“This Oscar-winning short film is as sad as it is beautiful. Seriously, this is the Old Yeller of animated shorts.” (PetRok Studios) (2000)

He called the next day asking if I’d called him. Considering I haven’t contacted him in five months, it took guts to reach out. It took guts to answer when I recognized his number on my phone screen. Why, when we’re father and daughter after all is said and done and love each other? ‘Cause it’s not as simple as that. Love doesn’t conquer all where families are concerned.

Anyhoo, I said no, I hadn’t called, he said OK, and we said goodbye. Ten minutes later, a seed planted that an apparent butt dial was a sign, I called him back. Did he want to get together for coffee chat this weekend? He’d look at his schedule and was it for a particular reason? Nope, just a coffee chat. He texted me Saturday: 1PM Sunday? Me: 1PM Sunday.

We met at my favorite bookstore whose cafe was jammed packed with families, couples, and singles who looked set in for winter. I love that look when I sat among them. Dad had a schedule to keep, dance classes that evening, but no nearby restaurants offered even non-dairy milk for my coffee. This led us to drive (Dad’s of the anti-metro brigade) to Native Foods Cafe, the new all-vegan place in town. Failed to conjure Sticky Fingers and Busboys & Poets until we parked two blocks away from NF. Brain fog stinks. 30+ years he’s lived here and I was more familiar with this part of town! Gloating here, not to him.

My stepmother questioned my sanity vegan lifestyle more than Dad, who questioned my sanity more than vegan lifestyle. Suffice it to say he enjoyed NF’s vegan chili (“Mmm, this is good”) with accompanying cornbread if his empty bowl and plate were any indication. Like other all-vegan restaurants, NF emitted a welcoming sense of peace and good karma, probably due to the lack of dead animals on the menu.

He drove us there after employing his iPhone GPS, calling to make sure NF’s was open and I’d gotten their address right (I had; my mantra: this is Dad. This has always been Dad. This will always be Dad). It took several minutes to find parking (metro…) but the weather was right for the walk to NF. My strategy: talk less, ask about his life. He hammered home the superiority of NYC’s subway system to DC’s, where you paid one price for the day for the former, not different amounts depending on the destination for the latter. Big whoop. Eight million people inhabited NYC and far more of them took the subway. I stressed the liberating (and healthy) lack of stress of not owning and driving and parking a car in DC. “Goes in one ear and right out the other,” goes a Cage the Elephant song.

Dad doesn’t understand that driving everywhere in the suburbs drove me mad. I’d isolate four days straight, the thought of getting in my car unbearable. He doesn’t understand how important it was to be able to leave my apartment and walk to the grocery store, library, coffee shop, pharmacy (for my fix), movie theatre, and metro station. Nor does he understand the incredible fact that I can ride the metro and discover new places by myself. He doesn’t understand how amazing it is doing these things after years of “living” homebound and its forever consequences.

He asked about Mom and the kitties though and got on my case again about finishing school. I mentioned my “frozen shoulder” pain and he said his left shoulder’d been acting up again. Again. Grandma (his mom) suffered from it too. It seems I inherited his sinus and shoulder issues. I found comfort in shared pain. In fact, this connection alone was worth our meeting today.

Then it was back to the car to drop me home before setting off for dance class in Maryland of all places (it’s a DC thing to forget Maryland exists). As he turned into the U driveway of my building he said, “Oh, this looks nice.” That was a compliment to me as much as the place, by the way.

Lack of communication is unhealthy.

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