I got my dad an iPhone for his 64th birthday. He’s retired. I figured he could use it to photograph and videotape my daughter, upload it to Facebook. He loves to look at Google Maps in the middle of the night when he can’t sleep, and he could maybe do it from bed now. I showed him how to send pictures texts so when he’s hanging out with my daughter he could send them to me or her mom or my mom or whoever.
I couldn’t really tell what the first picture he sent was, I assumed it was an accident. But then he sent the caption. “Got an erection.” The next message he sent me was a much clearer picture, and there was no mistaking his shorts, his legs, his shoes. The caption for the second picture: “Gone now.”
Five days later he sent me another picture of a lump in his shorts. “This one’s a real rager.” He sent it to me while I was having dinner with my daughter and her mother. It was hard to keep my cool. I wanted to talk about it, but the only other adult around was my ex wife. Thing were good between us, I’m lucky to have her really, when I think about all the awful shit people go through when they split up and there’s kids. But it’s not like we’re friends. That would be like forgetting how to ride a bicycle. And my Dad’s a retired bike mechanic with an erection sharing problem.
My friend Conor was no help. He just laughed and laughed. “Ask him if it’s harder than a preacher’s dick,” he told me, because that’s how Dad always described the feel of a properly aired bicycle tire.
“Please don’t mention this to anybody,” I begged him.
Next time I was at Jupiter House, Courtney, the barista, replaced her usual greeting with, “How’s your Dad’s dick?”
I showed her his latest text. The caption read, “That was some good chili you made. I got this one after I farted.”
I went out on a date the next weekend. Of course she asked to see some pictures. I showed her a cute picture of my daughter riding her bike with my dad. The woman took my phone and before I could stop her she scrolled to the next picture, a lump in my dad’s button fly jeans that had managed to unbutton one of the buttons. “If I throb it just right I might could get them all undone,” he’d said.
I didn’t know what to say, so I just quietly drove her home.
Thing is, I’d rather wait for my dad to stop announcing his every erection than talk to him about it. This problem solving technique had worked all throughout high school, with all my friends and bosses, it got me through two years of marriage. It did wonders for guilty feelings about dirty dishes. And it’s served me best through my own personal erections. I’m a devout believer that most any problem will solve itself given enough time.
Eventually word got back to my ex . She called me one night when it was her night with our daughter. “Everything’s all right, she’s asleep now. I’m just calling as a friend.” For longer than I’d care to admit, I’ve gotten the shakes during anytime of high anxiety. Confrontations left me speechless, and the sound of her voice trying to help me left me made my throat swell. “You need to talk with your Dad. You wouldn’t care to joke about it if it didn’t really bother you.”
As most of these conversations go it was pretty one sided. I assured her that I planned to deal with it, she explained that joking wasn’t dealing with it. The conversation ended with a long silence.
The next Sunday I went over to my parents’ house. My mom was at work and my daughter was with her mom. We made breakfast and sat down in the living room. I found Rushmore on one of the movie channels. “Good biscuits,” my dad said.
“Yup,” I said.
“Wonder what neighborhood this was shot in,” My dad said. Rushmore was one of our favorites, we’d probably watched it twenty times together.
“Had an erection on my ride the other night. Painful.” He scrapped the rest of his gravy off his plate with his fork. “That’s good gravy.”
I wish I could design an app for silences. It could measure the length and intensity. Flag whether or not it was awkward. And if it lasted over four hours it would advise you to seek help.
“Yeah, there it goes again,” he said. What was left to say? I noticed some gravy on my mustache and licked it clean. I burped. “Good taters,” I said. I found comfort in the silence that followed.