Fathers are a miraculous thing sometimes. I’m not talking about the crazy ones that wake you up with a cigarette burn or use you or your mom as a punching bag, of course, or possibly worse yet, the literal absentees. I’m talking about the ones that are just “there”, the regular (or spectacular) guys that do what they are supposed to and share their life with you, with or without a word needing to be said. The ones that teach by example, and in time can become a friend (though without that sense of “hierarchy” ever really leaving…by choice).
I’ve got one and I’m lucky. Very lucky. I know this and that’s why well into my adult life I spend time with him, and that’s where I was when my phone rang.
“YEH-low?” I uttered. I very rarely answer a phone (as those that know me can attest) and it was the best I could muster. “Alex? Hey. Uh…do you know a William Tallent?”
I paused. “Nope.”
“Are you sure—”
“Nope,” I interrupted.
“Well, I’m out with him here and he says he knows you,” a co-worker named Dawn said to me. It’s what she wasn’t saying that told me whoever he was, he was right there and she was doing this as an extreme courtesy or out of morbid curiosity. I didn’t blame her and make a habit of making calls like these myself.
I asked her where it was he knew from, and she relayed his answer: “Cheers. He says he knew you from Cheers.”
I laughed. It was a side job I had when we were allowed to work bar parking lots back in the day. We made money after hours by keeping drunk drivers off the streets and preventing and ending fights inside clubs, which struck the city politicians as a horrible idea, apparently, and the jobs were banned (and left to the cars that had been answering your 911 calls), which put this “relationship” at 15 years ago at best.
“Nope. Nothing rings a bell,” and I explained the timeline.
“Well, he also said he saw you a few weeks ago at St. Jude.”
“Wow! He’s seen me at an extra job 15 years ago, and directing traffic in the middle of the street a few weeks ago,” I thought out loud. “I’ll have to invite him to Christmas dinner. Whatcha out with him for?”
“We found him asleep in his Lexus behind a church here in Brainerd,” she said. “It wasn’t the trespassing that got him dropping names so much as the bag of weed in-between the seats, I think.”
I laughed out loud, the same as every cop does internally or externally that’s just caught you in a lie on the level of a 3 year old. “Dawn, I’ll be disappointed if you don’t put him on paper. Be safe.” We hung up.
Dad was smiling, having overheard the conversation. We rarely talked shop; cops and soldiers have similar jobs, but they weren’t much of a fit and neither was worth talking about without context. Oh, we did, but it was rare and generally a description of horrors unique to our professions (as were our coping methods) and nothing we’d discuss around another soul. “Happen much?” he asked.
I relayed the last good story in which I pulled over a car only to be handed a cell phone as I approached the window. God, the audacity. “This is Chief Cook on the phone,” the offender said. “Thank you,” I said as I took the phone, “but I’m not here to talk to Chief Cook. I’m here to talk to you,” I said as I clicked it shut and set it on the roof of the car. (His 85 in a 55 remained as such instead of a review or a discretionary reduction.)