DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley Hale smiles at Grandpa Tom before wedding
From the Archives

From the Archives: On the Phone with My Dad

It was those early days in the pandemic, and I spent most of the time during the day with my kids and my students, but in the late afternoons, I talked to my dad. Evenings had become a race to bedtime so I could spend the rest of night on the phone with Chris. It was a weird – and somehow happy – existence.

One day as I began to prepare dinner in the late afternoon, I called my dad. We spoke on FaceTime as I chopped vegetables, and he told me stories about what was happening in my hometown. How were we doing in DC? Was I feeling okay?

I told him about the kids and homeschool and then I told him more about Chris. We’d been on the phone every night for weeks at that point. “He does 100-mile bike races for fun, Dad!” and I watched my dad raise his eyebrows with amusement.

My dad wanted to know more. What else did Chris like to do? How did he make a living? What did he think about the kids?

I told my dad all sorts of things, from the little details of how Chris spent his pandemic days to the more major aspects of his life, like how close he was with his family. My dad didn’t interrupt at all. He just listened, and after a long while, I realized that I had really dominated the conversation. My dad was still staring right at me as I paused.

“Sorry, dad,” I said. “I talk to him for at least three hours a night. I just have so much to say, I guess.”

“It’s wonderful,” my dad said. “You look so happy.”

“I am,” I said, “though it’s strange just to talk to him on the phone, rather than see him in person.”

“I don’t think so,” my dad said. “The thing that makes relationships work is friendship. If you start out as friends, and become lovers, that’s better than starting out as lovers.”

I laughed a bit at this, though not openly. Dating advice from my dad, yet again!

“Your mother and I were friends first,” he continued, “and then we started going out, but quickly it became much more than that. I would bring her home after we went out to dinner and then we would sit and talk for hours. We discussed everything—life in general, what it was like growing up, our families—everything.”

I hadn’t known that my parents had spent hours talking in those early days. I guess I’d never really thought about it. But it made a lot of sense. Even in the dark days at the end of my mom’s life, my parents had an ease between them, and an obvious connection.

My dad kept talking. “When you can sit and talk to somebody for hours, that’s the relationship you want. You can make love to somebody and then walk away and think it was great, but if you don’t want to spend a week with them on vacation, it’s not real. What I had with your mother, that was real. I loved talking to her.”

I thought about my life over the past month. I could feel what my dad was talking about each time I picked up the phone to call Chris. I wanted to say as much to my dad and reassure him that it wasn’t just puppy love I was feeling. But I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it.

“I’m really happy with Chris, even though he can’t be here right now,” I said to my dad. 

He smiled. “That’s good.”

I couldn’t tell if there was something more my dad wanted to say. Did he think I was being crazy, falling for someone so far away?

“Are you nervous at all about me? About this new romance?” I wasn’t quite sure why I blurted it out, but there it was.

My dad’s face broke into a wide smile. “I’m not worried,” he said, confidently. “You have great judgment. It’s the good judgement of your mother.”

“I’m glad you think that.”

“And also, you’re happy. Why should I be upset? Let’s say nothing comes of this besides that you’re happy, then that’s great. Maybe it’ll work out, maybe he can come to you someday. We’ll see what happens, but right now you’re happy.”

He took a sip of water, and I smiled. He continued, “I watched you go through so much sadness. So why would I say ‘you shouldn’t be happy?’ You should!”

Image Credit: Sharyn Peavey.