Much like the prime rib recipe I misplaced over the years as an excuse to call my dad, I did the same with the rules for Shanghai Rummy.
If a passion for card games is hereditary, then I got the gene from my father in spades.
For many years I’ve kept decks of cards and dice in a metal tin, safe from moisture and portable. Right under the lid is another scrap of paper with game rules, phone numbers, and scribbles that mark another phone call with dad. The doodles I drew mean we probably talked for 15 minutes after he riddled off the basics, yet once again.
I sit at the kitchen table with Dad, his second wife and my half brother nearby. I am 12 years old and this is the first time in nine years I’ve been in my dad’s presence. He asks me to draw a tree on an island in a body of water and add a sun and a snake. I am free to place them wherever my imagination wants.
It felt like some kind of test, but I obliged. And it was. He explains what each element represents: the sun as the father, the tree as the mother, and so on. The position of each was relevant as well. My picture had the sun high in the sky, bright but far away. The tree was a palm (it was an island, after all), yet I added clusters of grapes.
This was in the 1970s and pop psychology was prevalent, so this is the best explanation I have for why he wanted to do this experiment. Like, some kind of insight into my personality and where we stood with each other. It was weird, but my delight to be in his company overrode any absurdity.
Nearly 30 years later, in 2003, during a phone call to hear my dad’s voice, on a scrap sheet of paper are the doodles I drew as we talked. A tree and a cluster of grapes fill empty spaces.
There are also two phone numbers. The one for “Dad at work” still rings at the Greensboro Moose Lodge. His home number belongs to someone else now.
This is the 30th story in the Objects as Waypoints Writing Project series.