I just watched an old MASH episode in which Hawkeye is listed by the Army as dead. Hawkeye's dad tries to get through to B. J. Hunnicutt but the call fails. Hawkeye, once he figures out that he's dead and that his dad believes he's dead, is desperate to get in touch with his dad but the lines are down because Eisenhower is coming to Korea. Hawkeye can't get paid, can't get mail, and can't reach his dad, but in the end can't leave Korea and go home either.
The end of the episode has Hawkeye finally on the phone with his father, laughing and enjoying himself. Then he says, "Dad? Dad?" as if he's going to say something important, but it's the line gone dead again. Hawkeye tosses the handset and sits back satisfied that his dad knows he's alive but beyond sad to be so far away from his father, to be so disconnected.
On my phone I still have dad listed in my favorites. I always will. Every so often I place a call to him. It never goes through. I listen to the tones telling me the number is no longer active or valid or whatever the phone companies call it. The line is dead. There's no getting through. And I can't even blame it on Eisenhower.
Someday Dad's number will be assigned to someone else. I imagine that call. Me saying, hello? The other person asking, who is this? Do I tell that person this was my dad's number and that I miss him? If I do, I wonder how the other person will react. I know how I would answer that call from some stranger. I'd ask, how long has he been gone? I would say, tell me a story about him and you. Then I would listen.
Well, there was this one time. It was ordinary. Nothing special. He drove over to my house and parked his truck on the street. I went out to meet him. He asked, You ready? I said, I am. The night was cold and dry, clear all the way up to the heavens. We got in the car, me in the driver's seat, Dad lowering himself into the passenger's seat slowly, slamming the door.
I'd ask, Where were you going?
Up to the Carrier Dome. See, Dad and I had season tickets to the Syracuse Women's Basketball games. We sat in row G, mid court, and Dad talked with the ticket takers, the fans who sat nearby, and me. We cheeredas when the women won and even if they lost because it wasn't about the games. It was about Dad and me.
I'd say, that sounds good.
It was good. It really was.
Then we'd both listen to the sounds of memory, the silence of our dead fathers.
Maybe the person at the other end would ask if I was still there.
And I would say, yeah, I'm still here. We're both still here. It's okay. We're both still here.