Conversations with Dad

I was thinking of my father tonight, and how he would have told me everything was going to be okay, even if he bloody well knew it wouldn’t be, and how even knowing he was lying to me I’d feel better.

These days when I see him he’s young—younger than I ever knew him, young like in his wedding picture or his college yearbook. Black hair slicked back, heavy black glasses, white shirt, dark tie. Today, a stereotypical nerd. Back then, in the late 50s/early 60s, a fashionable, handsome young office worker.

Tonight, when he was telling me everything would be fine, I thought about socks.

“If you know so much,” I asked him, “why is it you had to have Mom pick out your socks every morning?”

When I was little and my mother was teaching me how to do laundry, I noticed all of Dad’s socks were identical. “I had to,” she told me. “He kept going to work in mismatched socks unless I stopped him. I started buying him identical pairs of socks so there’d be no way for him to mess up.”

Genius, really. She bought him identical pairs until they were both too ill to understand about socks at all.

But I did wonder, tonight, why I should be comforted by the brash declarations of a man who’d relied on his wife to dress him into his 30s.

“You see,” he told me. He crossed his arms. “You have to understand. We were—” He looked away from me. “People do stupid things when they’re young,” he said at last. “And I was really, really young.”

He may be right, you know. Maybe everything will be okay after all.

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