Chapter 109: Perspective
His house is dark when he walks in. He flicks on the light, tosses his keys and cell onto the little table near the front door where keys, mail, change, small electronics, and any other bits of whatever get tossed when they come in, and sticks the bucket they’d put the Halloween candy in on the floor under it. He looks at it for a second and wonders if the first kids to their house cleaned it out, and then smiles a little at the idea of how a year from now, he’ll be handing out the treats with his three-month-old baby.
Then he shakes his head and gets back to why he came home early.
It’s a little after eleven.
He walks into his office and looks at the now considerably less blank piece of paper on his desk and crumples it up.
A though hits, and he acts on it. He knows he’s a little drunk, which is probably a good thing, because he doesn’t think he could do this cold sober, but at the same time he’s feeling like this is probably where the block is coming from. This is what has to be dealt with before he can get the words to flow the way they should, the way they want to.
So he goes back to that table, grabs his phone and calls Penny.
She sounds sleepy when she answers.
“Tim? Are you okay? Shouldn’t you still be out?”
“I’m fine. Just got home. Can you give me Dad’s phone number?”
He hears her pause, feels her think about that. Finally she says, “Let me text it to you.”
He gets another beer from the fridge. Might as well. He’ll be a lot more likely to actually dial those numbers if he’s well lubricated. He took a deep drink, and then dialed.
Two rings, and then “Hello?”
“Tim?” His father sounds only mildly surprised by this. Like they talk regularly on say, Tuesdays, and he’s calling on a Monday, instead of this being the first time they’ve talked since the March before last, and the first time he’s called in over two years.
Nothing. And this has always been part of the issue. Barking orders, his dad is fine, just talking, not so much.
Finally. “Is everything all right? Is Sarah okay?”
That’s a fairly plausible reason for why he’d call. “Sarah’s fine.” More quiet. “I’m getting married tomorrow.”
“Penny told me.”
No congratulations, no why are you calling, just quiet.
“We’re having a baby in the summer.”
“She’s pregnant already?” He can feel the disapproval over the thousands of miles.
“Yeah, Dad. Just found out today.”
“Is that all?”
“Married, baby, first call in years, sure that’s all.” Why was he doing this again? As a focus. Break the block, let the word free. “Why did you marry mom?”
“Obviously, I wasn’t there, but Mom was, and Penny was, so I heard how it happened. They’ve shown me pictures. Traditional Catholic ceremony at the Annapolis chapel. You stood up there, in front of God and everyone who had ever mattered to you, and promised to love my mother until the day you died. Love, honor, cherish, hell, forsaking. Forsaking all others. What did that mean to you? Just not fucking around? Did you even manage that? You were gone three hundred days a year, new port every month. Did you have a woman in each of them?”
“Are you drunk?” His dad sounds like he can’t believe Tim would ask any of this.
“A little, but that doesn’t answer my question. Why did you marry her? What did it mean to you? Why have kids when it was patently obvious you didn’t want them.”
“Why do you think I don’t want you or your sister?”
Now it was Tim’s turn to not say anything. That his dad would ask that has him stupefied. Eventually he said, “Really? You have to ask that? Thirteen out of seventeen birthdays, you missed them. All four of my graduations. Twelve Christmases. I was in a building that blew up two years ago, and you didn’t call. Penny called and visited. Mom called. Sarah visited. I know you knew what happened, everyone in the entire Navy knew.”
“I had a whole fleet I had to secure.”
“Bullshit! Ziva, one of my partners and best friends, her dad ran Mossad, and I don’t mean he was one of the higher ups, I mean Eli David, Director of Mossad, within an hour of the bombing had called to see if his daughter was all right and offered the power of his whole organization to help us. He could do that, while running security for the entire country of Israel. But you were so busy with your fleet that you couldn’t take five minutes to find out if I was still alive?”
“I checked the casualty report.”
Tim takes a deep breath. Of course he’d do that.
“And when you saw my name on it, what the hell did you do?”
His father doesn’t say anything to that. He’s quiet for a full minute, probably hoping Tim’ll change the subject or hang up on him, but Tim doesn’t, so he says, “I made sure every ship on my roster was under constant watch, and that every person on those ships was accounted for and accountable.”
“Of course.” Deal with what you can change and help, ignore everything else.
“You could have called me, Tim.”
“I was busy getting stitched up and then actually catching Harper Dearing. You know, making sure that none of your ships or your men got hurt.”
“Which is what you should have been doing. Duty comes first.”
“Yeah. Duty. What about your duty to us? Seriously, why marry mom if she had no claim on you? Why make vows you knew you wouldn’t keep?”
His father doesn’t answer. Tim holds the phone, hoping for... he doesn’t know. He knows there isn’t any answer that will make his relationship with his Dad better, but he hopes there might be one that will help crystalize the nebulous thoughts whirling around in his mind.
Finally his dad says, “I never lied to your mother. She knew the Navy came first, that it would always come first, and when we got married she seemed fine with that. Eventually she changed her mind, or stopped lying to herself, I don’t know which. I married her because I wanted someone to come home to when I wasn’t at sea. I wanted someone to look forward to my return, but not miss me too much when I was away. I wanted someone to raise my children, and I trusted her to do a good job of it. It was a Catholic ceremony because we’re Catholic. We got married because it was 1974 and you didn’t just shack up with a woman and have kids with her back then.”
Tim closes his eyes and sighs. “You wanted a whore and a nanny.”
“You stop that right this second! You do not disrespect your mother!”
“I’m not disrespecting her. I’m disrespecting your idea of her!” His father doesn’t say anything to that, either.
Finally Tim says, “Thanks, Dad.”
He puts down the phone, hangs up, grabs his pen, and starts to write. This time the words knew what they needed to do and why, and so they did.