I got to thinking about my father the other day. He's been gone for some time now, and as I sat there playing with my iPod, I wondered what he'd think about that amazing little gadget. I realized too that there are a slew of other things that would be new and different to him if he were only here to see them. And then I figured, I pretend to be a writer, right? Why don't I bring him back and have a conversation with him?
And so I did.
And here he is.
Folks, meet my dad.
It was Tuesday evening and I'd been feeling kind of off the whole day. Rather than stop in for Happy Hour, my usual Tuesday evening plan, I went straight home instead. As I unlocked the door and started inside, I could sense that something wasn't right. I turned on the lights and there was an old man, sitting on my sofa, staring up at me.
My jaw hit the floor, and I collapsed backward into a conveniently placed arm chair. Thank Dog I'm the one writing this piece or I might have fallen flat on my ass instead.
"What...who...Dad, is ...is that you? But it can't be you. You're dead."
"You're ugly. What's your point?"
"You can't be here. It's impossible. You're dead."
"Yeah, and you're old. Judging by how you look, I'd rather be dead.
I stared at him for what seemed like forever but was, in reality, only a minute or so. He sure looked like my father did the last time I saw him alive.
"So, what's new?" he said.
"Wait a minute. You show up, unannounced after--what--almost forty years and ask me what's new?"
"It seemed like a good place to start."
"This is insane. I don't believe in ghosts. You can't be here."
"Why not? There's no sign. Besides, I won't stay long. I just thought I'd stop in and check up on you."
"I'm fine. Things are fine. But you're still dead."
"I thought we established that earlier."
"We did, but I still don't believe in ghosts."
"Okay, then. How about this instead? I'm not a ghost. And, see, I'm not your father either. I'm a violent, tiger blood drinking Torpedo of Truth. A warlock from Mars, flying the F-16 of Winning, while crushing my enemies with my flaming fists of fire."
"Okay, that's a lie. I saw some guy on your T V who spewed stupid like that. What an idiot. But I really am your father. Believe it or not, I don't care. Either way, I'd like to ask you some questions anyhow."
"I guess. Sure. Why not?"
"Okay. I was looking out your window and I saw a bunch of kids. They were wearing baseball caps. You know baseball caps?"
"I know baseball caps."
"See, they had them on backwards with the bill pointing behind them and off to the side. What's up with that?"
"That? That's just a style thing. All the kids do that nowadays."
"But it makes no sense. They can't keep the sun out of their eyes with the bill in the back. What are they trying to do, keep the sun off their asses?"
"Man, you've changed. I never heard you use the word 'ass' before."
"You loosen up once you're dead."
"But about those kids, there was this one kid. I swear, his trousers were down to his knees and his crotch was dragging on the ground. You could see they guy's underpants."
"Another style thing. Hip-Hop."
"Hip-Hop? What's that supposed to mean?"
'Beats me. Nobody ever explained it to me either."
"You're not much help, are you? Anyhow, you remember those kids with the baseball hats? They had wires in their ears."
"Yeah, wires. One on each side. "
"Oh. I get it. No, see, those are earbuds for their MP3 players."
"Thanks. That's clear as mud."
"They were listening to music. It's kind of like the old transistor radios were. Only smaller and a lot more efficient."
"Not all that efficient. One kid walked straight into a tree. In fairness, it might have been because of that thing he was holding. He kept tapping it with his thumbs."
"Ah. He was texting."
"Yeah. That was his phone. People can type messages into their phones now and send it to whoever they want."
"Why don't they call them instead?"
"I never understood that either."
"Maybe you're not as dumb as you look, but these kids today--"
"Hey! Lighten up on the kids. I've got grandchildren now, you know."
"They let you reproduce? What were they thinking?"
"Come on. You saw one of my daughters. Even got to hold her in your arms. That was a couple of weeks before you died."
"Yeah, I remember. She was a cutie. Didn't take after you at all."
"And I've got another daughter you never had the chance to meet. You'd like her too. And five grandspawn between the two of 'em."
"Five? Any of them smoke a pipe?"
"Nope. People don't smoke too much any more."
"Even you? I remember when you used to sneak those cigarettes on the back porch. You thought you were getting away with it."
"Nope. Even I don't smoke any more. And besides, I knew you knew. You just didn't want to get Mom all riled up is all."
"Trust me. It was better she didn't know."
"You're probably right."
"But enough of that. Tell me what else is new nowadays."
"Well, for one thing, pretty much every home has a computer now. We use them for everything--email, news, entertainment, paying bills, banking..."
"Is this your computer here?"
"Doesn't look like much more than a fancy typewriter. Besides, it's defective. It doesn't have a 'cents key.'"
"We don't need a 'cents key' any more. Stuff costs way more than you remember. When people get pennies back in change now, they leave them at the store. They don't want to bother with them."
"You're depressing me. Tell me something that will make me feel better."
"Well...we have a black President now."
"No, it's the truth. His father was born in Kenya."
"Well, I'll be. I never thought I'd live to see a black President."
"You don't have to be so blunt about it."
I shrugged. He sighed. Then he checked his watch.
"Well, I guess I've taken up enough of your time. I should be getting back now."
"Wait. You can't go yet. I've got questions too. Lots of questions."
"Well, hurry up then. One question is all I have time for. Make it a good one."
"Okay. What's it like? Being dead, I mean. Is death a terrible place to be?"
"Well, let me put it this way. I've been in worse places. You ever been to Cleveland?"
I shuddered, he laughed.
"It's time now," he said.
"Are you coming back again?"
"No. One trip is all we get. Besides after all you told me, coming back would only mess with my head again. It's not worth it."
"Dad? Once I got over the shock, it was good to see you again."
"It was good to see you too, Son."
We shook hands, then he stepped back and waved good-bye. As I returned the wave, he slowly faded from view. "See you soon, Steve," he said, and then he was gone.
"Okay, Dad. Bye. I--
"What do you mean you'll see me soon? How soon?
"Do you know something I don’t know?
"Get back here.