Dad called me yesterday morning from the hospital. Not only was his pancreatitis acting up, but his heart was beating super fast. Turns out he has heart arrhythmia. He is stable now and asking the nurses to show him how to take selfies.
I had lunch with him on Monday before he took me to the airport. I was going to Uber if he was drunk, but he seemed okay and drove us to his favorite Portuguese restaurant in Newark, The Spanish Tavern. There were signs on the Turnpike directing us. My dad said the restaurant probably paid off the city in order to have those signs posted. When we got there, I pulled my ridiculously heavy camera bag out of the car because my video camera was in there and...we were in Newark. Almost brought my suitcase too, but dad said the parking lot was safe.
It was a large, high end, restaurant with cloth napkins folded uniformly on the plates – not what you would expect to see in Newark. Darkly lit and old school New Jersey, it looked like a place Tony Soprano would dine.
On our walk to the table, my dad gave a flashlight pen to the Maitre'D. Right off the bat, Dad told him he sold them and that they were good for writing down orders in low light. Our waiter jokingly asked for one and my father sent me to the car to get “a half dozen” more. When I came back, Dad ordered a sangria and I stayed with water. I had just completed a week long trip in New York which included going out with friends almost every night, staying up way too late, and drinking red wine. Not my usual lifestyle, but I don’t regret it.
When the waiter took our order, my father asked to see the manager. I suddenly got uncomfortable and shifted in my seat. I knew he was going to try and sell the guy flashlight pens. I know the drill.
The manager, dark, fit and handsome, came over and my dad told him about how great the pens are and how he could have “Spanish Tavern” printed on the side. He flicked the light on and off and urged him to go ahead and try it.
Proudly, Dad declared, “It actually writes.” Not only that, Dad explained, “In a pen’s lifetime, it gets passed around at least 10 times, so that’s 10 people who see your business.”
I have heard this 1000 times.
The manager looked at him and then, at me. I could tell he wasn’t sure what to make of us. Then, he asked what kind of battery the pen took.
My dad said, “I don’t know. I’m not very technical. I’m just a bullshit artist.”
The manager smiled and looked at me. I shook my head and shrugged and said, “That’s my dad.” He warmed up to us a little more. Maybe his father was a character too. I told him to just use the pen until the battery ran out. My dad was giving him a tremendous deal – 200 pens for 79 cents each. Dad buys them for 69 cents each. Or at least that is what he told us. Who really knows?
We slowly finished our delicious lunch of branzino and lamb chops. After another sangria, my dad talked to the manager about how the area is changing and how he had been going to the Spanish Tavern for decades. The manager said his family owned the restaurant since 1971. Then, the manager asked my dad to call him on Wednesday. He wanted to buy 200 pens. He walked away. My dad looked at me and winked with a little glint in his eye. He’s still got it. Maybe it’s even better now that he is older. He can get away with a lot more.
Then, my dad, a former marine and boxer, commented on what good shape the manager was in. While I was struggling with my camera bag at the table, dad was on his way out the door. He told the manager, “You’re in good shape. Keep it up.”
At this point, the manager was sitting across from another guy dressed in a suit and they looked at each other. Dad didn’t know how gay this sounded. I laughed out loud and they caught me. I apologized and thanked him for being so nice to my dad. He said it was his pleasure.
I thought back to when I was a small child and dad would bring me with him on sales calls to sell checkbooks. He said people were more likely to buy when I was with him. If the small business had kids, my dad would do yo-yo tricks – around the world, walk the dog, rock the cradle and more. He always had at least one yo-yo in the car. He became the best salesman in the country for his business and won awards. I was always super proud of him for doing so well with only a high school education... and the Morley charm.
This isn’t dad’s first date in the hospital with pancreatitis. He has been there a few times before. However, he still chooses to drink. Every day. Wine in the morning, afternoon and evening. I know I go on Facebook and write down all the #shitmydadsays, but as funny as it is, it’s also sad. I’m sad he is choosing to go this way. The truth is, he is in his mid seventies and for the amount of damage he has done to his body, he has lived long.
I am not looking forward to the day I won’t have any more shit my dad says.