My original plan was to meet him at Red’s Donut Shop. We went there all the time, when I was a kid. Sometimes picking up donuts to take back home and enjoy as a family, other times, he and I stayed. Two guys with two glasses of milk, and one warm cinnamon roll with melted butter apiece, talking about the world before spending a day at the construction site.
But as it turns out, he doesn’t live in the immediate area anymore. That was news to me, then again, since we only spoke once in 15 years, and hadn’t seen each other in just as long, there’s a lot of room for breaking news.
He and I last spoke earlier this year after I received word his mother passed away. I wrote about this phone call and the anxiety I had leading up to the phone call (read both here and here). Our chat was brief, too brief for me to say there was any real closure. The pain of his mother’s death (still fresh) and my impromptu phone call made for a disjointed conversation. We would have to talk at a later date. Seeing as I am home for the holidays, I figured this was as good a time as any.
Through a tangled web of now distant families, he received word I was trying to get in touch with him. When I picked up the phone, he started to say “This is Pop” but corrected himself quickly and referred to himself by his first name instead. I simply said, “Hi, Pop.” I imagine it was news to him that even after 11 years, I still referred to him as such. When I told him I was in town and I wanted to see him before I made my way back to New York, he half-jokingly said, “As long as you don’t want to go at my head.”
This was odd. All the years he raised me, he made me nervous. There was not one chore I did, not one play I made on the baseball field, where I didn’t hear his voice demanding me to do better. If I didn’t meet his high standards, there were consequences to be paid, some severe, some not. Now, he was the nervous one, worried I was baiting him into some sort of scenario where I would tie him to a chair and make him feel bad for raising me with an iron fist.
That was the last thing I wanted to do.