Sunday Call: Quarantine Edition


“Hey Dad.”


I breathe a sigh of relief. My dad has been calling on Sundays for so long that it’s a clear tradition at this point. When my phone rings on a Sunday, Burke doesn’t blink anymore, she just says: tell your dad I say hi. I then take the call in my room or some other place in my house that has whiskey.

But in these stressful and scary times there’s a ringing phone can mean unpleasant things. Bad news? Did something happen?  

Damo has been my dad’s nickname for me since probably before I breached a uterine canal of any sort. I can only guess this because I would never name a child before considering all varieties of nickname. This is why I am baffled by those who have chosen to name a child Kevin. It seems as if they’re simply stuck with Kev, some more adventurous people might venture into Vin, but it would be greatly breaking the initial structure of Kevin. Some might go for K-Man, but that sounds more like something Kevin’s friends would call him because they felt bad for his name being Kevin or because he was really good at basketball. I suppose Kevey is an option, but only if Kevin’s parents are the kind of people who want their child to be on a first name basis with their therapist.

But long ago, Damo became far more than a nickname and much more a simple barometer of my dad’s current mood. My dad’s mood can’t be gauged physically until he clenches his jaw and sticks it out like he’s Marlon Brando in The Godfather and by that point you’re done for like one of those National Geographic photographers who forgot to notice the lions behind him. Up until that moment, one has to rely on linguistic hints and utterances. The worst case scenario (besides the jaw thing) to the greeting “Hey Dad” is a sigh or “What?” The tone of “what?” isn’t to clarify and it isn’t that he hadn’t heard. It was a clear, monosyllabic question stating “what in the colorful expletive do you need from me and it better not be money?” This reaction is most common after he spends twenty minutes at the kitchen table paying bills and muttering a string of curses and epithets towards someone he simply referred to as “you” followed by a series of disturbingly specific queries. “What in the fuck did you think when … and you can’t even be bothered to answer the motherfucking phone on a Tuesday and now you have the shit-laced gall to send me a cocksu..?”

Damo is on the other end of that barometer. When I am greeted with a Damo I know that all is well. The more excited the intonation the more he approves of what my mother is making for dinner that evening. Today it’s intoned as if he’s a play by play announcer introducing the third baseman on his first at bat in the game. “Hitting .329 with 14 homers and 67 RBIs, third baseman Damooo!” (hot roast beef sandwiches).

Our Sunday talks are usually pleasant. The first ten minutes or so I usually remain quiet as my dad unloads the contents of his head in a staccato, almost Zen manner. His dental office isn’t open during the quarantine, so this has been upped to fifteen minutes, as there are no patients to take some of the brunt of this backloaded information and observations. We skate through comedians, whether standup comedy is purely American, Abbot and Costello, dog movies, cheese, why British cuisine isn’t that bad, masks, what the Phillies should be doing right now, dogs, small dogs, less small dogs, and hotdog toppings, and Czech bread.

When it’s over a calm sets over the phone.

It’s nice to be someone’s confidant, especially during a stressful time of worry. We go on to talk about possible online careers and our next trips. My dad posts several pictures of possible trip locations on Facebook and when we talk I get them firsthand. By the time we get off the phone I am considering a career in dental HR, desperate to go to a place in Italy that I didn’t know existed before this conversation, and I am craving a hot roast beef sandwich.  

Mission accomplished.

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