The phone rings, and when I answer it I hear my father’s gloomy voice on the other end.
“Feather,” he says. “This is your dad.”
“Hey, Dad.” I say. “How are you?”
“I’m okay. Listen, I need to talk to you. Do you have a second?”
I’ve been lying horizontally on the couch, but when I hear him say “need” I sit upright. He doesn’t ever call me and use this tone of voice, one of worry and uncertainty. Usually when he calls he’s beaming at having just saved 40 cents on a loaf of bread, did you know that at his rate he could save $20.80 over the course of the year? That’s more than $200 in ten years ALL BECAUSE OF A COUPON. When you multiply that by the fact that he hasn’t ever bought anything without a coupon — socks! birthday presents for other people! HAIRCUTS! THEY MAKE COUPONS FOR YOUR HAIR! — you realize that I didn’t come by my insanity on accident.
“What’s going on?” I ask, a little afraid.
“Well,” he begins, “can I ask you something?”
“Of course,” I say.
“Does your husband like us?” he asks.
I want to tell him immediately that, of course, Jon loves him. Jon loves all of my family despite the fact that they conduct themselves in a manner that suggests it is their God-given right to park a pickup truck on your front lawn. But before I answer I’m struck dumb with the implications of such a question. What happened between Jon and my father? When? Jon understands explicitly that he is never supposed to bring up religion or politics when in the company of my family because one, it will only end up in a useless argument, and two, my father owns a gun.
A few weeks ago we were sitting in my father’s living room having a friendly conversation when Jon’s brain temporarily shut off and shriveled into a wrinkled mass the size of a green pea: he enthusiastically brought up a recent op-ed piece about homosexuality in the local newspaper. Once the word HOMOSEXUALITY left Jon’s mouth both my father and I immediately shut down into Preservation Mode: Keep Mouth Shut So That Leta Can Continue To Have A Relationship With Her Grandfather. Neither he nor I said a word for the next twenty minutes because he knows he’ll never change my mind, and me? I have seen his gun, and it is very gun-like.
I swallow loudly and say, “Jon loves you, Dad.” And then I ask without wanting to know the answer, “Why?”
“Does he really?” he asks. “How much does he love us?”
I guess not enough that he won’t bring up The Gays in your living room, Dad, but that has nothing to do with love and everything to do with a terminal case of absent-mindedness. “He loves you like his own family,” I say.
“Do you think he loves us enough that he would help us out if we needed it?”
My heart starts to break a little. “Of course! Whatever you need, Dad,” I say hoping that he understands that he is an important part of our lives, that having him so close has given Leta a chance to know her grandfather, something neither Jon nor I ever really had. I want him to know that I love him as his child, but more importantly that we, as adults, respect the man that he is. “Jon would do anything for you.”
“Then tell him I have an angry skunk stuck in my window well, and I need someone to climb in and get him out.”