Stuff My Father Won’t Tell Me, Part 9
Another Friday has arrived, Erev Shabbos, the week’s end. It seems to be
the day when my father has consistently become the most
reflective, the most communicative of his inner self. It’s as if he is
fashioning his "cheshbon ha nefesh”, his life’s reckoning. I’ve always
wanted to know my father in this way. That it arrives on the eve of
Shabbos Kodesh, the holy Sabbath … well, it just seems right to me.
My brother said weeks ago-when my dad was in the hospital-
that our father may yet fool us all and live for many years to come.
May he be right.
My father and I sat down together. He had a couple things he wanted to
He sat silently for a moment or two.
“Dad, you alright?”
“Yes, Son. You know I was thinking back when you were a baby. You
were born with a club foot. Did you know that?” His eyes became
misty. “Yes Dad. I did."
“And I used to turn your foot and turn your foot, again and again” he
said painfully and tearfully, showing me how he did it."
My father makes it very difficult to leave sometimes. He grimaced.
"Pain in your gut, Dad?"
It’s coming more frequently.
“I took a couple of Vicadin.”
We went out earlier to take care of some business. Wore him out.
"Dad, what kind of pain is it? Sharp, dull, stabbing, throbbing?"
“No. None of those. It feels ‘sore’.”
“Sore?" I wondered.
“You know, how I felt as a kid when I had eaten too many green
Now whether my father is giving me a sanitized explanation of his
pain, I’m not sure, but his grimace does not suggest “sore” to me.
“Dad, you rest this weekend,’ I advised as if he didn’t already know
“I’m not sleeping so well these days, Son.”
“He sleeps very little at night,” Bobbie had told me several days
before, “and spends hours walking around the apartment.”
He does not want to stop moving.
“Know what I ‘prescribe’ Dad?” I said only partly jokingly.
“Take a half cup of wine, just wine, a half cup only, get a book, lie in bed
and I guarantee you’ll be asleep within minutes.”
“Son,” my father said sternly, “I don’t drink.”
“Dad, this is not drinking. Half a cup of wine.” It was almost 5:00. I was
ready to leave.
“Sit down son,” he motioned to me. “Have I told you that story?”
“About … ?”
“Why I don’t drink …”
I sat back down and listened.
“Your mom and I went out to a friend’s dinner party, and I got stupid
drunk. I never did like the stuff but that night … well anyway we got
home, but I couldn’t make it up the stairs. Your mother was livid. So
there I lie so drunk I couldn’t help myself. I was getting sleepy,
remember, lying on the steps when your brother Ron came out.”
My dad’s face reddened.
“Daddy, why are you sleeping on the stairs?”
“I’m doing a test of these stairs, Son, and I think it’s not a good idea
to sleep on the stairs.”
My father did not like recalling this story.
“Go home Son. It’s getting late.”
I turned to leave. He looked so far away.
“Alan, thank you,” he said excitedly. He remained seated. In that
moment, he had already returned to the time when my
brother, now fifty-six, wondered why Daddy was lying on the stairs.
Though traffic ran surprisingly quickly, my drive home that afternoon
seemed to take forever.