[Below is my version of a one-sided conversation with my father. I wrote it this way because I thought it would offer you a chance to fill in the other side of the conversation with your own father’s voice and words.]
Last month I went out to see my father. He lives in a remote area on the border between Wyoming and Utah, a beautiful place by any standard. It had been awhile since I had paid him a visit. Lately, every time I see him I see the aging man he is now, not the man of my childhood. The man of my childhood no longer exists, dead and gone for many years. Currently my father is growing old, and time picks at him, annoys him, and like all of us, it frustrates him.
In the “Behind the Scenes” I like to give you some background about the books I write and the characters in those works. My father is just one of those people I mine traits from for my characters.
It’s good to see you, Dad.
Yea, it’s been a long time since I’ve been home. I guess I should’ve come home sooner, I didn’t realize that you were so alone.
I saw the cattle down at Sweat Ranch, boy, they look mighty hefty on the hoof. The old ranch looks good. Plenty of water and the grazing is bountiful.
The old buildings on the place sure do look good. You did some fine work restoring them. The property will probably last forever now and I can imagine how future generations will be able to appreciate it. It’s a fine piece of history.
Oh, you heard I’ve got a novel out now.
Oh well, it’s just a book … one I doubt you would like. I’ve got another one coming out soon. I think it’s more of something you would enjoy. It will probably be six months to a year before it’s out.
You look like you’ve lost some more weight. If you keep that up I swear you will just fade away. Your color is off and it causes me to worry about your health.
Yea, that’s the same pickup I had before. It has been good to me and the engine is real strong. Besides, I don’t have the money for a new one. Sure, it takes a lot of fuel and yes, the price of fuel is out of sight these days. It seems everything costs a lot now days.
I got this haircut in Reno and no I didn’t lose a bet. It’s a soul thing, but I doubt you would understand. A Mohawk does seem to suit me.
I knew you were gonna ask when was the last time I made it home. I haven’t been here since grandmother passed away, and yea, I wasn’t here when grandfather joined her. I was on the road when I got the call. The weather was bad and I just couldn’t get back in time. But I went by the graveyard and it looks like they finally got the stone put in place. It’s a pretty color, that stone, they polished it up real fine.
I’m sorry I didn’t come for a visit when mom left. I know you took it hard. Living up here by yourself has got to be difficult. How about you moving out to Reno and living near me?
No, you’re right, there isn’t any other place that’s going to feel like home. But your home is so remote. I think you would do better in a city.
Yea, we have traffic lights in Reno. No, I haven’t seen Roger or his wife … I heard they moved to town. I’m sure he complains about living in town, but that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t like it. The mountains are no place to grow into an old man.
The Green River is flowing real good. Matt and I caught us a mess of fish. We had a great time. You should’ve come along.
No, you’re not too old to walk the bank. I think you would have enjoyed it.
Well, Dad, I’ve got to go now. To be honest I have work to get back to. I will let you know when the next book comes out.
Now you be good and eat better … and slow down on smoking those cigarettes. Winter will be coming on soon, will you be all right up here by yourself?
It wasn’t a problem for us to come out for a visit … we enjoyed it. Honest we did.
I found it difficult to leave him. He looked old and frail, and I felt he wasn’t entirely capable of taking good care of himself. I saw him as a species variously subdivided from the world I lived in. To me he had become an old man left behind by the changing world, unwilling to change with it. I know his mind is filled with all kinds of important useful information, but with every passing minute the thoughts and memories are vanishing. I worried over him as I drove away.