There it was again, that rolling of the eyes.
“Hey you, show your dad some respect.”
So then I get the big sigh, but you know, with teenagers you have to stick to your guns or they’ll walk all over you. That’s especially true if you’re a Disney dad and you only have one month to work on them.
“Do I have to?”
“It’s about manners, son,” I said.
“Fine,” he muttered. “May I have a chilidog …”
“Can’t hear you,” I prompted, enjoying the teaching moment. “You’re not a child anymore Alex. You’re 13 now. Speak up like you mean it. Show who’s boss.”
Another big sigh.
“May I have a chilidog Melkor, Lord of the Gama Quadrant, Destroyer of Worlds, Slayer of Millions, Buyer of Chilidogs?”
“Well, seeing as you asked so nice,” I said, satisfied. “Want a rootbeer with that?”
We were hot, we were sandy and we were having a blast, taking a break from the surf in downtown Tofino.
“Alex … I don’t know if we should go back in the water,” I said as we sheltered from the sun under a picnic table umbrella. “I don’t think we were alone out there.”
He snorted, wiping the first blob of chilli off his T-shirt.
“Well, there were all the other surfers …”
“That’s not what I’m talking about and you know it,” I snapped. “Something’s out there. I could sense it.”
“You see sharks everywhere,” he retorted. “And they’re always comin’ right for ya.”
“I’m not talking about no shark,” I said, glancing around to make sure I wasn’t being overheared. “I’m talking about the big boy. Giant squid.”
And there he goes with the eye roll again. Kids these days. You know, it’s not like it used to be. There was a time — and not so long ago either — when he would absolutely goggle when I told him, in my best conspiratorial whisper, that I wasn’t really from around here, if you know what I mean, and my people don’t have hearts like you humans. We just have big pumps, kind of like a big, fat wrinkled raisin sorta thing.
Even as he got older, he’d at least pretend to believe my tales on those boring car rides between Quesnel and Qualicum Beach, just to keep me going.
“Oh, this bridge,” I remember explaining as we began one of those long return trips, “this is actually the second Patullo Bridge. The first one fell over in 1929 when a bus full of visiting Sumo wrestlers tried to go across. Turns out the structural members couldn’t take it. Very sad. Patullo’s an old Japanese name, you know.”
He was only about nine then, and now my little baby boy’s a teenager, newly minted, and he’s developed a wit of his own. He’s no longer willing to just marvel at the more-exciting-than-real worlds I create. He adds details of his own and, by the end of our desperately short month together, he was parrying my little games and even scoring the odd blarney point. Good one!
The end was hard, as always.
“Keep in touch,” he said, and then he stopped, eyes misting.
“I mean … Keep in touch Melkor, Lord of the Gama Quadrant, Destroyer of Worlds, Slayer of Millions, User of Phones.”
“Well,” I replied, grinning even as I held my own tears in check, “seeing as you asked so nice.”
Neil Horner is the assistant editor of the Parksville Qualicum Beach News and is a regular columnist. He lives in Qualicum Bay.