So my father (Mike from Tennessee, as my husband likes to refer to him, only because whenever my father calls and leaves a message he says, “It’s Mike from Tennessee,” as if we won’t recognize his voice or as if there are so many other Mikes in our life that he needs to specify “the one from Tennessee”) whom we haven’t seen since before September 11, 2001, has been in town for the last five days. And when the Hamilton family congregates, like we have each and every night for the last five nights, the Hamilton family likes to eat. And so instead of getting into arguments over whether or not George Bush has been called of God to lead America, The Promised Land, here in the Troubled Last Days of Earth, we gag ourselves on enormous portions of grilled meat and non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages, if only to keep from killing each other.
For several days I knew that my father would be spending his last evening in town at our house, and I’ve been cleaning floors and countertops with q-tips and toothbrushes. I may not have seen my father in almost two years, but I can still almost smell the memories of my father’s cleaning habits. He’s the type of person who washes his car during a rainstorm, who refuses to use a dishwasher because if God had intended people to use dishwashers he wouldn’t have given them hands, who used to get down on his hands and knees and polish the entry hallway with his breath and the sleeve of his shirt.
Whenever I spoke to my father this week I mentioned that I was going to have the house spotless when he arrived, and he kept telling me to relax, that he didn’t care about the state of my house, only about spending time with me. And yesterday, when he got out of the car (the car I had detailed at the local full-service car wash, only to come home and go over it with a toothpick and rag again because I was that worried) he walked over to the middle of the yard and immediately began PULLING WEEDS.
I’ve never felt like such a failure.