The second day of my dad’s visit, my family was up by 7:30. Matt took Rose to swimming and the gym and I worked a bit on the blog. My dad slept until 11 a.m. That’s 2 p.m. Eastern time, which made me wonder how much he sleeps at home. I thought old people woke up early. My dad often brags that he’s “up” until 2 a.m., but we all know he sleeps in his dining room chair 90 percent of the day.
The sleeping thing really scares me because he still drives. First, his head permanently hangs from osteoporosis so it’s hard for him to see the road through hooded eyes. Second, he’s narcoleptic and I’m afraid he’ll fall asleep at the wheel and kill someone. He had an accident a few years ago on the interstate. He “slipped on some ice” and ran off the road. I’m willing to bet the road was completely dry that day.
We’d planned the Boeing plant tour for that day. Early in his career, my father built jet engines and he’s always been interested in airplanes. I was worried we’d have to talk a lot beforehand, but my dad fell asleep sitting on the couch. Before he slept he asked, “How many times does she sleep during the day?” of my son. I am his only child and he’s got two grandchildren. You’d think he could keep their genders straight.
Matt and Rose got home an hour later. My father still slept. I worked on the blog some more.
After Japanese Steak House leftovers for lunch, Dad and I headed off to Boeing. The storm lashed the road as we approached and we mistakenly stopped at the Historic Flight museum on the way. Turns out we were looking for the Future of Flight museum. The old planes at Historic Flight fascinated my dad and he asked to stop there on the way home. We got to the right place, got our tickets and headed off. The tour was very cool, even though I had to steer my dad toward the tour guide a few times so they didn’t leave without us. It was amazing looking at these enormous planes in all phases of construction.
After the 90-minute tour, we waded through the gift shop and headed out. I was really tired and I’d hoped he’d forget about the other museum, but as soon as we got into the car, he mentioned it. We went, and he examined every inch of every plane and every plaque and asked the staff about each plaqueless plane. I stayed with him for half of it, then plopped myself down on a bench and waited. He finished, we left and headed to Frost Doughnuts to pick up the next day’s breakfast.
Matt and I love to introduce visitors to the gourmet donut shop. People are always impressed by the maple-bacon bars. On the way, my dad said he had to buy some Seattle coffee for a friend back home. He kept pointing out coffee shops, but the wind and rain dampened my desire to make another stop. Either the donut shop sold coffee, I told him, or we’ll go to the market across the street. We got the donuts, then his coffee, and some creamer at the market, because our milk wasn’t good enough for his coffee, and headed home. Famished, I scarfed a sour-cherry-almond doughnut on the way. I expected him to make some fat comment but to my surprise, he refrained.
He did tell me that he and his nephew had visited a cousin of his recently, and his nephew was asking the cousin about their childhoods. He waved his hands around, “He was asking about us being poor when we were kids, and he shouldn’t have done that. Helen was telling him about it too, but he shouldn’t have asked.”
“Why not?” I said.
“Because you don’t ask about things like that,” he said.
“But you were poor. Your dad worked as a waiter at the Waldorf-Astoria.”
“The fact remains, you shouldn’t talk about things like that. We weren’t poor. We had food. We ate!”
“But you got free milk at school,” I said.
“That was for the skinny kids, not because we were poor!”
“It was SEVENTY years ago. Why should that bother you now?”
“I didn’t like him talking about it.”
“You’re not poor now.”
“He shouldn’t have said it. You don’t talk about things like that,” he said.
Matt had been trying to cook a leg of lamb, Greek-style, on the rotisserie, all afternoon. The burner kept blowing out in the storm and he thought he’d run out of gas. He’d called me to pick up propane but my phone didn’t ring and he left me a frantic message. By the time we got home, he’d gone out and returned with a new propane tank. Christian was five months old already and it was the first time he’d been out by himself with both kids. He was mad that he had to do it, but I was impressed with his accomplishment.
“It’s not cooking,” he told me at 5:30.
“Well, leave it on a little longer and see what happens,” I said. At 6:00, my father had eaten two donuts and the lamb was raw on the inside. Matt took it off the rotisserie and grilled it to cook it through. I thought my dad would appreciate lamb, because they don’t make lamb TV dinners, but he said nothing, just hunched over his plate and plowed through it. I’d made my grandfather’s restaurant recipe for potatoes and I started to tell him about them.
“Oh, I get good potatoes in my [frozen] dinners,” he said.
“Dad, these are Rizzoli potatoes, like mom used to make.” I’d thought he’d appreciate them, but he didn’t even recognize them.
“Ohh,” he said, taking the bowl and dropping a pile onto his plate. “Very good, Maria. Everything is very good,” he said.
After dinner, we switched on the TV. It had to be deafening for my dad to hear it. The night before, he’d turned the volume up to 26. We usually watch it at 10. We were watching “Bang for Your Buck” – one of my favorites on HGTV. The show assesses renovations according to resale value. Each couple watches the designer and real estate agent assess their work. One couple was two guys.
“They got a couple a queers on this?” my dad said.
“Huh,” he grumbled, “They must be going for a different market.” I didn’t take the bait. I wish I had. I’d love to see what he came up with.
He asked me to show him how to use a computer. I’d told him to bring his, but he hadn’t, so we used mine. He wanted the internet, so I had him click through to it, and then he wanted to see video of actor Charlie Callas, who’d just died. Callas grew up on the same block as my father, as he reminded me, and he was Greek. I pulled up the video and my dad watched. The screen kept going black and we explained to him that the computer thought he wasn’t using it because he hadn’t moved anything. “Get it back,” he said. I showed him how I swiped the touch pad. A minute later, the screen turned black again.
I said, “So what do we do when the screen goes black?”
“Get it back,” he said. I did. It happened again.
“How do you get it back?” I said.
“Get it back.” Sigh. He wanted to see every Charlie Callas video available and I had to sit there and restore his screen with each passing minute. He never showed any interest in doing it himself or any other aspect of the computer and by the time we were through, he’d fallen asleep twice and I wanted to go to bed.
I did go to bed, and that’s my second day story. I’ll wrap up the visit next week. Stay tuned!