Members & Guests Only, 2003
It was a moment Mike wouldn't forget.
Every day he used his lunch hour from work to go pick up his old man and take him to the VWF for an afternoon of cards and drinking with his war buddies. Since the heart surgery the old man couldn't drive any more and he wouldn't talk about riding the bus even though the bus went right by the house and the VFW hall was only five minutes down the line.
"I ain't riding with those people, plain and simple," the old man would say every time Mike brought it up. "I worked too long to end up riding on some damned bus with all the cleaning ladies."
Mike couldn't get any more time off from work because of all the time he'd taken when the old man was having his operations. So the old man had to wait until Mike got off work at 5:30 and could pick him up and take him home.
"Where's Teddy?" the old man barked at him when he got in the car. It was already dark. Sylvia, the daytime waitress, had waited at door with the old man to make sure he didn't wander out into the dark and slip on the icy sidewalk. Mike gave her a short wave of thanks.
"Teddy and Laura live in Cincinnati, Dad. You know that."
"Why couldn’t Clare come pick me up? I don't like having to wait around while all the other guys get in their cars and go. Bristow and Cutty, I think they make a point of driving by the front door real slow just to tease me. Makes me look like I can't pull up my own pants."
"Dad, you know Clare and Todd and the kids live in Orlando now. There was nothing for them here anymore after the plant closed."
"You don't have to tell me anything, Buster. I know what it was like to work in that plant. I made tires, boy. There was none of this sissy call center stuff like you do back in my day. A man did a man's job. I took good care of your mother and you kids. Clare’s Todd, he knows how to do a man's job. "
Mike knew better than to argue. The old man had no idea that Todd was now working as a part-time tour guide at a cheesy reptile zoo in the Florida swamp just to pay the rent. Clare was watching neighbors’ kids to earn milk money.
"It's just me, Dad," Mike said with resignation. "I'm who you've got." The conversation quieted. As they approached his street, the old man looked over.
"You know what Sylvia said to me today?"
"She said I must have a really good son to look after me like you do.”
Mike looked over at the old man. Maybe there’d be a moment of appreciation.
“You don’t know how much it hurt me to have to tell her that you'd been no help at all. Just a pain in the ass.”
Mike turned his head and looked ahead.