For three weeks, each time I’ve called my father, no one has answered. I’ve allowed the phone to ring twenty times. I’ve counted because I want to be certain I can tell him how far I’ve gone to account for his near-deafness, his arthritis. How long I’ve waited in case he was outside trying to fumble his house key into the lock, nervous because the floodlight that illuminates the front porch and the driveway hasn’t been replaced after months of being burnt out.
Altogether, I’ve called seven times, once each on every night of the week, staggering the attempts over the days from Thanksgiving to the middle of December. I can explain my system to him as well, that I haven’t just dialed his number on three Monday evenings when he was playing dart ball in his church league. Or three Wednesday nights when he was watching television at my sister’s house until the local newscast began. But with each succeeding call, I’ve understood I was counting the rings the way a boxer, standing in a neutral corner, might be singing along with the referee, impatient for ten.
I blame the joy of twenty on my father. For the first forty-two years of my life, either in person or on the phone, I talked with my mother. And when she died, there we were, my father and I having to feel our way into dialogue.