"Giant turtle found off western coast." "Tiger Woods wins again." My dad reads aloud from the newspaper as I take another bite of my toast and focus once again on the Sunday news supplement I've been trying to read.
"Goalless game for Manchester United. Musharraf not keen to include talks on nuclear weapons...."
I look up pointedly. But my dad continues reading the headlines, advertisements, and other broken sentences of news aloud, oblivious to my rising irritation.
I could also see the funny side of this situation, but I like breakfast quiet. Still, I decide to let it be and instead focus on silently reading a book review.
Unfortunately, I can't get past the first sentence.
My dad reads to me about a man who, in a mix-up, burgled his own house.
Since it's obvious I am not going to be able to read what I chose, I listen. Actually, I listen less and watch him more – from the corner of my eye.
I look at the man who'd held my hand and taught me to write the alphabet when I was 5. The man had who brought home a dog for the family to love. Who had planted trees so we could learn to understand and respect nature. Who had had to live alone in a city four hours from home so he could keep his job and send me off to engineering college.
Here was a man who had the gift of listening – to everyone from cousins, aunts, and people he meets on journeys to strangers he bumps into outside a store.
Now here he is reciting the news to no one in particular.
I begin to wonder. Maybe he needs someone to listen. Maybe I need to listen, to see his reasons for reading aloud.
Is my father just bored? Is he reading for me? No, these items seem to be things that interest him. Were there other things on his mind that he was covering up by reading the news aloud?
"Camilla and Charles visit is a dud," he intones.
This time I don't roll my eyes. I grin to myself. Maybe this is just something fathers do. One of the quirks you live with.
Maybe it is life's way of preparing me to live with a man? You know, when Tom, Jack, or Harry clears his throat really loud or constantly flips channels on the TV, I'll be able to sigh and go back to what I am doing, have a successful marriage, and live happily ever after.
Wait! Maybe this is just a way for me to look at my own quirks.
My quirks? Huh? I scan my memory. Nothing.
The thing is, I know that if I ask my dad to name my quirks or faults, he'll say, "Can't think of any."
And he'll do it honestly and without thinking about it for even a fraction of a second.
Of course, I know he doesn't like that I postpone doing things until another day.
He wishes that I didn't eat fruit before dinner or in place of dinner. "That is not a real meal," he mumbles.
I'm aware that in my attempts at cleaning up, I inadvertently move his things so that he's left hunting for them.
But to him, those are just "things," part of who I am and what makes me, me – the person he knows and loves.
"Sale. Fifty percent off on jeans."
"Where? I didn't see that," I say, all ears.
"Starting today. At the Asiad shopping center."
I fold the paper quickly, gulp down the last of my tea, and plan to leave.
"Thank you, Daddy. You're the best," I say as I hurry up the stairs.
But he's not listening. He's reading about global warming in Alaska.