A FATHER'S GIFTby Irving Kenneth Zola
We sat beside one another as we had many times before, looking absently at "The Show of Shows" on TV, a father and a son without much to say to each other. I was eighteen and he was forty-eight, but the gap was more than years. I was the new college boy and he was the high school dropout. I was the family success and he was the failure. So many times I'd heard him described that way--so often that I'd begun long ago to distance myself from him. Not that I didn't love him. I did. It's just that...well, we had nothing in common anymore.
"You look worried," he said, interrupting my thoughts.
"Hmm," I answered non-committally.
"Is it the operation?"
"Well," I hesitated. Did I really want to discuss this with him?
"I know we don't talk much nowadays," he continued.
"Oh Dad!" I snapped back.
"No, no," he went on, "I know it's true. And besides I know it's not easy for you to talk about."
He was right. It wasn't easy to talk about. It was only two years since I'd had polio. Barely a year since I've been walking again. And now the doctors had scheduled an operation.
They said it would help stabilize my leg. But all I could think of was that I'd be in a cast for six months--immobile, dependent, and unmanly once more.
"Is there anything I can do?" he asked.
"No, I don't think so," I answered quickly.
"Well..." he began, "It looks like you'll be pretty confined for several months."
"Yes, I guess I will," I nodded.
"You're eighteen, right?"
"Yes," I answered, wondering what he was getting at.
"It's a long time since I was eighteen...but not that long."
"So!" I said unsympathetically.
"I know this isn't easy, but I was wondering if you'd ever been with a woman."
"Dad!" I blushed.
"I'm just asking."
"Look, I know I don't have an education like you, but I do know that being with a woman can't have been that easy for you."
He knows a lot, I thought to myself. Of the things I didn't feel good about, sex was at the top of the list. I had just begun to date again and it was damn awkward, not just the crutches and the limping but the real fear. During the months with polio, I'd been impotent. And now, though I did get sexually aroused, I still wondered about myself.
"You don't have to tell me the details. That's not important. Or even if you have screwed someone...But sex is more than making it in the back seat of a car."
I smiled at the apt summing up of my experience.
"What I thought was...that maybe if you wanted, I could arrange something for you."
"You could?" I answered both in excitement and disbelief.
"Yes, I can," he laughed. "After all, I might not be much but I've been around."
I grimaced at the self-deprecation but added, "Ah, yes...I would."
"Then it's a deal," and he got up from the couch and came across the room to hug me. And as we held each other, I tried hard to hold back my own tears.
He said nothing, and sniffled as he turned to go.
"Ah, don't worry...I'll...uh...arrange it and ah...she understands...and she'll be gentle."
And he did and she was.
copyright Irving Kenneth Zola