My home phone rings for the fifth time since arriving home from work. I look at it with exasperation and bemusement. My father’s relentless calls are draining, but I’ve always loved his unshakable and unrestrained fervour. I rarely answer his weeknight calls, but that never stops him. He leaves countless voicemails that run for the duration of the message time-limit. Tonight included an entire song that he wanted me to hear – recorded by him holding the phone to the stereo. Audio quality clearly wasn’t a priority. As the phone continues to ring, I start to smile at his childlike enthusiasm and decide to speak to him.
Dad (in a very strong Australian accent): Now, I know I’ve never given you any advice, but I’ve been thinking and there are two things I want to say to you.
Dad: Well first, I was thinking that you’ve got it right in that you live by yourself. Don’t ever live with anyone. It can be lonely at times, but the lonely times are worth it when compared to how annoying it is living with other people. I hated living with other people.
The only “other” people he’s ever lived with are his first family, and his second family (my mother, my sister, and me). I ignore the unintended insult and wait for him to continue.
Dad: But the most important thing, and I cannot emphasise this enough … is whatever you do, don’t ever, ever have children. (I laugh). No, I mean it. I like the ones I’ve got and that, but when all’s said and done, they’re just not worth it (I laugh again). When I think of how much better my life could have been if I’d not had children … well I’m just saying, don’t have them whatever you do. Your life will be better without them.
Me: Um, you do realise that it’s your daughter you’re saying this to?
Dad: Yes, I know and I did say that I like the ones I’ve got – jeez don’t be so bloody sensitive – but I stand by the fact that my life would have been better without them. Don’t miss the point I’m trying to make. Ugh, you’re annoying me now – I’m going.
We both laugh, say goodbye and hang-up.
He phones again in fifteen minutes. Just hearing the ring makes me smile so I answer.
Me: Thought I was annoying you?
Dad: You are, but I can’t stop calling. It’s actually annoying me that I can’t stop calling. Phoning you is like crack or heroin or something – I can’t bloody stop myself.
I laugh so much I’m unable to speak.
Dad (also laughing): I hung up, and then I thought “Don’t call, don’t call”. But then I thought “Bugger it, I’m phoning!” But now I’ve got nothing to say. Right, I’m going to say goodbye and I’m not going to call until the weekend. Cold turkey for two days …
I shake my head as I hang up. There’s no way his life would have been better without having had children.