It perhaps seems odd, but going to visit my father is a bit like going to the cool rebellious kid's house to hang out against parental wishes; a bit of decedent vice. An opportunity to do things one does not usually do. Smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. I can even have a toke or two if I so desire. My little brother, quite the stoner in his own rite, jumps on that snake's tail, riding it for all it's worth. My father, sixty-three, and having smoked the stuff as long as I can remember, is more reserved, having a toke or two here and there, but never getting lost to the full affects of getting stoned.
I've had some marijuana once or twice in my father's presence since my mother died. Just a toke or two. I found out the hard way I am somewhat allergic to the substance. To get stoned invites hallucinations. Sometimes my sleeping patterns are wonky and I see things. I don't like it when that happens, and getting fucked up to see things is far from my idea of a good time. I told my father this was why I didn't smoke pot the next time I saw him after my mother had walked on.
"Then don't get stoned," he said. The answer was so obvious. I had a toke, caught a buzz, and then moved on, having hit my dinger.
Besides, I find the consumption of beer, whiskey, vodka, or the occasional small tumbler of sapphire gin on the rocks and the burning of tobacco leaves far more interesting. Technically, I stopped smoking two and a half years ago. Not quit, my mother didn't raise no quitter, but abstinence. When I see my father, for the space of a few hours, I'm a smoker once more. Depending upon the visit depends on how many I have, although the upper limit always seems to be four.
"I want you to meet my new girlfriend," he tells me, and brings me to the water closet, where he looks into the mirror; "Hello, gorgeous."
"How sweet," I say.
"You've got to be comfortable with yourself before you can be with someone else," my father says.
"You hold up one of your hands and I'm leaving," I tell him.
We listen to music and watch films. Not having a television, I get a chance to see what the rest of populace considers popular entertainment. Talk about my brother, sister, their spouses, Sabina, my daughter, and nephew. Sometimes, he asks me about friends of mine I used to run with that he knew. He'll ask me about life in the mountains, fifty miles away and four-thousand vertical feet higher, and the three other species of quadruped we share our household with. We talk about other relatives. One's we've not seen or spoken to in years. Those who have since walked on. Inevitably, my mother comes up.
"She could be a contrary bitch, I tell you," my father might say.
"And if she was here right now, she'd say she wasn't," I mention, which gets my father to chuckle.
"You're just like her, you know," he says. "Contrary."
"I am not," I argue. "Besides, I'm taller, she had the darker beard of the two of us, and I have a chin."
"There you go, being contrary."
We've known each other thirty-eight years now. He's been the individual who would appear after week-long business trips during my childhood to the authority figure of my adolescence. The man who shook my hand and restrained tears the day I got married to one who told me to pull myself up by my bootstraps after I got divorced. We've raged against one another and contemplated whiskey into the small hours. Roadtripped into places where neither would rather go by both virtue of geography and memory. In those years, I've gotten to where I can say fuck you to him and not be fed my orthodontia.
"I miss her..." he says, a wistful look in his eyes I've gotten far too familiar with.
I want to tell him me too, but I don't. He's talking about his wife. His confidant and soulmate. The love of his life and mother of his children. His best friend. I just miss my mom. We share two different vantage points of the same vista.
"But I'm getting better," he says finally.
"Well, that's good," I say simply because there is nothing else to.
We eat dinner. Raviolis and Italian sausage. Another indulgence. Whilst omnivorous, I do not always have meat for dinner. Eating organic and game makes the proposition a little more expensive, and, therefore, something to be done every so often. We talk and smoke after supper, relaxing before doing the dishes. He washes, I dry. I clean the rest of the kitchen after the fact whilst finishing my last libation of the visit.
Then, the time comes for me to take my leave. I'll not smoke until I see my father again, which can be months. The next time I imbibe in a cocktail might be a few days, the same can be said with meat for dinner. I leave him a few bags of tea, since that's what he likes to drink first thing in the mourning. A small recompense for the dinner and company. If I could pay my way in this world with tea, I would truly be an aristocrat.
We speak of how nice it was to see one another. How we must do this again. My father tells me to drive safely and asks me to let him know when I get home. Tells me to give his granddaughter a hug the next time I see her. The last thing reminds me that despite my initial description, this was not like going to the cool rebellious kid's house to hang out against parental wishes.
"I love you, son."
"I love you too, Dad."