'Guy talk' on the phone what our fathers missed

ROGER SIMON

January 04, 1993|By ROGER SIMON

The phone rings. It is my friend, Larry.

"Catch you at a bad time?" he asks.

No, no, I pant. Why?

"You seem a little out of breath."

Oh, that, I say. No, I've just been vacuuming.

I immediately regret saying this. This is not guy talk. But I am caught off guard. I have been vacuuming the stairs and am obviously suffering oxygen deprivation to the brain, which is why I slip and tell the truth. And now I wait for Larry's abuse. I wait for some cutting remark about how real men don't vacuum.

"Canister or upright?" Larry asks.

Uh, upright, I say.

"Hey!" he says, "I'm an upright man myself. Though there is a good argument for the canister."

Yeah, well, there is, I say. Especially on stairs. But with the upright, you don't have the canister following you all over the house like a dog waiting to be fed.

"And bumping into the furniture," Larry says. "I once broke a picture frame that way, and Jeri gave me hell."

Jeri is Larry's wife.

"Though with the canister," Larry says, "the attachments are easier."

Attachments?

"Yeah," Larry says. "What do you use on the drapes?"

Nothing, I say.

"Oh, you got to get a drapery wand!" Larry says. "Your drapes are the second biggest dust-catcher in the house."

What's the first biggest?

"Jeri says it's me," Larry says.

We both laugh.

Larry, I say, you think our fathers ever had a conversation like this?

"My father, I don't think he ever talked on the telephone to a friend," Larry says. "Not that I can remember, anyway."

I think about this. I remember my mother talking on the phone. I remember my brother and sister and I killing each other to get to the phone, but I don't remember my father talking to friends on the phone.

If our fathers didn't talk on the phone, where did they talk? I ask Larry.

"I think working in the yard," Larry says. "Or exchanging tools or something. My mother was always getting on my father for having enough tools 'to build the Empire State Building' but not doing anything about the busted lint trap in the washer."

Totally unrelated, I say.

"Totally," Larry says.

So how's he doin'? I ask Larry.

Larry's father has been a widower for about three years. He lives in a retirement complex in Florida.

"Fine, fine, full of pep," Larry says. "You want to know something?"

What?

"I think he's dating."

No!

"Yeah, I think so," Larry says. "I call him the other day and right after we get through the usual stuff about the family and the weather and his kidneys and my kidneys, he asks me if I know anything about lettuce spinners."

What's a lettuce spinner?

"You know, the thing you crank around to get the water out of the lettuce," Larry says.

Oh, you mean a lettuce basket.

"Whatever," Larry says. "Anyway, what is my father doing talking about lettuce spinners? He must be making dinner for somebody. And since he didn't tell me who, I figure it must be a woman. A woman who is telling him to spin his lettuce."

So let me guess, I say. You told him if he wants to spin his lettuce he should take it dancing, right?

"Yeah, right," Larry says. "My father is very big on sardonic humor. No, what I did was send him a lettuce spinner for Christmas."

You bought your father a lettuce spinner for Christmas?

"It was that or a keyless chuck," Larry says. "Hey, look buddy, I gotta go. Got to take the youngest to soccer."

How's he doing?

"She," Larry said. "At that age, they mainly kick each other, but they seem to have fun. So I'll see you in the New Year, right?"

Larry?

"Yeah?"

Didn't you call to ask me something?

"Oh, yeah, yeah," he says. "When you make a roux, do you have to use clarified butter?"

Naw. I don't think so.

"OK, pal. Catch you later."

Guy talk. How did our fathers do without it?

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