“Father’s Day” Fiction by B. Craig Grafton

"Father's Day" Fiction by B. Craig Grafton

Not a call. Not from either of them. Too busy to call their father this Father’s Day. Well, that’s the way kids were today. Actually, they weren’t really kids anymore. They were both grown with families of their own and way too busy with themselves and their kids to have time for anyone else. But still maybe they would call. After all, there was a two-hour time zone difference.

Ward R. McGuinty, sixty-eight, looked out the window of his inherited hundred plus year old farmhouse, the house he grew up in, raised his family in, and stared into the cloudless heavens  waiting for a call and trying to remember if he called his father on Father’s Day each year. But he couldn’t remember. His mind was as blank as the sky, and this frightened him.

But he did remember certain things about his father though, dumb things, funny things, meaningful things, happy things, good times things. Things that no one else in the whole world would ever know but him and he thought that maybe he should tell his kids about them now before his mind goes or he dies, and they are lost forever.

His father had been a farmer, a second-generation farmer. Ward was the third generation on this farm. His grandparents settled and died here and were buried in the cemetery down the road. Their gravestones proudly proclaimed their heritage.  “Born in County Down Ireland. Died in Western Illinois.” His parents were buried there too but with just their names and dates, no mention of their place of birth or death. Ward knew that his time too soon would be coming and that he too would be buried there, the last McGuinty to be buried there. No telling where his children would be buried. They hadn’t lived here for years. The farm wasn’t their home anymore. They had no ties to the land.

So realizing his days were numbered, Ward tried to recall all he could about his father to tell to his kids when they called. If they called. He first remembered back to when he was just a little boy and had called his father Daddy, then Dad when he was a teenager, but now as an adult he simply thought of his father by his name, Bob, and it was Bob now that jogged his memory.

Bob was loquacious. Loved to talk. Chatty was the word for him. His mother called their  barnyard Grand Central Station as all the local farmers would gather there to talk to Bob. Leaning against their pickup trucks, they would talk for the longest time about things like the price of beans and corn, what hogs and cattle were going for, politics, and the weather of course. Farmers always talked about the weather. Back then the weather was just that, weather. It wasn’t climate change or global warming yet. It wasn’t political. Thank God for that thought Ward since ‘political correctness’ would surely have driven Bob up the wall. Actually, anything political got him worked up.

Ward remembered Bill Bowen, one of their old neighbors, who liked to get Bob going on politics. The two of them had this little routine that they would always go through whenever discussing the same. Bill would always start it with, “Well you know. That’s what they say,” and then wait for Bob to bite. Which he always did of course.

 “No Bill I don’t know what ‘they’ say. What do ‘they’ say?”

“Well, you know. They say,” answered Bill shrugging his shoulders.

 “No, I don’t know Bill. Who are these ‘they’ that you’re talking about? ‘They’ got any names. ‘They’ got any phone numbers that I can call and find out what ‘they’ say?”

BIll would just chuckle in response, shrug his shoulders a second time and run his fingers through his mop of long black thick hair. That was the signal that the Bill and Bob comedy routine was over for now, but it would be repeated the next time these two talked politics.

Funny how one thinks about nonsensical things like this about one’s father on Father’s Day when one should be thinking of the good times with him instead, reflected Ward. So, he shifted his mind to the good times, the county fair times.

Months before the fair each year his father would buy him a 4-H club calf to raise and show. He would feed and take care of it and his father would help him train it to be led around the show ring come fair time. He never won anything, none of his calves were ever in contention, his father stunk at buying winning show calves. But nevertheless, the fair times were happy times for the both of them, preparing the animal,  getting their hopes up and the excitement of the fair each year. But it was his father more than him that enjoyed it all. His father would spend the whole day, every day, at the fair during fair week, and did so for a number of years even after Ward had  outgrown 4-H.

This was because his father had the contract to dispose of all the cattle, hog, sheep and other farm animal manure at the fair each year. The exhibitors would clean their stalls and pile it up outside each building and his father would scoop it up on the end loader, load it into the manure spreader, then drive it down the road and spread it over a field of some farmer who wanted free fertilizer. Every morning he would leave for the fair in the dark and come home in the dark each night. But it wasn’t an all-day job. He could have gotten it done in either the morning or afternoon if he had wanted to. Rather it was an excuse for him to spend all week at the fair talking to everybody and their brother, about any and everything, having a high old time.

Just then Ward thought he heard the phone ring. It didn’t. It was only his imagination, wishful thinking. But the phone prompted Ward to think of something else about his father. How much he loved to talk on the phone. How he would make or take all his calls at mealtimes. Cell phones didn’t exist back then. Sitting there eating his father would yammer away, business calls at noon, personal calls at supper time.

One time at supper when his father answered the phone it was a wrong number. Rather than tell the guy and politely hang up, his father pleaded with the caller to stay on the line and talk to him. His father even told him his name hoping to start a conversation. Yet no matter how hard he tried to coax the caller to reveal his name and talk, the caller refused to do so. “You got a name, don’t you? Well, what is it? I told you mine,” his father pleaded to no avail. Finally the caller got tired of all that nonsense and hung up on him. His father was offended.

Another stupid story thought Ward that he should tell his kids about. Oh well, he knew that it was silly and that his father hadn’t  accomplished anything great in his life to brag about, but so what. Silly things still counted for something too and his kids never really knew their grandfather as they were quite young when he died.

So right then and there, Ward resolved to write down everything that he could think of about his father to pass on to his children. Like the time his father tipped over the combine on a hillside, rode it down, and jumped off at the last moment unhurt. Like the time his father gave away some of his mother’s chickens to a neighbor without her permission. He caught hell and she made him go get them and bring them back. Like the goldfish he kept in the cattle watering tank. Like the way he always said ‘ponsetty’ for poinsettia at Christmas time each year. Things like these.

Just then his thoughts were interrupted. The phone rang and this time he heard it for sure. His wife came in and handed it to him. “It’s our daughter,” she mouthed. Father and daughter talked for over half an hour. The daughter hogged the conversation the whole time talking about how wonderful they all were doing now that they had relocated to California. Occasionally Ward would get in an “Oh I see,” or “Oh that’s nice” or “Uh-huh,” but hardly ever more than a sentence or two. Finally, she announced that she had to run and ended with “Happy Father’s Day. Love Ya Dad.”  To which he replied, “Love you too Sweetie.”

 “Well, what’s the news?” asked his wife, desperate to know what they talked about for over half an hour.

“Oh nothing,” he replied.

She gave him a dirty look but thankfully before she could verbalize her discontent, the phone rang a second time. This time it was their son. And again, Ward sat there and mostly listened. Listened to everything about his son’s family, the boys and all their ball games, and school and church, and their neighbors, as if he cared about people he didn’t even know, and etc. etc. etc. Much the same palavering as his daughter’s call had been and again, he never contributed a full paragraph to the conversation.

“Just called to wish you a happy Father’s Day Dad,” said his son. “Love ya man.”

 “Love you too Son,” he said as he hung up.

Ward chuckled to himself realizing that the loquacious gene had skipped a generation. He didn’t have it but his kids sure did. That’s for sure.

“Well, what’s the news from our son?” his wife asked impatiently.

 “Oh nothing,” came back the same answer again.

His wife shook her head in disgust and growled at him.

He paid her no attention as he sat there wondering what his kids would remember about him when they were old, and he was gone. What stupid or clever or loving things that he had done would they recall. Probably dumb things like he had done just now. He closed his eyes to hide the tears forming therein. Then he shook his head side to side as if to shake away his thoughts. His whole body shuddered and trembled all over.

 “What’s that all about?” asked his wife observing this strange behavior.

“Oh, nothing dear. Nothing at all.”

Retired attorney. His books have been published by Two Guns Publishing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s