Isn’t it amazing how much can be said without uttering a single word? I learned something interesting about my father the other day, and it was all thanks to Instagram! I love my father very much, but I often wonder if he thinks about anything important, or if he just thinks about what’s right in front of him (like dinner or television). The other day, I went with my folks to dinner at a restaurant about 30 minutes from home. My sister was supposed to meet us, but naturally she was running late, so rather than take up table space and waste complementary bread we decided to go for a little drive while we waited. I’m not too familiar with the area we were in, but I did recognize it from my childhood; my dad’s family used to own a summer house there, and I got to go a few times before it was sold. “Let’s go by the summer house!” I exclaimed like a six-year-old. My dad sighed and nodded. We drove down an old path and into a small, private street that overlooked the water. We pulled up to the old summer house, which was not quite how I rememberd it, I snapped an Instagram photo, and we sat there for a few moments, just looking around, listening to the birds chirp and the water hit the rocks on the beach below. I looked over to my dad, and caught a rare moment; rather than his usual stoic facade, I saw my father deep in thought. Did coming here awaken something in him?
Well, not really. As much as I love him, I admit that the man rarely reflects on things and never expresses his feelings. So to see him so deep in thought really caught me by surprise. I guess I should have expected my dad to get somewhat emotional; years ago, my grandfather announced to the family that he was moving to Las Vegas with his new girlfriend, and that he had sold the summer house. You read that correctly – he announced not that he was intending to sell the house, but that he had already sold it. My father, a man of few words, has on occasion told me how upset he and his sister were, but acknowledged that nobody ever confronted my grandfather about it. Due to recent family incidents (which I won’t talk about here, they deserve to be in the next Great American Novel… or therapy session), bringing up any part of my father’s life has been touchy. I would often roll my eyes when my dad bluntly stated “let’s change the subject” upon mention of his emotionally distant father, late younger brother, selfish older sister, but looking at my dad at that moment made me realize that maybe he wasn’t overreacting. Maybe he really was profoundly changed by the various events in his family’s history. For the first time, I think I realized that my father wasn’t being dismissive or emotionally distant when shooting down talk of his family. He was protecting himself.
“Dad, look how cool this picture looks with the filter!” I exclaimed, showing him the snazzy new Instagram photo I had just taken.
“Cool,” he shrugged.
“Are you okay? You look a thousand miles away,” I pressed.
My father paused, took a deep breath and smiled. “I’m trying to decide whether I should do the lobster tail or the steak when we eat,” he responded. In the rear view mirror, my mother rolled her eyes. I understood. I’ll probably never know what my father was really thinking in those few minutes at his old summer house. But now I know that, at the very least, he does think.
“Go with the steak,” I told him, “seafood sucks.” And with that, we backed out of the one-way street and headed back to the restaurant.