When Your 82-Year-Old Dad Says He’s in Love

By Sudha Balagopal

            . . .you say, “Aww!”

            The man on the phone, doesn’t. He calls your dad a stalker, a predator who follows Daisy―his mother―around the assisted-living facility. You tell him his accusations are outrageous; you’re hiring a lawyer.

            He asks you to explain why he found Dad in Daisy’s bathroom—while she was in the shower. He lists boundaries: Dad cannot talk to her, watch television in the same room or eat at the same table.

            You argue he’s unreasonable. You point out Dad and Daisy are friends. He threatens to get a restraining order. You redirect your approach, ask why he can’t understand their bond.

            He shouts that Daisy hasn’t moved past her husband’s suicide. She doesn’t need this menace. You demand proof when he says Dad entices Daisy up to the roof, and that he intends to push her.

            The man declares he has a meeting with the authorities. You instruct him to go to hell. He announces he’s taking his mother home.

*

            Dad calls, frantic; he can’t find Daisy. You lie, say she’ll be back soon, because in his mind, time

yawns elastic, amorphous. You worry about him dealing with loss, five years after Mom.

            He rummages through his drawers, looking, looking for the love letters Daisy’s given him. You shudder a sigh when you see they’re addressed to Steve—Dad’s name is Nathan.

            He goes in and out of her empty room. He snuffles when he shows you his telescope, tells you they’d look for craters on the moon. You know his heart’s in disassembled parts, the fragmenting as real as yours at sixteen. He blubbers, soaks your shirt. 

            You recall how he’d leave the porch light on and pace, furious you’ve broken curfew.

You sit on the porch and wait. Dad’s up on the roof. You know tonight he’s not looking for craters.

Interview with Sudha.

Sudha Balagopal’s short fiction appears in New Flash Fiction Review, Jellyfish Review, Meniscus and The Nottingham Review among other journals. She is the author of a novel, A New Dawn. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions and is listed in the Wigleaf Top 50, 2019. More at www.sudhabalagopal.com