The Forever Father

I’ve been making breakfast for the kids for 37 years. Do they appreciate it?

No one ever again will need me the way my son Smartacus needs me now.

In lockdown, we are each other’s only company. I find myself asking him: “What are we going to watch tonight? Are tacos OK for dinner?” as you would an aging spouse in a forever marriage.

He has not picked up on that yet. He has never had an aging spouse, or a forever marriage, so Smartacus doesn’t see the connection.

But he knows that we communicate with one-word codes: “Scratch,” he says, when his back itches. “Keys?” he asks, when he wants to take the car.

I make Smartacus breakfast each morning as if I have nine months to live. In nine months or so, he will probably be going off to some leafy campus in a faraway place, and I will no longer make breakfasts. I don’t even like breakfast, except in New Orleans for some reason. In New Orleans, breakfast comes either at 2 at night or 2 in the afternoon.

When he’s gone, I may move to New Orleans a while. Love that place, the chord progressions, the pace of life. It has the best banter I’ve ever found. In New Orleans, people talk to you whether you want them to or not. It’s a little like being a dad. Forced communication.

Men can be isolationists. They get in moods where they just want to be left alone. New Orleans won’t leave you alone. That’s part of its allure. All those gas lamps, banana trees and spontaneous conversation about cayenne or the Saints. Or how your girlfriend just got out of Angola and wants to start a fam. Or the best place to buy a used tenor sax.

I like everything about New Orleans. The way the coffee smells. How mortar spills out of old brick.

Been reading this book about the behavior of wolves. Obviously, it’s to better understand my kids.

Then again, I should probably try a place I’ve never been: Seattle, for instance. Or Omahahaha. In college, I had a pal (John Murphy) who was from Omaha. In bars, when girls asked where he was from, he’d say Omahahaha. They laughed every time. Laughter from a stranger is the same as: “OK, I like you. Tell me more. Wanna see my dorm room?” So, I might move to Omahahaha, till the joke gets old. Or I do.

Wait, “I’m already old?”

I’ve noticed that. When I turned 55, it seemed like strangers started addressing me as “Sir” all the frickin’ time. As in, “Morning, sir” or “You’re welcome, sir.”

How aggravating, huh? I suppose I should take that for what it is — a random sign of civility and respect. Rare thing, civility. Rarer yet, respect.

Yet, I can’t help wondering: “I have all my hair. My color is good, not pale like oat meal. What exactly makes me look older? The jowls? Maybe. A bit of an angle to the neck…the start of a stoop? Perhaps. The way I tidy the neighborhood by picking up random trash?

That must be it.  I use words like “tidy.”

It is an older man’s season: winter is. I don’t have to take my shirt off. I don’t have to drag heavy coolers across the hot sand.

Instead, there are pink-cheeked sunsets, the best of the year. And these elaborate, steamy breakfasts to make for Smartacus, who will be leaving me soon.

“Not soon enough!” I tease him.

Hey, remember, I’ve been continuously making breakfasts for my kids for 37 years. Posh always left early for work — who knew where she was really going? So I’d handle breakfast. Didn’t mind. Thirty-seven years is a long run with kids at home, though. When you think about it, I’m lucky to be alive.

Been reading this book about the behavior of wolves. Obviously, it’s to better understand my kids. They are getting older now – both daughters have careers and mustaches, and Smartacus is getting close. But around me, they will always be “my kids.”

Says in the book that wolves are one of the few creatures that show empathy. I don’t necessarily see that in our wolf/dog White Fang. She exhibits a finely developed sense of apathy, though she sure likes our walks, or the way I slip her bits of salmon in the morning. Nothing apathetic about the way her teeth glance off my fingers.

There I go again, a forever father, still nailing breakfast after 37 years.

I don’t see much empathy in the kids either. Smartacus and I still argue over who stinks the most after a day without showering. My daughters and I argue over a jokey card trick I stole from Steve Martin.

“That’s not funny, Dad,” Rapunzel says.

I’m not supposed to be funny. I’m just supposed to be a dad. A Boomer. The symbol of a fading empire. They sneer at us now in commercials. Millennials mock us every chance they get.

Can you blame them? All my generation did was invent rock ‘n’ roll, television and the digital age. Hey, Millennials, what have you invented lately? Whining? Sexting?

For the record, the French invented whining, and your parents used to go “streaking,” which was far better than sexting. Try it some time. You might meet someone. A cop maybe. Or possibly a new lover. You might one day have kids with that new lover, and end up making breakfasts for 37 straight years.

But only if you’re lucky.

Look, I tease the Millennials because I love them, and firmly believe that – somehow, if they ever get out of bed – they will carve us a better future.

No, I haven’t been drinking. Not yet anyway.

I’ve just been making these endless breakfasts – omelets, bacon sandwiches, yolky eggs piled over crispy hashed browns — and pondering all the good times ahead.

More memories. More places to see. A first grandchild. Omahahaha. Maybe even a funny book to write, should I decide to get into humor writing.

Excited? Yes, sir.

Want to see the silly card trick? To be honest, Steve Martin performs it better than I do. Check out King of Hearts. And check out my website for an upcoming Zoom session on gumbo ya-ya. I’m a Yankee. But I can fake a respectable gumbo. It’s all in the roux. What’s a roux? The secret to a new and better life, that’s all. Stay tuned for an invite to our Zoom cooking show.  

11 thoughts on “The Forever Father

  1. Raising wonderful human beings is life’s highest calling. Doing it for 37 years with humor and a good breakfast to start their day right makes you a Forever Hero Dad. Now if you are lucky you’ll get to make breakfast for your first grandchild, as soon as he/she is weaned, of course. Loved Omahahaha. I am going to steal that!

  2. How am I the second to respond after Caroll?I usually can’t sit down until midnight or so after a day of taking care of a 91 year old toddler! My dear Mother took care of us, now I take care of her. That’s the way it is with life. You are going to be sending your last one off to college, then you’ll go through‘empty nest syndrome’. But the saving grace for you will be a precious new life to watch growing up all over again;to make breakfasts on visits to ‘Papa’,teaching your‘life skills’ to a new audience! Then, because you have loved them and have been such a good role model, they will take care of you.

  3. I would just like to know what it is about my FOREHEAD that makes me look old ?! As in: I am wearing a face mask over the bottom half of my face, sunglasses and a hat and still some smart aleck at the grocery store thought he was being helpful by telling me when the “senior hours” were ~ !!!??

  4. Your breakfast looks delicious. Could use a slice of Spam. I wonder if that’s popular in N.O. ? We Boomers also invented Free Shipping! Where would Millenials be without that?!

  5. I remember the first time a lovely young female checker at our local not-so-supermarket smiled, cocked her head, then gave me a look that I couldn’t quite decipher. Could she be interested? Was it possible that she had a thing for older men?

    “Senior discount?” she asked, already knowing the answer.

    I didn’t know it was Senior Discount Tuesday, or that the market even HAD a Senior Discount Tuesday. I’d held my head high to tighten the wattle under my chin, and sucked in my post-65 gut to produce the illusion of being trim, but she saw through all that.

    She just knew.

    I nodded. Hey, ten percent saved is ten percent earned, or so I’ve been told since time immemorial.


  6. They’re born, and then they’re gone. The time in between is equal parts ecstasy and agony. Each departure just requires rebalancing. Come to think of it, that’s required all day, every day., anyway. So those of us who thrive ( or cope) as parents are already skilled jugglers. Does this sound like a circus ? Of course it is; and circuses always leave town. So be prepared to be on the road, ride into new towns, rock and roll with the road bumps and
    shenanigans of the clowns, and appreciate the bearded lady as much as the performing dogs(s) and that svelt trapeze artist hanging around the dressing room of your mind. And get used to the smell of sawdust, for here comes the first of the spritzing and tummeling grandchildren into the ring. The ringmaster doesn’t need a whip; all he needs is words, and a little moxy showmanship, to orchestrate the proceedings, and these you have in abundance– you’re Irish, aren’t you ?
    Sooooo…on with the show!

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