I rang my father the other day to see how he was doing and he hung up on me before I had the chance to say hello. I was reasonably sure that he had thought I was a telemarketer, so I didn’t know whether to be annoyed, as I had to ring again, or admire his style.
He picked up the second time and actually said hello.
‘Hello Dad. Why did you hang up on me?’
‘Because I thought you were a telemarketer.’
‘Wouldn’t it have been more effective to identify the caller first?’ I snorted, a little piqued.
‘No. Because you could have been telemarketer and I wasn’t taking any chances. Lucky you told me who you were or I would have hung up again.’
‘You didn’t give me the chance the first time.’ I sighed. This was an argument I wasn’t going to win. I was in the world of Dad and he marched to the beat of a different drum. He tended to start speaking before he had a chance to think it through, or as Mum put it, ‘the mouth fires up before the brain is engaged.’
Mum tells me that she thinks Dad is getting worse now that he is getting older but I’m not too worried that it may be a sign of early dementia. Dad has always been like this. If he had been born in the last 20 years with the symptoms he presents with, I would say that he would have had a good chance of being diagnosed with something not unlike attention deficit disorder. He can’t sit still, he can’t concentrate on something for too long and his conversation fits around whatever is going on in his head at the time, regardless of what conversation is going on around him.
He drives Mum around the twist. A five-minute conversation can easily become a half-hour epic as Dad constantly interrupts the flow with unrelated interjections, throwing the conversation onto a completely different tangent. Mum finds herself talking about something totally unrelated and still not gotten her original point across.
Another endearing habit Dad has is that he often answers a question with ‘eh?’ Just as you are about to ask again, he answers the question. Mum gets pretty close to the kill zone after about five ‘eh’s’ and as many answers in quick succession. Sometimes I think I’m relatively lucky not to be visiting my father’s grave and my mother in prison.
I’ve been trying to talk Dad into getting a caller ID phone, or at least ringing up the ‘Do Not Call Register’ to implement changes so that he won’t get so many annoying calls but when I see his eyes glaze over I know I’ve lost him to the next thought process rather than the one at hand, so I don’t bother anymore.
That’s a job best left to the professional, my mother.