Terry Connell is a licensed acupuncturist and yoga teacher practicing in Old Town, Vallarta (www.eastmeetseast.net). In his spare time he walks his dog and reads and writes. His first book, “Slaves to the Rhythm” was a Cowley Literary Award Finalist (www.terryconnell.net).
With the summer heat in full force, I asked my father if he’d like me to make something other than split pea soup when I visited. Being a man of consistency, and simple pleasures, he said split pea soup was perfect. Two days later, I had all the ingredients in a paper bag and was sitting at the Warminster train station waiting for him to pick me up.
It was more than a year since I’d last saw him, and as we drove back to the retirement community making small talk, I tried not to be too obvious in looking at him, measuring how he was doing.
As we entered the apartment, classical music was playing loudly from the small stereo in the far corner.
Dad closed the door, and reminded me with a sheepish smile that ever since my mother died (seven years ago), he always kept the classical music station on.
“I don’t like all that silence around me,” he said, blinking away a few tears as he ushered me into the kitchen asking if I needed anything.
Half an hour later, the soup was simmering and Dad and I were having lunch with some violin concerto swaying in the background.
There was a natural flow to our conversation, with Dad doing much of the talking.
He shared story after story about his friends in the community, the pranks they play on each other, the trips they’ve taken, the nightly bridge games they play.
Suddenly I felt like a parent listening to his child talk about life in the dorms at college.
At some point, in a moment that still has me pinching myself, my conservative Catholic father told me about going to see “Nuns on a Bus” at Chestnut Hill College.
The tone of my “Really?” prompted Dad to say, “I’m not as old fashioned as you think. I don’t agree with the church’s stance on several things, homosexuality, married priests, female priests…”
And just like that; I was his son, watching and learning from my 82-year-old father, how to be a better man.
I hope I can be as graceful and open to life when I am that age.
Later on, after a nap and a walk to the pharmacy (where Dad greeted just about everyone he saw by name, and introduced me as “our son Terry”), I joined Dad and some of his friends for dinner.
For the next hour or so, I sat with six octogenarians in a noisy, crowded dining room as they tried to talk with each other.
Conversations were peppered with “Huh?” or “What’s he saying?” or misunderstood words, “Not pepper, weather!” Everyone cupped their hands behind their ears and leaned into each other – and everyone had a lot to say about their food.
When we came back up to his apartment after dinner, Dad opened the door and the classical music was still there, holding back the silence.
It was a symphony, with huge cymbal crashes and booming trombones.
Dad barely noticed. I portioned the soup into containers and put them in the freezer, and from behind, sounding like a college freshman, my Dad said, “Oh good, everyone’s been asking when you were making split pea soup again.”