Last time I saw my dad, he said something. Of course he did. He says lots of things, many of them kind or funny. Sometimes he is crabby and impatient, like the rest of us. Only occasionally is he surprising. He said that global warming was a matter of opinion.
Now I hope that my self-control managed to keep my upper and lower teeth in a normal relationship to each other rather than creating an unsightly fissure full of tongue and tonsils. I felt as disoriented as if an early fifteenth century European had suddenly materialized in the recliner to announce that the earth was flat. (Wonder what he or she would have made of the Fox news broadcast on the tube at the time…) Data is not about opinion. Interpretations of data can be opinions, but he asserted that the data does not exist. I did not pursue the conversation very far because it was too depressing and I do attempt not to offend people I am staying with.
Because yesterday was Monday, I went off to meet the lovely and talented HAT to write together. The word of the day was radio and one of the stories that came to mind was another time my dad surprised me.
I worked for my dad for a long time. He had, like all of us, habits and routines ranging from the neat piles of manila folders arranged on the credenza behind his desk to the four Pentel pens, black, blue, green, and red, that he aligned by his pad of graph paper to the automatic sound of the radio. He listened to KDFC (“Dial for Classics”), which, back then, was not the chatty kind of station it is today. The announcers offered no stories about composers or pieces, just the name of the piece (sometimes with a bewildering number afterwards that I later learned was the catalog identifier), the composer, and the year of publication. Enthusiasm was not done. Occasionally, my dad would refer to the music as “long-hair music,” as if to deprecate his own choice.
But one day he poked his head out of his office door and said, “Jan, come in here a minute.” That was normal. He did it all the time. I grabbed my pad and went.
He said, “Listen.” An unusually lush music poured from the tiny speaker of the clock radio. It was so old it did not have LED numbers, but the paper flipping kind. “It’s Smetana, the Moldau.”
I wasn’t sure where to look, maybe the photo cube on the desk with a picture of my dad and me and my brother in the pool, my brother young enough to be in one of those baby float things, maybe at the picture of my dad signing his first service agreement with a customer in his plaid jacket and wide striped tie.
“Have you ever heard such a beautiful theme?” It wasn’t really a question. I must have looked amazed, because he retreated from this unusual enthusiasm, this glimpse of appreciation for something that was neither a number nor a sport. “I took music appreciation at one of my colleges.”
The moment was over, but I remembered it. I went to the record store and hunted down Smetana. The piece is actually called My Fatherland and the Moldau section was part of the symphonic poem cycle. I gave him the CD for Christmas. He thanked me politely, with a look in his eye that wondered why the heck I was giving him this music.