So as I was saying…”
Roger Galbraith was in the middle of what appeared to be a long and detailed story as Andrew Jackson set his coffee cup down on the café table and seated himself next to Grant Toews and across from Bernie Brandt, who were well on the way to finishing their own first cups.
“As I was saying,” Roger repeated when the obligatory greetings had been made all around, “I’m at my computer at work, in the middle of an important project, when my phone rings. I look at the display and it’s my son Darren calling from home. Darren’s 19 years old,” he added, then paused to take a sip of coffee.
“So you answer it?” said Bernie, clearly engrossed in the unfolding tale.
Roger nodded. “I pause the cat video I’m watching and I answer the phone. ‘Dad,’ says Darren. ‘I need to talk to you.’ OK, I say. Is it an emergency? I cross my fingers. The kid thinks about that for a second and says, ‘yeah, yeah it is.’ Yesss! I think to myself, I get to go home early! As a parent, I’ve learned to look on the bright side.” Roger took another sip of coffee.
“There’s always a silver lining,” said Grant.
“When life gives you lemons,” said Andrew, “make the closest thing you can to a mojito, since life never gives you a lime.”
“Sure whatever,” said Roger. “Anyway, I finish watching the cat video and then I tell my boss I have to deal with an emergency at home and away I go.
“When I get home I head straight to Darren’s room, which I will confess, I haven’t been in for at least a couple of years. The first thing I notice when I step inside is the number of rats running around. Dude, I say. You have rats. No wonder you called me. ‘I didn’t call you about the rats Dad,’ says Darren. ‘I’ve had pet rats for three years.’
“You know,” I say, “when I was a kid the closest I ever got to a rat was when my brothers and I would sneak the truck in the middle of the night and go to the municipal dump. When we got there we’d turn off the headlights and park in the middle. My brothers would get in the back of the truck with their shotguns resting on the roof and then I’d turn on the headlights and there’d be 100 beady-eyed rodents staring straight at the lights. It was like shooting ducks in a barrel.”
“Shooting fish in a barrel is the saying, I think,” said Grant.
“Nobody shoots fish,” said Roger. “That would be crazy.”
“Why would you decide to tell your kid a story like that right when he’s trying to tell you something important?” said Andrew.
“Because as a parent,” said Roger, “I want to try to stretch this out long enough so I don’t have to go back to work.”
He set his coffee cup down and continued.
“So anyway, Darren finally says Dad, you know how I have serious social anxiety and I almost never leave my room and… here I interrupt him. If this is about your mother’s and my divorce, I say, we’ve been through that right? And we agreed, that was your own fault.”
The three listeners look at Roger askance.
“I know,” said Roger. “You want your kids to remember stuff on their own, but as a parent you have to keep reminding them. But anyway Roger says it’s not about that.
“I didn’t think so,” I say, “so go ahead sonny, I’m listening.”
“It takes a little while. The kid is having a hard time. But finally he blurts it out.”
Here Roger stopped to reach for the sugar and stir another teaspoonful into his coffee.
“Well? What did he say?” asked Grant.
Roger stopped stirring. “He said Dad, it’s because I’m gay.”
There was a short, somewhat awkward pause.
“Wow,” said Andrew. “And what did you say?”
“I said thank goodness,” said Roger.
“Your son told you he’s gay and you said thank goodness? Why?” asked Andrew.
Roger took a last sip of coffee and got up to go. “Because that’s what I’ve been telling people for the last two years,” he said as he walked away.
There was a long silence at the table.
“I can’t decide,” said Andrew.
“Can’t decide what?” asked Grant.
“Whether that man is the worst parent ever,” said Andrew, “or the best.”
There was another pause.
“I think he might be both,” said Grant.
“Amen,” said Bernie.