It's a wise father that knows his own child." William Shakespeare
"My father was so funny on Easter," I said to the Maestro and Traveling Sue on Tuesday night, as we stopped off after rehearsal at our favorite watering hole. "Did I ever tell you how competitive he is?"
"Never did," said Sue, sensing a story coming on. But then, I was in the company of master storytellers.
"After dinner, he challenged me and my sister Kerrie to a game of Scrabble. My mom wanted to play, but he told her that we were actually using words with more than one syllable in them, so she'd be at a disadvantage. That only made her want to play more. She played pretty well, too. Was practically tied with him, most of the game.
"So my dad only had a two tiles left, and next thing you know, he puts them down. Then he looks up and says, 'So I get 50 points, right?' We're like, 'Dad you only get that if you set down all seven tiles,' and he says, 'No, I cleared my board, I get 50 points.' He made us look it up in the rule book to prove that it wasn't actually a rule!"
"He's tough," nodded Sue.
"Then we all went to take off the points left on our boards, and he insisted that he needed to add those points on to his score, too. Now, I had never heard that rule before, but he insisted. Turns out he's right. Can you believe it?
"But then, as we're getting ready to leave about a half an hour later, Kerrie looked down at the floor by his seat. 'What's this?' she asked, and bent down to pick something up off the floor. It was a tile! The guy had deliberately dropped a tile to floor to win the game! But of course, he just stood there, smiling, insisting he didn't do anything. You could just tell, though, because of his dimples."
"Has he always been that competitive?" asked Sue.
"Always. He made me play chess with him, when I was a kid. Wrote down each game, play by play. Recorded the standings. Of course, he was way ahead of me at first, but I studied hard. Started winning games. Finally, one day, I pulled ahead. Put him into checkmate. He grabbed his king, dropped the F-bomb, and never played with me again. Did the same thing to my brother, too."
"Fathers and sons," said Traveling Sue, shaking her head and taking a sip of beer. "That's just the way they are."
"My dad was a really simple guy," said Tony. "Owned a diner in Johnston, you know? Didn't go to college and never really understood why I wanted to be a conductor. Used to ask me all the time, why are you wasting your time with that stuff? Of course, his idea of music was the band he was in when he was in high school, when he used to play the drums. Thought I was just looking to be part of an amateur garage band. He wanted me to get a real career, stop screwing around. So we were always going at each other, you know? Non stop."
"Fathers and sons," said Sue.
"But you know something? When I was around 27, I took a look at what I was doing and I wasn't happy just working in a music store. I didn't see myself getting anywhere the way I was, and so, totally on a whim, I applied at the Hart School. So I went away, for five years or so. And you know what the weird thing was? My dad, the one who I spent half the time fighting with, was the one who seemed to miss me being around most of all. Mom was one of those parents who say they're going to miss their kids when they go off to college, then start celebrating the minute they close the door! But dad...nah, he would call me, twice a week. 'Are you eating?' he'd asked me. Same thing, every week. Just wanted to make sure I was eating." Tony shook his head. "The guy seemed lonely without me around."
"When my son was growing up, he used to fight with Tom all the time," said Sue. "They were at each others throats. Then something happened, somehow. Nowadays I gotta admit, I'm jealous. He calls, talks to me for maybe five minutes, and then spends and hour and a half talking to his dad."
"My dad wasn't a big talker," said Tony. "Sometimes you could go through a whole night and he wouldn't say a word. But every morning when I was living in Bristol, at eight on the dot, he'd call me up, ask me if I was stopping by the diner. Asked me if I was hungry, and then he'd have breakfast waiting for me." Tony paused. "It was all about the food, with Dad."
Fathers and sons. It's a strange balancing act, the connections between the two. And here I am, sitting next to my son as he works away at his homework. I'm typing away, not saying a word. Will he say that I'm quiet and wouldn't talk for hours, when he gets older? Will he say I was all about the food?
Fathers and their sons. How will I be remembered?