i paused. i knew what he was experiencing; i’ve experienced it myself. it’s probably anxiety, i said. sit down and <quote-01>take some slow deep breaths<quote-01>. it’ll go away.
would it? i wondered, or is he about to have a full-on anxiety attack? we’ve been talking about heated stuff, so it makes sense, i said. <quote-02>i felt horrible<quote-02> that our conversation had caused my father distress, a conversation he most likely didn’t want to have to begin with. maybe we should change the subject then, he said, maybe we should talk about <quote-03>benjamin<quote-03>.
<quote-04>i remember coming out of my room one morning before school--jr high feels about right--and seeing my father on the couch surrounded by paramedics<quote-04>. he looked up at me, and i could tell he was scared. whatever was going on, he wasn’t able to hide his fear. my mother quickly ushered me into the shower, saying that dad was fine, that he thought maybe something was wrong with his heart but that everything had checked out ok. don’t worry, she said, he doesn’t have to go to the hospital or anything. let’s go ahead and get ready for school.
i remember my shower that morning; i remember where my mind went. tom’s dad had that heart attack when we were kids. he didn’t die, but he sure could have, i thought. what if my dad dies? things would sure be different for me: what great responsibilities would i have around the house? what great sympathies would be shown me at church and at school? to lose your father, man, that would really be something. i then reprimanded myself for my thoughts. i hated myself for not being more upset when contemplating such a loss. you better not tell anyone any of this, i ordered myself. <quote-05>i imagine the pain was rather too frightening for me to face<quote-05>.
well, he’s long for his age, but he can’t seem to settle on a weight percentage, i told my father. i was fumbling for a narrative about his grandchild that i could use to calm his thoughts, thinking all the while what a <quote-06>horrible piece of shit i was for causing him such distress<quote-06>.
you know, it’s funny. i had a sense of foreboding when i was on the phone with him earlier in the week. he was at the mechanic’s. a tire on his toyota venza <quote-07>had taken on a screw<quote-07>, and it wasn’t holding air. he and mom had to drive to camarillo to pick up grandma. they could take the truck, but the venza was more comfortable for grandma, so he figured he might as well get the trip to the mechanic out of the way. he talked about the crossword he was working on--a thursday puzzle--and the times puzzle more generally, then about the work he and my mom were having done on the yard. they were lucky they got the fence replaced before the santa anas blew through. they were happy it had held. he went into great detail about the flatbed truck that brought the giant boulders the landscaper used to decorate the yard, how the wheels shifted along the bed of the truck in tandem with the bed’s tilt when unloading the rocks. he was upset about the skid marks the truck left across the driveway, but the driver assured him they could be blasted off with water and that he’d be back in a few days to do so. my dad then told me about his neighbor, a nice <quote-08>oriental<quote-08> lady, who’d been having a tough go of it, so he wasn’t gonna make her pay for her portion of the fence. he was getting her a new mailbox as well. the winds last week had knocked hers down. she told us how much she liked the new one we had put in, so we’re gonna bless her with one just like it.
it’s possible my father intuited that i wanted to talk about the election during that call, and that he remained purposefully gregarious to avoid doing so. either way, i remember feeling glad that he was; <quote-09>it was nice to hear about the events of his life<quote-09>.
his vision righted itself fairly quickly. soon mom and grandma were back from the hairdresser’s, and he was needed downstairs. talk soon, i said.
i checked the electoral count as soon as we hung up.
after another night bouncing between networks, i woke to a breakfast text--cinnamon pancakes with pecans, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries<quote-10>!!!--with an accompanying photo of his plate: three pancakes and a slice of bacon<quote-10>. a welcome home grandma breakfast! i replied.
on my way to the bathroom i turned on the tv: a commercial break. the count on my phone was the same as the night before, but wolf blitzer was about to call it. nah! we did it for ourselves, my dad replied. she’s still in bed, but she’ll get a couple.
i sat down on the couch for a few minutes before getting dressed to take cooper out for his morning walk. the bass from a car idling somewhere on the other side of our block throbbed subtly in my head. another text came in: getting a good rain today. they finish grading the dirt and setting the drains next week. this is a good thing to know where the low spots are. i took some pictures. our new boulders are getting a well needed bath. i’ll send a couple of pictures later today.
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