I called Dad the day before his birthday to see if he wanted to come over for dinner. I tried his land line first. It was disconnected. I tried his cell. It went straight to voicemail. Generic voicemail. I left a message.
I called the next day, on his actual birthday, twice. Both times same thing. Land line disconnected. Cell straight to generic voicemail. I left a message two more times, for a total of three messages. He never called back.
Finally, the day after his birthday, I contacted my sister and she gave me his current phone number. I had been leaving voicemail messages on some stranger's phone. My dad changed his number and didn't tell me.
Or maybe he did and I spaced it off. Maybe he left me a message on my own generic voicemail and I never heard it. I'm really bad at checking my messages. In fact, I hate talking on the phone. I dreaded calling him, my punctuality-obsessed dad, a day late for his birthday.
I took a deep breath and paced the kitchen floor. I dialed his number and he answered, "Hello?"
"Hi, it's Becky," I shouted. Dad is now 86. He started to lose his hearing forty-one years ago, the year after I was born. He is now quite deaf so it sounds like we're shouting at each other when we talk on the phone even though, since we no longer live together or spend much time together, we don't actually shout at each other like we did when I was a teenager.
"Are you coming over tonight?" he asked.
"What?" I didn't understand his question. We hadn't made arrangements of any kind since I didn't have his current phone number.
"Are you coming over tonight so we can go to the dance?" he asked, sounding perturbed with my slowness.
"Dad. This is Becky. You're daughter." I sounded perturbed with his confusion.
"Oooooh. I thought you was Becky my dance partner," Dad explained.
"Yeah...no...Dad, it's your daughter Becky. Sorry to call you a day late but I wanted to wish you a happy birthday," I said, trying to make my shout sound cheery.
"Oh well. Ok." Dad wasn't bothering with fake cheeriness.
"Yeah, sorry. I tried to call you the day before and yesterday but I had your old phone number," I explained.
"Yeah, I had to ditch that one. The old phone broke on me and it was gonna cost more to repair it than to just get a new one." No explanation for why he didn't call me to let me know he had a new number.
We made arrangements to meet for lunch, my treat. We got off the phone. I felt overwhelmingly sad and unsatisfied. Dad and I have never gotten along, and yet there is this tiny sliver inside me that longs for a healthy Daddy-Daughter relationship. But it's not that way nor will it ever be that way. Our relationship plays second fiddle to Dad's dance. I'm not even the first Becky in his life. I'm Becky Number Two.