A Catalog of Conversations I Haven’t Had With My Father
On my sixteenth birthday, why did you take me to Mr. Gunthrup’s house and offer me his Vietnamese pot bellied pig as a surprise gift?
Why do you have two Bernese mountain dogs and three Saint Bernards? I’ve never considered you amiable to pets. Does having multiple large dogs say something to others about your capacity as a family man?
Why did your wife come downstairs for your 50th birthday dinner in riding chaps and a helmet? Was there a period in your relationship when medication was discussed?
What is it, exactly, that you do?
You do know deep down inside of you that the movie “Seabiscuit” represents everything I abhor about mainstream American popular culture, do you not? Why then do you keep suggesting that I make a movie just like it?
One time you left your EBay account page open, but I was too frightened to check and see what your EBay ID was less it be revealed that you’ve been buying useless miscellanea under the name “poppycock” or some such. And so I’ll ask you now, what is it?
I suspect that this has something to do with the procurement of all those dogs, but when I was little you listened to stylish music like the Bee Gees and Lionel Ritchie. I would like to talk about your transition to the made-in-the-studio, Styrofoam peanut sound of the new country crap you auscultate at present. Was your decision to “go country” brought on by your wife’s affinity for imitation Native American turquoise jewelry, or is this your way of expressing patriotism in a Post-9/11 world?
Thanks to some seriously alternative energy work I partook in last summer involving an eagle’s wing, blue pebbles and cinnamon sticks, I can now forgive you for purchasing a Hummer in 2001. What I can’t forgive is the fact that you still drive it. Do you ever feel even the slightest bit troubled by your utter lack of engagement with reality?
Aren’t you tired of seeing your wife in that outfit? Is she aware of the existence of textiles other than fleece?
When my first book arrived, my husband and I were visiting you for Christmas. Your wife unwrapped the book and left it on the faux-antique credenza where she keeps important mail. Neither of you said anything the entire time we were there. You still haven’t. Would you like to say something now?
Black people make you uncomfortable, don’t they? Has it always been this way?
When I lived in Paris for five years, you never came to visit. But you took your three new children all the way to Colle del Gran San Bernardo in Switzerland to visit the figurative birthplace of three out of five of their dogs. Pardon my now fluent French, but what the fuck is wrong with you?
I would like to tell you, for shock value only, that in high school, your wine cellar was my favorite place to have sex.
Do you find me intimidating? Is that why you keep trying to get me to play golf?
Why isn’t there ever any soap in your house other than dishwashing liquid? What is the nature of your contention against body care?
It came to my attention recently that your children think you’re on your second marriage, not your third. Discuss.
From the state of the house on my last visit, it appears that you may be broke. Might I suggest selling the Hummer?
I recently met a man who said that when you lived in Connecticut, he had lunch with you every Friday for nearly five years. I want you to know that it was so fantastically impossible for me to even fathom what you talked about together that I started to cry.
Have you even looked at the inside of my book? Are you punishing me with silence because I didn’t dedicate it to you?
Remember the day the giant box arrived before my wedding and we all thought the customized cocktail napkins your wife insisted on had arrived, (the ones with the ridiculous photograph of my then-fiancé and I wearing British pith helmets) and you let me open the box and the box was filled with dozens of athletic socks with reinforced pink heels that you purchased on EBay? What was up with that?
I once found a signed high school yearbook of yours in which a handful of people addressed their dedications to “Backseat Bob.” No further comment. Just know that I know.
Do you know that to this day, I can’t bear to pierce a worm with the point of a fishhook because you always did it for me?
If I could be reincarnated as anything I wanted, I would choose between a mermaid and a miniature winged unicorn. What about you?
I think it’s charming that you go to the same coffee shop every morning and try to win the answer to the trivia question that could earn you a free coffee. I also remember that the success of our Thanksgiving dinners depended on whether or not you won a turkey in the annual Blue Heelers Turkey Cup Golf Tournament. Could you discuss the point in your childhood at which your spendthrift attitude was ingrained?
Are you aware that your middle son is a pothead?
Are you aware that the only time we’ve ever shared a meal together, completely alone, was at the Café Mirage in Port Chester in 1997, several weeks before my high school graduation? I believe my mother was the one who set the date up. You let me have white wine. We ate mussels and thin French fries. I don’t remember what we talked about but it’s managed to sustain me through the thirteen years of conversations we haven’t had since.
You are a great dancer. And a terrible conversationalist. This would be awful—and probably irreversible—but is it possible that in all these years I’ve been waiting for you to ask me questions about my life, you’ve been waiting for me to talk?
My favorite thing to do at present is to listen to “This American Life” while chopping up vegetables for soup. We can start with this one, innocuous question. What about you?
Courtney Maum spent three years in her mid-twenties driving around Paris in a Coronamobile as a party promoter but she doesn’t do that now. Her writing has appeared in Black Heart Magazine, Upstreet, Defenestration, DailyCandy, ReadyMade Magazine and Maxim. She is currently working on a collection of comic meta-fiction and naming products and brands to pay the mortgage on her log cabin in the Massachusetts woods.