic barrels that were full of ice from a chest freezer he had in the garage. He would chop the ice with an icepick, then pull out the pieces and put them in a cooler. "If you freeze the ice the night before, you don't have to buy ice," he explained.

I don't remember anything else for almost a decade. 

I saw him as I went through Louisiana on a bike trip when I was nineteen (Corpus Christi, Texas, to Tallahassee). He took me to this bar that was just a shack, nothing else around it. We went inside and he proudly told me that no black man and no woman had ever been inside.

It was sickening.

We argued and I told him that he was proud of all the wrong things. He didn't take it well.

I never wanted to see him again, after that, but another decade passed and he was visiting my sister and his grandchildren in Austin, twenty minutes away, so I went over there. We stood outside on the driveway, and he told me that even if I didn't like him, he was still my father. I told him my mother was my father and that he had done nothing to earn the title.

That stung him, I think. Which was fine.

Almost another decade passed. I had been living with Gloria for six months or so, and one day he called the house. I wasn't there, so Gloria picked up and spoke to him briefly. I asked her if there was a message and she said, "No. He said he'd call back."

I never heard from him again. 

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