Barely a week ago, I sat down to have a burger with my father.
An otherwise unremarkable event notable only for the fact that I probably hadn't done so in twelve years.
It's simple really, I live in Atlanta, the old folks, T&T. The problem is not that I haven't been home, I've seen the old man often enough, I'd made the trip at least three times since '02.
But I've never really taken the time to sit down to spend real time with him.
I suppose I can come up with several reasons for that.
The Freshman Phase
Many Caribbean expats began our US experience as foreign students, our first venture outside the parental sphere of control. Parents simply became a telephone banking service, the family home, a guest house during Christmas/Summer/Spring Break trips home.
Trinbago to us "study abroads" was an 1,800 square mile fete, which after months studying "in the cold," simply meant party, eat, drink, lime then party some more upon our return. My parents started calling me lahgahoo, invisible by day, rampant by night. Come to think of it, they really only got two full days of meaningful interaction, the day I got there and the day I left.
And by "meaningful interaction," I mean the time it took to unpack and hand out the foreign goods, (i.e. Planters peanuts, Oreos, Chips Ahoy, Pringles, etc). Here's the thing I never quite understood about older Trinbagonians; in their minds it is supposedly cheaper to have me transport a tin of Planters Dry Roasted 3000 miles as opposed to maybe a 2 mile drive (if that much) to HILO.
I don't get it.
Life after college
But then college didn't last forever. I eventually traded college classes for Class C office space, I had a job. Trips back home couldn't happen anymore, not when round trip airfare had to compete with rent, the car note, insurance etc. And for those occasions when the old folks came to visit, I still didn't get much time with them because, well, I had a job; American employers don't take too kindly to "I need a few days, my parents are in town."
The funny thing is that making the trip home in recent times, I'd follow the same paradigm from my college days, that is to say, fly in, dish out the foreign goods, eat/party/lime then fly out again; nothing changed.
And by the time the parents got around to traveling to visit me, I had a son; you'll soon realize your own insignificance the instant you grant them grandchildren.
I am envious of my son though, not because of his place in my parents' lives, but because of the place that he has in mine. I take the little rugrat everywhere, there isn't much that he doesn't get to experience with his father, and here I am, not getting time with mine. That burger made me realize how much I missed the old gaffer.
I missed the simple things we shared, like him stopping to buy doubles every Friday afternoon after school. He always bought ten to go (two for everybody), slight pepper in all, and we'd all sit on the front porch eating them, that cool Maracas Valley breeze cooling hot mouths because clearly, Sauce the doubles man never quite understood what "slight" pepper meant.
I missed Sunday mornings in particular, right after church, the old man always took the time to open coconuts for everybody. With five trees on the property, there was always enough to go around every single weekend. I started to remember the frequent Sunday afternoon trips to Tetron barracks; growing up the son of a Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force officer certainly had its perks, sea bathing just off the officers' mess jetty was one of them. I suddenly remembered that pops, hands down, made the absolute best cassava pone on the planet.
I could go on of course, the random Sunday drives, going to watch Defence Force football games, Christmas lights drives, Divali lights tours, etc, all these memories that came flooding back over something as simple as a burger.
Perhaps I am getting older, or maybe subconsciously, I've noticed my parents getting older, that I've suddenly become nostalgic (and very much aware of their mortality). I've made a pledge with myself that on my next trip home, I will actually take the time to interact with the old folks, suck a mango with daddy, perhaps help mommy make a pastelle or two.
..............let's not get carried away, we're still talking Trinidad and Tobago here, after a day or two reminiscing, trust me, ah partying HARD!!
Until next time folks, remember love allyuh parents.